Digger Cartwright - My Own Words
Author | Industrialist | Philanthropist
Digger Cartwright Interview 2013: Question 1
Do you have any advice for other writers trying to get published?
The publishing world is tough to break into for new authors. If you’re going the traditional route, there are a few things you need to be aware of. First, you have to have a good product to promote. If your book is just mediocre, you’re dead in the water. There are too many other people out there writing to pass off a mediocre book. Writing a really good book takes time, patience and dedication. If you’re just throwing your thoughts together and trying to get something done quickly, you’re wasting your time. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline to get a manuscript where you need it to be so that you can successfully market it. Second, you have to find an agent willing to represent you. That’s like finding a needle in a haystack. There are a lot fewer literary agents than there are budding authors, and they’re getting swamped with query letters, proposals, and manuscripts. You’ve got to be both good and lucky to get an agent. Third, you’ve got to get it sold to a publishing house and they’ve got to be able to market it and so on and so forth.
The reality is that very few authors had their first manuscript picked up by an agent or a publishing house. The one that launches their career may be the second or third manuscript. Anyone can sit down and write one book. It may take a while and it may not be good, but just about anyone can do it. Very few people are actually going to sit down and write the second book. They’ll get discouraged that they couldn’t do anything with the first one and give it up. So, you’ve got a much smaller pool of competing authors once you’ve written the second book. Even fewer of those people will go on to write a third book then a fourth book. With each book written, you move higher and higher up the hierarchy of writers. That’s what really separates the wheat from the chaffe—the ability to write multiple books. They have to be good, of course, otherwise it’s just a waste of time.
If you don’t want to go the traditional route, you can try self-publishing your book. Of course, that comes with its own set of challenges that you have to be ready for. You don’t have the marketing power, budget, editorial staff, or distribution that the traditional publishing houses have, so you’re competing with the big names without the benefits they have in terms of name recognition, resources, etc. that comes from being published via traditional means. Thus, you’ve got to work even harder, be more creative, and more dedicated. You’ve got to make sure your manuscript is perfect before it’s available for sale. You’ve got to make sure it’s edited correctly. You’ve got to make sure you’ve got an eye-catching cover. However, I’d point out that more and more people are going the self-publishing route. There are even some big name authors that are going that route themselves. Despite the obvious drawbacks, there are some benefits. When you self-publish, you maintain control of pretty much all aspects of your work. You’re not subrogating any rights or responsibilities to anyone else, and you’ve generally got a higher profit margin.
My advice for people wanting to write a book is that you need to set realistic expectations for yourself. I don’t want to discourage anyone. I just want to be honest with them and want them to be honest with themselves. Very few writers make it. Very few people have the will power and the stamina to go the distance and write the second and third books. But listen, if you have a passion for writing and you’re committed to it, go for it. Work hard, keep disciplined, and be the best you can. If you’ve got to take some writing classes, so be it. Do what you have to do if you’re really committed to it. Writing is a lot like getting a puppy. A lot of people think it’s fun and cool to have a little creature around for the first few months, but the luster wears off when the dog starts tearing up the furniture or going to the bathroom on the floor or when you’ve got to get up early on a Saturday and take the dog out to the bathroom or for a walk, particularly if it’s cold out. You know what I mean? Much like having a pet, writing is a big commitment. Don’t do it if you’re easily discouraged or if you don’t have the time and staying power to stick with it through the rejections and criticism.
And don’t forget the criticism. There will be a lot of criticism along the way. You won’t be able to please everyone, so you’ll have to get some thick skin. Some people are going to like it, and some people are going to hate it. It’s hard taking the criticism when you’ve put your heart and soul into something, but you better get used to it. Even the biggest names have lots of critics. Just pull up their books on Amazon and look at the reviews. They’re not all five star.