Of Writing, Time, and The Realities of Publishing…

Mursi tribe imagination without border - Omo Ethiopia by Eric LafforgueMursi tribe imagination without border – Omo Ethiopia, a photo by Eric Lafforgue on Flickr.

The reality of publishing is that it is difficult to make a profit in this business.

And why does one want to make a profit?

Because editors need to be paid, it takes money to print copies of a book, and most importantly, authors need food, shelter, and health insurance, none of which are cheap, if we are to write entertaining stories.

When publishing companies agree to print book, the writer must deliver and on time, lest the publisher demands a return of the advance, often times less than $10 or $25,000.00, if that. Failure to honor one’s contract jeopardizes a writer’s relationship with her or his agent, and who are more difficult to ascertain than the publishing contract.

The writer’s stories and books produce money for more than the writer. Your work as a writer, is how an agent makes a living. Your writing constitutes the main source of profit for the publishing company.

Publishing companies direct attention and resources to the books that yield profits. You, the writer, must make your book profitable both through developing your craft and by also refining your marketing and promoting prowess.

Developing the ability to work on both these aspects as a writer requires creativity and planning, both of which demand time.

Mystery writer, Elizabeth George wrote (paraphrase) that, “After learning the fundamentals of crafting engaging and entertaining fiction, the single most important skill a writer can then acquire is an understanding of their unique process for achieving this.”

Understanding the process by which you plan and/or write a novel or short story allows the author two privileges: the ability to meet deadlines with less fear and terror of the blank page, something all writers, even the masters, encounter when starting any new work of fiction; and the opportunity to craft a story possessing greater depth and texture.

While computer and Internet technology have streamlined the process of printing and binding books and/or producing electronic copies of books, the human imagination continues to operate on a clock outside the boundaries of human demands.

Push too hard, draw more water from the well of creativity without tending the garden from which our dreams rise, and the writer, like any artist, runs dry. Our stories grow stale and bland, unable to maintain a grasp upon even our attention.

Writers need time not only to write and promote our work, but also ample hours to read the works of others as well as be with friends and family.

Sitting to a computer for 12 or more hours a day drains the body and soul.

Time for exercise and simply breathing, allowing our minds to wander, our hearts to explore contributes to our ability offer our personal crafting our works, and when applying our energies to the necessary task of devising a marketing plan built upon carefully drawn promotion strategies.

Commitment to my family has and does not allow me the freedom to donate my life to writing as demanded by publishing contracts, and certainly not in a manner that would allow me to have a chance at generating profitable sales.

I like to write. But most of all I love to create. Crafting engaging and entertaining stories is my passion. I have also come to enjoy developing strategies for promoting my work.

Self-publishing has taught me that creating an outline for my novel not only yields a process by which I can craft and refine a novel with less stress and greater creativity. It has also allowed me to uncover and identify non-fiction aspects of the story I am writing and upon which I can devise a promotion campaign.

My work as a psychotherapist has demonstrates that every experience we undergo as individuals allows us to broaden and deepen our understanding of what it is and means to be human and alive.

All that I encounter in life increases my understanding of the human experience and renders me better able to assist clients with whom I work in my practice of psychotherapy.

Much the same stands true for writers.

Everything we do with and beyond our writing–working with graphic designers to create a book cover, learning how to use Adobe’s CS4 InDesign to format the layout of a book, engaging the services of freelance editors to further develop and refine our manuscripts for publication, seeking out reviewers, building a base of friends at goodreads, shelfari and other social networking sites for readers, getting our books listed at Amazon, Lulu.com, on Smashwords, at Barnes and Nobles both in stores and online, etc.

Our efforts to craft, refine, edit, print, promote and selling our stories, novel, essays, poems, etc makes us not simply a better writer, but also develops our muscles as entrepreneurs. In truth the most successful writers are good business people.

Self-publishing has allowed me the time to develop and refine my skills at the art of crafting and refining my novels. It has also allowed me a venue in which to strengthen my skills as an entrepreneur whose business is that of publishing.

In the best of worlds, should I gain a contract with a major publisher, I will feel well-equipped to not only write with a focus on craft and the objectives of entertaining and engaging the reader, but to also remain conscious of the larger goal of achieving a profit.

As an author who approaches my work from the perspective of an entrepreneur in publishing I understand that the skill sets regarding the aspects artistry and business work hand-in-hand.

Writing well is an all-important skill that every writer must strive to learn. But ultimately it is sales that assist any writer who has gained a publishing contract that assist and determine whether she or he will maintain that contract long after their first two titles see print are sales.
Good writing does not necessarily generate sales, rather it is stories that entertain and engage a reader’s heart and mind and tied to a clear marketing plan, one based on identifying readers who not only like your work because it mirrors their ideas and perceptions on life, but who, after reading your work, will spread the new of their discovery.

