Am I a good enough writer to sell books – that is, am I good enough for people to actually want to read and enjoy reading my books? This is a question that I’m certain has plagued writers since time immemorial. In my opinion, though, it’s not a question of “am I good enough?” but rather – “do I really want to write?”
If you want to write – write for yourself. If you have a good enough story, and – of course – if you a re a proficient writer, you may be picked up by a publisher. However, if you wrote for yourself (effectively, to tell the story you want to tell), then you should ultimately be happy with your work – and self publishing is a valid option (but one I will go into in some detail in a later post).
Selling and success are different – in some ways, actually finishing writing a book, even just a first draft, is a success in itself. So, as I said in my article ‘Never Stop Never Stopping’, just write until you finish your first draft. Do your best to get that story down on paper. Once it’s done, you can fix it, fix it some more, get some input, get yourself a kick ass cover, and get to publishing. The first step is the writing itself.
You ARE good enough
Very few writers are amazing writers at first draft. In fact, every successful book you see on the shelves (and even those less successful) were edited many times before publishing – several times by the writer themselves and at least once by a third party. Nobody should avoid editing – it will actually improve your work. You should resist that urge for your story to be “all you” because it will ultimately be flawed – as we all are.
So write your book. Edit your book. And have someone else edit it too. You are good enough – if you have a good idea and can structure it well, you can get the story down onto the page – and then you can work to tell it WELL.
Of course, not everyone is a good writer, this is true. Some writers may struggle to sell any books, no matter how hard they try. So feedback becomes important as well – feedback from those that aren’t going to protect your ego. You need to receive hard criticism – it will ultimately make your book better, provided you listen. Of course, if you have a few beta readers and only one has major problems, you can always pick and choose what you fix and don’t fix. But if more than one person points out a flaw or many flaws? Then they’re probably right.
In the end, though, the main person that should be happy with the work is yourself…
… but you aren’t amazing
I hesitated to write this section, but I think it needs to be said. I’ve been a member of a number of Fiction Writing Facebook groups, and I can tell you now – there are a lot of people out there that think thy are GREAT writers, but have very poor grammar and articulation, and are very difficult to read. This doesn’t necessarily make them a bad writer – but as I said in the previous section, they should be aware of this. We all should.
Since I was a kid, I’ve been told that my writing was great – easy to ready, flowed well, some even told me my writing was exceptional. However, I know it’s not. I write in an overly simplistic manner, I skimp on detail, I tend to tell more than I show, and my grammar is far from perfect. My first book (publishing within the next month or two at the time of writing!) is far from a classic. In fact, it’s short, fast-paced, and could be better – everything can ALWAYS be better. But I’m very happy with it – it’s not going to run off the shelves, but I feel as if I’ve told a good story, and it can only get better from here.
The point is – friends and family will always tell you very positive things (for the most part). They will always tell you that your writing is great – exceptional even. But that’s perhaps compared to themselves. Not to Stephen King. So it’s important to keep that in mind. You, like everyone else, will absolutely need an editor.
Success is what you make it, and this brings me back to what I said at the start – write for yourself. There are billions of people in this world, each with their own likes and dislikes. you can’t possibly write something that appeals to everyone. So write something YOU like. Something YOU would want to read. I can guarantee there will be others out there that will also want to read it. In some cases, maybe only a few; in others, many.
That said, your book won’t find an audience simply because you wrote it. It will need a good cover, and it will need to be advertised. Good luck with that. And even if you self publish, it will cost you money (how much depends on your budget), so success is tricky – very few first-time writers will see mainstream success, self-published or not. In fact, very few of those that self publish will recoup the costs within the first year. Or ever, for that matter…
So… write for yourself. Be happy with your work, and build a budget based on how much you would be happy to spend even if you made nothing from your book. That way, every sale is a bonus.
That said… I acknowledge that’s not so easy. We all want our books to sell. In our mind’s eye, we all see that “best seller” sticker on the cover. But while it is important to have goals and to have ambition, it’s also important to be realistic. More than that? All success requires hard work. My goal will be to recoup my expenditure in my first year. I’ll do my best to achieve that, but if I sell anything at all, I’ll still see that as a success.