There are times when I feel like I’m the crotchety parent sitting the kids down to tell them the facts of life. No, not those facts of life but the facts of life about business. It seems like almost every week there is a blog post or newspaper article about a bad contract or troubles in publishing or writers thinking about hanging up their keyboards. Why? Because all too many forget that publishing is a business and it needs to be treated as such.
I’m not going to discuss, at least not much, the publisher side of writing as a business today. Oh, there is plenty out there. Bad publishing decisions coming back to haunt the publishing company abound. But that’s not the point of today’s post. No, today I’m back on my soapbox reminding everyone who wants to be a writer that you have to remember that this is your business and you have to treat it as such.
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve talked with writers, some traditionally published and others indie published, who went into this business with stars in their eyes and rose colored glasses firmly in place. The ones traditionally published just knew that once they signed the contract, the publisher would be spending all sorts of money to promote their book and make it into a best seller. The indie writers who are now wanting to go with a traditional publisher because — duh — they will get this huge advance and will be sent on tours to sign their books and will soon be playing poker with other best selling authors ala Castle.
That sound you hear, that slow thud-thud-thud is my head pounding against the wall.
It would be wonderful to live the life of Castle — less the murderers and other crooks trying to take pot shots at you every week. But that isn’t reality. The reality is that the vast majority of writers who have signed with traditional publishers see little if any real push from their publisher. In fact, the publisher — and the author’s agent — expect the author to do their own promotion. Oh, you might get reimbursed for your expenses if you go to a con or do a book tour but don’t bet on it. Don’t believe me that publishers aren’t spending as much on promotion of those authors they haven’t pegged as best sellers or the newest “best thing ever”? Think back to the last time you saw a book signing at your local bookstore. Now ask yourself how many times a year your local bookstore has such signings. How many of those are authors who aren’t best sellers or local authors?
Now, look at your local newspaper and tell me how large the arts section is and how many book reviews appear per week. Oh, wait. Sorry. Part of the reason there aren’t as many reviews is that there aren’t as many people reading the newspaper. Reviews, especially book reviews, were some of the first things cut when newspapers started cutting costs to make up for the lower advertising revenue and lower subscriptions rates. Few newspapers have their own book reviewers any longer and the books being reviewed are either best sellers or the newest best thing. Hmm.
But, Amanda, you get those huge advances and you don’t have to work any longer.
And this is where you have to remember that this is a business. Most advances, especially for “new” authors fall in the four-digit range. Yes, some new authors get more but they are the except and not the rule. You don’t get the advance all at one time and you aren’t going to see any more money from the publisher until you have earned out the advance and, believe me, that doesn’t happen very often. How can it when publishers use Bookscan to determine how many books are sold instead of a simple inventory tracker program?
That means you have to make sure you have a way to pay your bills between advances. This is why the vast majority of writers aren’t full-time writers. They have families to feed and are like me. They like having a roof over their heads and food in the fridge. Even if your first book is a success, you don’t know that the second book will be. More importantly, if you are publishing traditionally, you have no guarantee that the readers will remember you two years or more after your first book by the time the second book comes out. Remember, when you publish traditionally, you have no control over when your book is released and you are just one of many the publisher is having to slot into a finite number of slots per month.
I can’t repeat this often enough. Writing is a business and the writer is the business owner. Yes, you might sign a contract with someone to distribute your work (a publisher) and promote it (publisher or someone else) but it is still your responsibility to make sure the job is being done. You can’t just sign the contract and sit back and wait for the money to roll in, trusting the person you contracted with to do the job. You need to understand the supply chain for bookstores and the reality of how long a book is left on the shelves before it is pulled. You need to understand the financial aspects of the business and you need to study the numbers when it comes to sell through, resigning authors, etc.
What started me thinking about this again today was this article. The author in question signed a contract with a major publisher for her first book. It was critically acclaimed and not long before it was released into the wild, she quit her job. Yep, you read that right. The author quit her job — the job that helped support her family — so she could promote her book and write full-time. She did so after signing with the publisher for only this one book. There was no second book that would bring in additional advance payments. Nope. Just the starry eyed vision of living the life of a writer.
