Monday, September 14, 2015

"Making It" As An Author

So you want to be a writer, guess what, it takes work. I started writing in 2002 shortly after my mother died. I may have actually put pen to paper before the end of 2001 right after my mother passed, but I really think it was February 2002 when I began writing my very first book. That book was crap. Book #2 was crap too. Then I joined Romance Writers of America and learned a few things about the business. Book #3 sucked too. Then I wrote Murder Stalks. It took until 2007 to write a book good enough to show to the public. In other words, 5 years.

I’ve been writing for 13 years. That’s a long time. During those 13 years I’ve taken hundreds of hours of writing courses. I’ve spent thousands of dollars going to conferences where I’ve spent hours learning craft. I’ve taken over 400 hours of police, fire fighter, FBI, and other agency training. I’ve done training with US Customs officers, shooting experts, gun enthusiast, poison experts, and lawyers. I’ve sat through countless lectures, and been involved with some freakishly awesome SWAT team members who showed me how they performed building raids. I’ve used the jaws-of-life to cut open a car, and I’ve run into a burning building. Any success I’ve had with my writing has come from hours of my time spent learning, investigating, and improving my craft.

Writing is freaking hard. It’s not a cakewalk and if anyone seems to have easy success there’s probably a bunch of stuff they’ve done that they just don’t talk about. When does an author make it? Maybe when you get your first contract, or sign your first paper back book at a signing. With the Romance Writers of America, RWA, the measure is Published Author Network or PAN membership. It used to take $5000 made on any single book to make PAN, now I think it’s $1000(don’t quote me on that), or a contract with a specific set of publishers. Maybe it’s having a reader send you a thank you letter, or maybe it’s being able to pay your mortgage, but whatever it is for you I’m sure it’s totally different for another author.

Don’t expect to be able to quit your day job. You may never get to the point where you can. You may hit big then the numbers will fall off, or you could have a steady income after 5, 10, 15, or 30 years. Writing isn’t a guarantee, and expecting someone else to pay you to sit at home when you aren’t producing work that earns you that money is more than just a pipe dream, it’s a sham.

1 comment:

SJ Himes said...

I'm thankfully quitting a soul-destroying job I've been in for the last ten years of my life...and I'm going to be writing fulltime, while working part time for health insurance reasons. Thankfully, all I want from my writing is the following 1) To make me happy. 2) To make other people happy. 3) To maybe help pay the bills.

Do I want Nora Robert's level fame? Hell yes. Am I expecting it to happen? No, but I can dream. What I truly want is to be in a place financially where I don't have to chose between writing and working. I write to make me happy, and if my happiness can bring me in some money as a result? Then I'm going to keep writing. I saw the Paynegate fiasco unfold today, and I have to say, I have never been so confounded. GoFundMe is the wrong place for something like that; Patreon is the appropriate place for any kind of artist to request assistance in creating something. It's NOT for asking for what my English professor in college would call a "Harper Lee Year", where someone(s) pay your bills while you write. Or sit on your couch, or whatever.

I intend to keep working hard. Until my hands curl from carpal tunnel. Until I hate the sight of words and my imagination dries up. I will work my ass off. Will I accept help if freely offered? Of course I will. But I won't mass solicit funds from fans so that I don't have to work as hard. If I can't live off my book sales, then I'm not producing quality enough work to generate that kind of revenue, and I need to work harder.