Myth Busting – Our 3rd and Final Day

Money! Marketing! and More!

Myth: It’s all about the bottom line.

Truth: Yes, in the end, the publisher exists to make money. And the people who have the most say in whether your book gets published are the directors of sales and marketing. Everyone is looking for the books they can sell.

And yet…those on the front lines of acquiring books are typically people who love… great books. They didn’t go into this business to get rich. It’s a living yes, but not usually a lavish one. They went into publishing because they love the written word—yes, as much as you do. And let’s face it, you’re hoping to make money on your book too, right? So have faith—while publishing is indeed a business, it’s a business populated with people who care about more than just the bottom line. They care about publishing books they want to read.

Myth: Once your book hits the shelves, you can quit your day job!

Truth: I have seen too many writers stressing out, living advance-check-to-advance-check, getting desperate for the next contract because they’re running out of money… and how do you think this affects their ability to write well? Don’t even think about quitting your day job until you’re regularly making twice as much (in advances and royalties) per year as you need to cover all your bills and expenses.

Myth: But seriously, if you get a six-figure advance, THEN you can quit your day job.

Truth: Let’s look at how this would play out. Say you get an advance of $100,000. Most likely it will be paid out in four installments, and if you’re with a certain Big Six publisher (Random House) that last installment might not be until a full year after the book releases. That means over the next TWO years, you’ll receive four checks for $25,000. Right?

Wrong! First, your agent commission comes off the top. So your four checks will be $21,250. But guess what! You need to set aside 25% for taxes or you’ll be in deep trouble come April 15th. Now your four checks are worth $15,937 each. Can you live on four of those over the next TWO years? You decide.

Myth: “I thought I’d write a book, then speak a few times and sit back and relax.”

Truth: I think we all know better than this by now, don’t we? As one blog reader put it, the reality is that “Three months before my book’s release date, my manuscript is a distant memory. My time is filled with learning the ins and outs of social marketing and local networking opportunities.”

Publishers do put time, effort and money towards marketing books. But no matter how much they do, your participation is needed to reach YOUR audience. Read this post on Mike Hyatt’s blog: Why Authors Must Develop Their Own Platforms.

Myth: The marketing department at your publisher consists of one employee whose greatest talent is the ability to say “It’s not in the budget” in five languages.

Truth: It’s usually seven or eight languages, actually.

Myth: With persistance, every well-written book will eventually be published.

Truth: Sorry. No promises.

Myth: Your work doesn’t need editing.

Truth: If you believe this myth, please don’t pursue traditional publishing. You will be impossible to work with.

Myth: You don’t have to worry too much about spelling and grammar—the editor will fix it.

Truth: See answer to previous myth.

Myth: Once your manuscript goes to an editor at a publishing house, it will be torn to pieces, covered in red ink and completely scrutinized and changed until you’re in tears and your work isn’t recognizable as your own.

Truth: While the editorial process can be challenging (frustrating, painful, infuriating, humiliating), it’s my experience that 99% of authors come through it having learned, grown as writers, and believing their manuscript is much better for it. And believe it or not, many actually love the revision process.


“Becoming a published author is a pipe-dream that will never come true.”

Truth: I’ve only been doing this job for about three years, and already I’ve been involved in helping at least 27 authors get their very first publishing deal. Dreams coming true all over the place!

TOMORROW… a WordServe client guest-posts about his myth-busting path to publishing.

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  3. Flower Patch Farmgirl on March 19, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    >I'm sure I'm not the only one, but these posts make me want to stand up and cheer a little. It's impressive that you are able to dispense the truth to a newbie like myself in a way that sends me off with a smile and an urge to park my rear in my chair and write. Thank you!

    Also, this is classic: "If you believe this myth, please don’t pursue traditional publishing. You will be impossible to work with." 🙂

  4. jesse on March 18, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    >These are great, Rachelle. Thank you.

  5. Alicia on March 17, 2011 at 12:41 PM

    >Thanks so much for this, Rachelle. Even though most of these myths are common sense to me, I really like the last one. It gives me hope.

  6. warrior poetess on March 17, 2011 at 8:56 AM

    >Wow,some of the myth busters are real eye openers. I think I will come back to this page more often from now.

    Thanks Rachelle.

  7. Joanne@ Blessed... on March 17, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    >Thanks for the mythbusters Rachelle. Yet, I'm still surprised when things don't go as planned.

    My revisions consisted of fixing a couple of endnotes. Yeah, I'm a bit nervous about that.

  8. Neil Larkins on March 17, 2011 at 12:20 AM

    >Hmm. Considering that my wife and I live off Social Security only and is about $15,400 a year, those four $15,900 checks in two years sound pretty good. All relative.

  9. R.D. Allen on March 16, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    >Since it's so much about the bottom line, I wonder if I could show my manuscript could do pretty well by first self-publishing, then get picked up by a good traditional publisher? I mean, some people would say "why bother" but I think that might be an option to consider…

  10. Marcia Richards on March 16, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    >Thank you for this post and all your others, too. I will be so prepared for the comments, possible rejections and the revisions in the publishing process. If we can learn from those who know better than we, why are we expecting to get published?

  11. Carol J. Garvin on March 16, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    >That last pipe dream myth is what I thought when I began writing my first novel. I wrote it just to see if I could, and kept writing fiction when I found out how much I enjoyed it. Now I've begun to dream a little, but I'm realistic enough to know that even if publication isn't a pipe dream, a lot of novelists never get there. Dreams have to be supported by a love of writing so it won't matter how long it takes to fulfill them, or if they never materialize at all.