Now, I don’t want to kick this woman when she’s down but her story is illustrative of the problems so many writers — and folks who start their own businesses — face. They get a great review for a product before it hits the shelves and based on those reviews, quits their regular job to do this full-time. The problem is that reviews don’t always turn into sales and sales, especially for books, will slow down if the author doesn’t bring a new title out in fairly short order. For those authors going the traditional route, that very likely means no payments after the book is released because the advance isn’t earned out. So what are you going to do for money?
This particular author did finally go out and get a job — for awhile. But what struck me is that she doesn’t really seem to want to work. She would rather be writing but the worry and stress of not having enough money has shut down the writing. But a job makes her too tired to write. You see the circle. I feel for her but, to be honest, she needs to man up — or woman up — and realize that the situation she is in is the same one so many of us face on a daily basis. We face it and learn to live with it as we continue to write and put our work out there.
The lesson to be learned is that if you don’t have at least six months — preferably a year or more — of living expenses in the bank, do NOT quit your day job. If you are worried about putting food on the table for your kids or if you are worried about how you will pay the bills, do not quit your day job. It makes it more difficult to write, yes. But this is a business and you learn to adapt. You find the way to carve out time to write. But having all the time in the world to write isn’t worth anything if you are worrying about losing your home or having your utilities cut off.
It’s a business, damn it, and you need to look at it that way. Have your business plan. Have your promotion plan. Know that you aren’t going to get a regular salary that is the same from paycheck to paycheck.
And since I am a working writer, check out Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).
War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.
Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.
Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.
Dagger of Elanna, the second book in the series will be released soon. You can check out snippets from the book starting here.
*glares at WordPress* WORK and gimme my comments!
Was reading about ganache just now then truffles.
I want to make yummy treats now
You’ll be sorrrrry… ~:D
delicious chocolate covered comments?
*offers you a large blunt object with which to pummel WordPress.*
Only SMOD is big enough.
I feel sorry for the lady too. But I have to say that that meme about someone’s purpose in life being “object lesson” does spring to mind.
I don’t feel sorry for her. She did it to herself.
I’m a bit torn. I’ve suffered from imposter’s syndrome on occasion, and sometimes initial success can be paralyzing, so I can understand where she was coming from. At first. Later on, the article descends into unjustified whining. Need money? Get a job. Writing never guarantees an income. Nobody is going to hand you $40K on some vague promises you’ll be able to finish your book as soon as you don’t have to worry about money.
You write because you love doing it, and you treat like a business because you want to make a living doing what you love. But if you need money today, you write on the side. I wrote about a third of my gaming books while working full time at a factory: I was on my feet 7-9 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, and then I came home, put in 2-3 hours of writing at least a few times a week and twice as much on Sunday. If not having money is going to paralyze her, I have some bad news for her: a writer’s money worries never end, unless your last name is King or Rowling or Patterson, and probably not then either, because you can never be too rich or too thin.
Well, unless you are Damien Walters. Which is what she’s aiming for. A government check for “funemployment”.
This, exactly this. I’m sure we would all love to be able to write full-time but we have bills to pay and we like to buy the occasional book or go to the occasional movie. We find ways to make it happen by working at least part-time at a “real” job.
In the Dallas paper this morning, there was an article about this particular author and the Marie Clare article. At first, I was surprised by how the author of the article seemed so sympathetic to her. Then, toward the end of the article, it became clear. She has been a contributor to the paper before and they share an agent. Oh, and his first book comes out next year. He actually said he (and I’m paraphrasing here) didn’t think most of us get into writing because we want to make a profit. We do it for the art. I kept waiting for him to talk about how we all want to suffer for our art as well. Nope, nope, nope. I want to make money. I want to be able to pay my bills and I’m not going to put my family’s financial health in danger by being so selfish that I quit a job it is obvious they rely upon to meet the bills each month.
I found myself thinking about the “strain” on the marriage comment. Yeah, I think with three kids and bills I’d probably have a case of the ass too if I came home to someone only partially rowing.
I want to have sympathy, but…no.
Reminds me of my screenwriting prof. He’s always saying it’s a business first. Hard to write if you’re hungry.
Or worrying about keeping the lights on, etc. Something you would think this gal had learned but obviously she hasn’t.
