I’m With The Band
Finding your place in a world of words
Does anyone else feel lost in this digital world of books? It seems to me that every minute a new book is released by some author who, like me, spent a long time writing their story. I have to believe that they sacrificed, toiled, researched, and rejoiced over the same process that I have.
So how do you stand out in this sea of new releases?
In trying to answer that question, I realized that today’s writers have become like musicians and that there is a clear path all musicians travel. Let me explain, no wait…there is too much. Let me sum up. (If you got that reference, than you rock!)
· Garage bands — For as long as I can remember, and I’m thirty-seven years old, musicians have been trying to break into the industry. They start out as garage bands, to which I liken a beginning blogger. Someone who likes to share their work with the few followers of friends and family who have their web address. They are content here or they wish to grow. But this is phase one.
· Cover artists — This group of musicians has established a following and has proven themselves talented enough to be booked by a restaurant or club for regular performances. They may be just as good as the original band, or simply good enough to provide background buzz while patrons share drinks. They have yet to put in enough time and effort, or are frankly not talented enough, to be noticed by a producer or record label. To this, I liken many (not all, mind you) of the self-pubbed books I’ve read in the past year or two. In many of these books, there is raw talent, which I can clearly see hidden beneath grammar mistakes and overused words, or underdeveloped plot and characters. Many of these authors slip beneath the radar because they have not reached a level of craft expertise causing someone to invest in them. The abundance of this sort of work gets lost in the waves of technology. Others are publishing in ezines or anthologies and building an impressive resume in order to establish credibility and move up to the next level.
· Local bands — This group rocks! They write their own music, they practice on a regular basis, and are serious about their music, but many of them still hold a day job. A local band that plays its own songs stands out and builds a following. They may record their own music and submit to various venues or record labels, hoping to really ‘break in’ to the music industry. And you know what? Some of them eventually do. They work hard, get better, get discovered, and get their big break. In the publishing world, this is that indie or small press house that takes a chance on an unknown author. They front the cost, help publicize the book, and encourage their author to study and improve their craft. Some of these authors are discovered from this book release, and find their next home in a big publishing house. Some even get to quit their day jobs.
· Superstar — This is the place to be. The superstar; the musician that has proven their worth, can sell-out shows, and produce new and relevant music on a continual basis. They treat their music career like a job, not relying on inspiration to motivate their record release or song writing, and they are constantly improving their skills. They’ve made it! An author reaching superstar status doesn’t have to be equated with J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. To me, superstar status is when people beyond your scope of friends and family are buying your books, and when that day job moves farther in the background or becomes non-existent. They work hard and know that they have a show to put on regardless of whether or not they feel like being creative.If the average author is looking at $20-$50K for their first big novel, that’s equivalent to a good year or two salary, depending on what you currently do for work. So, my question is: Are you worth it? Is your manuscript polished enough to be worth that sort of an investment? I think this is a question that every author should ask, and if the answer is no then it is time to start taking those steps to perfect your craft in order to answer, “YES!”
So, what sort of a writer are you?
There’s nothing wrong with being any of the four types I’ve mentioned, but you have to know which you are. If you’re working like a cover band, don’t expect to become a superstar. If you are a local band, what steps do you need to take in order to make yourself a superstar?If you have the raw talent, passion, willingness to work harder than the next guy (or gal), and if you understand that the average person takes ten years to become excellent at a skill they focus on, you will one day find yourself a success, no matter what level you choose to write at.
Take some time to evaluate your priorities and writing goals in a realistic manner. How much are you willing and able to sacrifice to meet these goals? At what level do you want to take your career? Is this a hobby? A dream? What must you do to make writing as a career your reality?
Jaimie M. Engle has written professionally since 2003. In 2013, she published her first middle-grade novel, Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light, along with more than 20 short stories in journals and e-mags throughout the world. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of D4EO Literary and is a regular conference speaker with the Space Coast Writer’s Guild and the Society of Children Book Writer’s & Illustrators. Engle offers a critique & editing service for aspiring writers at www.awriterforlife.com. You can also find her blogging at www.jaimiengle.com.
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