I've received quite a few questions over the past year and a half since my debut novel hit bookshelves everywhere, and decided to post a few of my most frequently asked questions here to (hopefully) help future authors and to satisfy reader curiosity. As a disclaimer, I am speaking from my own personal experience, and so some of my answers are subjective.
About Being an Author
Q: Self published vs published through a publisher... Which is better?
A: I am perhaps biased on this one. I have read quite a few self-published e-books on Amazon and have not been impressed. Typos, puncuation errors etc are all over since they typically do not have trained and experienced editors reviewing the book over and over again like books that get published traditonally are. So for me, quality is better if you go the publishing house way. Additionally, self-publishing puts all the risk on you. If you choose to self-publish as an e-book, there is hardly any monetary risk, but if you actually want your book in print and you self-publish, it can cost upwards of $20,000 out of pocket. If you go with a good, old fashioned publishing house, then you don't spend a penny. Sure, you make less money when your books sell, but at least you don't lose money if they don't. For me, based on quality and risk, I would choose a publishing house over self-published books any day of the week, but this is of course just my opinion.
Q: How much money does a typical author make?
A: I read a statistic when I first was looking to get published that said roughly 80% of books purchased are written by 20% of the authors out there, and that most authors will never sell more than 1000 books in their lifetime. Sobering stats to be sure, although these did include self published works. There are some authors (like John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Sophie Kinsella, J.K. Rowling etc) that will sell millions of books. Others will not. From my own contracts and discussions with other authors, typically an author can expect to earn anywhere from 10%-20% of each book sold. So if you buy a book for $10, the author will make $1-$2 from it. E-books are usually a little higher, closer to 50% of the selling price. So, if you are looking to support yourself as a full-time author... well, maybe think again. If you enjoy writing and want a little extra money, then that is more than likely the scenario.
Q: How do you find a publisher?
A: It's not Anne of Green Gables where you write a book, print it off and send it to a publishing house and wait with fingers crossed. You need cover letters, resumes, sometimes the first three chapters are required, and you need, in many situations, a literary agent. Some publishing houses, especially smaller and medium sized ones, like WiDo Publishing (my amazing publisher), work directly with the author, but larger ones, like Random House, only work with agents. Additionally, most large publishers and prominent agents do not even look at works by first time authors. There are exceptions (like Stephenie Meyers' Twilight) but this is rare. Expect to have a lot of "no's" before you hear a single "yes". There are many books out there, including Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers and Literary Agents, that can help you find the right fit for you. Another idea to help you out... Check out who publishes books you enjoy reading and go from there.
Q: How long should a typical novel be?
A: I wondered this myself when I was writing my first novel. On my computer it would say 100 or so pages, but how many computer pages equal a page in a book? It was confusing. I write women's fiction / chick lit, so my answer is for that and obviously there are much longer books out there as well. Most fiction novels are between 70,000 - 90,000 words. Don't count pages, since font size, etc. can make it hard to get an accurate idea. Count words. Some books can be a little less, but I would say the absolute shortest you can go is 60,000 words, and for a debut novel don't go higher than 100,000 words.
About My Books
Q: How long does it take to write a book?
A: It depends. My first book took quite a few months from start to finish. Close to a year before it was accepted for publication and then editing took another year on top of that. My newest book, coming in December, was much quicker. The first draft was only a few months in the making and the editing went faster because I knew what I was doing (more or less!)
Q: Where do you get your ideas?
A: My books are based on me, my dreams, my friends and my experiences. My first novel was written when I was stuck in a boring job I did not enjoy and it was my escape. What if I were a Hollywood star? What if I had money and fame? Daydreams evolved and soon I was writing it down, the story of an average twenty year old who became a superstar almost overnight... faced with fame and feeling out of place, she tells a simple lie to a new guy she meets and slowly has to deal with the consequences. My second novel was based on the idea of fight or flight. I read an article one day about some celebrity who cheated on their girlfriend and it got me thinking... how would I react? How would I face my everyday life? And then I realized... I would probably want to run away, to escape and start fresh. It's the whole idea of a "new you". Haven't you ever wanted to just start again? So it came from there. My last book came from the idea of finding your first love... the one who got away. Most people have regrets and look back at a stage in their life when things were "better". What if you could track it down? And then the book just came together. I find it so much fun to see how the books evolve.
Q: Do you know the ending when you start the book?
A: Yes and no. I know the basic ending... who I want the character to become, who I want them to end up with etc, but as the book progresses, the ending sometimes shifts a little. I try to "map out" my book... putting a rough idea of what each chapter should include, when I first start out, but as for having a clear understanding of it all at the start? Definitely no. Much like real life, my books and the people in them evolve and it almost feels like I am sitting back and watching a movie. Very surreal.
Q: What are your books about?
A: Iced Romance is about a cheating fiance, a runaway bride, and a potential new Prince Charming, all while Kennedy, the main character, tries to hide her secrets and escape into a new life. Tanned, Toned and Totally Faking It is about a celebrity trying to hide who she is from the one person in the world who matters most. Betrayal, gossip, celebrities and fashion, this is a must read! For more complete descriptions you can check them out on Amazon (see the links) and even read the first few chapters for free.
Anyway, there are a few of my most frequently asked questions. Hopefully they will help some newbie author out there... and if you have any other questions, feel free to sound off in comments and I will do my best to answer them for you!