I learned some time back that there is no such job as “writing books”. The job that you can actually get paid for is ” selling books”. Since I have neither the talent nor the desire to be a salesman, my fiction will always be an avocation rather than a profession.
You need to have some selling skills in trad publishing because you have to convince agents/publishers to take a chance on you, which means mastering the secrets of the query letter and the elevator pitch. As an indie, you need some awareness of the market, some research on how to promote books (which most means making sure potential readers be made aware the books exist), and the ability to be prolific. None of those involve being a salesman of any kind. Businessman, yes: handling a budget, trying to write to market (not necessarily chase fads, though; indies can make a living catering to niches trad publishing considers too small), and learn from past mistakes.
I can’t sell for #*@& (I’ve had two opportunities to make an elevator pitch, once to Warner Brothers for a movie licensing deal and once to Blizzard a developer job for the eventually-canceled Titan MMMORPG, and I royally screwed the pooch both times) but am generating a decent income as an indie without doing any sort of hard-selling (or soft-selling). I post ’em on Amazon, notify my mailing list, run a few promos and then I’m done.
Don’t want to belabor the point, but I’ve seen you keep insisting you need to be some sort of social media maven to make a living writing, and I don’t want new writers to get the wrong idea. ‘Making it’ isn’t easy, but the problems lie in things other than the ability to sell. There’s plenty of introverts who couldn’t sell life preservers in the middle of the Andrea Doria disasters who’re doing just fine self-publishing.
I”There’s plenty of introverts who couldn’t sell life preservers in the middle of the Andrea Doria disasters who’re doing just fine self-publishing.”
Such a descriptive phrase has sent me dashing off to Amazon to check out your stuff 🙂
Thank you. Hope you see something you like 🙂
Fair enough. But I would like to point out that what is easy and simple for one person isn’t always simple and easy for another. I’ve been getting a lot of “all I do is…” replies when I talk about selling. That’s kind of like me saying that I’m not a mechanic, all I do is pull a motor and rebuild it then put it back. For me that’s no big deal. There are people, though, for whom just replacing a head gasket is so intimidating that they’d rather sell a car for scrap than do it. I’ve tried mailing lists and blog tours and paid promotions for a couple of years and got bupkis. Maybe my work is just no good.
“How are your cakes so moist?!’
“All I do is follow the directions on the box of mix.”
“So do I but, but I don’t get this.”
“I dunno. Maybe there’s a Baking God that I channel?”
*PAUSE* “Yeah, probably.”
Okay, I can see your point, but I don’t think I’m talking about anything as complicated as rebuilding an engine.
In my case, all I literally do is: write a line at the end of my books inviting readers to join my mailing list, which I compile via MailChimp (free until you hit 2,000 subscribers, I’m not even halfway there); have a Facebook author page which I update a few times a month with a few comments about my writing, or covers for upcoming books; a Twitter account which I never update; a blog on Goodreads I write in maybe once every other month; and when I have a new release, put the first book of the series on sale at $0.99 on the week of release and spend a few bucks on a handful of promo sites, everything from Fiverr to AwesomeGang to BargainBooksy to (the one time they accepted me) BookBub.
That’s it. I don’t think it’s all that complicated or onerous.
Oh, one more thing. I write at least two or three books a year (goal is four per year). I haven’t read your books (I put the first one on my KU queue, but it’s a very long one) but David Freer said they’re good, so I’ll take his word for it. Your main problem, IMHO and without looking at your writing, is that you don’t write fast. That’s it. If you put out two books a year (three would be better), you’d be seeing better results. Maybe not great, maybe not enough to earn a decent income, but better. If you can’t or won’t, that’s fine, but that has nothing to do with being a salesman; it’s just the realities of the market.
That doesn’t mean writing faster is all you need. Maybe your first series doesn’t appeal to a wide audience. I think my best novel (from a technical standpoint) is Shadowfall; it also happens to be a complete stinker sales-wise (950 copies sold in 20 months, and about half of those sales happened after my mil-sf series took off this year). I wrote a sequel fairly quickly, and it didn’t help any. So something about that book (title, style, genre, cover, blurb, or several or all of the above) didn’t connect with an audience, and at this point I am better off writing on the next book of a series that sells well than tinkering with it. Maybe that’s the case with your series; I won’t know until I actually read it (and maybe not then, either; I like lots of stuff that most people don’t, and vice versa). I do think your blurb could use some spiffing up, and the covers might not be catchy enough for the genre, but that’s a matter of taste and I’m no expert in either blurbs and covers (my first covers were self-made Photoshop Elements horrors; looking back I’m astonished anybody bought my novels).
