In December 2010, I decided to follow my dream of being a writer. I knew nothing about how to publish, or about the industry itself. All I had was the ability to write, a dream, and the feeling that I wasn’t happy with where my life currently was.
One year later, I now know how common publishing terms are defined, the general process of traditional publishing, and what expectations are reasonable. So, for anyone else who is trying to become an author, I decided to share. Consider this a short guide for beginners: If you've no idea what the traditional publishing process looks like, welcome to Publishing for a Living 101.
On average, it takes between two and ten years for a manuscript going through traditional publishing to be published after being completed. Some authors get published before; some after.
In recent years, advances have been diminishing. Depending on the publisher and the genre, advances for a first novel may be 2-5K or less. The advance may not arrive all at once. It’s not uncommon for it to be broken up into three parts, such as upon receipt of manuscript, upon receipt of final manuscript after revisions, and upon actual release date.
The average total income for a traditionally published, stand-alone romance novel is usually around $17,000, from the time the book is first published to when it goes out of print. Romance is generally accepted to be one of the more profitable genres. Total income can be much higher or much lower. Here are some assorted articles, surveys, and blogs on what you can earn as an author, both through traditional and self-publishing.
I have not met many published authors whose first manuscript was published. In cases where it was, it typically went through a very large number of revisions first.
Rejection letters are part of the business. Form rejections are common. It is very, very rare for an agent to provide feedback on why a query or a manuscript was rejected.
Most agents get hundreds to thousands of queries a year, and can only represent a few. They probably won’t remember your name.
Submitting a manuscript to a contest can provide professional feedback. In many contests, the judges offer explanations for their scores. A wise writer will accept the feedback and use it to improve her manuscript. Most manuscripts do not win their first contests.
The most successful authors put significant effort into marketing and publicity. They write more than one book.
Most publishers don’t expect to make a profit on an author’s first book. Therefore, they rarely publish authors who do not intend to write more than a single book.
And last but not least:
Being a published author is a career, not a hobby. To be successful, treat it that way. But also keep your day job until after you’re making a living wage from writing.
Did you find any of these surprising? Are there any other publishing-life expectations you’ve found that you think writers ought to know?