Direct your questions to the right person

Recently, The Writing Bomb posted an article entitled, “10 Questions Every Author Should Ask”, aimed at indie and self-published authors, or rather those who wish to become so. The article made some fantastic points, reminding people that making it as a writer isn’t as easy as just spending a weekend writing some short stories and then compiling them into an e-book. To assume that it is actually does a great disservice to all the authors who spend months and years honing their talent, reading and writing and rewriting and editing and passing over an hour of sleep in favour of the cup of coffee it will take to keep them writing just that much longer.

And writing the book is only part of the battle. Looking at Amazon.com’s self-publishing platform for e-books, pricing a book at $0.99 means that the author probably gets paid an average of $0.15 every time they make a sale. Want to quit your dayjob on that kind of money? Keep in mind that if you’re getting paid $6 an hour at your dayjob, it will take 40 book sales to equal an hour’s worth of work. Think you can manage to advertise and market your book enough to get the 300+ sales a day it’ll take to cover the cost of quitting? That’s 300 sales each day, every day, for the foreseeable future.

Not looking so easy anymore, is it?

But that’s not what I really wanted to get at here. You can find stats like that all over the Internet. What I really wanted to comment on was question 8 of The Writing Bomb’s list: “Am I ready for publication?”

In my opinion, that’s far too subjective a question to be on such a list.

Not that I don’t think it’s a question worthy of asking, mind you. But the answer is one that could be the subject of a hundred and one articles and blog posts and books and still ends up too subjective to really be answered. Is the question asking about whether the draft is typo-free? Whether you can handle rejection and negative reviews? Do you have a marketing plan? I can assume not, since those were also questions asked on the 10 Questions list.

Honestly, a good number of people think they’re ready for publication when in reality, they aren’t. And I’m not just talking about their marketing plan or whether the book has formatting errors. I’m referring to quality. Can the reader follow the plot? Is the pacing even? Can the story hold a reader’s attention? Is your book even interesting?

The prospective author is probably actually the least-qualified person to provide the answer to this question, since chances are the majority of new authors are going to say yes when the rest of the world will say no. While most authors write because they have stories to tell and the talent to tell them, that’s only half the battle. Having a story to tell doesn’t sell the story. You’ve got to convince others to actually read your book, or you may as well just leave your story sitting on your hard drive, unread by anyone but yourself.

This is exactly what “Am I ready for publication?” isn’t really something that I would say should be on that list. It’s too subjective. The other questions make their point quite nicely by reminding people that it takes hard work and perseverence and planning. But that one’s too open-ended, too subjective, too vague to really be worth asking at that stage of the game. If you could give me an objective checklist of what makes a thing definitely ready for publication, then sure, it’s worth asking, but until then, there are better questions that I think should be asked in its place.

Such as, “Can I really handle doing all that work and only getting 15 cents in return?”

One comment on “Direct your questions to the right person

  1. Perhaps the author isn't completely qualified to answer that question, but any decent writer would know whether the book is in the best shape it can be in before beginning the process of attempting publication. Perhaps a better question, though, would be “Am I jumping the gun?” There's no need to rush to publication, or to sending out queries, etc.

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