by Nomsa Chirisa
Book publishing is an industry that is often undermined. Successfully writing and publishing a book has its challenges, but it also presents enormous benefits too. Talk of the writers’ block, the time factor, dedication, and the unforeseen low sales. These challenges instil fear in aspiring writers, and they become an excuse for not writing and getting published.
With so much information being created daily, people are sharing their opinions and experiences about writing and getting published; and it is quite difficult to pick what is right and what is not. However, these myths do not change the fact that you are a great writer, and publishing your book is the best thing to do. Today, we want to bust some of the common misconceptions about writing and getting published. Let us look at some of the fears which you might have, concerning writing and publishing that book.
Book publishing is worthless
Writing a book is a process, with its ups and downs, as with many other businesses or life projects and ventures. The most common myth is that “getting published is not worth it.” In the article, 7 reasons a coach should hurry up and write a book, we mentioned tremendous benefits associated with being a published author.
I remember when we went to school, we made use of storybooks, textbooks, dictionaries, and a whole lot of other learning resources to aid in the learning process. Now, imagine an education system where pupils solely rely on the teacher to acquire knowledge. That would be impractical, right?
Book publishing may not be as glamorous, but its glamour is in advancing knowledge, promoting learning, and linking various sectors of the population through storytelling and sharing of information. Its worth is in its capacity to create, produce, organise, and impart knowledge and information to the world – a mandate which no other industry is best suited for. When you are engulfed in fear that publishing your book is worthless, think of the value which your book will share, and the knowledge gap you will cover in the market.
Writing requires tons of content
People think that in order to start writing a book, tons of content is required. The publishing process begins with just an idea – a mere word or phrase. Think of the ‘My father’ stories we used to compose at school. We would write until the teacher would say, “pens down,” at least twice. Writing does not require tons of content, but tons of content is created through writing. It all starts with a simple or random idea.
I was introduced to the fascinating practice of constructing a ‘tree’, which develops from an idea, branching into several other topics which would have subtopics and so forth. One author says you need just half an idea, then you will find something else that matches it to create a whole idea. In writing, we call it nurturing the idea into a concept. It’s not about the amount of content, but the strength of an idea. Remember, great books began with just an idea.
Publishers despise authors and are out to get them
Most authors believe in this misconception, especially when their manuscripts are rejected by the publisher. To begin with, book publishers do not operate from a vacuum. They have a whole lot of management policies which govern their day-to-day business. Talk of the strategic plan, house style, style sheet, school curriculum or syllabus, reference books, and book policies, among many others. Rejection of author manuscripts is most popular with traditional publishers. This is mainly because of a manuscript’s lack of conformity to the publisher’s policies, list, book standards or national guidelines. Think of it as rejecting a friend’s bid for you to buy a size 40 denim which she is selling when you actually wear a size 32.
Publishers want to publish your story and get it out there, where it belongs. That is their mandate. It is money in their pockets as much as it is for you. But it is prudent to know that publishers do not reject manuscripts from authors due to hatred. If anything, authors are the reason publishers are in the business of book publishing.
The publishing function implores the publisher, together with his/her editorial team, to polish up an author’s manuscript and improve it. During the process, they go through your manuscript and suggest changes for improvement. When they do this, they take on a spirit like that of a parent.
I remember all the reprimanding, reproving, and moralising teachings from my mother. It is only now that I realise the significance. The editor’s comments, some perceived as nasty, are also to carve your copy into the best version it can be.
The editor’s comments, some perceived as nasty, are also to carve your copy into the best version it can be.
You know what they say about gold – real gold is not afraid of the melting pot. If you are to publish a golden copy, allow it to go through the editorial melting pot. At the end of the day, the publisher and his team are on your side. They also look forward to counting the dollars and celebrating the victory together with you.
No one reads books
My nephew has a tendency of saying he would rather do the dishes than read a book; and I tell him it’s fine, because books have their audience who would rather read than wash dishes. On his birthday, he received a book by Harry Porter, and surprisingly, the young man now suddenly prefers to read books than doing the dishes. The publishing industry has been successfully advocating for the cultivation of a reading habit in every child. When you think that no one will have time to read your book, or any other book for that matter, stop and ponder on the fact that the publishing industry is promoting the reading of books by introducing e-books to make books easily accessible. We are taking the books to where the readers are. Think of publishers such as Raincemba Publishing who promote that parents should read to their unborn children.
One person or the next is in need of information, varying from health, education, fashion, technology, environmental crises, etc and they rely on books for this. With the world steering towards an information society, the demand for books is steady. Had it not been so, publishers would have long closed their doors, but they are still writing and publishing, because there is an audience for these books.
Writing is for masterminds
In the article what are the emerging issues that writers should be aware of? we highlighted that writing is often thought to be for masterminds. This often cripples aspiring writers who then decide to take a step back. I wrote my first poem when I was only eight. It was a three-line silly poem for a teacher’s day event. I never thought that my teacher would go with it, but I was surprised to be part of the ‘entertainment’ crew for the occasion. That was fascinating! Until today, I always tell people that writing is not for masterminds, but for anyone with an idea and passion.
Remember, writing is the process of penning down thoughts and ideas into tangible format. We all have thoughts and imaginations running through our minds constantly. An example is ‘food’. I am a foodie, and I would construct a tree, branching it into topics such as recipes, healthy eating, food trends, seasonal foods, food preservation, traditional vs modern choices; the list goes on. Using simple everyday language, you would also be surprised at the tons of content that you can create and contribute to the knowledge demands of the society.
In the midst of challenges faced by writers, book publishing myths are one of the greatest obstacles which hinder them from getting published. Ignoring these misconceptions is as good as beating a writer’s block. If you are to write, make sure your head is in the right space. By this, I mean be positive. The world today is full of opportunities through technology. It is much easier to create content, engage an audience, connect with a publisher, or self-publish your book. The results of all this are incredible. So, what myth is stopping you from getting published?
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