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Simple Physics for Authors

A body at rest remains at rest, if in motion, remains in motion at a constant velocity unless acted on by a net external force. ~Sir Issac Newton

Newton’s first law of motion is more readily understood by students of physics than authors. Nevertheless, it is every bit as applicable in the world of fiction as it is in the real world. Authors deal with this principle all the time, often without realizing it.

Let’s examine how Newton’s law works for and against authors. Get your laptop, open it, and log on. Call up Word. Now, stop and think about what has just happened. Despite your sudden burst of inspiration, that laptop just sat there doing nothing. Even when you opened it still just looked blankly at you. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Exactly, that story isn’t going to write itself. The author has to unleash the potential energy building in the story upon the laptop or no story is written. How many times have we authors been mocked by a cursor that does nothing but flash at us? It will just keep on flashing until acted upon. Pretty simple, right?

When The End is typed, the law does not lose its potency. Multiple outside forces must then act on the manuscript to turn it into a published book. That’s true for self-publishers too—they just have to do all the work.

At first glance it would seem that once the book is in motion, it will stay in motion, gathering reviews and sales as it goes. But that’s not how it works. There are forces at work to bring everything to a halt. Reviews can produce friction and drag. Lack of exposure, like gravity, will bring those sales down.

The common name for the law we’re talking about is inertia. Resting is the natural state of books. This inertia is only overcome by the continuous application of an external force—the author. Publishers, editors, friends, and family help, but the all too real truth is the author is the driving force.

Case in point—the last two weekends we have had all our books at live events. The authors present did a good job of promoting all the books displayed on the tables. Almost exclusively, the books that were sold were those of the authors present.

It may not seem fair but remember the law of motion is not just a good idea—it’s the law.

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