You can feel it in your bones. You’ve made the decision. It’s your destiny—you’re going to become a published author. Congratulations!
You’ve put it out there in the universe and you’re ready…
You’re probably thinking I’m going to tell you it’s time to roll your sleeves up and get to work. Time to start researching and hone your craft. Time to put pen to paper, or fingertips to the keyboard, and start writing.
Actually, you’re not quite ready for that yet. When you are, this website has hundreds of articles from published authors, literary agents, and experienced editors to guide you on your journey. But first, you have a very important question you need to ask yourself:
“What kind of author do I want to be and why?”
Not every published author has asked themselves this question, but every author should because it will give great clarity to the path you take and inform your expectations for what “success” looks like for you personally. To help you with this, I’ve created a handy-dandy flow decision tree, because who doesn’t need more decision trees in their life?
This decision tree doesn’t cover every conceivable scenario, motivation, condition, and so on, but that isn’t the point. The goal is to get your brain (and ego) comfortable with the idea of beginning your career with the end in mind.
If your goal is to become a best-selling author, go on book tours, and have other professionals handle cover design, copy-editing, and sales strategy then finding a literary agent and pursuing the traditional publishing model is the best path for you. But be forewarned, this is a path rife with rejection, frustration, and numerous barriers to entry. Put the Cinderella stories out of your mind and plan on five years before you see your book in print (and that’s assuming most everything goes your way), and before you start earning royalties.
The truth is, becoming a published author is expensive. Launching your writing career is like starting any small business, it takes investment capital…and that capital comes from your savings account.
On the other hand, if your goal is to get your novel out there in the world in the most expeditious way possible then create an Amazon KDP account. With KDP, you have complete control over pricing, marketing strategy, cover design, schedule and more. If that all sounds empowering, then self-publishing is the author path for you.
Anyone can become a self-published author, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition. There’s a big difference between getting published and getting rich.
Keeping it real, you also need to have a candid conversation with your ego. No matter what path you choose your ego needs to be fully read in and on board on the game plan. Becoming a published author is an ego satiating endeavor, and if anyone tells you otherwise they’re being disingenuous. However, egos are like palettes—what suits my taste might not suit yours. If the most important thing for you is to be able to call yourself an author or accomplish the milestone of being published, then self-publishing or indie publishing will meet that goal. But if you’re sights are set on being the next Lisa Gardner or Mark Greaney on the New York Times Best Seller list, then self-publishing (even as a KDP All Star making six figures in revenue) will never be enough to satisfy your inner critic.
Whichever publishing path you choose, the decision is not final.
I know many authors who started as self-published and made the transition to traditional publishing. Conversely, I know traditionally published authors who shifted to a self-publishing model to gain control and flexibility. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to change your mind. BUT…if you begin your career with the end goal in mind and understand why you want to be a published author, you’re more likely to succeed, save precious time, and be a happier human being during the journey.
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