Friday, April 20, 2012

Building a career: Guest Post By Allan Leverone

Building a career: Guest Post By Allan Leverone

It’s been said that over eighty percent of the U.S. population believes they have a book in them and would like to write one. If you apply that percentage to the current population of this country, there are potentially two hundred fifty million aspiring authors typing away, maybe as we speak.

In the olden days, say way back around 2007 or so, probably 249,900,000 of those aspiring authors would never have even bothered to try to write the Great American Novel, and for good reason: it was damned near impossible to get published. It was easier to marry a Kardashian—probably a lot easier—than to get your manuscript into the hands of a publisher.

Now, of course, with the rise of ebooks and the ease of self-publishing, the barriers to anyone with a story to tell and the diligence to type all those words into a computer have pretty much disappeared. And that’s a good thing.

Sort of.

The problem with typing up your masterpiece and clicking “Submit” at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes and Noble’s Pub-it or at Smashwords or at whatever other self-publishing venue might be out there is that being an author—if you’re serious about it—involves so much more than just writing the book.

What about editing? Have you done any? And I’m not talking about self-editing, I mean real, back-and-forth editing with a pro who knows what she’s doing. Can you take the constructive criticism intended to make your book the best it can be? Are you willing to change your baby based on someone else’s input?

What about cover art? Do you have any idea whatsoever about how to design a cover that will draw readers to your book? “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is a pithy little cliché, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold water with most people. Cover art is the first thing potential readers look at and if it’s unimpressive or amateurish or just simply inappropriate, you’ve probably already lost them. Not a good thing if you’re competing with potentially millions of books.

What about promotion? Any idea how you’re going to go about the process of introducing readers—almost all of whom will be unfamiliar with you—to you work and convincing them that your book is the one to pick out of a practically limitless supply when they’re looking for a new read?

What about reviews? They’re pretty important to developing a reputation and hopefully some buzz for your masterpiece. How are you going to convince book bloggers to give your novel the time of day when they’re already booked up months in advance?

And while we’re on the subject of reviews, what about bad ones? How are you going to react to them? Because you will get them. Are you professional enough to accept that not every reader and not every reviewer is going to think your creation is as good as you think it is? In fact, some of them are going to be vicious, mean-spirited and nasty. Can you take that? Hope so, because if you respond, even just to defend yourself, you’re the one who’s going to come off looking petty.

And these are just a few issues, there are dozens of other considerations that factor into this author gig if you’re trying to be serious about it.

I came along just about the time publishing was beginning its seismic shift from an exclusive undertaking to basically an all-inclusive one, and boy am I glad I did. I won’t kid you, it wasn’t easy getting rejection after rejection from agents—hundreds of them, if you add up the ones I received for different manuscripts—but at the same time I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned a lot about myself, about my commitment to the craft of writing, about improving my work, about picking myself up and continuing when it seemed there was no way I was ever going to get anyone outside my immediate family to read my work.

Maybe the struggle doesn’t matter to those millions of people who believe they can be authors now, the same people who tell me, in all seriousness, “I should write a book, too,” like doing so involves nothing more than sitting down and pounding it out.

But it should matter to them. Because the day you can simply sit down and do it without a second thought is the day it becomes completely meaningless, the day “author” means “typist.”

Author Aaron Patterson: Blog: The Worst Book Ever.


  1. Hey, Aaron, thanks for having me! Sorry if I bring the neighborhood's property values down...

  2. Al, great stuff. I am living through this all now as a debut author indeed. The hardest part? Trying to find a new balance right now while working around the clock to "get it all done" - the promotion, the guest posts, the interviews, outreach...oh, and then write a new book, edit a finished book and do the pesky dayjob!

    You are right. Being an author nowadays is so much more involved. We are really entrepreneurs and small business owners and need to know ALL that goes along with running our successful business.

    Thanks for putting this all out there. I dont believe the general public who "has a book in them" can truly know what is involved. Many friends see me working so hard and are puzzled. They say 'I thought you just wrote a book and it's out there and that's it.'

    How nice that would be - right?

    1. Donna, it really is true that being an author is like running a small business, and that's pretty daunting when you consider the skills you need to write a publishable book may well be 180 degrees opposite the skills needed to market and promote that book.

      Congratulations on your debut; I've been reading some really great things about it and will be reading it soon!

  3. Good one Al....Like I keep saying...No matter how many people try to become authors, it will only be the well written stories that will rise to the top and have staying power...Like yours...

    1. Hey Vin, thanks! I just read your blog post about the second (or is it third now?) run for THE REMAINS and THE INNOCENT up the Amazon charts and, having read both, can say without question that it is's to sales and success with T&M - it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy...

  4. You've just summed up all my concerns. My MS is finished, query letters sent, rejections coming in and trying to learn all I can while I wait.
    I've thought about self publishing, but honestly I don't think it's the route for me. I'm willing to put in hard work with editing, marketing and everything else- but I am not sure how to do these things be myself, especially the cover art.
    So for now, I will continue going the traditional route.

    Thanks for the tip about future bad reviews and not responding in any fashion. Will store that away!

    1. TC, thanks a lot for checking out the post and for taking the time to comment. Best of luck in your writing career, and while you're waiting on responses to your queries, keep writing!

    2. Try to write a little everyday: practice, practice, practice.

  5. Awesome post, Al. You answered some questions that have been looming in my mind about what I want to do with some project ideas I have in my brain. I have one book coming out in a couple weeks with a partner publisher but I'm still considering self-publishing for some other projects.