Is “The End” Still Magical?
It used to be that you’d finish writing a book, type the “magical words” The End and go pop open a bottle of wine or champagne or have some other appropriately celebratory beverage. Nowadays, however, for most authors, those words no longer mean that you are anywhere close to being done with your work. For self-published authors, while coming to the end of a manuscript is definitely a milestone to be celebrated, it’s just one in a very long path.
For authors who publish with a traditional publisher—or, at least this is how it used to be—you’d write your book, read it through once and then send it off to your editor. They might suggest a few changes to your story or characters, or if you had an editor like mine, they might just send it off for copy editing. (I never knew if my editor actually ever read the books I’d send to her–I think not to be honest.) As a traditionally published author of yore, you were then done until you had your paperback in your hand at which point you might arrange, or have arranged for you, a book signing or two at a local book store. That was it. The publishing company did the rest. It was one reason why it was so wonderful to get a contract.
Wow, have times changed, right? Even if you get a publishing contract today, you are still expected to turn in a near print-ready book taking care of the editing yourself. You are also responsible for all of the advertising. It’s hardly very different from self-publishing—unless you’re a big-name author.
Today, as a self-published author, when I finish a book, I know that I have to read and edit the manuscript myself, going through two or three rounds of rewrites before I send it to my professional editor who does another two rounds as well. I then need to get it read by my beta-readers for their comments. I need to get a cover designed, write the sales copy to go on the back cover and retailer’s sales page and begin to think of marketing.
Is there a time when I can sit back and say “I’m done!”? Well… yes. I celebrate on publication day. No, it’s still not the end of the work I need to do—there will always be more marketing—but at least I’ll be finished with the actual creation of the book.
The catch, of course, is that in this publishing world, that can’t be the end, at least not for writers of genre fiction. Because once you’re finished with one book, you immediately have to start in on the next.
The number of books being published in today’s world is simply astounding (I recently heard a figure—70,000 books published on Amazon every month!). And because no book is ever removed from sale (even if it’s an out-of-print paperback) the ocean of books available just keeps getting deeper and deeper. It’s no wonder discoverability is the one thing that stresses authors out.
Expecting new readers to find your one book is like expecting them to find a particular stone at the beach. It’s possible, just not highly probable. And so I keep publishing because with the more books I publish, the more books there are with my name on it, the higher the likelihood of a reader discovering me. And so it goes, getting deeper and deeper.
Is there cause for concern here? You bet! Does it mean that if you publish one book you’re doomed to fail? No! Maybe your book is fabulous. Maybe you’re brilliant at marketing and can get the word out. And maybe that reader will find that unique rock that is your book and love it and take it home with them and then tell all of their friends about it.
Does that mean also that you shouldn’t celebrate finishing writing your book? Again, no. Because writing a book is an incredible accomplishment. For every book that is finished, there are hundreds more that are languishing unfinished is someone’s drawer or taking up space on their computer’s hard drive. So celebrate finishing your book because you deserve it. But don’t stop there, keep working at it until it’s beautiful and as near perfect as possible, and best of all published because if you don’t put it out there, no one will be able to find that beautiful stone you’ve created.