I am honored to have Joyce Mason posting on my blog this week. It's a long one but worth the time to read it if you have any interest at all in becoming an author.
It took me twenty-four years to publish my first novel. I had written a lot of non-fiction, but I just couldn’t get it together to put myself out there as a novelist until I was 66 years old. For more details, read Why It Took Me Till Social Security to Publish My First Novel … and Why It’s OK. You’ll find a lot there about the psychological factors involved in my long incubation toward what I think is my true life’s work. I suspect I’m not alone in taking a long time. It turned out I had good reasons and good intuition to take it slowly.
That Blessed Blogging. Today’s path to paperback and eBook publications often starts with blogging. I am an absolutist about blogging’s role in a writer’s success. When I first started blogging in 2006, I barely knew what it was. I had to ask around, look it up, and figure out what that funny word meant. (Web log—blog—huh?) During the next eight years, I created four of them. (One good one is actually plenty!) Nothing I have ever done has sharpened my writing skills as well and as quickly as blogging. When I say blessed blogging, I mean it’s a blessing—literally. It’s also a free and easy way to find your audience, and if you write on niche topics like I do (astrology and spirituality), you’ll begin gaining readers through your blogs. They are your built-in audience or platform once you have tangible products, like paperbacks and eBooks, to sell.
Baby Boomer Plus, Age Appropriate. It has long been a trend for people in the 55+, even far 55+ age category, to start writing during this phase of life. That’s when people tend to write their memoirs or retire from their long-time careers to do what they really want to do. Since many of us like to write, it’s ideal. The job doesn’t require youth or physical peak. An older person’s premiere asset, life experience, is a huge benefit to your writing. As long as your mind is still sharp and you can type and learn, you’ve got what it takes to become an author. The last push I needed to get over any idea that the opportunity had passed me by because of my age came from a fellow writer I know. She published her first book at 84. It turned out to be an award-winning memoir, and she’s now in her 90s, still writing.
There is no ageism in writing—and sageism really helps.
Drastic Changes in the Publishing Industry. There has never been a better time for you to take charge of your publishing life and just do it. While “self-publishing” once had the stigma of being considered unprofessional and vain, now it’s seen as “independent publishing,” a real option and the sign of a person willing to invest in him- or herself. If you’re not willing to invest in your first book, why should a publisher who does it as big business? One of the reasons some authors with multi-deal book contracts have taken back their rights and are now doing it themselves is because the tools to do it economically are available for the first time ever, allowing them to retain a much larger profit.
If you’re like I was, fear of cost may be holding you back. My direct investment in bringing my book to Amazon and all the usual purchasing outlets was $710. I could have gotten away with less. More on that in a minute. First, a very capsule perspective on publishing history.
The traditional publishing model involved a big gamble on the part of the publisher, especially on someone untried. The publisher paid for the print run—and made educated guess on how many would sell. Further, the publishing house would have to take back any unsold books ordered by bookstores, because these returns have always been a part of the deal between book producers and sellers.
Another limitation of the publication model that’s now shifting was the physical space in brick and mortar bookstores. There is only so much shelf space in stores; therefore, what didn’t sell within a few weeks was returned for other books that would. This meant that if your book didn’t make it in the first month, it didn’t make it at all.
It’s easy to understand why it was so difficult for people to break into the business, given the risks from the publisher’s perspective, which also applied to agents. (Most publishers do not accept manuscripts except through an agent. They screen manuscripts and pitch likely winners to publishers.) Publishers want you to have a great idea with wide appeal, excellent writing skills with the potential for producing follow-up books. They expect you to have a substantial, pre-existing audience, ready to buy your book. They also expect you to be vigorously involved in marketing your book. It was shocking for me to learn how little publishers market for their authors. It’s mostly up to you.
With the new services offering print-on-demand (books printed as they’re ordered) through places like Amazon’s CreateSpace, the initial investment of bringing the book to publication is the author’s. If you hire help to do it, after that, the profit is all yours. There are significantly fewer brick and mortar bookstores. With no competition for shelf space, your book—especially your eBooks—live forever online. They can be purchased anytime, anywhere. It’s a whole new world.