It is not the first time I heard this argument. It won’t be the last. Today, talking to a friend, discussing a definitely unfavorable contract I once signed, I got this answer “I’d sign that. If I had just one contract, I’d know I was a real writer.”
Seriously? Seriously, guys, you’re going to go with that? Do you need your manuscript to be hand-copied by real monks too? Or do you just need it to be printed in an authentic traditional hand operated press? Or will you just be happy if your books are stitched together by hand?
Look, ascribe this — and the fact this post is really late — to my having a blinding headache and feeling generally like an eighteen wheeler ran me over. The reason Kate filled in for me yesterday is that I had a doctor’s appointment at eight am. Today I have antibiotic from hell. Which is good, because pain from a double ear infection and sinus and throat infection was making me scream and moan, sometimes in public. (And no, you shouldn’t be worried. This is all part of the edge I walk, between managing the auto-immune, with meds that knock out my immune system, then managing illness. A single severely stressful episode (January.) can set it off and it takes months to stabilize. On the good side, I’ve been doing this my whole life, and I’m still here.) So, I’m crankier than usual, which is something NO ONE wants to experience.
However, you DO have to understand our field is experiencing a great change because of technology. If you write non-fic you’re still fine, but if you write fiction, the traditional publishing slots will keep diminishing and traditional publishing will slowly shed anyone not a proven bestseller. Why? Because that’s the only way to support their greater expenses in publishing AND to make it worth it for a writer to sign a part of their profit away. I expect in as many as ten years, as few as three, traditional publishers will be the people already successful authors sign with to go to “the next level.” At least they will be if both sides are smart.
MOST people, and certainly most midlisters (including me. I’m not being snooty) will go indie as a matter of course. And many more of them will thrive than could under the old model. And readers will be more choice.
BUT I also predict that any number of writers will sign bad contracts with small to medium presses that can do NOTHING they can’t do themselves, but which will happily take 90% of the author’s profit for…
Legitimacy, it seems. It seems most of you are Velveteen Writers TM.
Well, no one ever accused me of being the blue fairy, but I’m here to make you all Real Writers TM.
How do you know you’re a real writer?
Real writers write, most of them every day or pretty close. If you’re doing that, you’re already a real writer.
Ah, but you want to be a professional writer. When is that magical threshold crossed? Surely you need a contract for that?
Sh*t. If you need a contract that bad, print one up and sign it.
Professional writers make a significant amount of their living from writing. If you’re doing that you’re professional.
But what if you’re only making a few hundred a month from writing?
Well, congratulations. You’re making as much as most traditionally published writers. With first time advances not at 2 to 3k and a book a year for those without a following, you are probably making as much a year as most “professionals” eligible to join “professional” organizations. I hereby dub you a professional. Go get yourself a glass of water and celebrate. And then work, so you can make more money.
But what if you only make a few hundred a year from writing? If only you could get some contracts.
Sh*t and shovel! I spent the first four years as a published author (short stories) making about $200 a year. It was enough to take the kids out for pizza a few times. This is known as semi-pro. It’s also known as apprenticing.
A contract won’t make you real. Writing more will make you real. Indie and traditional both thrive on content. The more you write the more you’ll make. And in indie, this is all in your hands. You don’t need anyone to give you permission.
Go write and publish. Stop obsessing about being real. I say you’re real, and in proof thereof, I’ve made the following certificate, which you can download, fill in and print at your convenience.
STOP GIVING AWAY part of you income for nothing, particularly to small presses of dubious value. Write. Publish. Repeat. Become a professional.