There’s an age-old saying, that you only get out what you put in. I would place a caveat on that. You only get out what you put in, if you’re prepared to wait.
When we look at the jaw-dropping amount of books being put out there every day, it can be disheartening to think of our pride and joy as just a drop in a boundless ocean. Take heart, though, because I would like to share a little something I’ve learned along the way.
Pretty much any market one may choose to enter, regardless of what that market might be, is no big secret. The internet today ensures that whatever the new thing may be, it will be common knowledge in weeks, if not days. This should not discourage us. A busy marketplace is a great place to be. Yes, there are scams. There are marketing tricks, dodgy goods, cheap knock-offs, plagiarism and all the other delights of the modern world.
But, there will always be a market for a quality product. The one drawback is the time it takes for others to become aware of the quality of our product.
The real satisfaction comes from trying to be more than just a tradesman. It’s when we strive to become a craftsman, an artisan, and, finally, an artist. Of course, we have to walk before we can run, so it’s important not to get bogged down. Struggling to get the first book to as high a standard as possible has a use by date, trust me. The really important thing is to keep our sights pointed upwards. Every book we write should be better than the last.
I was in a band once, many years ago, that did the club circuit; RSL’s, bowls clubs, boating clubs, and so on. I always remember the guitarist telling me that I should be content with my level of ability. We’re only part-timers, he argued. Why bother to be any more than we already are? As much as I respected that man, and I did; I decided he was wrong. Thus, I kept stretching, kept taking more and more ambitious jobs, pushing the boundaries.
Eventually, I was playing in an eleven piece funk and soul show, in front of audiences of over 1,000 people, on occasions. I loved it, every minute of it. As a player, I learned so much along that journey, that I can now play at a level I never dreamed I would achieve. That job could never have been mine, had I just accepted that guitarist’s advice all those years before.
Any work in a creative field is a matter of patience and a smattering of luck. I firmly believe an abundance of patience can overcome a lack of good luck, though. Patience, determination, and the knowledge that we can always be better than we are today.
If you are trying to finish your first book, or even considering the idea of starting one, please be assured of one solid fact. You can do it. Anyone can do it. The difference between the published author and the prospective author is the patience and determination to finish the job. The difference between the published author and the successful author, is the patience to get the second book better than the first, and keep that trend going.
There are volumes of advice out there about selling your eBook. Much of it is valuable advice, and we should make sure we do whatever is necessary to get our work out there. However, we must continuously ask ourselves; do I want to be a writer, or a book salesman?
For some, the way forward is volume. Indeed, many eBook writers punch out books at a mind-boggling rate. How do they do that? My wife is a big reader. She tells me that much of what she reads is good as far as the story goes, but she is often frustrated due to the quality of the finished product. To get their head above the crowd, some feel they need a huge volume of work upon which to stand.
That is the way of many industries these days. Efficient production of a large volume of goods, at an acceptable standard. In every industry, though, there is a small enclave of people who put quality above all else. To be one of these people, we must reach higher with every book, not accept that we are ‘good enough’ and then punch out an ever-growing library of acceptable work. Such a philosophy belongs in the workplace, maybe. But, writing, like music, is an art form. Writers are not workers, they are artists. So, weave your story, craft it with real love and care. Edit it to the very highest level you can achieve, or get an editor to do it for you.
In times past, the publishing houses held the reins of the industry. To an extent, perhaps, they abused that power. However, they exerted a certain restraint on the quality of what was published. The limited space on bookshop shelves demanded that whatever was placed there was of the highest quality. Those restraints have been removed. It is now incumbent upon eBook writers to set the standards themselves.
Rob put me through the process that the publishers put him through, back in the days before eBooks. It was long, tedious and incredibly draining. But, it yielded bountiful fruit. Looking back on the earlier drafts of The Road Out is an embarrassing exercise. I genuinely cringe at the thought that I thought I was ready to publish the book as it was.
We can hit the publish button whenever we fancy it, but that should not remove the responsibility we have as writers to produce a work worthy of our reader’s time.
Ask yourself this: when I am daydreaming about what my life will be after I publish my next book, am I seeing money in the bank? A new car, or maybe a new house?
I’ll tell you what I see. I see someone somewhere, with a copy of my book. There’s a tear in their eye, and a smile on their face. Something they read reached them, I made brief contact, and they felt what I wrote. The day that happens, I will count myself a writer.
All my years playing music, I had just one goal. To be a better musician than I was the day before.
I can’t think of a better goal with my writing, than to strive for the same thing.