Take it like an Author

In 1995, I showed a publishing lawyer out of New York my first novel. He had a condo just a stones throw away from Stephen King’s Florida home. Also, he helped Stephen King in the early years. This was the kind of person that could make an authors career!

However, the publishing lawyer handed my manuscript back and said, “Keep trying.”

That was it. His words of wisdom were to, “Keep trying.” I just said thank you and went on my way.

Looking back twenty years ago, I know how awful my novel was. My family and friends thought it was okay, but someone in the publishing world thought it was so bad, it did not merit even a few words of things I could work on.

When that publishing lawyer could barely look me in the eye after handing my manuscript back, I wasn’t offended. I decided right then to work hard enough so I’ll never have to hear the words, “Keep trying” again.

I became fascinated with reading books in my genre, along with “How to Write” and “How to be an Author” books. I kept writing novels and would not submit any of them, because I was hard on myself.

Authors can be nervous, anxious, or even afraid. Those are normal emotions. However, an author cannot be desperate. An author that is desperate will try to cut corners. They will  hate anyone who does not like their work. Literary agents and traditional publishers become evil beings who do not know what they’re talking about.

I did not want to be a desperate author. Instead, I want to be dedicated.

“Traditional publishers are slow to change their thinking.” My fellow authors, learn from their patience. If you jump from one venture to another, you’ll waste time and money. Take it like an author and learn to be flexible, yet knowledgeable. Become a student of the industry. That will help in your writing, marketing, and when you submit your work.

If I told you right now the steps you can take to have a career as an author, it would be difficult to believe. Authors who experienced these steps will understand. However, those that are on step one and not sure where to go next, may not want to hear what most authors go through to have a career.

I once had to tell an author that her manuscript was not that good. The story, characters, and plot all needed work. It broke my heart to say that to her, but it was the truth.  The only advice I could give her was to start reading more books.

Every author asks me to be honest. “I can take it,” they say. The author that I gave a bad report to, emailed me back and said she appreciated my advice. I thought, “Great, she took it well. Good for her.” Then the email went on to say that her family liked the book, so she will submit it to traditional publishers.

Someday she will look back and understand what I meant.

As for me, I know that if a customer purchased my book and were not happy with the product, they should get their money back. On the other hand, no one is going to ask for a refund if you brought them great joy with your words.

I hope that authors and even publishers are not thinking right now, “If eBooks are downloaded for only $2.00, people will take more chances on them.”

Authors and publishers should not base their futures on readers, “Taking a chance.” Instead, we should take it like a true author and make sure our books are brilliant as possible.

I’m begging every author and publisher not abuse eBooks. We already have low quality printed books, let’s not say, “Well, the readers won’t care. They only paid a couple bucks for the book.”

I’m sorry, but that is not good enough. We need to keep the purity of our books at a high level.

How much confidence do you have in your book? Would you invest $2,000 into your career? That is what a small publisher would invest. Would you take a loan out for $50,000? That is what a large publisher will invest.

Would you be willing to take a chance and have customers pay you, only if they enjoyed your book?

Can you take it like an author, placing your career on the line for every word you wrote?

If the answer to these questions is a resounding “Yes,” then you should know that rewards are coming your way…you have what it takes.

Ron Knight

“Simple to read…hard to forget.”

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  1. Ron, this post is truly brutal. You say a lot without saying much at all.

    I tend to agree with you, I read my own old work and cringe. Yet even my best, if I leave it for a few months and go back – gets edited to death, and then again, and then again. I don’t know a single author who is completely secure that their work is *that good*. However, I feel that it’s that insecurity that keeps each of us striving to be better at the craft.

    I can now spot bad writing, and I would hope that I can spot really good writing too, except all written work is a matter of personal taste, so again, there are no definitive guidelines.

    I do however, think that any author should not rely on the feedback of family and friends, but rather of *cold call reviews* from author websites, where the people you’re interacting with have nothing to lose by telling you the truth. The only way to grow, and get better, and see your mistakes, is to have someone brave enough to point them out to you.

    Also those with a trained eye, know what to look for, whereas your friends and family may not have that experience to help you.

    Great post Ron 😉


  2. I don’t comment on every post your write, but I do read each of them. This one touched me. The saying “put your big girl panties on and deal” comes to mind. You hit the nail on the head…I have had many of my friend tell me how great my writing is but lets face it. When the big dogs come off the porch then I will believe it. Thanks for all your inspiration and great advice.

  3. Wonderful article, Ron. And very true. I love books, and no matter how good the story is, and there are some really good stories out there, if the writing is horrible I just can’t get into it. Even some truly “big” authors have made this mistake with me. I don’t care if I have the first 10 books in that series, if the 11th one is poorly written I’m probably going to stop following that author and look for someone new.

    Readers do look for a bargain when buying books, however, they also look for quality. They may not ask for their money back if they’ve only spent $.99 on an e-book, but that author isn’t going to get repeat business and repeat business is what keeps an author alive, and keeps the contracts coming. My first book was published by a traditional publisher. My second, due to come out today as an ebook is a self-published work. I’m interested to see how it goes. This doesn’t mean I’m totally interested in self-publishing, I just wanted to give it a try. The book was professionally edited and reviewed months before I even considered putting it up as an e-book. I can only hope that other authors wishing to go the e-book route will do the same. Otherwise, in my humble opinion, the e-book market will fail and even at $.99 or $2.99 readers won’t keep buying.

  4. Okay, Ron, so you’re telliing us to strap on a pair and face the world’s harsh realities. I don’t know if I’m really ready. I thought I was…until I got a slighting review on a book I had thought was really good. How can just one review–perhaps hastily written, perhaps written after only skimming the book–how can something like that make me quail back in a corner and not come out for a while?

    I have to ask myself: Erin, can you take it like an author? Can you come out of your corner swinging? Can you shake off that hit to your gut and deliver a jab followed by an uppercut?

    I come from a long line of fighters. (My great-grandpa was a successful bare-fist fighter. Ouch.) So after readeing your article, I think I’ll shake the blood out of my eyes, rise from my bench in the corner, and start swinging again. I can take it!

  5. Ron,
    You make some valid points. For me, however, it wasn’t my first book that stunk. That one (Dunnottar) was the first one I wrote, and it was the first one that was published–after 25 years of brutally honest “good” rejections. It came out in 2000, and it is still my best selling book of all 23 of them. But, there are a couple of others that I started and would go back with the intention of finishing them, but when I would re-read them, they were so bad I would shove them back in the filing cabinet. (Yes, that was before I had a computer. Remember, I’m as old as a dinosaur!) When I moved from North Dakota to Wisconsin I finally tossed them both in the trash. Yup, some things are just never meant to see the light of day. I’ve also edited some of them like that, but the publishers (providers) insisted that as long as the author had the money to pay for putting them in print, they deserved to be “out there.” Those books, like the ebooks you discussed, are what made it so hard for people to take independently published authors credible. Thankfully, it’s changing.