I really do hate talking about failing, but, I always hope, that by providing people with what people are doing wrong, could be a learning tool to assist other authors to be successful.
As an agent, it is always difficult to hear the number of authors complaining about "the system" and why the publishers and the agents are not open to stories. It always seems to be the fault of anyone, but the authors, as to why no one is buying their stories. Now, I will openly admit that the market is tougher now than it was in the past. The number of slots available for books is just not there any more. Those brick and mortar stores are just not there now. The number of small book stores just cannot keep the surplus to be profitable. The number of readers out there is also declining due to the huge push for watching movies and streaming services. People would rather watch a movie than read. Even in schools, the education system is just not pushing book reading any more. I remember when I first started in education, we would red close to 8 books a year. Now, schools may read 1 a year. Even my kid's AP Literature teachers didn't have them reading full stories, and opted for watching a movie, or just reading excerpts.
Still, when it comes down to it, the number of people I reject due to, what I will call "user error" is huge. These are all things that the authors have complete control over. These are errors that can be fixed, but first of all, the authors have to admit that it is an issue that they need (and want) to fix.
First of all, writers need to learn to write. Being an author is not just sitting down at a computer and typing words. This is a craft that requires taking the time to learn and grow into. Yes, some people are natural born storytellers, but the ability to turn those stories into a written document is a lot harder than many think.
Much of this belief, I honestly believe, comes from the self-publishing companies that proclaim how easy it is to publish your book. Just send it to us and within hours, you will be on the shelves and people can buy your book! Sure, I can do the same thing by going to Fed-Ex an printing it off and then selling my book on my website. Is this really writing? I don't think so.
Authors also need to take the time to learn how the business works. Again, I can't tell you how many people send me their stories and think I print the books for them. They talk about how they want me to get their books into book stores. They ask me to be their PR agents. I would also add that many authors seem to feel that they can make a living off of selling their one book.
One of my authors recently taught a workshop and over half of the people in her session truly believed that their first book would easily sell for 6 figures or more and they could retire. They talked about royalty checks showing up monthly in the 5 and 6 figure level.
These same people are shocked when they hear that it takes months to get that book through the publishing pipeline. They are shocked that they have to do any work in marketing their books. Even the self-publishing people are amazed at how much money they have to put out to even get that book available for the general public.
Let's talk also of the number of authors submitting stories to the wrong people and then complaining that they didn't know what they could send. This is really an issue of reading and researching. going to a website that the agents and editors have put together doesn't take that much work. And still, I get authors who submit things to me, on the form I have on my page, with stories that I don't represent and then are shocked that they did not know. Others will email me, again from the website, saying that they don't know what my submission guidelines are. Ummmm, reading skills?
Yes, creative writing IS a hobby. It is something that we all can do. But to be a successful writer and author takes the time to learn the skill and the business. Like any other business we enter into, we go to school, we take training and we learn it before we start it. We don't just wake up one morning and start a job without the training. This is why so many authors fail.