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36 Reasons Why Now is the Best Time to Be a Writer

Sonja Langford

1. You are the most important person in publishing because you make it go. Technology enables you to control the two fundamental challenges of being a writer: creating content and communicating about it.

2. The phrase “unpublished author” is obsolete. All you need to be published is a manuscript.

3. You have more options for getting your work published at less cost than ever: e-books, print-on-demand, podcasts, blogs, websites, a series of articles or videos.

4. A book that costs nothing to write or publish will succeed. If only one person buys it, it’s making money.

5. There are more ways to profit from your books with spinoffs, speaking, and subsidiary rights. Books in English--the international language of culture and commerce--and in translation are selling in more places and being consumed in more forms, media, and languages than ever. There are more speaking opportunities than ever, online and off.

6. You can create a career out of an idea. If you have a salable idea for a series of related books that you are passionate about writing and promoting, you can build your career book by book.

7. You have more models–books and authors–to guide your writing and your career. You don’t have to figure out how to write a novel or a memoir or build a career; you can use your favorite books and authors as models.

8. A book that serves readers’ needs for information, inspiration, beauty, and entertainment well enough is unstoppable. We live in an increasingly bottom-up culture, in which readers, not publishers, are the gatekeepers. Publishers spend millions of dollars a year buying and marketing books that fail, while social media enable self-published books and books from small presses go viral and become bestsellers.

9. There are more than 30,000 publishers, and new houses continue to open their doors. Big and midsize New York houses require that agents submit books. Other publishers buy books from writers, who sell more than 90% of books. Their sites have submission guidelines. You can do multiple submissions of e-query letters and nonfiction proposals.

10. There are more subjects for you to write about than ever. There’s a book in just about any idea that excites you enough to want to write about it.

11. Writing is a forgiving art. You can write as many drafts as you need; only the last one counts. As long as you have many knowledgeable readers and you learn from your models, mentors, and mistakes, success is inevitable.

12. You can be an author without being a writer. The two assets nonfiction writers have are information and the ability to promote their work. Until they can write at a professional level, they can work with an editor, collaborator, or ghostwriter.

13. You can sell most kinds of nonfiction with a proposal. Memoirs have to be finished, but most nonfiction is sold with proposals with an overview of the book, an outline, and one sample chapter, or two or more chapters for narrative books.

14. Finding an agent is easier than ever. If you have a book that’s salable to a big or midsize house, it’s easier than ever to find and get an agent.

15. There are more communities of people to help you than ever. You can get the help you need by joining, building, and serving communities, including readers, writers, techies, and publishing people, online and off.

16. You have more ways to build your visibility than ever. When your books are published, you need to be as visible as possible in as many ways and places as you can. But you have more opportunities to build your platform, online and off, than ever.

17. You have more ways to test-market your books than ever. You can maximize the value of your book before you sell or publish it by proving it works with a blog, talks, articles, videos, and whatever other ways work best for your book.

18. You have access to an amazing array of resources, many free. Finding the books, magazines, events, classes, organizations, publishing professionals, and online resources, information and communities you need is easy.

19. You will continue to grow as an author. Take the long view: think of your career as a lifetime of books, each better and more profitable than the last one.

20. Writers have an easier, faster path to success than actors, artists, dancers, composers, or musicians. Publishers accept more new ideas, writers, and books than gatekeepers in other creative fields.

21. You don’t have to quit your day job. You can keep writing until you’re making the income you need to devote your life to your calling.

22. Money doesn’t rule publishing; passion does. If publishers believe in a book passionately, because they love it, they think it will sell, or it must be published because of its social or literary value, they’ll do it.

23. Word of mouth and mouse enable books to succeed faster than ever. One of our authors, Cherie Carter-Scott, appeared on Oprah, and that afternoon, her book, If Life is a Game, These are the Rules, rocketed to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list and then shot to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

24. Anything is possible.
• Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care has sold 50,000,000 copies.
• The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown has more than sold 80,000,000 books.
• R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps has sold 300,000,000 copies.
• The Harry Potter series has sold 450,000,000 copies.
• The more than 100 Chicken Soup titles have sold 500,000,000 copies.
• Barbara Cartland’s romances have sold 1,000,000,000 copies.
• The Agatha Christie mysteries have sold 2,000,000,000 copies.
• The Bible has sold 6,000,000,000 copies and sells 5,000,000 copies a year.

25. Thousands of new authors succeed every year. Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Bridges of Madison County, The Christmas Box, Cold Mountain, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Joy Luck Club, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Shack, The Four-Hour Workweek, Dreams from My Father, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Julia & Julia, The Help, Fifty Shades of Gray by E. L. James, which has sold 100,0000,000 copies, and Lean In; these bestsellers are first books. Because it’s easier to promote nonfiction than fiction, it’s easier for nonfiction books to become bestsellers, especially if authors have visibility.

26. Self-published authors are on bestseller lists. A growing number of ebooks are going viral and hitting bestseller lists.

27. Books are more accessible than ever. It’s faster, easier, and often less expensive to buy books than ever.

28. Technology is the greatest tool for writers since the printing press. Computers ended the physical drudgery of writing. Technology will help you with every aspect of being a writer, making it faster and easier to succeed.

29. Technology is making the industry more effective than ever.

• Publishers can sell books and subsidiary rights more efficiently.
• They can print, reprint and distribute books faster.
• Publishers can promote to the trade and the public online as well as off-line. Big houses have dedicated online promotion specialists.
• When publishers format books, they do it so that books can be used in all electronic formats.

30. Publishers know how books are selling. They receive sales figures from Nielsen Bookscan that account for 75% of sales. This enables them to:
• know how their books and competing books are selling
• schedule reprints based on sales, which lessens returns and ensures that stores have a steady supply of books
• acquire the kinds of books that sales prove readers want and avoid those that aren’t selling

31. The more people know, the more they want to know. If readers like one of your books, they’ll want the others, and e-books make it easier and faster than ever to buy them. All of your books will continue to sell as new readers discover them.

32. Independent bookstores are thriving again. Bookstores are as essential to discovering books as libraries, and indies are better booksellers than chain stores. They can make books by new authors bestsellers by handselling them.

33. You can enjoy books in more ways than ever: in print, on screens, and in audio.

34. You can share your reading pleasure in more ways than ever: conversations online and off, a blog, reviews, a book club, talks, articles, books, videos, podcasts.

35. Five million book club readers can make your book a bestseller. If book club readers like your books, they will have a long, prosperous life.

36. You spend your life enjoying the pleasures of the writing life:
• Reading
• Browsing in bookstores and buying books (and they’re tax-deductible!)
• Building a library of books you love
• Finding the right words to express your ideas
• Experiencing the satisfaction of finishing your books
• Finding an agent and publisher you love
• Receiving royalty checks
• Seeing your name in print
• Getting good reviews
• Serving your communities
• Hearing from fans around the world who love your work and buy whatever you create
• Watching your craft and career develop and bring you greater recognition and rewards
• Living to work instead of working to live