A few days ago I made an ill-considered remark that might have offended some of you, and I need to apologize.
I had read some articles on a recent survey of authors, and one article said that 55% of those who consider themselves full-time writers last year had no writing income. I wondered how that was even possible.
Well, there is a perfectly good reason why that is possible. Many times a starting author, one who wants to get published traditionally and make a big push, will need to save up money and then spend a good amount of time writing in order to “take their shot” at this field.
You see, just as in basketball, you miss 100% of the shots you never take.
So if you quit a lucrative career and want to use your nest egg to write, or if someone wants to act as your patron, then taking your shot at the publishing industry may make perfect sense. In fact, I’ve helped several authors do exactly that, and some of them have gone on to huge success.
What’s more, if I were starting my career in today’s market, that’s how I would go about it. I’d make that big push no matter how I had to do it.
If I went on to write six or ten novels that didn’t sell, then I’d consider self-publishing, but probably not until I had a good backlog of properties.
The problem is, when I read those statistics, I didn’t think about how many people there are out there who really are trying to make it. According to one survey by Red Book that I saw years ago, there may be a hundred million people in the US who say that they want to write a book, but few of them actually ever do it.
If you want to be a writer, then the first thing you need to do is define yourself as a writer. Then you give it your best effort.
When you write a manuscript, you have to think of it as an investment. You create an “intellectual property,” one that may or may not sell.
Sometimes the property doesn’t sell for years. It just sits like an empty building lot, ready to go. For example I saw a little interview last Sunday on television. An author named Camron Wright wrote a novel and sent it in to a publisher that rejected it because they “didn’t feel that the protagonist’s relationship with his Harley motorcycle would be a good fit for their audience.” Fast forward 13 years. The writer had gone on to publish a few other novels, and one of his publishers called him. They desperately needed a “big” novel to push as their autumn lead and they wanted to know if he had anything. So he sent them his trunk novel and they accepted it two days later saying, “We especially loved the protagonist’s relationship with his Harley.” Turns out that it was the same publisher, and they loved it the second time for precisely the same reason that they had rejected it the first time. You can’t make this crud up.
So when you invest your time in writing a novel, you don’t know how or when it might pay off. I had a friend once who wrote six books and began sending them out. She felt that she was at the end of her rope when she suddenly got offers from three different publishers in two days. Another author I knew tried publishing for several years, but gave up because she wasn’t making any money. Two years after she quit writing, her novels went huge and she made millions.
In short, it can be a crazy business. If you believe in yourself and you keep on pushing, then you’re a real writer, regardless of whether you’ve ever made a nickel at your job. You shouldn’t let anyone try to tell you different.
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