Maybe You Shouldn’t Be An Author
Recently, I’ve run into a few articles about quitting one from an author whose friend quit the publishing business and another by agent Rachelle Gardner. Both articles make good points and I would encourage anyone to quit something they hate or can’t make a living at. Who knows, maybe if Sylvia Plath or Ernest Hemingway had walked away from publishing maybe they’d still be alive.
As I’ve learned in the past few years, writing a book is a job, just like any other. There are things I find unpleasant like marketing, bookkeeping and networking. Lately, I’ve been wondering, What if one day I can’t do it anymore? The unstable income, business costs and the constant learning curve (due to technology) can be overwhelming even for the most stubborn author.
How do You Quit a Dream?
A few months ago, I watched a documentary about a professional wrestler called: The Last of Nigel Mcguinness. It was a sad but sobering tale about how this guy grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler and life throws him a curve ball in the form of an illness which forces him to walk away from his career in wrestling.
We authors are not immune to this, what if we took the risk and it doesn’t work out? What if after maxing out credit cards, and working jobs we hate, it still doesn’t happen for us? I believe these are the questions we need to ask ourselves if we’re going to move forward in this industry.
The Reality of Publishing: It ain’t all Rainbows and Unicorns
Most books don’t earn out their advances which is why most publishers won’t offer advances to “unproven” authors. It’s simply too risky. If that weren’t depressing enough, most self-published authors don’t earn enough to make a living while some don’t even make back their initial investment.
If things aren’t working out, we need to take a step back and reevaluate our goals. If your goal is to become a bestselling author, that’s doable. But do you know what being a bestseller means? Many of those at the top of our profession have sacrificed a lot such as their privacy, time with their families, and even their own health. Some authors even have to write potboilers just to make a living because that’s what the public or their publisher demands, could you do that?
Penelope Trunk, Blogger of The Brazen Careerist says that in order to know if a job is right, you should look for a lifestyle, not a job title. Do mega bestsellers have a personal life? Do they enjoy their work? If not, then maybe that isn’t what you want.
For example, this week, it was reveled that J.K. Rowling was going to write a screenplay for a television series about a wizard, I watched as fans on Twitter and Facebook celebrated, then I wondered, “Does she even want to write another ‘Harry Potteresque’ screenplay?” Her last two books were blasted by critics and sold decently but those weren’t HP sales. So did she do this, or was this done to her? Which begs the next question, could you write the same kind of books, over and over again? If not, then don’t copy J.K. Rowling’s career.
Getting Real With Yourself
Recently, I took a book marketing class and was asked to get very specific about my target audience. The questions were so specific that I was forced to really imagine my readers.
Using those same techniques, I made all my career fears real. I imagined what if all hell broke loose in my life, like dismal sales, and illness. Could I still continue publishing? In the end, I was left with what I call, “A Quit List” and it’s literally a blueprint of failure. (Notice how I didn’t say a blueprint for failure.) These are the things that have to happen before I let myself quit the business.
My Quit List
- Published 10 books and still can’t make a living.
- Got more negative than positive reviews.
- No offers of a traditional publishing contract, not even a small one.
- More failures than successes.
- I start to hate the business.
So far, I’m not close to quitting, but then again only time will tell if I end up throwing in the towel. Like our friend the pro wrestler, all it takes is a personal catastrophe to bring it all tumbling down.
Publishing is a tough business and indie publishing is even tougher. We are shut out of a lot of opportunities like certain awards, bank loans, and sometimes affordable healthcare. Indies have to work harder and smarter to make it to the heights of traditionally published authors and still, there are no guarantees.
I hope I didn’t scare you out of publishing, if I did, then maybe this isn’t really your dream.
Now it’s your turn to sound off, what’s your biggest fear when it comes to publishing? What has to happen before you quit the business?