Back in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and some friends launched a social networking website in his dorm room — Facebook. By 2007, he was a billionaire. In 1995, J. K. Rowling typed the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone on a manual typewriter and, after numerous rejections, sold it to Bloomsbury Press for an advance of fifteen hundred pounds. In 2004, Forbes named her the first person to become a billionaire solely by writing books.
Most writers realize that their chances of selling like Rowling are about as likely as having their blogs turn into Facebook. But when you’re putting the finishing touches on your first novel – or holding the galleys of your first book in your hand — it’s hard not to imagine it going out in the world and finding a large and grateful readership. Truth is, releasing your manuscript out into the world is a bit like the opening day of a small business. Exciting as the moment is, the real work is still ahead of you.
That work is usually frustrating and full of setbacks, and sometimes outright failure. You may run through every agent you can find on the internet and get nothing but rejections. (Note: I’m assuming your manuscript has been revised, edited, and proofread until it’s genuinely ready.) If you publish with a small press or self-publish, there’s a fair chance you’ll sell three dozen copies in your first two years. If so, the good news is, this is pretty typical – it doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of your writing.
The bad news is, this is pretty typical. [Read more…]