One of the most interesting conversations that bounce back and forth between authors is that of the first book. Generally, it boils down to this:
Everybody’s first book is crap.
There’s often additional lines added to that, like ‘those books should never be published’, they should be tossed away or burnt in a dumpster fire, etc.
At the same time, there are some writers who are pretty insistent that their first book is fine, they published it and did okay in terms of sales.
So, why the contradiction and what’s the truth?
Personally, I think it’s a little bit of both
It could be said that my first book that I published (A Healer’s Gift) isn’t the best, but it’s not horrendous. It’s not an utter steaming pile of crap, at the least.
I have other author friends who insist they published their first book they wrote and it was fine.
Add the fact that if everybody’s first book is bad, then all the trad pub authors whose first book ever (JK Rowling anyone?) would never happen.
So, obviously, that lie of everybody’s first book is crap is wrong. And to some extent, I’d agree. Some individuals naturally have an ‘author voice’, who manage to grasp the idea of pacing, sentence structure, closes, descriptions, etc.
It’s obvious that some writers, some authors just do ‘get’ the writing process well enough that their books are quite readable.
On the other hand, dig into the background of many of these writers and you’ll start coming up against something different.
They might not have formally written a book (or published one); but many have worked on books before and/or spent mucho f their careers writing. Rowling was a teacher and did the Classics and French in her bachelors. I spent years writing blog posts, news releases, brochures, online copy, etc. So many of my author friends who do well with their first published book also relate how they came up with stories in their heads, wrote books as kids or teenagers, etc.
Look at the numerous prize-winning books by journalists. Many might only be writing a book for the first time, but years working in journalism have given them a finesse with the written word.
Words are words in some ways, especially if it’s a creative work.
What does it mean?
Why did I bring this topic up? Partly, it’s to point out that while some people might seem to be overnight successes – many might have been working hard in a different (but related) manner for years.
Partly, it’s to encourage new writers to keep putting the words down. Don’t worry if your first books don’t do that well, the first million or so words you ever put down is going to be a process of improvement anyway. Heck, the next few million are too, but those first million are a bitch.
Keep writing. Yes, it’s great if you make money and breakeven, but take the time to realise that you just need to write. This is a marathon where the more books you write, the more you work on your craft, the better you get. And the readers who find you (few as they might be or not) will hopefully follow along and slowly pick up more work.
But, you know, if this is your first ever book you’ve ever written, that you’ve never had any related experience with – don’t throw too much money into it either. Keep writing, get better at the craft. You’ll get there, eventually.
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