In Part 1 of this article, we looked at what it takes to write a Fortean book. We discovered, among other things, that it’s essential to have plenty of experience writing articles before attempting a book project. Here, in Part 2, we’ll delve deeper into the matter.
For the sake of discussion, picture a budding young author named Jack Wilson. Jack, a huge fan of UFOs, has decided to write a book on “foo fighters.” Jack’s done plenty of research on the topic, including having read almost every book and article ever published on foo fighters and World War Two UFO cases. Better still, he’s interviewed a number of retired Air Force pilots who claim to have had first-hand experience of the phenomenon. He’s confident that, if his book sees the light of day, a reasonable number of people will want to read it.
Jack has decided his book will consist of ten chapters, each roughly 8,000 words, with an overall word count of 80,000 words. Furthermore, he’s identified two publishers to whom he wishes to submit his manuscript once it’s completed: Publisher X and Publisher Z. Both specialize in books on Fortean phenomena.
Every day over the next nine months, Jack sits at his computer to write. The end result is an 80,000 word manuscript with which he’s reasonably pleased. Although tempted to submit it to a publisher straight away, Jack decides to spend the next three months revising his manuscript, trying to get it as close to perfect as possible.
Jack can’t believe his luck when, a couple of months after submitting his manuscript, he receives an email from Publisher X informing him they wish to publish it. (He doesn’t hear back from Publisher Z.) He immediately accepts their offer, signing the contract they send him in the mail. Roughly a year later—the standard period of time it takes for a book to be released after it’s been accepted for publication—Jack receives a box delivered by courier containing twenty shiny copies of his book, “The Enduring Mystery of the Foo Fighters.”
Contrary to popular opinion, it’s after one’s book has been published, rather than during the writing stage, that the maximum amount of effort is required on the part of the author. As a general rule, a book won’t sell unless the author puts a huge amount of work into promoting it. That means doing countless interviews, writing heaps of articles that reference one’s book, and similar activities.
To return to the question I raised in Part 1 of this article: Is writing a book profitable?
It might be profitable for the publisher, though rarely is it profitable for the author. A book has to sell in very large numbers for the author to make a decent profit on it. The standard royalty rate is 10%; that means, for every copy of his book sold, Jack earns 10% of the retail price (with the publisher receiving the remaining 90%).
If your intention for writing a book is to make a heap of cash, you’re wasting your time. Washing dishes in a restaurant, or hand delivering pamphlets in your neighborhood, are easier ways to earn a buck. Believe it or not, I’ve lost more money writing books than I’ve gained, and I’m sure many other authors would say the same thing.
Monetary issues aside, I truly believe that anyone—assuming they’re reasonably skilled at writing and possess the necessary motivation and passion—can write a book. If you’re confident that writing a Fortean book is something you’d like to do, my advice is go for it.