But please stop spreading the idea that being a successful indie means you need to be a salesman. Because it’s not true.
Sorry for the wall of text. Now I must be off to finish final edits on my current project, which means no more Internet for me until tonight. 🙂
For what it’s worth, I really enjoyed Shadowfall and the sequel (and paid for both — I don’t do KU). I’m sorry to hear there won’t be another.
Well, I’m hoping to squeeze a third one at some point (I just enjoy writing the characters too much to completely give them up), but probably not until late 2017 or 2018. Once I feel confident about paying the bills, I’ll be able to do a few ‘love’ projects without worrying about sales.
My point is that for every person I know who is making money selling books on-line I know five who are writing just as quickly and (in my opinion) just as well, who are doing the same amount of work on promotion and are selling nothing. I don’t do any promotion now because I spent three years hustling, hated every second of it, and ended up with a net loss. If I am going to have to do something that I hate in order to finance my writing I might as well stick to unclogging toilets, which at least I’m good at.
Here’s the thing: There’s no guarantee of success if you put in the work, but there’s a guarantee of failure if you don’t.How I see people as different is that some are able to push through the fatigue and work at their small business – which is what this is – and some aren’t. This is my situation right now, not counting my Geomagnetic Induced Current research detour. I haven’t been able to even shove four nails into the ground 1m apart and take voltmeter readings (telluric current experiment that may not work).
This applies to any small business venture. I’d hate to know that I’d have to be caning chairs right now, or painting, or plumbing, or roofing. I’d hate to know I’d have to repair appliances another night – this has happened several nights this past month. Even making stock for small crafts would be a challenge right now.
In other words, if I was trying to run any business on the side right now, I’d be faced with the same issues as trying to write and design covers. Those who can have my respect.
OTOH, I’d be an utter fool to quit my day job for some small business venture. Most small businesses fail in their first year. Then again, if I had high enough sales, then it might make sense, one you factor in taxes and insurance. But I won’t get those sales unless I write and work on my craft, just as anyone with a side business isn’t going to make a dime unless they work. And there lies the rub for some of us: unable to push through and do what needs to be done so that we’d even have a chance of success.
I get by because I have a Tiny Bidness, in addition to a small military pension which basically pays the mortgage and a couple of utility bills.. I think that I work about a half-day at the business and my own books, and I live in a place that is … well, one can live in a modest and comfortable style.
The income from the Tiny Bidness is not anything predictable – but something always comes up, through it.
Likely, I will never qualify for a new car loan on such an erratic income-stream, which is why we keep both of our aging cars in good repair.
And that’s just it–there is no guarantee of success. Some people fail. I have failed. I, personally, believe that where I failed was not in poor writing, but in poor marketing. I could be deluding myself. People tell me that I have given up too soon. Maybe so. Maybe if I had kept pushing myself for another ten or twenty or fifty years I would have gotten to the point where I could pay all my bills with my writing. I don’t know. What I know is that I did spend four years working a full time day job and being a full time caretaker for my roommate and writing full time and marketing full time and I damned near killed myself. Am I wrong to tell people that sales is more important than writing? Perhaps, but that is what I honestly believe. Personally, I think that it is far more wrong to give people false hope that all they need is hard work and skill. Because when people fail, and most of us do, we are left with not only the disappointment of a dead dream, we are left with the guilt of that failure. Not everybody wins. Not everybody catches the gold ring. I’m not saying that it is hopeless, there is hope. But hope is not certainty.
I always try to make it clear success is not guaranteed. And there is no shame in failure. I have started four different business ventures in my life; two failed outright and the others had their heyday and decline. But several people have mentioned ways you might have been able to reach a wider audience, and you keep circling around this mythical “salesmanship.” To be blunt, you are beginning to sound like the typical ‘artiste’ who is too good to engage in ‘trade.’ It is a business.
