You’ve listened to varying advice about what to do with your writing. Now it’s time to make some decisions. Let’s start with question 6:
What is your ultimate goal?
· The satisfaction of completing the book(or essay, or poem, or collection)
· A book I can pass on to my friends, my family, and my neighbors.
· A publishing contract with a well-known publisher
· A published volume sitting on the shelf of my local library and/or bookstore
· A review of my book published in the local newspaper
· Best-seller status on Amazon
· Making the best-seller list in The New York Times
· Royalty checks coming in every month
If you are satisfied to settle with the first two, you’re almost ready to stop reading and start writing. The satisfaction of knowing that you have finished what you set out to do is enormous, no matter how large or small the original goal. So if you want to write down the family legends to pass to your grandchildren, or compile a cookbook for your club members or neighborhood, or collect tips on sightseeing in your hometown, go ahead and do it. You have a computer, a printer, and/or access to someplace like FedEx/Kinko’s, that can put it all together for you. Your friends and family will be impressed, and you will be proud of yourself – no small matters.
But if you’re hell-bent on writing a book that becomes a best-seller, you have some other decisions to make. Do you want to try to find an agent and a publisher to take your raw material and turn it into a book? It can be done, although it may take years to get there. There are skills to be learned, many of them having to do with things like query letters and synopses, and I’m not going to try to offer advice on them. It’s been years since I traveled that route, and the publishing world has changed a great deal in the interim.
I abandoned the traditional publishing route in 2007, after I had spent 3 years knocking on doors without success. Publishers didn’t want to waste their shrinking resources on someone who was already eligible for Social Security and Medicare – not a good future prospect, it seemed. And I, too, had to face the fact that if I wanted to publish my books, I needed to do so quickly. At age 68, I didn’t have all that many productive years left – certainly no time to waste. At that point I needed to consider all the options.