Word-of-mouth referrals still comprise the central way books achieve attention that drives readers to purchase them.

Here again, advent of the Internet takes the cake.

The Internet allows the writer infinite avenues to distribute examples and samples of our work as a way of searching out readers. It also offers numerous channels for communicating with these readers in a manner delivering them a sense of who we are as a writer, and as a person.

Publishing companies have achieved profits in the last century by purchasing as many books as possible, most for small sums of money, others for ridiculously high amounts. Interestingly, and the majority of titles that have yielded profits have been those titles purchased at low amounts, but went on to make a hit with reader audiences, much to the surprise of the publisher.

The success of these titles in most cases, cannot be traced back to anything the publishing company did, rather what the authors accomplished.

Think of John Grisham, Mississippi attorney who rose at 5 am to write for two hours before going to his office to practice law. I am told that Tom Clancy, and the late E. Lynn Harris self-published their first works of fiction, at a time when doing so was expensive. The latter sold books from the back of his car.

How’s that for an author promoting and marketing his or her own work?

When the company that brought the Red Tent to print decided to discard thousands of copies of the book due to poor sales, author Anita Diamant asked for the opportunity to mail copies to Rabbi’s, other religious clergy and potentially interested readers as a way to promote the book. Receiving an affirmative on her plan, the rest has become history.

Dan Brown purchased thousands of copies of The DaVinci Code and mailed them to priests. These priests became evangelists for the novel, in much the same way that they did with the movie Mel Gibson directed and filmed, The Passion of Christ.

Whatever your opinion of these works, the promotion and marketing strategies employed by their creators offer inspiration and insight into what we as authors, whether traditionally or self-published must do to gain attention for our work.

The latest example of an artist beating the pavement to gain attention for a work of their creation is that of the movie, Red Tails.

Legendary for his development of special effects that underpin the entire US movie industry, George Lucas received a firm, “No go,” when he asked Hollywood executives to assist in promoting the movie, Red Tails.

That they refused to assist this man who can be deemed the Steve Jobs of the movie industry indicates one thing. Artists must remember that the business of creating entertainment is just that–a business, and one in which the artist who understands the underpinnings of that business benefits greatly and possesses leverage or in Lucas’s case, capital, to bring his dreams to life.

That Lucas, a genius in his own right, worked 24 years researching and crafting the manuscript/screenplay for “Red Tails,” evidenced that the art of translating the stories that come to us–that rise from our imaginations–into entertaining an riveting dramas that ride and carry us upon the page requires time and patience.

Ultimately, the journey we trod in bringing these works to life and light takes us, the writer, through a plot of transformation that runs simultaneous to that which we sketch and write for the characters of our narratives.

I am grateful for the new innovations in computer and Internet technology in that they have allowed me–a wife and mother–whose passion is writing fiction–to practice my art and make it available to public consumption at a fraction of the cost required 10 or 20 years earlier in a manner that has allowed me to be the wife, mother and artist I want to be.

Time spent with family and friends has given me insight into the dilemmas of the human heart and inspired stories that not amount of sitting to the computer or reading all the books on plot and planning a novel could produce.

Appreciation for my family has endowed my life and writing with sense of grace that allows me to craft and refine stories from a place of gratitude and not competition.

The process of writing has been as much a source of healing as the accomplishment of a goal that rose from my husband who in having read my novel, The House, and enjoyed it encouraged me to self-publish and provided the monies to do so.

My novel, Seasons in Purdah, set to debut later in 2012, required a decade to write. I remain astonished at how graciously and without thought I gave myself to this project. Still I remain hesitant to release it into the world. The assistance and encouragement of editors with whom I have worked in refining it brings me closer to this final goal of letting go, an important to essential juncture that every writer must cross in our development as literary artists.

Self-publishing has allowed me to the time and space to develop as a writer and an individual at a time when the very present realities of publishing demand the opposite of authors.


Anjuelle Floyd is the author of Keeper of Secrets…Translations of an Incident, and The House that the 2011 Readers’ Favorite Awards recognized in 2 genres: Honorable in Christian Fiction, and Finalist in Dramatic Fiction.

Her 3rd work and second novel, Seasons in Purdah, is due for publication in Spring 2012.

Visit Anjuelle @ www.anjuellefloyd.com

(reprinted from guest post @ SheWrites.com)



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Readers' Favorite recognized The House in 2 of its 2011 categories Honorable in the Genre of Christian Fiction AND Finalist in the Genre of Dramatic Fiction

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