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Saturday, March 7, 2009

So You Want to Be an Author

I try to be nice to aspiring writers, but I blend niceness with honesty. Some should have stayed in fifth grade until they learned a plural subject requires a plural verb and could distinguish its from it’s and your from you’re. Others should realize a manuscript isn’t ready for publication simply because “my family members and friends read it and thought it was good.”

Occasionally, an aspiring writer asks whether I think he is ready to quit his job and become a full-time author. I feel like asking, “Are you ready to starve to death?” Sure, a few authors make it big and live high off the royalties, but many authors never see a royalty check. The buying public tends to purchase books written by well-known authors, and bookstores tend to purchase titles produced by big-name publishers.

Aspiring writers must leap over another hurdle. Publishers usually accept book manuscripts from writers who can market their own books. You may get your foot inside the editorial review room if you travel as a speaker or musician, have a radio or TV ministry, are the pastor of a mega church, or have made your mark as an athlete or entertainer. Of course, there is always the possibility of getting published as an unknown if your book topic is “hot.” It has to address a widespread need in an appealing way and in a timely manner.

For a book to be successful, it must gain a sizable share of the publisher’s advertising and sales budget. Limited space in a catalogue will likely result in limited sales. Eventually the publisher will move the book to the backlist and ultimately to the out of print list.

So, if you want to quit your day job and become a full-time writer, be patient. Test the waters before walking away from a regular paycheck. Above all else, check your motives. Do you want to write to become rich, or do you want to write to honor God and minister to readers?

Someone has observed that writing is the hardest work that doesn’t involve lifting. Nevertheless, it is worth all the effort if it influences readers to be what God wants them to be and to do what He wants them to do.

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