How to write a query letter to a publisher – 139,000 results
How to pitch an editor – 8,500,000 results
How to write fiction – 48,900,000 results
Ever wonder why so many writers are so keen to teach others how to write?
Is it that writing somehow elevates the human spirit and elucidates the masses about esoteric concepts and endeavors?
Well, yes. That and money.
Here’s a few sobering statistics provided by the Writer’s Union of Canada:
– The average writer in Canada makes $12,000 (that’s all kinds of writing, not just fiction).
– The average book in Canada sells 400 copies.
– In Canada a best seller is 5,000 copies.
I’m not even going to attempt the math, but suffice to say that the royalties for a best selling author in Canada would make his income below the poverty level – significantly.
The e-publishing industry is even more dismal. New Concepts Publishing, an e-publisher, has the courage to head up the submissions page of their website with the following royalty information from their stable of authors:
Science Fiction/Futuristic range: $127.89–$8455.46
Paranormal range: $78.00–$5673.50
Contemporary range: $55.18–$7913.78
Historical range: $75.16–$3863.12
Romantic Suspense range: $124.24–$1977.20
Fantasy range: $44.00–$4774.80
Average payout over the three year contract period $450.00
How many hours did I put in writing my three e-published novels? My wife could probably tell you, but there’s no question my hourly wage would be well below the minimum, probably closer to that of an itinerant laborer in a destitute third world country.
I’ve always believed, somewhat cynically I must admit, that those who can – do; and those who can’t – teach, give seminars, workshops, online courses, etc. In light of this information I’ve rethought this and now facilitate creative writing circles – yes, for money.
Poverty is a mighty motivator and who am I to act superior to other writers, the majority who are more skilled at the craft than myself? It does indeed take time away from my actual writing but I still adhere to the adage that ‘teaching is learning twice’.
Where am I going with this, other than the poorhouse?
Recently, I had the opportunity to pitch my latest manuscript to an editor at a conference. Having been a sales person all my adult life it seemed to me nothing more than a cold call, of which I’ve made countless thousands.
However, my writing group loop was filled with anxious missives about what to say, how to say it, and how to present it. Was there more to this than being personable, knowing your product, and presenting it in a way to benefit the buyer? I decided to look at a few of the 8,500,000 results from my Google search.
Here’s some of the invaluable information I gleaned (actual quotes) about pitching your manuscript from a few of these sites:
– neatness counts when making first impressions… set the example by presenting a professional appearance. And leave the chewing gum, snacks, and cigarettes behind.
– remember, you must first believe in yourself and your work before you can persuade others to believe in it. Be proud of your writing.
– exude self-assurance, but not arrogance. It’s okay to convey enthusiasm, but temper your zeal with a patina of humility.
– pretend this is someone you’ve met at a party. Offer a personable handshake and some small talk to start things off in a relaxed manner. You’ll then find it easy to segue into the business at hand.
– take a couple of calming breaths before you go in, smile, and be yourself.
If you don’t think this is ridiculous and self-evident than consider the opposite. Would you go into an interview a looking disheveled, chewing gum, giving attitude and being rude?
What does this say about the writing industry – or more specifically about the industry of advising, teaching and coaching aspiring writers – the conferences, the workshops, the online courses?
I was further dismayed when I took in the conferences keynote address delivered by a best-selling, making-the-circuit author. She focused on Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers – basically that practice, a lot of it, makes perfect.
No insights, no anecdotes, no secrets, not even any gossip.
I’m inclined to say that it’s all bogus. A self-serving undertaking capitalizing on the zeal and inexperience of those that dream of becoming writers.
Unfortunately, the best advice I’ve received about my writing comes from other writers; from discussions with them, and reading their how-to books.
It’s a conundrum.
So before seeing the editor (remember the editor?) I’m not taking any chances. I spit out my gum, slick back my cowlick, park my ego, take a few deep breaths, smile and introduce myself just like I would if I was meeting someone at a party.
Seven minutes later I’m out the door. He doesn’t ask to see my manuscript.
~ ~ ~
Visit my publisher’s website for excerpts from, and buy links to, my three novels; Spirit Bear, Eagleridge Bluffs, and Not Wonder More – Mad Maggie and the Mystery of the Ancients.
More of my original photographs can be viewed, purchased, and shipped to you as GREETING CARDS; matted, laminated, mounted, framed, or canvas PRINTS; and POSTERS.
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