The value of your words
By Anne Jones
firstwriter.com – Saturday May 29, 2010
She’s one of Britain’s best-selling authors and a respected complimentary healer, but Anne Jones’ journey into the literary world has not been easy. In the second of a series of articles for firstwriter.com, she looks at making money from the value of your words.
“I’m very sorry Mrs Jones, but your book is currently in the possession of Arthur Anderson, the auditors, and you have no right of access.” “So how can I get it to a new publisher?” I asked. “Well, unfortunately you can’t. You see you are not the owner of your book anymore”.
There are many excuses why your book may not yet be in print but this was a new one for me. It was my book, I wrote it but it was no longer my book! It had been seized as an asset by the accountants when Elements my publisher were liquidated and so I had no legal right to it. Fabulous!
There are many hurdles to overcome when you step forward and decide to write your first book. I doubt if you are likely to match that one but don’t worry, there are many more to test your durability, persistence and patience.
Time – Once you have the inspiration for the subject, plot and purpose of your book your first challenge will be finding the time to write it. Unless you’re retired, you will, like most of us, have a full life, either caring for a family or holding down a full time job, holidays spoken for and weekends committed to family and home. I am fortunate as I work for myself and, although I juggle family, work and travel, I can block off time in advance. I block out weeks of my diary, then force myself to write a scheduled number of words each day. At times it feels tight and tedious but it gets me there. Khaled Hosseini was a medical practitioner when he wrote The Kite Runner, he wrote for two hours every morning before work. Only when his book succeeded as a best seller could he give up his day job. You will need patience and a long suffering partner for it can take months if not years to break through into publishing and success doesn’t necessarily come with the first book, Stephen King, Ian Rankin and Dan Brown all wrote a number of books before one took off and brought in good money.
Blocks and Dead ends – Of course, occasionally the words do not flow or your plot takes you to a dead end. In a novel I am writing I had my heroine pinned down by the bad guys in a harbour with nowhere to go. I planned to get her out by helicopter till I read a creative writing guide which listed the ten worst mistakes a novelist can make, number one rescuing your heroine by helicopter! Duh! I just couldn’t get my head around a rescue plan so after taking a long walk I sloughed off my frustration and anxiety (panic can easily take over) and decided to re-write the entire second half of the book! Rewrites are normal and you cannot afford to be attached to anything you have written no matter how good you think it is.
Re-writes and major edits – Most agents or publishers will assist with editing you book and, unless you are lucky enough to know a good creative writer, be led by them alone. Friends and family may think they are helpful giving you their advice and input but leave it to the experts. After Elements were liquidated I eventually recovered my book and Piatkus signed a contract, however, my new editor had different views on the flow of the book and so I went through a major rewrite before it actually came into print. There is no room for ego, you just have to swallow your pride and make the changes.
Finding an agent – These days publishers rarely take books directly from first time authors, so you need an agent to act on your behalf, selling your book to a publisher, negotiating a contract and collecting your royalties. Some agents will assist you in editing your book and also help you with promoting it once it’s in print, but don’t be surprised if they don’t do either of these. Publishers will often pay an advance but don’t get too excited, this will be quite modest unless you are a celebrity or a bestselling author already. The internet is your best source for agents, meet with them if you can and before you sign a contract check their commission rates, normally around 12 per cent of your royalty payments.
Promotion – Once your book is published it will need publicising. Your publisher will distribute the book for you and sell overseas rights to other publishers and they will do a certain amount of promotional work for you, e.g. sending out copies to the press for reviews. Don’t hold your breath for a book launch or TV and radio interviews as you may need to be proactive in these areas yourself. It will help if you can give talks at bookstores or book clubs and take any opportunity to promote your books personally although, I think book signings are a waste of time as you may sit staring at a pile of your books with pen poised for some time before a fickle public finds you! One of my worst moments was standing in the middle of Borders bookstore in a mega mall in Kuala Lumpur, in front of me six rows of chairs with one lone woman sitting in anticipation of my talk. The store manager shrugged and suggested I started regardless. This had to be good for my soul and definitely a lesson in ego. I picked up the microphone and felt like a roadside evangelist! Fortunately, by the end of my allotted time the seats were full and a few more dragged in from the cupboard, but it was scary and not something I would recommend for the faint hearted!
So good luck if you feel the urge to write. It can be demanding, hard work and sometimes frustrating but if you stick it out to the end it will most definitely be one of the most rewarding pursuits. There is nothing like holding a published book in your hand – you did it!
About the Author
Anne Jones is the author of five bestselling books including Heal Yourself, Healing Negative Energies, The Ripple Effect, Opening Your Heart, and The Soul Connection. For more information about Anne and her titles, go to www.annejones.org