Saturday, March 3, 2018

Beware of the Elephant in the Room

Today, you often hear the phrase “the elephant in the room.” No, it has nothing to do with elephants. But it usually means there’s a subject present that no one wants to talk about. For writers, that subject is whether you’re a writer or an author.

What is it about our society that reveres authors more than writers. Aren’t writers and authors the same? Don’t they both communicate with words? Actually, not all writers are authors and some would say that some authors certainly aren’t good writers.

Beginning writers seem to think if they write a book that they’ll be recognized as a writer. What drives so many beginning writers to write a book when they haven’t written much else? Perhaps the idea goes back to when they were in school.

Everyone learns to read by reading books. Yes they’re short—most have one sentence to a page—but they’re still books. How many first graders are out there reading articles and short stories? None. As they progress through the grades, they read more and more books until, before they know it, they’re sitting in English classes studying literature.

Do you see yourself as a writer? To succeed at writing, you better. If you only see yourself as an author, that lofty ambition may get you into trouble, and you may never ever get your writing career off the ground.

Most writers have to work in a variety of formats to be successful. Books take a long time to prepare, write, and market, compared to articles and short stories. Unfortunately, the reading public doesn’t associate writers with articles or short stories. When was the last time you recalled the name of the writer of an article you’ve read? And perhaps that’s the problem, for when you market a book, you market yourself as well.

A lot goes into writing a book. It’s not just the writing, it’s the research, the organization, the energy. Writing a book is like having a baby elephant—it takes 22 months for the little guy to grow inside it’s mother. That’s just about how long it takes to create a book—getting the idea, marketing the idea, researching the idea, organize the idea, writing the idea, and rewriting the idea. Oh, and let’s not forget promoting the idea.

Articles and short stories take much less effort. And they can be sold over and over again, either reprinted as is or reworked. Once you publish a book, you cannot publish it again. And many books end up in on discount tables and sites or go out of print—that is, die—altogether. This, of course, has to do with copyright laws. And while shorter pieces of writing are also copyrighted, they’re done so for individual periodicals. Once a book is copyrighted, that’s it.

So while you may bask in the glow of book publication, that light may only shine briefly. Writing in a variety of formats not only gives your writing career a good foundation but will also pay off in the long run.

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