So many ideas….how to know which one is the bestseller?

Writing is the task that we have to do if we ever intend to be published.

I’ve talked with many authors that want to be published and I’ve listened to the ones that are published and are “known”. Ideas are a dime a dozen and published writers that are out there being bought and read by the readers have something occur many times where someone comes up to them and says, “I’ve got a great idea, would you co-author it with me and we’ll make money together?” Most of the time these authors will hold back with the person, but in the times I’ve listened to them on panels, or read articles written by them, or on their FAQ page on their website, they feel this is absolute laziness on the person approaching them. The work they have to go through after the idea of writing the story, editing it, rewriting it, talking with agents, talking with publishers, working with publishers with further edits and rewrites, getting it published, marketing it when the publisher won’t, or marketing it even more than the publisher does, making personal appearances to sell more copies, etc. are all things that go beyond just an idea.

They’ve made it well known that anybody who thinks they’re going to get rich off of an idea alone is living in a dream world. Sure, there’s the occasional Dan Brown’s out there that strike a chord with certain people and it has a ripple effect, but those authors are the rarity. I’ve become very cognizant of this fact as one of my favorite authors, Stephen King, had so much to go through before he finally sent in Carrie, and of course, it seems that he became an overnight success. Yet, as you look back, really take a look at the volume of his work. He didn’t stop with Carrie or Salem’s Lot, he just kept writing and getting published and it was his continued success with his work that kept his pay from publishers to increase with each book he finished and gave for publication.

So many authors out there have to do the same thing and don’t get the paycheck from their novels that Stephen King does.

Authors such as Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Troy Denning, James Luceno, and many others. These are authors that have both written their own novels as well as have worked in other people’s universes. One thing I get from them is that they have made writing a daily habit. It’s a part of their daily routine no matter how much time they spend with it. As such, they finish more novels and have more works published.

These last are all mainstream authors that I have read and admire and have enjoyed the works of – and admittedly the list in that last paragraph also are all that have worked in the Star Wars universe at least once or twice, or many times in a couple of cases, and many, many, many times with one in particular. 😉 (Yeah, I’m a Star Wars nut!)

But this blog is with primarily a Christian fellowship of authors and is centered on God, right? So why am I mentioning so many authors that aren’t in the Christian market? Because this is a blog for Christian authors seeking publication does that mean we can’t learn from mainstream authors? Quite the contrary, if we want the success they have, we should definitely listen to what they have to say just as much as we do those succeeding in the Christian market. I do, and that’s why I mentioned them here. Just like it doesn’t matter when you’re in school if your English teacher is saved or not, or if saved whether they are as evangelical or conservative in their values as you are, what matters is are you paying attention to what’s being taught, and are you passing the class – hopefully with a series of “A’s” on your papers? Sure, you pray for their salvation, but you listen to their instructions too, don’t you? Because you want to pass and move on to the next grade level. It doesn’t have anything to do with their personal stance on things.

I look at some of the successes in the Christian market, and I see people like Frank Peretti that somehow get by with one major novel every few years that all become best-sellers. Perhaps that’s all he wants to do, or perhaps there are other reasons. Then I see the major success of the Left Behind series that for a while there was putting out two books a year at its peak. I see Ted Dekker who has written and published so many books in such a short amount of time that it staggers the mind of one who doesn’t see this already happening with the above named mainstream authors. Then there are the many authors who are putting out novels and haven’t been recognized much beyond the Christian market – and at times not even there as certain prejudices against speculative fiction are still very much in place in that market in spite of the major successes.

These authors keep putting out works and sometimes on a yearly basis, sometimes on a twice a year basis, while others have had to turn to small press and P.O.D. to ensure that they get published and can have their work available to anyone that buys it. Presses such as Marcher Lord Press that uses P.O.D. technology has helped out with this, and there are others, but is the tide really turning?

Each author has the responsibility to turn as many of their ideas into written work as possible. Whether they are published or not. If you have the writing streak within you, then you need to be writing. Period. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

If you’re getting published, then definitely keep writing.

If you aren’t published, then the more you write, the greater the amount of finished products will you have available to supply once you are.

If you’re writing, then that is good.

If you have ideas and aren’t doing anything with them, then don’t bother us that are working on our ideas, we have enough to work on as it is.

I know that I have started so many stories I haven’t ever finished. That was because every time I had an idea I started a story from it. I have found out that this is not the way to go. Mainly because I never finished anything. A lot of times I barely scratched the surface. A lot of these ideas are still within me while others have faded away.

I have paid very close attention to the blogs and updates of successful authors, and I have discovered a pattern that seems to work with most:

Although they do work on more than one novel at a time, they’re working on them at different stages.

While one novel may be in it’s first draft, another novel may be going through some other drafts, while another one is being bandied for more drafts by the publisher, while another one is the current published one and is the one the author is marketing heavily at the time he or she is working on the other stories. I find that the key thing is that it’s important to finish one first draft before going on to the next one.

