First up, the check-in. Since I had success FINALLY getting back into the groove of things with my 500 words a day, this week I am upping the daily minimum to 600. Monday: 606. Tuesday: 504 (I took a nap and slept past my alarm, so that’s what I ripped out in the last 15 minutes). I’ve crossed the 60k mark. Somehow that now feels like I’m on the downhill slope. Technically that would have been 50k, but whatever. If the trend continues, I’ll up it again next week by a bit. I’d love to get back to that 750 words a day I was rocking at the beginning of the year.
I read an interesting article the other day in the HuffPo that postulates that Traditional Publishing is the New Vanity Publishing. The idea being, of course, that there are writers making poor business decisions to take obscenely low royalties, no marketing help whatsoever, etc. via traditional publishing, just to gain that ego stroke of legitimacy by garnering the approval of the Establishment that is traditional publishing. This is quite the turnaround, and as a self published author who’s heard all the misinformed and negative opinions of self publishing from those in the traditional camp, it made me giggle. For some, I think there’s definitely a grain of truth in the accusation.
But anyway, it got me thinking, not so much about the choice between traditional or self publishing, but about this whole idea of making a living from writing–which is, of course, my ultimate goal.
When I started taking my writing career seriously six years ago, I was expecting a long haul. Making a living in traditional publishing is difficult and slow. I don’t think I even had a X Year Plan. Then self publishing came along and suddenly the ability to make money off my work became a reality. I developed an actual business plan, one that took into account market shifts, lulls in sales, and the expectation that it would take time to build enough of an audience that I could quit my job. It was a 10 Year Plan at that point. Then along comes my agent and the idea of being a hybrid author bloomed–having some work traditionally published and shorter works like novellas continue to be a self publishing stream of income. With the added bonus of being able to leverage my self publishing sales to land a better advance. With her enthusiasm, the plan got shortened to a 5 year plan, in my head, at least.
But the best laid plans of mice and men, often go astray, as the saying goes (well actually best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley is the proper line, still in Scots dialect from Robert Burns’ poem). Life happened. I haven’t been as productive as I’d hoped to be over the last two years. And the 5 year plan (of which I am on year 3) is looking less and less likely. Which is depressing enough in and of itself given how I feel about my Evil Day Job.
But it’s worse when I read articles referring to all these mega successful self published authors–these former kindergarten teachers and stay at home moms who are about to cross the $1 million mark–the Suzanne Collinses and Stephanie Meyerses of the self publishing world. What did they do that I haven’t done? Write more books. The thing I can’t do any faster than I already am. Their out of this world success makes me feel even WORSE about my own accomplishments–because in that light, it feels like I’ve accomplished next to nothing. Which isn’t TRUE. I’ve accomplished a lot, and I’m still miles ahead of many people. I fundamentally SHOULD NOT be comparing myself to these outliers. Because that’s what they are. Outliers. The stories that should not even be mentioned in the equation, but are anyway for sensationalist purposes, which then lead everyone who’s not performing at that level to feel like failures. Comparing myself to them is like saying, my college education and graduating at the top of my class means nothing because I didn’t go to Harvard. Or something.
I had a good self pitying whine about it Monday evening during my writing block (thanks for listening Susan). I still managed to get my 600 word minimum in. Imagine what I might’ve accomplished if I got off my whiny butt and focused on the work. So that’s where I am. Focused on the work. On writing the current book. Then on writing the next book. And I’m instituting a new policy to go along with the “Don’t read reviews” policy. Don’t read articles about self publishing success stories. I am embracing my tortoise status and the fact that though I write slow, I write well, and I’m producing solid work that usually needs little in revision. In the end, a reputation for quality story is the thing that will make me a true success. It’ll just take longer to get there.
Yes, thank you. It’s always good to put the outliers in perspective. I feel so darn unaccomplished when I read those stories, but really, there’re always exceptions.
Kait, I think it’s the long haul that’s getting to you. You’ve been at this for years, and every once in a while you deserve to whine a little and feel like you’re working your heart and a$$ off for very little…because that’s the state of the game right now. But you’re right. You will be successful. You write powerful stories, and they will find a broader audience. Think back to that traditional timeline — I think all of us need to take stock that way. Writers don’t make it instantly. Even the best. One step at a time. 🙂
I think part of the frustration is the never ending cycle of: “Can’t write as much as I want because of the evil day job. Can’t quit evil day job because I can’t write enough to make a living.” The bottom line is, it will probably take writers with full time jobs a little longer to get to the income level needed to quit said full time job. For us, a ten year plan makes much more sense than a five year plan. You will get there. Your writing is solid. It’s just going to take getting more books out there. The tortoise is the winner. 🙂
Sometimes there are well-meaning, non-writer friends who point to such outliers in an effort to encourage us writers. I’m tempted now to say, “How many Amanda Hockings and Stephenie Meyers are there…really?” I don’t want to discount their success, but that’s like saying that just because some amazing celebrity got discovered walking their dog on the beach, we should all walk dogs on the beach.
We each have our own story to success and even definition of success. Find yours and stick with it!
Like a coward, I didn’t start seriously writing until I retired from that 30-year day job. Primarily, because, as a single parent with a high stress job, I couldn’t carve out the time. And then I told myself I needed the material from my life in the trenches.
I am inspired, though, by those of you who are grabbing your dream now. And I love the self-publishing tales of those who are still climbing the ladder…those are the stories that inspire me.
Here’s MY ROW 80 CHECK-IN POST
As we are learning, some of these wildly successful writer stories implode for various reasons, which I’m sure does not surprise you, either. It has taken me nearly 60 years to truly understand that life takes as long as it takes and everything within life seems to follow that same standard. Understanding this, has made life so much easier. Good for you, Kait, for getting it early.
Well, let’s just say that I’m somewhere between an intellectual understanding and actual ACCEPTANCE of that fact 😀