Myth Busting by Cassiel Knight

Nowadays, with this wave of self-publishing overtaking the publishing industry overall, there seems to be some common ‘myths’ about publishing in general. Unfortunately, in my opinion and of others in the industry, the ability to self-publish has fostered these myths and not in a good way. For all the good that the ability to self-publish presents, there’s also the dark side.

In creating my Bootcamp 101 for Authors workshop, I compiled a list from the current themes I’ve heard not only in my role as an editor but also heard in general.

One caveat, this post applies to traditional and digital/small press publishing. While there’s some overlap into self-publishing, most of these myths surround the mainstream industry versus self-publishing.

Let’s do some myth busting.

1)    Readers will love your book—after all, your mother, sister, cousin, best friend and coworkers do. And isn’t that grand? It is, truly. But here’s the thing. As much as we love our family and friends, they aren’t your readers. They aren’t editors or publishers. They aren’t reviewers. While it’s terrific that your family and friends love your book, they are family and friends and unless you have a terrific relationship with them that allows them to be blunt, you aren’t hearing that your heroine is too bitchy or you hero is just plain abusive. Family and friends are there to do what they do best – support you. However, when it comes to submitting your work, agents and editors don’t care if your mom likes it. They care whether they do and whether they can sell it.

2)    Your family and friends will buy multiple copies and tell their friends and that will be at least 300 sales. Ah, I know this one. I do. You see, I had this expectation too. For all the support and encouragement combined with excitement for my book, when it came to plunking down the money, it didn’t happen. Yes, family and friends did buy copies – at least, they told me they did. However, it wasn’t 300 copies. I’m not even sure it was over 20. The thing is, your family and friends, as supportive as they may be, aren’t going to buy enough books for it to matter. Not only do they have their own budgets, they may not even like what you write. As I noted above, family and friends are not your readers. Spending your time, efforts and promo budget to market to family and friends is an exercise in futility.

3)    By the same token, everyone you friend or who follows you on social media(Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and so on) will buy your book. It doesn’t mean you are on their auto-buy list. Heck, they may not even like what you write. It means they want to be friends. That’s it. Now, I’m sure there are times those connections lead to fans and readers but most often, it doesn’t. Have you checked your friends and follows lately? Seen what demographic they illustrate? I have. And while I’m happy to have my tweeps and friends, ninety percent are other authors or industry professionals. Take a look at yours—you might be surprised.

4)    Once my book is published, the money will roll in. Again, I wish. This is another one of those areas where many authors struggle with. Once your book is published, you WILL HAVE TO PROMOTE your book. Think about it this way–if no one knows about your book, then no one will buy it. I’ve had people tell me the key to success is backlist. I don’t disagree that ONE of the keys to success is backlist. I just don’t think it’s as simple as that. You can have tons of backlist but if you don’t tell anyone about it, how do they know where to find them? They don’t, unless they stumble across your website.

5)    Yay! You got the call. Once the contract is signed, you are done. I love this one. You see, signing the contract is just the beginning of getting your book published  (after the Call). What’s next? Well, there’s content editing, production/blurb forms, cover art forms, marketing forms, more content editing, scheduling promotion, line editing, website updating, galleys… and on and on. Whew! I’m not kidding; there’s a lot to be done. By the time your book releases, you will be more than ready to be done with it. Plan to work just as hard after the Call as before it.

6)    Editors will be your mentor. Ah, if only that were true. I suspect, in some houses, it is. But don’t expect it. Many editors are overworked—those that work for houses and those that freelance. As much as they’d like to, many editors can’t mentor you into the next contract and so on. As cold as it may sound, and we are all nice people, we have to get work done on your book then move immediately on to the next. It doesn’t mean we don’t like you. Far from it. Our livelihood and continued employment rest on getting the next one and the next one and the next one done. If you want to improve your craft, you are on your own beyond what content or line editing reveal.

7)    Your self-published buddy gets to make all the decisions about their book. Your publisher should let you do the same. Uh, wrong. This is just plain wrong. While many publishers and editors are all about making their authors happy, ultimately, only they know what works for their readers and what doesn’t. This means that they may, and can, make changes during the process to end with a book that is the most appealing for their readers. If your vision is different, don’t expect them to budge just to appease you. They are in this to make money, not for artistic expression. Sorry. It’s the hard truth. By going to a publisher, you trust them to know what’s best. If you don’t, then you should self-publish.

8)    Your book is perfect so you’ll only need an editor to edit for typos. Okay, this time I’m laughing. No one’s book is THAT perfect. In fact, since I’ve been doing this for nearly a year, most books are not. Including my own. Good houses will put your book through the editing wringer. First, you’ll be edited for content. This is where everything is made consistent and plot holes are closed. Most houses want two rounds of content editing. You may need more. After content editing (also called developmental editing), it’s time for line editing. This is where spelling, grammar and punctuation are checked. Then, the main editor (usually the content) and author get a final time to check. The goal is to put out the best product and even in this day and age, when more and more books seem to be riddled with errors, the best houses work hard to put out perfect products (my houses do). So, suck it up. You are going to have to edit.

9)    You’re published! Now you get to quit your day job. Excuse me while I choke. I wish. Sure, I know of some who have. Some have found that stardom on first releases or have a husband who works a good job. Some have taken time off to pursue their dream. But just as many continue to work full time jobs outside the home and some even return to work after quitting their day job. And because competition is so fierce right now, while your book may sell well, chances are that it won’t make enough money to quit your day job. Still want to make it happen? Build a backlist, which means writing many books and giving readers lots of options then promoting. Simple, right?

