Some Misconceptions About Authors

Okay, let’s clear these up right now.

Authors make a lot of money selling books

Yeah, right. Seriously though, some do. Most don’t. Sarah Palin made millions, more than enough to quit her day job. On the absolute opposite end of the continuum, Joe Schmuckarola, who you’ve never heard of even though he lives right down the street, sold a total of 4 copies of his self-published underwater crime thriller. And he bought one of those copies himself, just to see what it would do to his Amazon ranking (it sent his book from 2,341,556 to 341,457 — but only for about two days, until the ranking promptly fell back into the 2 millions).

So we make money, but our bottom line is a direct result of the amount of intelligent effort we’ve invest in our marketing, the commercial appeal of the work, and the ability to talk about our books in a way that either entertains or educates the public.

Authors are famous, or will be one day

You don’t write a book and get famous, you get famous and then write a book.

Authors worked their tale off to perfect their craft, labored for hours to win the attention of an agent, sent their manuscript in and waited and waited until a giant NY publisher called and wrote them a giant check

Naw, anyone can write a book these days. Really. It’s not that hard. And it’s only going to get easier. Check out Garrison Keillor’s article on The End of an Era in Publishing.

In school, authors received high marks in English, spelling, grammar, etc…

I was terrible in English class, still can’t spell, have awful grammar and a limited vocabulary. I scored much higher on the math portion of the SAT than that other section. My reading comprehension scores were always the lowest of all my standardized test scores. I’m great with numbers, but struggle with words. Ultimately I’m a storyteller. Discuss the nuance of  Jane Eyre? No. Won’t even try.

Authors are backed by a publisher who handles all their publicity and marketing

If this was true I wouldn’t be writing this. Or posting a link to the official website for my newest book, The Cigar Maker.

Thanks for reading, gang! See you next time!


5 Responses to Some Misconceptions About Authors

  1. Anyone who writes a book dreaming of being the next J.K. Rowlings or Steven King days after mailing out their first manuscript won’t last long in this business. I’ve heard and read more than once that out of the millions of published authors in the US less than 200 earn enough money from their novels/books to pay the bills. The rest have to have a job that pays by the hour or a monthly salary like I did as a teacher for thirty years.

    If an author is “really” good in a literary sense, they may pick up a few awards and gain literary recognition but book sales that make him or her rich seldom follows. Don’t give up your regular job.

    I know someone who sold a book to Random House, quit her job and went on a spending spree. Random House sent her on a book tour in the US and Europe. Her book flopped, sold a few hundred copies and the publisher said “no” to the next book and her agent dropped her. The story that followed would make a good tear jerker how she lost her house and had to marry the first guy that asked her to as fast as possible so she would have a place to sleep and eat. Now, she can’t find anyont to consider her second book because the sales nubmers for the first one were in the toilet.

    Look at James Lee Burke. He was the man of the moment out of college. Signed a three book contract. All three books were published by a major house and flopped. His forth book gathered hundreds of rejections for more than a decade before a university press published it (the university he taught at). That book was nominated for a National Book Award (didn’t win) and went on to become a NYT Best Seller. His next dozen or more books were all bestsllers and two were made into movies. Reaching that point took about two decades after the first flops.

  2. Anne Gilbert says:

    I haven’t yet published anything. But I am working hard on polishing and tightening the second book of my medieval/”romantic science fiction trilogy. It’s hard work. When I finished the first draft of the fi4rst book, the fir4st question people would ask was “Are you going to send it out to be published now?” I knew that first draft of the series wasn’t publishable; it was too long, too “flabby”, and I’d accidentally made some of the historical details out of order. I knew I had a lot more work ahead of me, and that’s what I’m doing now. Other people have tried to push me into “independent” publishing. Unless you know pretty much what you are doing, this can be a disaster for a lot of writers, though some have succeeded at it. Agents and publishers are still leery of this form of publication, though, and may reject an author who has gone this route. I plan to at least start out the “traditional” way, though I’m thinking of having one copy of my first book(when I think it may be somewhere near publishable, to carry around, just so interested agents can see what the story is like. Or I may not. I would then be “self publishing” one book, but it would not be meant for any other purpose except to try to impress an agent(if this works).
    Anne G

  3. Marva says:

    What is success? As an indy author who has also had books published by traditional publisher, I have learned that I can promote and sell my self-pubs better than trad-pubbed books.

    I have gone through the whole hunting the elusive agent thing. Matter of fact, I’m still pursuing that with a MG/YA fantasy series. That one might strike a chord.

    In the meantime, my books are for sale all over the internet. I even sell a few of them. Give away a lot.

    Is success measured in money? For many people that’s the only way to count. For me, I have fun writing, enjoy formatting, doing covers, etc. It’s a hobby for me, not a career.

    Anne: Don’t mention a self-pub a book to an agent. It will not impress them in the slightest. It’s still a black mark against you. That’ll be changing in the future with the likes of J.A. Konrath and Cory Doctorow pushing the envelope. Times, they are achangin’.

  4. Anne Gilbert says:


    You’re right, I think, in not mentioning anything self-publisshed to an agent. But like I said, should I decide to do this, there would deliberately, be only one or two copies, strictly for the agent to look at and see what s/he thinks. I would not be putting them up on Amazon, etc. IOW, I wouldn’t be “self-publishing” per se. But you may be right that not even this would be a good idea. I don’t know. I’m just thinking of ways to go when at least the last draft of the first book are ready.
    Anne G

  5. mmcginty says:

    I don’t understand. Why would you put a book in print form just to show it to an agent but not make it available anywhere else? Why not just send them a manuscript since that’s what they accept?

    Also, why self-publish if you intend to bring it to an agent or commercial publisher? Seems to me that you have to pick one or the other and can’t have it both ways. There are exceptions, but not many.

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