It has never been easier to make a living writing; that doesn’t mean anybody or everybody can do it. Some ability to look at your darlings and try to figure out why they’re not popular is an important factor. Listening to what others are saying is another one.
Three possible reasons you failed (in your own words): Your books have colorless covers that aren’t terribly eye-catching, a blurb that doesn’t combines grandiose claims (“a surreal world unlike any that you have seen before” is the kind of boast that will turn off potential readers simply because it’s so unlikely to be true) with too little information, and an opening that isn’t particularly gripping (it gets interesting a few pages in, but a lot of readers will give up before reaching that point). All those are basic things a writer who’s serious about his career should be looking at. Not salesmanship. All the marketing in the world at best gets someone to click on your book: closing the sale depends on what’s on the cover, the blurb, and the Look Inside section.
I don’t expect you to listen (after several people including Sarah and David gave you good advice on FB a few days ago you went and posted the same complaint here, so it doesn’t seem like you’re listening), but I’m tossing this out hoping other would-be writers garner some useful info (which might include the idea that I’m a sanctimonious #(@*!, of course).
Okay, then, whatever you call making covers and writing blurbs is what I have failed at. I call that marketing. You may have a different word for it. I am extremely aware that I’m not good at those things. And saying that I need to be better at those things is telling me something that I know is true. However, knowing that I can’t do something well does not make me any better at it.
What is it that you call presenting a work so that it is attractive to buyers, if not salesmanship?
There are lots of resources available, including this very blog, which has multiple posts dispensing very good advice on all those subjects. You can learn a lot simply by looking at successful books in your genre and seeing what they do. Writing blurbs is a skill that can be learned. Note that I’m not claiming to be an expert in any of those things, but I’ve found that even minor improvements can (can, not will, I’m not peddling some sort of ’12 Steps to Become an Internet Zillionaire”) make a difference, and it doesn’t take much time or effort to make those improvements. IMHO and YMMV, obviously.
Ooh! Looking forward to book 2!
And people who don’t treat writing as a business are living in a fantasy world. Well said.
And you’re right. You have to treat it as a business, even if you are doing it only part-time.
I saw this on mentioned on The Passive Voice a few days ago and just wanted to bang my head on something. I’ve recently read Quitter by Jon Acuff, which is about how to intelligently quit your day job. This woman did pretty much the opposite of what he suggested.
I think what got me was her attitude. I can’t figure out if it smacks of entitlement of delusion. Or maybe a bit of both. Yes, I’d love for someone to pay me a flat fee each year and let me just write. But that isn’t the way life works. So I have to make adjustments to be sure the bills are paid. If that means working a “real” job, so be it. In her case, I’d be scared silly about how I was going to pay for my kids to go to college, even if they were contributing as well. If I have to keep the thermostat up so high in a Texas summer no one is comfortable, there is a problem and it is my job to find a solution. No one else is going to do it for me.
I don’t consider myself hardworking at all, I go to work and do my job fairly well and then come home and do some more work on creative endeavors while helping out with two kids under two.
This year I’ll have written two novels and kept up a three day a week webcomic schedule, and also did the art for a couple posters and tried my hand at doing a cover.
I still feel lazy, I know there is more time in the day I could be putting towards my creative endeavors, I know I procrastinate, I know I could do more.
Yet as far as I can tell when comparing to other creative people with less going on in their lives I accomplish much more. Not that there aren’t many more who accomplish much more (hence the feeling I should be doing more), but I have a hard time understanding how someone who has more time to produce (given my schedule and the kids), can possibly produce less.
I have sympathy for those that are blocked, but I also feel like some of those that are blocked are blocked because they wanted to be a ‘writer’ and not write. Someone who got into writing because they wanted to tell their stories is more likely to not get blocked than someone who got into writing because they wanted to say they were a writer and get the personal acclaim of their groups.
They say to give a project to a busy person if you want it to get done.
I found after I had kids that I became much better at taking care of things. I knew that if I didn’t do x in the 20 minute window available it wouldn’t get done for three days. Or ever. So I started doing x immediately I could.
Before I had kids and just had a husband and a job, I got way less done because there was always time to do it later.
