How a Book is Born: A Humorous Yet Truthful Look at Publishing

Yesterday I brought up the point that it is strange how James Patterson completes the herculean task of churning out 12 best sellers in a year.  Today I found an info graphic by Mariah Bear that is a humorous satire of what it takes to get published these days, but it is also laden with truth.  Take a look at it, then join me at the bottom for a few thoughts.

1.  Catch 22 – From the looks of things, books take a while to go through the machine of editors, designers, interns, copyeditors, and numerous other people before finally getting printed, but then if the consumers don’t like it everything ends with the editor quitting and moving off to “start a goat farm”.  It seems a bit redundant, but most systems have redundancies built in to them so that they don’t churn out poorly made products.  Makes you wonder how Twilight ever made it.

2.  404 Error – It seems like the machine might be broken.  I know it takes all of those people to ensure that a book is properly proofread and prepared for publishing, but look at how many things can go wrong with the process.  Only 10% of the flowchart leads to success, which is pretty accurate in today’s publishing climate.  There are hundreds of thousands (and with Amazon Kindle millions) of books out there that never sell more than 100 copies.  Think about the probability of someone like Amanda Hawking becoming a best selling author.  Even C-3PO couldn’t figure those odds.

3.  Better Get Busy – If this info graphic does anything to a self-publisher, it should make us wake up and smell the print ink.  This shows us that if you had any illusions about the publishing world, hopefully some reality has just set in.  At least Patterson has a team of editors (and perhaps ghost writers [wink]) who are hard at work making him look good.  Most self-published authors have their mom, a good friend who teaches English, and their cat to proofread and give advice.  Get out there and find a writer’s group, take some criticism, blog-blog-blog-blog, Twitter and do whatever you have to do to get your name out there.  Someone might be listening, but you have to yell really loud to be heard.

I hope that this info graphic puts things in perspective for you if you are writing a novel and hoping beyond hope that an agent will pick it up.  As I have said often, and it is true: writing is hard work.  As I have known all along, publishing is hard work, too.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

7 thoughts on “How a Book is Born: A Humorous Yet Truthful Look at Publishing

  1. Okay, some things I’ve been thinking about. Most books never sell more than 100 copies. That’s based on traditional publishing. There are no statistics for indie publishing and probably never can be. Most print books don’t stay in print. If they’re not in print, they don’t count as sold, even if used copies keep circulating for years. Indie books, particularly ebooks, can sell forever. When do you stop counting?

    Then there’s the “disgrace” of that number — only 100. Totally irrelevant, the thrill of having sold 100 copies of a book that agents and/or editors rejected, or that you never submitted because you knew it wasn’t the kind of book that traditional publishing would be interested in. I’ve sold about 80 copies of my first novel (so far), and I’m thrilled.

  2. Well, that was a very encouraging chart to look at…

    In a way it makes me despair, but then again I ask myself why I am despairing and I realize that I did (or maybe still do) have a dream of actually writing a book (not for publishing it, just for myself really). But having it published seems like so much work and bother!

  3. He he he…I’ve seen that chart on Facebook a few times and I was going o nab it, but you beat me to it 😉

    What are we getting ourselves into eh? Makes me wonder why I’m even bothering lol 😉


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