3Qs with John Grisham: Advice for writers

Best-selling author John Grisham visited Reed’s Department Store on Tuesday to sign copies of his 23rd book, “Ford County.” He took time out from his signing duties to answer a few questions about writing and publishing from the Daily Journal’s M. Scott Morris.

Q: What advice would you give an aspiring writer about getting published?
A: Don’t worry about getting published until you finish the book. That’s a mistake a lot of people make. They start writing and they’re full of enthusiasm and all these big dreams and ideas and all that, before they finish the book.

Q: Is that the biggest mistake?
The worst thing you can do when you’re writing a book is talk about it or show some of it to all of your friends. Don’t show it to anybody until you’re finished with it.
The best advice I’d give to anybody: Unless you’re writing one page a day, nothing’s going to happen. You’ve got to make yourself write at least one page a day, and at the end of the year you’re going to have a whole lot of pages.
You can think about it forever. You can start and stop, and have all this angst about your writing and blah, blah, blah. Until you’re writing a page a day, nothing will happen.

Q: What do you think about digital e-books and e-readers offered by Amazon and Barnes & Noble?
That’s the future. I have not sold any of my books yet through Amazon that way. We are about to offer the backlist.
This book right here costs $24, and that’s a fair price. At $24, there’s money there for the retailer, for the wholesaler, for the publisher, for the author and for everybody along the food chain.
If the value of this book becomes $10, as it would be on Amazon as an e-book if I offered it, obviously, you’re really shaking up the economics of publishing.
Last year, e-books were 1.6 percent of all books sold, which was not very much. That number’s going to go up this year, we’re just not sure what it’s going to be.
The big question is in five years and 10 years, how many people are going to be reading this book on an e-reader?
If it’s 10 percent, that is a certain set of economics. If it’s 50 percent, things are changing drastically, and you’re going to see a lot of bookstores close and publishers go out of business.
The established authors are going to be OK, but it’s going to be difficult for aspiring authors to get published.
And no one knows. We talked to Amazon last week. We asked them a question: In five years, how big is the e-market? They said, “We don’t know.”
It’s obviously going to change things, but how much?

M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal