I would not want to be bitten by an elephant. Although such animals are herbivores, their nip would hurt. Consider the size of elephant teeth and the power of elephant jaws.
On the other hand, it would be possible, albeit not kosher and hence not allowed at a literal level, for me to take pieces out of one of those monsters. Indeed, wedge by wedge would be the only set of circumstances in which I could eat an elephant from trunk to tail as it would be unmanageable to assimilate the entirety of that sort of brute in one mouthful or even in a single sitting of mouthfuls. As USA army general, Creighton Abrams, intoned, “when eating an elephant, [one must] take one bite at a time.”1 What’s more, the act of consuming a gigantic creature would require: time, refrigeration, and access to an oversized freezer. Although the task look as if it is unworkable, it’s, in fact, doable.
Authors intent on vending books are, in the same way, regularly confronted with “elephants.” Writing books, selling them to publishers, and then marketing them to audiences, all are activities that constitute large, beastly loads. It follows that each one of these behemoths must be: deconstructed, addressed methodically, and approached by wielding one’s wherewithal in measured setups.
First, the arduous charge of writing a book, of fashioning a full-length masterpiece, is like preserving a marriage over decades. As with romance, initially, a scribbler might be infatuated, only to later discover that transforming an attractive idea into a fully developed composition takes a long interval of commitment. There is inevitably a lag between a writer’s first enchantment with a new project and a writer’s establishment of enduring devotion to that project. More exactly, depending on the genre and the publisher, full-length oeuvres must grow from kernels to assemblages of 50,000 to 130,000 words.
Furthermore, unless a book is focused on a profitable fad, or is being penned by a popular author, it must, simultaneous to being of normative length, be substantive. While certain global events, like NaNoWriMo, help to motivate wannabes to acquire discipline, in general, and to become habituated to producing predictable amounts of output on a regular basis, more specifically, those goings-on do little to increase the quality of emerging writers’ tomes. To be more precise, despite the verity that it is vital for writers to generate hundreds or thousands of words per day, it is at least as imperative that they likewise tidy up their yield. Rewriting is an indispensable component of turning out books.2 Regrettably, revision frequently receives short shrift.
Nevertheless, books get completed. Once a manuscript is satisfactorily refined or is otherwise deemed ready to be delivered, writers must undertake a second toilsome endeavor; they must effectively convey to a press (or to an agent) that their darling opus is worth those other folks’ hours, energy, and money. Providentially, there are reliable techniques to eat this second elephant and here, too, proven strategies require writers to take orderly chews.
In states of affairs in which a new book is not an author’s subsequent title with a given press or agent, an author must gnaw through the numerous stages of pitching. In other words, the author must painstakingly embark on becoming more than glancingly familiar with his or her: book, intended readers, market, and more.3 This business is neither quick nor easy. Then again, it is crucial.
Just as crafting, alongside of revising, makes for a great number of mouthfuls in the writing process, crafting, alongside of revising, makes for a great number of mouthfuls in the proposing process. Namely, authors need to construct communications that can be used for presses and agents and they need to modify those texts to accommodate each encountered rhetorical situation. Just as an herb garden might have sun-loving dill as well as shade loving violets, a list of a book’s potential issuers might include old school and up-to-date individuals and organizations. A writer must be prepared to engage both varieties.
To wit, writers are well-advised to research which presses print and which agents speak for, materials akin to the books they’re attempting to offer. Thereafter, writers need to change up their cover letters to best suit each of their wished-for commissioners. While it’s sometimes expedient to appeal to vehicles that might have already broadcast one’s short stories, poems, or essays, in those cases, moreover, writers are obliged to modify their correspondence to fit their targeted gatekeepers.
Be that as it may, writing a book and having it contracted by a press are necessary, but insufficient conditions for making a book lucrative. A third elephant, marketing, similarly, must be chomped through for writers to enjoy significant royalties.
“Back in the day,” word players had only to generate first-rate manuscripts. At present, however, even New York’s major publishing houses, let alone the indie houses, the world over, note in their agreements that their signed authors must take the lead in book publicity. Ben Sobieck explains this state of affairs in “Why Don’t Publishers Market and Promote the Books They Publish;”
1. They don’t have enough money, time, or staff.
2. They have no means of directly reaching the target readership to let people know a book of interest is available.
3. They can’t measure the impact of their efforts, thus resources get pulled away from marketing.
4. They hope the book finds its audience by simply being available and in stores. (Publishers are excellent at physical and retail distribution.)
5. [More resources devoted to marketing would mean] even HIGHER rejection rates[.]4
Still, for writers, the immensity of their job of making their books’ availability known is more grueling than is the publishing industry’s current, upside-down conventions for advertising. To masticate this third elephant, it’s inadequate for authors to be sagacious with social media. They additionally need email lists, fan-based promotion practices, and so on. At times, it requires more mettle to battle for sales than to see through the forging of a book or to persevere with the seemingly endless labors needed to get a book accepted by a publisher.
Chuck Wendig reminds us in “25 Hard Truths about Writing and Publishing,” that “[s]uccess is marked by books that sell well, not by books that were “really good but nobody read them. Art operates within a realm of financial sufficiency.”5 Writers who want to be commercially viable in the future must become commercially viable today.
Fortunately, this third elephant, equally, can be systematically gobbled up. Besides, writers unable or disinterested in trumpeting their creations can hire PR professionals to take over this portion of the grind. Toothpick sculptures are built one stick at a time. Book sales, analogously, are strengthened one line of attack at a time.
All in all, there are three major challenges to securing success with books; writing then, selling them to printing and distributing outlets, and marketing them. Whereas these elephants might appear daunting, none of these operations should automatically defeat aspiring authors; authors can break them into small chunks and can then proceed to slowly absorb them.
1. Travis Hale. “How do you eat an elephant?” [sic]. Staking the Plains. 6 Oct. 2015. http://www.stakingtheplains.com/2015/10/06/how-do-you-eat-an-elephant/. Retrieved 8 Feb. 2018/.
2. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Today I Put Soap in the Bathroom: Some Particulars of (Re)Writing.” Scribblers on the Roof. Mar. 2010.
3. KJ Hannah Greenberg. “Take the Steps Part II: The Pitching Process.” The Jerusalem Post. 16 Jan. 2018. http://www.jpost.com/Blogs/Word-Citizen/Take-the-Steps-Part-II-The-Pitching-Process-536926. Retrieved 8 Feb. 2018/.
4. Ben Sobieck. “Why Don’t Publishers Market and Promote the Books They Publish?” Writer’s Digest. 19 Apr. 2010. http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/digitization-new-technology/why-dont-publishers-market-promote-the-books-they-publish. Retrieved 11 Feb. 2018.5. Chuck Wendig. “25 Hard Truths about Writing and Publishing,” Terribleminds. [sic]. 22 Jan. 2013. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/01/22/25-hard-truths-about-writing-and-publishing/. Retrieved 11 Feb. 2018.