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Writing Your Book – Part 3 – The Manuscript

Now, that I’ve finished, what do I do with this manuscript into which I’ve poured my heart and soul?

Finally! You’ve written the book. This may be a best seller. Eagerly you surf through Writer’s Digest sized volumes and internet sites for the very top agents in the industry. They’re all American of course. Great. You’ve always wanted to see New York. What do you do now?

First, take a vacation. You’ve proved you have the discipline and tenacity to make your dream come true, and you are to be congratulated. So if there’s any way possible, take time to savor that euphoric moment when you typed those two beautiful words—The End. Oh, a word of advice about that vacation. Leave your manuscript at home. Don’t open the file or even peek at it for two weeks. When you come back to it, you’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes.

Me on vacation this spring after finishing the manuscript for Book 5 of the Border Series.

Go back to it? Fresh eyes? What are you talking about? You’re sure that if any agent or publisher sees this, they’ll be all over it. All you’ll need is a good lawyer to help you decide which publishing contract to sign. Why mess with a story of this quality?

I don’t want to be in any way discouraging, so let me break this gently. We should at least consider the possibility that your book may not attract an agent, a publisher, or a contract. Don’t be angry. Success does happen, but let me give you the percentages of actually attracting a publishing contract.

United States based pollsters claim that more than 80 percent of Americans would like to be an author. Who knows how many Canadians, Australians, or Brits dream of achieving writing stardom. Last year, over 300,000 books were published in the United States, and 2.2 million books were published in the world. Be glad if you’re one of those sparse Canadians. There are only about 20,000 books published in the great white north, way less competition. The problem for you with a newly minted manuscript is that electronic self-publishing has made it easier than ever to be an author—and harder than ever to get attention to your work.

Successful authors have some combination of talent, persistence, and luck. The persistence stories are always encouraging. And daunting.

Thriller author James Patterson makes $70-94 million. Yes, that’s per year.

Mystery writer Janet Evanovich pulled in $33 million last year, but wrote for ten years before getting published. She labored first in the romance field before hitting it big with bounty hunter Stephanie Plum.

Stephen King’s first big novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times. He tossed it in the wastebasket but his wife fished it out. He also banks over $30 million per year.

John Grisham’s first novel, A Time to Kill, was rejected 12 times, and he unsuccessfully tried to sell copies from the trunk of his car. He earned $26 million last year.

Other rejection counts: Gone With the Wind, 38 times; Dune, 20 times; A Wrinkle in Time, 29 times; Lord of the Flies, 20 times; Kon Tiki, 20 times; Watership Down, 17 times; Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, 18 times; Chicken Soup for the Soul,33 times; James Joyce’s The Dubliners, 22 times.

C.S. Lewis got 800 rejections, and Western writer Louis L’Amour 200. Even The Diary of Anne Frank got numerous rejections.

The odds of any author making it big in today’s crowded market remain very long, rejected or not. About 2 percent of published books sell more than 5,000 copies. The average book sells less than 500 copies.

So—the above is sobering news to those who have a burning desire to join the ranks of published authors. You’re convinced you can write words that resonate, chapters that leave readers eagerly clicking the “Buy” button, and yet . . . the rejections slips continue to pile up in a repulsive mound on your desk, creating a confidence sapping vortex of doubt in your soul. You were sure that story would launch your career as the hottest new author on the market. But no agents have called, never mind any late night talk show hosts. Why? And what to do now?

All is not lost. You do have some options.

Until next time,


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