Since I haven’t finished even one first draft of a novel yet, I find that now I am focusing on one and only one story of mine when I write. Although I do have a short story that needs to be edited, so I have that before me as well while I work on the first draft of the novel in progress, I will not work on another novel before finishing a first draft of the one I’m on now. So, I just have to make sure that I work every day at it and make sure that the stories are told one way or another. I have a lot of ideas, and I want to see as many of them in print as possible, so I have to work on as much as possible.

I don’t know how many of my ideas I can get finished, but I will strive to get as many of them finished as I can. If you yourself have got ideas, great, I hope you work on them too, but after talking with a few other people that were looking for a co-writer for their ideas, I’ve decided not to go that route at this point in time – if ever – and just ask you to not count on me to be a co-writer. And I’d suggest not counting on any other writer out there either. If you got an idea, then write it down and learn the art of the craft and make the same mistakes we all have to do.

It’s a solitary process, writing is, but even now with my current work unfinished, as I take a look at what I’ve already written – with all its flaws intact as it’s a first draft still – I can look at it and know that it’s the effort I put into it, and no one else. Yes, God helped me, and I thank Him for that as well as the gift of writing He granted me, but this isn’t a matter of the natural claiming something from the supernatural that should only go to the supernatural. It’s a matter that those words came from me and not another human being. It will succeed or fail based on the changes I make to it in the future. It will succeed or fail based on how hard I push for it’s publication once I’m done with it. Maybe it will even be something that will strike a chord in people and be one of those things that just takes off, or maybe it will just be something I have to sell on an individual basis. But through it all, it will be from the strength and efforts that I put into it, and that’s taking personal responsibility and not trying to get someone else to do it for me.

And as long as I keep doing it, I will be a success no matter how much money I make from my efforts, and I hope that I make enough for it to be a decent stream of income I can rely on. 😉

Be encouraged,

David James
Founder – Beyond the Charts, LLC
Independent Marketer
The Trump Network

About David James

David James is a man of many attributes: He's a believer in Jesus as the Christ. He's a family man with a wife and two children. He's an entrepreneur with a fledgling business called Beyond the Charts, an Independent Marketer with Manna From Heaven, a writer of both speculative fiction and some spiritual matters. He's a listener of heavy metal with techno, goth, and industrial sounds preferred. He doesn't listen to "Christian radio" and can't stand most "Praise and Worship" music because it comes across so staged and more for entertainment than worship, but he loves the worship coming out of MorningStar Ministries because of the raw intensity of it. He loves scary movies whether it's a creepy ghost story or an intense slasher film, as well as strange humor films, and just loves the spoof films that have come out over the past decade. He thinks Kevin Smith films are very funny, but doesn't care for it when they speak bad of Jesus. His favorite novelist of all time is Stephen King. His favorite sci-fi novelist is Kevin J. Anderson. Other novelists he enjoys are too numerous to mention here. For Spiritual reading he turns to Billy Graham, Mike Murdock, Rick Joyner, John Bunyan, Ellen White, Herbert Armstrong, Martin Zender, and R.A. Torrey. He enjoys financial and self-help books ranging from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar to Donald Trump to Robert Kiyosaki. The one thing that irritates him is when people don't show respect, yet want respect from those they don't show it to.

2 comments on “So many ideas….how to know which one is the bestseller?

  1. I have talked to people looking for someone to write their ideas, and I agree, they don’t have a clue what they are asking. I didn’t go into writing to write other people’s ideas – I have plenty of voices in my head already. Out of curiosity I looked into what the going rate for ghost writers are in novels… can you say $10,000 upfront to begin? And most don’t hold their breath for royalties, they want per hour/word/page. With what I see of human nature, it’s probably a nightmare and deserves far more in pay. My Husband is a programmer and I’m an artist – we know all about people who ask for one thing and then want to change it all around mid-project.

    I like helping people out and there’s some stories with potential out there, sure, but a book is a major long-term investment and just coming up with the original idea is chicken scratch compared to the work to carry it through and make it viable in today’s competitive market.

    You got a stellar, winning idea? Write it down and flesh it out the best you can – even if you suck at writing. Then at least you have something to show for yourself. And something to show that you’re willing to work.

  2. I grew up on Stephen King novels and always draw inspiration from his personal story. He took a chance when writing Carrie because he had to choose between writing a short story to get money for medicine for his child, or write a novel and risk not being paid. Turns out his advance for Carrie was $100.000 so the gamble paid off.

    I always thought that Carrie was his first novel but there are books that he wrote before that. Apparantly he wrote The Long Walk (my favorite) while at college, so he was no overnight success.

    King recommends that to become a good writer you need to read for 4 hours a day and write for 4 hours a day. That’s a lot of effort. And even today he still has to put a lot of work into getting from the first draft to a finished product. Getting the story down is the easy part; the real work starts from that point.

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