By Charles Hopkins
Published 04/20/2006 | Publishing
A recent survey showed that more than eighty percent of Americans want to write a book. This extraordinary statistic is somewhat puzzling considering that the National Endowment for the Arts estimates that only fifty-seven percent of Americans have read even 1 book in the last twelve months!
What is it that makes people -- even non-readers -- want to put pen to paper?
Perhaps it's the desire for fame and fortune, the need to earn the respect of others, or maybe it's just the wish to leave some mark on the future, a permanent record of a life lived.
Whatever the reason, for those who actually complete a manuscript, the odds of seeing it published by a reputable firm are slim.
For the estimated 2 million manuscripts currently completed, there are only 64,000 publishers of record, and only a fraction of those are actively seeking new manuscripts.
So what are the millions of hopeful authors to do?
Well, the first step would be to ensure their manuscripts are the best they can be. This can be done by re-writing, editing, proofreading by an outside firm or even by a well-read and literate friend.
Even then, most of those two million books stand no chance of being accepted by a traditional publisher. Those authors that do make the cut are not necessarily the best writers, but rather are those who can sell themselves and their stories most convincingly.
Some authors, after rejections from the trade, will find themselves victims of vanity publishers, who take advantage of the hopes and aspirations of writers to extract an exorbitant fee to 'publish' their book.
Luckier will be the writers who publish through firms like iUniverse and Lulu, for although their books will likely never see wide distribution, at least their losses will be minimal.
And finally there are the select few who decide to become publishers themselves, even if it is only to self-publish their own book.
These publishers will find great obstacles, and a great deal of work in this route, but the challenge and reward of having one's success or failure entirely in one's own hands is a powerful feeling.
Whether they choose to publish electronically, or use short run printing service like Lightning Print, or even to go full boar with a print run of 1,000 or more, their success depends on how well they sell themselves and their story to others.
And so, if you are about to embark on a new manuscript, educate yourself thoroughly about the industry, its scams, and potential pitfalls. And more importantly, learn to market yourself well, for this, more than any other skill, is the determining factor in your success or failure.