The Business of Writing


Writing a book of any genre in order to build an income –whether it be fiction or non-fiction – can take a month, or six months or a year or more. After the first few days the writer begins to gain some idea of the scope of the job he or she has taken on.

The very sad fact is that once the manuscript is complete and edited the job has only just begun. And the new writer has no idea of that fact until the manuscript is complete. That manuscript is now a product to be marketed and sold, and very few people who take on the avocation of writing for a living are in any way suited to the job of selling.

That’s why Heaven tolerates the existence of literary agents. But unless you or your ‘product’ are as marketable as Tutankhamen’s golden death mask, literary agents simply cannot afford to take you on as a client

So you are very much on your own. Don’t bother flogging your manuscript to publishing houses. If you can’t attract the attention of an agent (and some people do, I’ll admit it. Otherwise the number of literary agents would be closer the three instead of three thousand), you are just wasting your time and money of printing costs and stamps.

Writing query letters to agent is good practice. Write several, and staple your rejection letters on a large and otherwise empty wall. Buy books on writing query letters – there are a lot of them out there and their authors need the income, so buy them and read them. Write many more query letters using what you have learned from those books. Staple your new rejection letters onto the wall.

When you run out of patience, money for stamps and staples, or reach retirement age and begin to collect Social Security (whichever comes first). look into self publishing. You will find that your royalties will be much greater without having to consider splitting them with your non-existent literary agent.

You will also learn that you and only you are responsible to any and all marketing and promotion of your book. But even if you had landed a literary agent and signed a contract binding you to paying your agent fifteen or even twenty percent of your royalties, your publisher (if your agent was able to put you with a publishing house), you would learn that you and only you are responsible for any and all marketing and promotion of your book.

So there you are, considerably older and hopefully much wiser than you were when you first put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. And free of any obligations – financial or contractual – to literary agents and publishing houses. And you don’t owe nobody nuthin’.

But you do have a manuscript, and with a bit of cash your manuscript is going to become a book, ready for sale just as soon as you connect with a POD publisher. It’s also called self-publishing.

You do enter into an agreement with the publisher, but in the case of self-publishing, you pay up front to have them do all of the pre-press work on the manuscript and work on the cover design (unless you do this yourself or have it done for you), and at the end of a month or two you receive a number of printed and bound copies of your book. If you want more copies they print them at a pre-agreed price and ship them to you.

Normally these publishers have access to one or more web sites such as Amazon where your book is allocated a book page and space in their on-line catalogue so customers can order your book and have it printed and shipped to them.

Which is when you begin to receive those royalty checks we were talking about earlier. And no percentage is paid to a literary agent.

Personally, I think Heave has given the matter of literary agents some serious reconsideration.

In short, you now have some options to the traditional writer/agent/publisher relationship. Options are good. Especially when those options put you, the writer, in charge of your own life and work. That is a good thing.

And that’s not all. eBooks aren’t just the Next Big Thing. They are the 900 LB gorilla in the room, and all of those literary agents and traditional publishing houses have no idea why its gotten so damn crowded in that room.

A recent newsletter from Amazon states that 60% of their annual sales is now in eBooks. I don’t have the numbers for Barnes & Noble, but I will to be they are growing, as well. My novels are now available in paperback, Kindle and as of this week, in Nook format as well.

And I could not be happier about that.

Whether you have one book or a dozen, a part of your marketing plan must be to make your content (all those words you typed) available to the largest possible section of your target audience (you do have one, don’t you? You did know who your audience would be before you started writing, didn’t you?) on as many platforms as you can. Consider each of those platforms as a revenue stream – another way for money to stream out of your reader’s pockets and direct (without passing through an agents greedy paws) into yours.

That should be your goal.


About Gary Showalter

Gary Showalter was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He lived in Aruba, Florida and the Panama Canal Zone before joining the U.S. Army during the 1960s. Following his discharge from the Army, Mr. Showalter picked cotton in East Texas, baled hay in Ardmore Oklahoma, sold light bulbs in Los Angeles, California, and built cattle pens in Fallon, Nevada (during a blizzard, of course). After settling in Atlanta, Georgia, Mr. Showalter worked as a professional gardener before turning his hand to furniture making. In 1981, he moved to Israel, married, and raised four children while working as a furniture maker, silversmith, goldsmith, and ornamental wood turner. He served in the Israel Defense Forces Reserves for sixteen years, and when not on active duty he worked in government and private security. He has also served in senior management positions in two software development companies in Israel. During his time in Israel, Mr. Showalter published articles dealing with international terror and the Israel-Arab conflict in the Jerusalem Post, Israel national News and several political science web sites. Mr. Showalter returned to the United States in the fall of 2003, to care for an elderly parent. He published his first novel, “The Big Bend”, in the fall of 2008. His second novel, “Hog Valley”, is now in print. Mr. Showalter's third novel, “Twisted Key”, was published in the fall of 2011, and his fourth novel, "Lonesome Cove" is now available in Kindle format and should be published in paper near the end of 2012. He currently lives in Deland, Fl, where he is co-authoring "A Silent Star" with Tony Attanasio. "A Silent Star" is the true tale (though novelized, with names changed for security reasons) about the 4-person covert action team sent into Yemen to capture Osama Bin laden immediately after the bombing of the USS Cole in the Aden harbor in Yemen in October of 2000.
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