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Dr. Helen

How to Become a Professional Author

February 2nd, 2014 - 6:42 am

davebarry

Dave Barry has a funny new book coming out called You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About that I have been reading this week. The parenting parts are kind of humorous, I guess, but I skipped over them to the chapter on “How to be Become a Professional Author” which was hilarious and gives readers the “inside story” on how to become a professional top author.

Barry gives the reader some fun “facts” on the “success” of writers such as “Eighty-six percent of all private jets are owned by poets.” If you write poetry for a living (and who does?) you will find this section pretty funny. He also tells you about how, as a bestselling author, you will be sent out on a book tour–which is a “multi-city trip starting out in NYC and ending in death.” Barry even tells you how to get on a major TV show to promote your book. “So you don’t need an appointment or anything. Simply show up at the TV studio about fifteen minutes before the show stars and let the security people know you are available to be a guest. They will take it from there.” Yeah, right, and so will the police…

Barry even tells you how to improve your book’s Amazon ranking. “As a professional author, you need to check this ranking a minimum of two hundred times per day so you can monitor exactly how your book is doing and respond accordingly…….you boldly take action in the form of calling your mom and asking her to go on Amazon and purchase one or more copies of your book. If–and this can happen to you, as a professional author–your mom is no longer accepting your phone calls, you may have to purchase a copy of the book yourself.”

Sadly, the public at large often buys into the false notion that authors make lots of money and it’s as easy as Barry jokingly says it is. I guess if most people knew the truth, that there is little money for most authors, most do not get published and it’s hard work, the fantasy would be gone and reality would set in. Luckily, we have Dave Barry to keep the fantasy alive! Read the book, it’s funny.

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All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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I find it amusing that "getting published" still seems to mean finding an agent and a publisher willing to put out your book. Indies are doing pretty decently, not all of them and not all equally, but a great many of them are seeing more money in it than traditionally published authors would, and their books are getting read instead of waiting for the right publisher five years from now to pick it up, if that ever happens at all.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
So... since Al Gore owns a private jet and waxes poetic about global warming, carbon footprints, the invention of the internet and simply shows up in front of the camera 15 minutes before going live, and demanded that Tipper buy multiple copies of his books, I suppose that qualifies.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
JK Rowlings just did the "name" experiment with her latest book. It received critical acclaim, but didn't sell at all until someone at the publisher let "slip" that it was written by Rowlings. It was very good, by the way. Great new character.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It probably received critical acclaim because the publisher deliberately shopped it around to critics they know would favor it. Critical acclaim is achieved by knowing what a critic likes, and making sure that the "preview" copy you give them has what they like in it. If a particular critic is known to not like a style of work, then as a publisher you skip that critic because no good quotes will come of it.

If it takes a publisher "leaking" a name to get sales, and yes names sell more than content, then the little secret of the publishing industry comes to the fore. It isn't the quality they are selling, it is the celebrity. Not saying the quality isn't important for future sales, but celebrity gets books sold even with unknown quality.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
I once went into a book store to buy a friend's book so that they would keep carrying it. The guy behind the counter had me pegged immediately. Still sold me the book, of course, but he knew what I was doing.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dave Barry - funniest writer alive. Genius!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
It takes a million words and ten years to become an overnight sensation. That's assuming you have sufficient native ability to profit from that effort. The world does not care if you think that is fair or not.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Speaking as a writer with 28 books published by major NYC houses, this is about as fine a distillation of the truth as I've ever seen.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I have my occasional uses. I am currently attempting to work my way through my million words and ten years to see if I have that ability, but I'm well aware that my ideas outstrip my current level of craft. So, I must keep working on it.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Determination is on par with ideas and craft. During one of his travelogues, (possibly The Innocents Abroad, but I can't remember for sure) Mark Twain recounted the story that many of his fellow travelers on the ship to Europe started writing daily diaries of their adventures. One of the diarists asked Twain if he thought that the diary would sell when they got back to the U.S. Twain said that it could be worth a huge amount of money "when it is finished." In the end, the diarist could not keep up with the daily grind of writing each day, so the project fell to the wayside and was never finished, as Twain had suspected it wouldn't ever be.
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
Stephen King received 174 rejection notices before he published his first book. But he remained undeterred and kept submitting. Later, once he was an established author, he re-submitted his previous works that had been rejected and, wonder of wonders, they were accepted. Strange how that works.

Some writers, like Mitchner, depend on students to do their research for them. Basically, they're just editors and revisors, not real writers. You'd be surprised how many professors take ideas from students, and get all the credit for their work.

I've always been partial to self-published authors myself. Writers like Blake and Whitman, who had their own printing presses and could write whatever they wanted. Or Dickinson, who didn't have a printing press but rather a treasure chest where she could stash her poems. Out of nearly 1800 poems, she only published 8 in her lifetime, and they were altered by editors to make them fit the conventions of the time. The first volumes of her poetry were also altered by editors. It wasn't untill 1955 that the complete volume of her poetry without alteration was published. Today she is considered one of the great American poets, and deservedly so.

Today, most authors have to get past editors, who often mutilate their work, to get published. Faulkner, for example, couldn't get published today, even though he was brilliant, far better that Hemingway.

That said, if you can write a romance novel that gets published on the NY Times best seller list, you're as good as gold. It's like writing a country song that makes it on the top ten list. You'll never have to work again, and you will be rich.

For romances, the formula is very simple--girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl wins boy back. It's a reflection of, or more an indictment on, the modern idea of romance. Compare that to Gone With the Wind, possibly the greatest romance ever written and still today the best-selling romance novel. It doesn't follow a formula; it has a plot--girl meets man, girl refuses to grow up, man leaves. Now that is a story for generations..

Many writers strive for publication and all the adulation that comes along with it, but the best simply wrote what they wrote and left it to the world, knowing that posthumous glory is no glory at all. They didn't care. They just wrote.

Nor would I be a Poet --
It's finer -- own the Ear --
Enamored -- impotent -- content --
The License to revere,
A privelege so awful,
What would the Dower be,
Had I the Art to stun myself
with Bolts of Melody!

--Emily

It's not about publishing. It's about the writing. All the greats knew that.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Getting published is much different than writing a good book. Publishers buy books they think they can sell and make money on. Almost nobody thought that King's first novel - which stood the horror genre on its head - would sell. Until somebody took a chance and it sold like hell.

After that, anything Steve wrote was publishable. At that point it was an added bonus that he was, and is, a fine writer. Well, apart from that horrible ending to the Gunslinger series.

But it is perceived commercial viability, not merely talent, dedication, and hard work, that determines whether any given book will be published.

37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
stephen king is another example of many in my personal formula to becoming a professional author. It is quite simple. can someone please explain to me why stephen king is considered a good or great writer?d
36 weeks ago
36 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm not much of a fan of King's writing, but have a lot of respect for his Bachman books. It took guts to test whether people were buying his books for his writing or for his name.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Great and erudite comments, GawainsGhost... How about this from poet Robert W. Service:

"I have no doubt at all the Devil grins,
As seas of ink I spatter.
Ye gods, forgive my 'literary' sins --
The other kind don't matter."
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Regarding "just getting published" vs being an author, that is why God created pen names. :)
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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