Well said and I absolutely agree. If you are “blocked” because of the financial stress put on you and your family because you quit work to write full-time, it is time to find a way out of the stress. That probably means getting at least a part-time job and pulling up your big girl pants and realizing you are just like so many other writers. Very few are lucky enough to be able to write full-time without supplementing their income some how. Until you have enough money coming in on a regular basis to cover your bills and then some, you aren’t one of those writers. So quit whining, get up off your butt and get to work — both at a job and at writing.
Regarding the author who quit her job, I think that the real problem is with the publisher and the reviewing circuit. There is something rotten going on!
I took the article that Amanda linked to as essentially a plea “Feel sorry for me and buy my book!” So, I took a look at the Amazon page for the book “Love Me Back”. My god, the book is absolutely hated!
The book has an average of 3.3 stars, with 28% of readers giving it one star, and only 39% giving it five stars. This is one of the worst ratings I’ve seen! And, no, it doesn’t look like the one-star ratings are due to any hate campaign: they seem to be people who have valid complaints, many of whom say that they bought it because of positive reviews from NPR or other places and were extremely disappointed.
The top positive review only gave it four stars, and said:
“I’m surprised at how many stunned reviewers keep complaining about a lack of plot, as there are many good books that don’t have a standard plot.” and
“My favorite sentence from the book: ‘Whatever is in me that makes decisions is now full of an accretion of plaque, the chalky consequence of, paradoxically, so many hollow moments.'”
Such prose! Oi!
The negative reviews say things like “Apparently literary nowadays means writing about a self-centered sex obsessed jerk and can’t go a whole paragraph without using the F word. I would rather walk across a field of superheated broken glass while listening to a Justin Bieber song than read this book again,” and “I bought this book because I heard it discussed on NPR …and Love Me Back was billed in juxtaposition against The Son. Admittedly, I have started The Son, and though I haven’t yet finished it, I can attest to the beauty of the prose and the coherence of the narrative, both of which are non-existent in Love Me Back. I’m still scratching my head over how Love Me Back even made it INTO a discussion on a segment of NPR. What were they thinking? In fact, I would have to say that this book was painful to read and plodded along with no narrative structure, and little respect for how beautiful our language can be.”
So, this book got all the pushing that it is possible to imagine: NPR discussions, Entertainment Weekly, awards, etc. Yet the actual readers say that it doesn’t have a plot and is extremely poorly written.
Am I being far too cynical in thinking that the author being the former executive director of a non-profit, and perhaps having contacts might have something to do with the push behind her book?
One can never be too cynical in this degraded age. She got all kinds of media push for her wretched excess … and ordinary readers hated it.
Better that it should have sunk without a trace, and saved the poor woman the embarrassment
Yoiks; 3.3 average, with a third of the reviewers giving one star? Umm boy – I might only have a handful of reviewers for my own books, but most of them are in the range of 4+ … and most of the reviewers are not personal friends or kin doing me a favor..
Yup, looks like it was all sizzle, no steak. Wish I could say this shocked me, but after years of working book store retail and being part of the writing community, I’m not.
But if only some kind soul gave her $40K a year, she’d be free of any need to create something readers might actually like!
Sounds sort of like a certain Brit on the government dole we all know, doesn’t it?
I don’t know if your job had anything to do with it or if the publisher, as they often do, saw something they thought was high literature and decided it was yet another book they wanted to push to teach us poor pleebs what “good” writing is all about. The problem is, publishers and authors alike have forgotten that the vast majority of “lit” books never sell at the same rate as popular fiction. This author bought into the hype, for whatever reason, and now she refuses to admit she made a mistake and then take steps to correct it.
I have no problem with her wanting to write lit. There is some of it I love. Most, not so much. But she has to face the realities of life as well and that means making sure her family is taken care of. How many of us would rather be home writing instead of reporting to work? Too many but we do it because it is what’s necessary.
Given the slow motion train wreck that publishing seems to be right now, I’d say quitting your day job to write full time might be… risky. As in, holy frack that’s risky!
Writing fiction, sadly, appears to be returning to the Victorian picture of ladies and gentlemen of leisure, turning out the odd tome now and again for the hell of it. For those already gainfully unemployed, as it were.