10) The days of being rejected are over. Not true. Ask around. Most published authors will tell you they have been rejected time and again after making the first, second or even tenth, sale. In fact, just recently, one of my publishers’s rejected an author who had two manuscripts already published. Why? First, the story didn’t work but more importantly, the first couple didn’t make any money. I’ve also seen them rejected because an author failed to understand #8 and decided her book didn’t need editing. Bottom line is rejection is just part of the business and should be viewed as a badge of honor: You are submitting and you are in some excellent company.

There are always more myths flying about but this is enough myth busting for today. Do you see any of them in yourself? Ah, my bad. See Jane Publish readers are extraordinary so I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir. Feel free to pass this along to others who might not be as enlightened as you all.

Since I’m sure you know about these, got any you want to share with me? Maybe myth and how you busted it?

To make this even more fun, everyone who shares will get entered into a drawing for a free book or $10.00 gift certificate at one of my publishers. Winner’s choice.

Happy summer (will someone please turn off the heat? <grin>)!

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Posted on August 16, 2012, in Cassiel Knight and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I’ve got to say, there’s a whole lot of truth in every point you’ve brought up, Cassiel. Somehow self-publishing has taken on a Holy Grail for authors, and it’s just not true. I’ve said it many times, yet I know what’s in the writer’s heart and brain as I’m telling it. Most authors see themselves is not the same as other authors. They believe they are the one who will break the boundaries because their stories are truly the best. We should feel that way, because if we don’t believe in ourselves and our works, nobody else will. At the same time, we can’t all be the best. And no matter how you look at it, the competition is so stiff in indie publishing now that only a small portion of the indie authors will make even reasonably good money from it. The ones most likely to not do well, though, are those who refuse to hear from others how they could improve their stories, and who don’t go through rigorous amounts of polishing, editing, getting a tough editor’s advice, line editing, more line editing, etc. The ones more likely to succeed are those whose books are well-prepared and then well-promoted. But even among those folks, only a small percentage will make it really big. In that way, the publishing industry has not really changed.

  2. “If I write a great book, it will sell!”

    So much goes into a publishing house’s decision to buy a book. Yes, a good book is more likely to sell, but the decision will depend on the market for that sort of story, whether or not the publisher already has plenty of that type of story, whether your voice is too similar to one of their authors, etc.

  3. Cassiel,

    A great post! You are truly reaching back and helping others on the journey.

    I’ve found every one of these points is true.

    I’d add Myth #11) Once you get that book written, promoting it is the most important thing you can be doing.

    Wrong! Writing the next book WHILE promoting is your new goal. If readers love your book, they’ll look for what else you have available.

    If you have nothing, at least let them know on your website that you are working on another book. Give some teasers, and a link for them to click so you can let them know when the next book comes out, ie, newsletter, follow your blog, etc.

    They’ll come back and your sales will increase with each new book.

    best,
    Cathryn

    http://www.cathryncade.com

  4. Great post, Cassiel! I know my work needs editing after the first draft. Heck, after the fiftieth pass, too. The fact is, writing is hard work. Although I’ve yet to make that first sale, I have no delusions about how hard the publication process is even after making that sale. Let alone the marketing end of things! And yet I’m willing to do it. Go figure. :-)

  5. Thanks for the post, Cassiel. It is so true. I’ve yet to experience some of these myths, but have heard enough stories that I am bracing myself (my first pub is underway with Lyrical Press). I’m not planning on quitting my dayjob and buying a small island in the Caribbean with my royalties. I would like to buy a dishwasher. I hope that’s not too unreasonable:)

  6. missviolacross

    Authors are a bit like software developers, and editors a bit like QA analysts. You write the code and give it to the QA to try to break. They (usually) break it, and break it again, and again. If Microsoft (developers) didn’t have QA, we wouldn’t be writing our books in MS Word! Regardless of hour much a novice, or how much a pro a writer is, a good editor is needed!! Everything else you touched on is so true! Thanks for the great post :)

  7. Every book needs editing. That’s why I have a handful of authors and ex-editors in my fold. They make my books worth reading and I help with their books. I agree everyone needs two or three people in their corner who tells the truth and doesn’t sugar coat anything. That’s the only way to make a book a good read.

    I also agree you can’t think everyone who friends you will buy or read your work. You need to promote in what ever fashion you enjoy doing. Key words “need to promote”. The book won’t get bought just because it’s available. There has to be a push.

    I’ve gone small pub, I learned a lot from that experience and felt I was ready to self pub and I’m enjoying the whole experience. But I will look at a traditional publisher when I’m ready to roll out a mystery series. Only because I feel a traditional publisher will be a better place for the mystery and get it more exposure to the places the mystery readers buy books.

    Interesting post, Kim!

  8. Count me in the been-there-done-that-got-the-tshirt for myths one through three. The rest, not so much. I’ve never thought I had a perfect book or that it didn’t need editing. Even after it was published I didn’t think it was perfect. :)

    For me the most difficult myth to overcome was the belief that once I sold, the publisher would do a lot of marketing for my book. Um…no…in fact no marketing except to put it on their website and in their catalog. Oh, and they did send it out to about 14 reviewers. I put out the money and time for all the marketing: RT ads, online ads, Book Breeze ads, blog tours, Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads giveaways, etc. The fact the publisher did no marketing for me was more devastating to my experience than any other part of getting a contract for my book. And it is one of the major reasons I haven’t looked to sell to a small press publisher again. I’d rather self-publish.

    That doesn’t mean I won’t ever seek a traditional deal. I’m planning to seek a traditional deal for my YA, because I think that market is still a good one for traditional publishing and there’s more investment in the authors. (I hope this isn’t another myth). But for my contemporary and suspense romances? It would have to be a pretty special contract for me to give up rights, control, and money again. I’d have to be convinced the publisher is actually doing something for me that I can’t do for myself. And the publisher would need to have the track record to prove they’d market my book and can get me better distribution and notice than I can on my own.

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