What it Means to Be an Author
For the purposes of this course, an author is someone who publishes a book.
The book may be:
- Targeted at children
- Targeted at young adults
- Intended for adults only
- Magnificently well-written
- Horrendously composed
- Self published as an ebook
- Self published as an audiobook
- Self published on a fan fiction site or through a blog
- Distributed by an independent publisher
- Distributed by a big-name publisher
- Only presented in digital form
- Only presented in print form
But it must be published. At some point, the book must have been for sale or accessible to general audiences.
The Perks of Becoming an Author
Should you become an author, you will enter the company of great men and women. Authorship is a time-honored practice and one of the most powerful ways you can become an immoral personage, forever remembered by mankind for your contribution to to history, science, or literature.
Other perks of authorship include:
- A work environment in which you are permitted to be solitary (making this an excellent pursuit for introverts)
- The ability to open others’ minds, change their lives, and introduce them to new ideas
- The ability to fully leverage your imagination
- The excuse to constantly learn (through research and the pressing need to continuously improve your writing)
- Widespread recognition of your work (should you gain significant success)
- Respect, in that many people talk about publishing books, but few actually do
- Flexible hours and the ability to work from anywhere
- The ability to build credibility (you can gain quite a bit of clout by publishing a book related to your field)
Major Myths Associated with Authorship
Given how romanticized authorship is as a profession, it is only natural that it should be shrouded in myths. Some of the most common myths about authorship are that:
- People will care about your work: you might think that your novel is the most brilliant thing to hit the shelves since the Bible, but you will likely have to struggle to get people to initially read and review your work- even if it’s really good
- After signing a deal with a publisher, you have effectively “made it”: this could not be farther from the truth
- Authorship simply involves writing: au contraire- modern authorship is practically akin to entrepreneurship when it comes to the various tasks true professionals must manage
- Authors are purely solitary beings: while some authors are quite withdrawn, many authors practically resemble internet celebrities when it comes to their constant engagement with fans via a myriad of social media channels and willingness to travel around the country to meet with readers and promote their books
- Authors make a ton of money: even many famous authors live on modest incomes
- Authors are losing money due to piracy: yes, some readers choose to steal books instead of buying them, but many authors have actually chosen to give their books away for free online, and have found that it can actually boost aggregate sales and profits
Major Trends in Authorship
“Self publishing is revolutionizing the role of authorship in ways we cannot yet fully comprehend.”
The publishing world has changed significantly in the past ten years and its state of flux shows no sign of slowing down. Self publishing has played a significant role in this flux. We have arrived at a point in history in which big name publishers are willing to forego rights to self-published authors’ online book distribution just to gain the privilege to publish print books offline. We have arrived at a point in history in which successful authors who have published through traditional channels for decades are choosing to self publish rather than leverage their perfectly-functional connections with publishers. We have even arrived at a point in history at which a fan fiction of a highly-derided movie series can become the fastest-selling paperback of all time.
What does this mean? It means that:
- You no longer need a publisher to succeed as an author; you have everything you need to publish a successful novel at your fingertips- from freelance editors and beta readers to book cover designers and easy-to-use self publishing platforms
- Self publishing is no longer reserved for nobodies and failed authors
- You have the opportunity to enter a level (but packed and very competitive) playing field on which your writing will compete based on its ability to attract audiences’ attention
- Given the rapid flux the traditional and self publishing realms are currently undergoing, there are no tried and true recipes for success that will get you what you want- methods that worked four years ago may very well be useless now
A trend associated with the rise of self publishing involves authors handling every aspect of the publishing process themselves: from researching, vetting, and hiring an editor to getting feedback from beta readers, finding, directing, and paying a cover artist, formatting the book, publishing it, and handling every aspect of its promotion. This trend is worth mentioning separately from the self publishing trend as few fledgling authors realize how much non-writing-related work they may have to do should they choose to publish independently.
In all practicality, this trend is hard to avoid even should you wish to work with traditional publishers. Unknown authors do not get special treatment from publishers and have to do a great deal just to get their attention. This means that a fledgling author will still need to have his or her manuscript fully edited and build up a robust audience, even if he or she is to eventually enjoy some help from a publisher in the form of additional editing, technical formatting, and book cover design (the downsides of this help is that one typically relinquishes creative control to get it).
It’s All About Ebooks… And Their Reviews
Ebooks are an increasingly popular format and a great low-cost and low-hassle way to reach readers. Through Amazon Kindle Direct, it is easier than ever to publish an ebook and enjoy an opportunity to eventually reach thousands, if not millions of readers. It all comes down to your books’ ability to drive conversation, spark interest, and get good reviews.
Indeed, reviews can make the difference between a new ebook being buried within Amazon’s deepest depths and its being featured on its front page. Just as it was essential in the past that an author’s new book receive favorable reviews from top critics, it is now imperative that a book (be it new or several months old) get quite a few positive reviews from everyday readers.
This means that it is all the more important that modern authors make an effort to get reviews from their readers early and often. Authors have taken several different approaches to garnering these valuable tokens; we will discuss them more in lessons to come.
Giving Books Away for Free
More and more authors are giving their work away, at no cost to readers, in the following forms:
- Downloadable ebooks
- Short downloadable novellas
- Audiobooks that can be downloaded as podcasts
- Blog posts
As you can see form the graph below, heightened interest in free ebooks shows no sign of slowing down. Consider it to be a manifestation of a new paradigm that is gaining momentum- one in which intellectual property is only a starting point in a dialogue about compensation. Truly successful authors earn money not by selling books, but by gaining true fans, inciting real conversation, and contributing significant value to the online community. Giving work away for free can most certainly lead to earnings, and may be one of the most effective means by which an author can encourage earnings. We will discuss this matter more in the lessons to come.
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