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Ten Myths About Writing

  1. Writing in Solitary
    True, the writer writes alone, but most writers have good people skills. Research requires the ability to make a librarian feel appreciated; interviewing requires the ability to connect and understand; talking with editors requires the ability to invoke the project’s potential for another person at an early stage.
  2. People Respect Writers
    The sad fact is that Americans respect fame and fortune. Even children meeting picture book authors want to know “How much money do you make?” and “Are you on T.V. yet?” The fine Irish tradiation of the poet’s caste or the esteemed position of the African griot hasn’t caught on in this country. Yet.
  3. Writing a Book Is a Way to Make Money
    We all know what Dr. Johnson said. If you have an idea for a book, your chances from making money from it are about one in a million. To wit: One in a thousand book ideas get written up. One in ten completed manuscripts gets to the market. One in ten of these gets published. One in five of these makes money for the publisher. Half of these make money for the author. One in three of these launches a writing career.
  4. An Agent Can Help You Sell a Book
    It would be more accurate to say that an agent can help you get more money for a book that is a sure sell anyway. Only ten percent of books are sold through agents.
  5. The First Book is the Hardest to Sell
    Not so! First books can be sold for less than the going rate, since the author’s priority is publication. First books are bought on the dream of better books coming along later from this author. Once you’re published and your work is judged in the glare of reviews and sales, it’s a little harder to look promising.
  6. Write Every Day
    Once you have written something well, you know how to write well and can do it again. Most writers enjoy writing every day — and that’s a good reason to do it. Writing every day to hone your skills is bologna. You eat every day — and do you get better at eating?
  7. Write What You Know
    Writing what you find out can be every bit as interesting as writing what you already know.
  8. You Have to Know Somebody
    Knowing somebody helps you get read, and rejected. It doesn’t help you get an affirmative opinion from a publisher. Envision the office politics at your place of work. Do you think a publishing house is any less political? How editors enjoy turning down the offerings of their office enemies! Having an editor believe that you have selected her to review your manuscript because of your respect for her work professionally is a much more effective ploy.
  9. The Writers Who Do Best Stick with One Publisher
    Publishers sell to thousands of accounts across the country. Some are stronger in New England, others in California. Some sales reps have a wholesaler’s or librarian’s ear because, like the late great Frank Soscia or Ed Walczak, they have personal credibility. Moving from publisher to publisher will expose you to new and different audiences.
  10. A Writer’s Best Editor is Himself
    Writing is easy; all you have to do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead, as Gene Fowler attests. It is a judgement-free process. Editing is the opposite; a ruthless exercise that doubts every word choice and tracks every thought process. Editors, while useless without authors, are essential to authors. As Mary Wells sang in 1963, “What two can easily do is so hard to be done by one.” Yeah, yeah, yeah.


Ellen E.M. Roberts,
January 2002.


(See also
Book Self-Publishing:
  Pros and Cons
.”)

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