All of this has been said before, often. Yet if this Harlequin Horizons affair has showed anything, it is that myths are alive and well. Evidently, we can’t say this kind of thing often enough.
In no particular order the first five myths (5 more tomorrow):
1. Writers make stacks of money.
I wish. This is like saying that “all singers make fortunes”. It’s not true. Most singers eke out a living, singing far too infrequently to small audiences. Looked at as a whole, published writers more often than not hold down a second job to make ends meet. Few writers can write more than one book a year, and few will get more than USD 10,000 a year for their effort, especially for the first few years. Sure, there are the superstars out there, but they are the ones skewing the statistics.
2. You can’t get published unless you know somebody in the business first.
Ok, so then how did I do it?
I had never:
(a) met another fiction writer
(b) met a publisher
(c) met an agent
(d) been to a sff convention.
(e) no money to bribe anyone
(f) no access to the internet
(g) knew no one to ask about getting published
(g) living in a country that had no sff fiction-publishing industry
No one recommended me anywhere. No one had ever heard of me. And I still got published.
3. The best way to get published is to pay money to have your book published.
Yep, there are people out there who think authors pay to get their books into book shops. No, authors don’t do this. Publishers pay authors to write books and publishers pay distributors (or have their own distribution system) to place the books in bookshops and other outlets.
4. Publishing and printing a book are the same thing.
No, they aren’t. My publisher pays me an advance, edits my book, copy-edits my book (2 different things, btw), proofs my book – all with my input; they design the cover and pay the cover artist, pay for printing and binding the book, inform booksellers about the book, distribute the book to outlets for sale, market the book (to varying degrees); they arrange for the book to be reviewed, pay me royalties if it sells well, reprint it if it’s sold out…etc, etc.
Printers print and bind the book. If you are arranging this for yourself, they use the files you give them, and do some minimal formatting. You pay them. Pay a little more, and they will help you with the design. That’s all. They give you the number of copies that you asked for – and that’s it. Their job is finished.
5. Self-publishing and vanity publishing are the same thing and they are both great ways to get published.
Self-publishing and e-publishing have many advantages for certain kinds of books, especially non-fiction, niche market books.
–Grannie wants to a family history to give to members of her family, the local school and the local library? Ideal! It will cost her a bit, but the pleasure she’ll get out of it will be worth every penny.
–You have a hobby of growing pansies for perfume making and you want to tell other people how to do it? Self-publish, set up your own website and sell the book through the website. People will come because they will google pansies/perfume or whatever. Better still, sell the book in digital form through the internet for a lot less hassle.
–Self-publishing fiction is possible and has on rare occasions led to a more conventional publishing career, but only by people who read widely about how to do it first. If you do it well, it involves paying for editing, copyediting, proofing, printing, design, cover art, marketing and distribution.
Vanity publishing on the other hand is a rip off that will print (not publish) your book for you and charge you a whole lot of money for the privilege. Beware.
More myths tomorrow.