I received an email from a new writer asking for advice. The question: "Should I seek an agent or self-publish?"
Wow. I remember when I was there. I had written my first book and I felt like I'd finally achieved my dream. All I needed to do was send out my manuscript and I'd be published! I dreamed of seeing my book on the shelves of local bookstores, sitting at a table piled high with my books while I signed autographed copies for the long lines waiting to talk to me. If only the publishing world were as easy to break into as that!
Reality is nothing like the dream. But, the last thing a new writer needs to hear is something to destroy the dream. Many new writers get discouraged and quit before they've even begun. Publishing is a tough business. It's not something a person does with hopes of becoming rich. The truth is very few authors ever reach a status of being able to support themselves by publishing their books. Most of us write because we love writing. We love receiving feedback on our books that even one person has been touched in some way by the words we so painstakingly penned, one difficult word after another.
My advice to this new writer, and to anyone else who is curious, is to join a writing group. To succeed, writers need support from others who are doing the same thing and struggling with the same obstacles. Take online classes, attend workshops, learn the craft of writing, and most of all...keep writing new material. Learn how to market yourself...not your book. People will buy from names they recognize more so than from an unknown person who has an interesting book cover or book title. Make your presence known. It takes time and it takes perseverance.
Without my local writing group, the hundreds of online classes I've taken, and my growing support group, I would have stopped writing after that first book. I would have continued dreaming about my goal, but I wouldn't have worked at achieving it. Writing is a business, just like any other business. And, just like any other job, if you don't love what you do, you'll move on.
And, with that, I'll step down off my soapbox. I wish all writers, whether published or aspiring, a group of wonderful supporters and the joy of reaching your goals.