I’d like to thank Victor Kline for contributing this guest post about overcoming writing obstacles. Victor Kline started his working life as Sydney’s youngest barrister. He is now Editor of the authorised Federal Court Reports, and the Federal Law Reports and an award winning actor, playwright and theatre director. In theatre he has worked extensively in Sydney and off Broadway in New York. He also teaches acting and is a performing arts reviewer. He has lived in Alice Springs, New Guinea, London, Paris, New York and the South of France, and currently lives in Sydney with his wife and one cat. Victor has just released The Story of the Good American (see blurb after his post). His memoir The House at Anzac Parade is reviewed on Write Note Reviews here. You can check out his website for more information.
I have been asked to talk about some of the obstacles authors face and how to overcome them. I don’t pretend to have all or even some of the answers, but as I have been an author, a publisher and a lawyer in my time, maybe I have a unique perspective that may of some value. I’d like to talk about some of the myths that abound in the publishing industry, most of which fall on the shoulders of the poor author. I think some obstacles can be overcome if we just bust a few myths.
If you want to be a successful professional writer you need to write every day. You need to have the discipline to write a certain fixed number of words. This was invented by Graham Greene, who used to write 500 words per day, no more no less, and if he was half way through a sentence when he hit 500 would just stop. Now he was a brilliant writer admittedly, but he was also one of the most miserable men who ever lived. The system may have ‘worked’ for him but it doesn’t work for everyone. I myself find I am way more efficient if I listen to my inner muse and write when she calls me to write. If I do that I write way more than 500 words (maybe as many as 5000), have days that are necessarily, and often joyously free, and don’t have to do nearly so much re-writing as when I carried the Greenian myth on my shoulders.
You have to write to a genre pleasing to Publishers if you want to get published. I don’t know who invented this but it runs against the numbers. It is true that all the Publishers are looking for the next Fifty Shades of Grey. However they would get hundreds if not thousands of these clones each week. Chances are you’ll never get past the slush bucket at reception. But if you write something original, not only will you have more fun, but you’ll have a product you are proud of. And whilst it will be difficult to get it published (it’s difficult to get everything published), if you do you’ll probably sell a million or many millions. May I just quote The Alchemist, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Harry Potter, The Diary of Adrian Mole, and closer to home A Fortunate Life and My Place. All rejected by dozens if not hundreds of publishers, but all ground breaking and all huge sellers.
If you publish your own work you are engaging in vanity publishing. This was invented by wily nineteenth century publishers. Up to the end of the eighteenth century all authors self-published. It would have seemed absurd to do anything else. Just as absurd as a doctor who didn’t do his/her own operation or a lawyer who didn’t do her/his own court work. But come the nineteenth century a group of entrepreneurs offered to relieve authors of the burdens of printing, binding publicity etc for a modest fee. Many authors took this up because they felt it gave them more time to write. Over the course of the century these publishers managed to twist this into the concept that only those who published with them were legitimate, the rest being vain. It was a clever spin which has stuck ever since. But the reality is, that now more than ever, self-publishing has become a logical and cost effective way to go. With print on demand sites like Create Space and eBook publishing like Amazon Kindle, the author has literally no upfront costs. Currently 60% of the books published in the USA are self-published, and they have captured in excess of 3% of sales. This will improve once the self-published authors realise the value of publicity and either learn to do it themselves, or spend their money on a good publicist to do it for them. These people are making up to 70% royalties as opposed to the 10% publishers give them. The numbers speak for themselves.
Here is the blurb for The Story of the Good American (buy it here):
A hobo, a billionaire and the woman they both love. An unusual prescription. Some remarkable cures.
Joe Starling was Pete A. Vanderveer’s right hand man. But one day Joe just up and left the billionaire. He left New York City too. Turned up years later in his home town of Sydney Australia, shining shoes in the Pitt Street Mall. What happened in between, to Joe and Pete and to the woman they both loved, was very likely to change the world. Available from all good bookstores, online shops and in Paperback and E-Book from Amazon.