  12. Brooklyn Ann on March 16, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    >Here's another one I run into a lot:
    "I have an idea for a novel that I want to pitch to publishers."
    "Okay, but you'll need to finish it first."
    "But I don't have time to write it until they give me an advance."
    I always shake my head, bite my tongue, and walk away.

  13. Joel Q on March 16, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    >Enjoying these posts.

  14. Michele Shaw on March 16, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    >All of these points are helpful, but thank you so much for the last one. It's good to be reminded that getting published is not impossible.

  15. Sara on March 16, 2011 at 1:12 PM

    >Bingo! I agree 100%
    Kudos to you on all the debut sales- that's SOOOO exciting and awesome!
    -Sara Megibow

  16. Jackie on March 16, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    >I save your blog as a treat at the end of my writing day and I have only one complaint. I get so absorbed following up the links, I forget to start cooking supper!

  17. Kathryn Packer Roberts on March 16, 2011 at 11:54 AM

    >Love it! Especially the part where people who don't think they need to edit should go a different route. Funny that anyone would think they are perfect on their own. Like magic.

  18. Tamika: on March 16, 2011 at 11:32 AM

    >I think I'm too consumed with the editing process- I can't seem to let my story go! Sharing the editing burden with a team of professionals would be a weight lifted.
    Until the dream unfolds, thank God for critique partners:)

  19. cynthiaherron on March 16, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    >I especially liked the "money part" you touched on, Rachelle, because the minute someone finds out you're pursuing a writing career, too many times his or her first comment–"Wow! Now you're REALLY going to make a lot of money!"

  20. Erin MacPherson on March 16, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    >These are VERY wise words– and great advice for authors everywhere. I think the red-pen editor myth was the one that I was most afraid of and it was NOT true. My book is SO much better now that it's been touched by my talented and amazing editor.

  21. JoEtta on March 16, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    >Your post today reminded me of Tim Ferriss' post from yesterday. It was really good and quite comical. I suggest reading it, especially in regards to copy editing! And don't worry, I won't quit my day job; I'll just get my business to the point where I can be self-employed. 😉

  22. Donna on March 16, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    >Very, very wise words. Thanks so much for these great nuggets!

  23. Fiction Chick on March 16, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    >"Myth: With persistance, every well-written book will eventually be published."

    It is SO good to read that this is a myth! I've read in various places that if you simply can't get published, then your book must suck. I find this outrageous. No promises – even if it's good.

  24. Chris Shaughness on March 16, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    >Thank you so much for all of this great information. I can appreciate how much time it takes for you to write this. All of these answers have been wake-up calls, some good and some not-so-good. The money issue is huge because deep down, most of us feel that we're going to hit the big time one of these days. It's great to have dreams but we also must be realistic. Thanks again.

  25. Choices on March 16, 2011 at 7:44 AM

    >I enjoyed this post. It gave me lots of insight to the publishing world.
    Thank you.

  26. Matt Mikalatos on March 16, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    >Great post, Rachelle!

    I like the editing process and, yes, I feel like my editor's comments have helped me become a better writer.

    Also, I'm not rich. I wish some of your myths weren't myths!

  27. M.E. on March 16, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    >This series was needed for those aspiring and newbie writers. This line spoke reality to me: "Don’t even think about quitting your day job until you’re regularly making twice as much (in advances and royalties) per year as you need to cover all your bills and expenses."

  28. li on March 16, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    >Great series of posts, and a real eye-opener in many respects.

  29. Katie Ganshert on March 16, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    >Definitely not a pipe dream!

  30. Christine on March 16, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    >I really appreciate your candor in answering these myths. (Your humor helps a lot too!) Thank you for ending with that last one. I have been struggling the last couple of weeks with whether to keep going with editing my book or put it aside and concentrate on writing my articles. With renewed vigor, I attack my book. To rephrase the song of a princess, someday my book will publish…

    Thank you again!

  31. Rick Barry on March 16, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    >A very fun and interesting three days' worth of serious myth-takes. Thanks a bunch for your time and thought on these, Rachelle.

  32. Rosemary Gemmell on March 16, 2011 at 3:54 AM

    >Thanks for the reality check about how much an author might actually earn! My nearest and dearest sometimes despair of me for being so positive and optimistic (or unrealistic they would say), so I'm glad you ended with the positive of some dreams coming true.

  33. Rebecca Bradley on March 16, 2011 at 1:52 AM

    >I loved your comment on the last myth. Thank you Rachelle.

  34. Christine Tyler on March 15, 2011 at 11:50 PM

    >I was in a creative writing class once where our teacher was trying to explain to several students why revising and editing, particularly in critique groups, was so important. One guy raised his hand and talked about some song he's heard on the radio about loving a girl so much, he wouldn't change a thing about her. He said, "shouldn't we feel that way about our manuscript? Unconditional love?"

    I replied with, "You love your children unconditionally, but if you think you can raise a kid without punishing them once, or drawing a line, you have another thing coming."

    Books are like children–ones you can put in the shredder if you feel they're unsalvageable.

    The analogy worked until right there.

  35. Natalie on March 15, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    >As an editor, I hate that "don't need an editor" myth! I've had new authors say things like "but someone like Stephen King wouldn't need an editor"…! Yes he does! And thanks them for all their hard work!