How does anyone make a living as a writer?
You know, part of me wanted to delete this before I even started writing it. But another part of me is screaming inside, wanting to get this all out in the open tonight. So I saved the draft, with the intention of re-reading it and seeing how I felt this morning about it.
Now granted, I've only officially been able to claim the "author" title for just over 6 months...but from what little I've learned about the industry, writing books is like any other competitive industry in the world. It's cutthroat. And in order to solve for x, you need skill, opportunity, and luck. And it helps tremendously if what you write doesn't suck.
Relax...I'm nowhere near the expert, and I would never claim to be. Nor am I anywhere near a point where I could become a writer/author full-time...but I will say this: If the only reason you have when you sit down in front of your keyboard and start putting your thoughts into text is to make a living by it, then get in line. There are thousands of other authors out there who are trying to do the same. Some have been struggling for years. Some are amazing artists just getting off their feet and have incredible talent as beginners. And they deserve it more than you. Because their stuff is better than yours. Maybe.
Ok, maybe not. Maybe their stuff sucks. Maybe they use more adverbs, or they don't follow all the golden literary rules...or they write shorter books than you do (and put out two or three times as many as you do)...or they have a Sling Blade vernacular compared to yours because you use the Oxford thesaurus. Whatever.
But there's new authors being born each and every day. What makes you so unique? What makes what you do different than what they do? That's the question I ask myself each time I sit down. If your plan is to write a book about yet another zombie apocalypse in an already inundated Zompoc market, be my guest. But don't expect much unless you have something amazing to sell. And what you have to sell needs to be seen by the reader before they even open the book, else, they won't open it. You have to find your niche. And the niches are constantly evolving.
I have always LOVED to write. Even when I was young, I loved imagining stories, developing characters, and writing about them. As a teenager I wrote short stories, and when I was especially inspired, I started writing extended ones on my Apple compatible computer, and saving them to a 5.25" floppy disk. I wish I knew what happened to them...
When I decided to write again, it was as a middle-aged adult in his second marriage, and as a father to three children. And, it wasn't to "make a living" at it. It was to get a story in my head out into the open. It was because I made up my mind to do it. I didn't care who liked it or who didn't. I didn't care if it made any money. Hell, I didn't care if I sold any books. All I wanted to do was accomplish the task. That's it. But, in the process, I found something out about myself. I found that I had an incredible story lingering inside...that needed to come out with characters that would speak to me. And that story, along with those characters, turned into something amazing to me. I couldn't help but start imagining the dream--the dream of becoming a writer for REAL. And making a living at it. And making money at it. And that was my biggest mistake.
There's not a damn thing wrong with turning a writing passion into a career. Authors do it every day, and I commend them for it. I admire them for it. Hell, I envy them for it. But this day in, day out fighting the system to figure out what sells, and trying to constantly best each other shit is beyond me. All I want to do, is write my stories, market myself as best I can, and let the world see what I have to offer. If I make it, great. If I don't, I'll manage. But I won't stop writing. I'll never stop.
The point is, I never got into this thing to make money. My first announcement to my friends and family about becoming an author was huge, but it was prefaced with "I didn't do it to make money," and to this day, I hold true to that. It just so happens, that money is a part of the deal. The public has been very good to me. The reception for What's Left of My World has been nothing short of phenomenal. It has the capacity to go amazing places, and the books that follow it, will be nothing short of epic. But that's because it's an incredible story. It's not the writer. It's not me-I'm just some guy who took a keyboarding class as a freshman in high school and still manages to put out 80-100wpm. It's not this guy, I assure you. It's the story.
We indies have a lot to do. We have to brainstorm stories, come up with captivating characters that you'll either love or hate for some reason--some of whom we ourselves love or hate; and typically the ones we love are the ones you hate. We have to schedule months in advance our cover designers, editors, proofreaders, eBook and paperback formatting, and if we want an audio book, we have to fight for the absolute best narrator and schedule them advance to get them. And then, we have to run the gamut and make the deadline. We do this, all while we're planning for our next one, two or three books in the series, replying to emails, following marketing trends on Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon, etc, etc, etc. And...at the same time, dealing with the heartache of the occasional 2 star review, or the dreaded 1 star review after we put our hearts into our work. And, not to mention, we also have to send the "sorry, next book still wont' be out for another four months..." emails to our biggest fans, dying to know what's coming next. And we write blogs. And we update websites. Send newsletters. Run promotions to stir up a new base of readers. Believe me when I tell you, it is a constant battle and it never ends. And like I said earlier, I've only been doing this for 6 months. I can't imagine what it's been like for the tenured. It's no wonder some of us say the hell with it and just find a publisher.
What I mentioned above, isn't shit compared to what some authors do in order to stay ahead of the game anymore. For the love of God...there are authors who WRITE BOOKS ON HOW TO WRITE BOOKS now. There are authors who've found they make more money by helping struggling authors. There's blogs and podcasts. Cry-on-my-shoulder support groups. There's damn self-help sections on the internet for struggling indie authors. We're everywhere. You can seriously Google how to do it all now. I think you can even pay someone now to do everything for you...up to and including writing the damn book. Want to know how to market your indie book to Hollywood and become the next Hunger Games? Click here (just kidding, don't)
Or, we can just stop all the nonsense. Simplify. Sit down. Find your inspiration. Create. Invent. Brainstorm. Write notes. And write your damn story already. Put some heart into it. Take a chance. Be risky. Not everyone's going to like it. It might take off, or it may bomb. But that's life. The same goes for anything else we do that we have a passion for.
As for me, I'm not cut out to be the typical game player-style author. I'm not the guy who's going to drive across the country and hang out with a ton of other authors and study for hours on how to make millions of dollars doing this stuff (unless there's beer involved or a cool prepper event). Life is too short. Instead, I'll just take my chances, and not quit my day job anytime soon. In my spare time, I'll be sitting here, wearing out another keyboard, putting all I have in my mind, heart, and imagination for the world to either enjoy or destroy. And when I take a break, I'll head to the mountains with my family, set up a tent, light a fire, and enjoy the fresh air. Because that's what I love to do. And because I love doing it so much, I'll never stop.
But that's me.