Those of you brave souls doing this right now, in these stormy seas, I salute you! ~:)
To the contrary. Publishing’s become a rowdy free for all where everyone is free, for the first time in decades if not centuries or ever, to put their work out for everyone to see, and where it’s possible (not guaranteed, but far more likely than it was even ten years ago) to make a decent living at it. It’s just not happening anywhere near the hallowed halls of New York’s publishers.
I’ll agree with you where the majority of traditional publishing is concerned. But indie and small press has made it much easier for authors to write and bring their work out than ever before. No longer are we constrained, unless we want to be, by publishing schedules that mean there may be a year or two at the very least between books because that is as quickly as the publisher can schedule them. I’ve been hitting the three to four books a year schedule for the last couple of years and will have more out this year than ever before. Why? Because I am not restricted by a publication and distribution chain that only allows a certain number of books per month/year or by editorial policies that think readers only want a new book by an author once a year.
Writing quickly is a challenge for a lot of people. I worked for years as an editor, and I edit way too much. That’s a curable condition, and with enough willpower, I can beat it. These days, as an indie with no day job (I’m retired and reasonably comfortable) what I lack is pretty simple:
Back in 2011, I wrote a 53,000 word short novel in six weeks flat, because I wanted to launch the book at a particular convention in Denver. I wrote like a maniac, which is not usually my style. The book still came out on time, and well. I piddled around with Ten Gentle Opportunities for almost ten years. It came out well, too–but I’ll bet I could have done it in six or eight months (94,000 words) if I’d had some sort of non-negotiable deadline. That’s one of the few undeniably good things about a tradpub contract: You have to deliver the story by a certain date.
Thirty years in publishing (and another ten years before that writing nonfiction books and articles while I was a programmer) taught me this: What makes a deadline a deadline is that somebody other than you enforces it. A publisher, say, or the desire to launch it at a particular event over which you have no control. If you’re the publisher, the challenge is to set a deadline that isn’t easy for you to break. I’m still not entirely sure now to do that, and until I do, being prolific (which is what I’m pretty sure it takes to become famous; I know how to write) is gonna be a tough hill to climb.
I’d be interested in hearing how others set their own deadlines…and keep them.
I can’t say I’m great at keeping deadlines. I had six months go by without a new release this year because I started one book, decided to set it aside and work on something else, and in the process wasted at least two months.
Hunger is a great motivator, though. At this point, my best spur is my Amazon sales report. By the time my income is beginning to dwindle beyond a certain level, I know it’s time to get in gear. Doesn’t mean I’ll always hit my target dates (my writing output can be downright bipolar sometimes), but it’s a big incentive.
Deadlines are my nemesis. Real life always rears its ugly head when I give myself a hard deadline. But I’m trying to get better at it.
I use NaNo (National Novel Writing Month). For years now, I’ve gotten 50K in a month. It doesn’t necessarily work the first time you try it because it’s not actually someone else setting the deadline. But later, you know what a fleeting opportunity that time in November provides and it becomes a deadline just as real as any set by a client. There are other NaNos in the year besides November, and they usually give me a good bit of product, but for me, when the leaves turn, the air chills, and the sky gets bright blue, my mind gently turns to thoughts of NaNo. And 50K.
I’m slow at finalizing my edits, because it’s just grunt data entry. This year the deadline for editing was that I’d bought ads for the first book in the series, so I was damned diligent about getting all that done so I could publish before the ads started. (By the way, it turns out that I could have done the price drop and ad for book 1 a week before book 2 came out, but I didn’t know that at the time.)
Addendum: if you want to understand the merits of NaNo, pick up Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem where he lauds the merits of deadlines and then created NaNo. It’s a very amusing book and speaks to writers everywhere.
I ‘like’ working to deadlines… Did it for a number of years in the business world. Now retired due to medical issues, and I find I have to push myself to get the work out. I only published one book this year due to medical/moving issues, but my goal is two a year. When I start drawing blanks on one book, I switch to the other one I’m working on, and plug along on it. Many times a week of that frees up the block on the first book, and it’s back to that. I also do sales of the previous books when I bring out a new one, and I ‘advertize’ through my blog, Facebook and other friends that push my books. I’m not making a living at it, but I do get money dribbling in every month (I’m indie). As far as covers, I pay a graphic artist to do my covers, and I also pay an editor. I spent forty years writing technical publications and reports, so I SUCK at proper English… 🙂