People have funny ideas about what it means to be a writer. Here are some common ones I’ve heard from fellow authors, publishers, editors, and professionals in the field.
1) You must be rich if you published a book
The chance to make money and become ‘rich’ on a book is 1 in a million. It’s no different than any creative art or business venture. A few make it big, some can manage a semblance of living wage, many are starving for their calling.
2) Publishing is a get rich quick scheme
Oh boy is this a delusion. I blame the popular media lens where the one in a million get held up in celebrity culture and normalized as rich and famous. It all looks so easy, so desirable, so flawless, so very very fake.
Writers put countless hours into their work and promoting it, even if conventionally published. Also, publishers (self or conventional/traditional) make almost nothing on the published product.
3) You do nothing all day but write about day dreams (Fiction Authors)
Okay, this one isn’t that far from the truth, but, let’s look at the complete truth of the matter.
Ever heard of a man named Tolkein? He created his own languages with grammar rules, pronunciations, and slang. So did Sci-Fi author Gene Roddenberry. Ever seen a specs manual of one of the famous Enterprise ships or alien ships? SO. MUCH. WORK. With a lot of structure, science, and academics behind them. Authors spend countless hours preparing before writing the book. Mapping out complex social systems and structures, hundreds of character sketches, and outlining are just some of the work authors can put into a book. They do this to make it believable, enriching, and immersive for you, the reader.
For those of us that don’t character sketch or map or graph or whiteboard everything — “Discovery Authors”— we can sometimes end up rewriting dozens of times or more. And I’m not talking about the standard four or so revisions a completed manuscript goes through. This is rewriting by deleting tens or hundreds of thousands of words, and spending long hours every day writing again and again and again. Just to get it right.
4) Your work is done after you write the book
All a first draft has to do is exist – Jane Smith.
After that first draft? Edits. Revisions. Marketability. Publishing. Cover artists and designers. Formatters. ISBNs. CIP data. ONIX data. Meta data. Laws and copyrights. Beta Readers. Revisions. Edits. Printing. Distribution. Sales. Marketing. Availability. Author Events. Book Events. More Events. Advertising. Marketing. Bleeding. Crying. Hair pulling. Networking. Blog posting. Social Media. Driving around selling books from the trunk of your car. Explaining over and over what your book is about. Agents. Websites and content. News releases. Interviews. Business. Accounting. Numbers. Contracts. Contractors. Sub-Contractors. Bills. Business laws. Your first born. Taxes…
Should I go on?
5) Publishing with a conventional publisher means I hand them my manuscript and they take care of things
Again, I blame the media/celebrity culture. Publishing has been significantly impacted by the economic concerns of the modern world. They don’t have teams of editors to spend hours on your manuscript. They often hire contractors. They don’t know your book as well as you do. They know the market. And they know how to edit, expect revisions. Oh, and marketing your book? That’s mostly up to you, dear writer. Yep, even if you’re conventionally published. There are no freebies, you’ll be pulling from your own pocket and working your behind off. That advance, you often have to pay it back.
6) It’s not a real job
If you took that arts or humanities degree or that degree someone didn’t understand and got the “what on earth will you do with that education?”. It doesn’t stop when you turn it into a profession they don’t understand. Don’t believe it’s a real job? Can you do 16 hour days every day of your life to make four dollars a year? Sorry… I’m ranting a bit. But seriously. It’s a real job. It’s a really difficult job. Anyone who tells you it isn’t is lying. Don’t believe me? As a few freelancers or authors or communications professionals, see what they say.
7) “I can’t do it” and other self-doubt lines
It’s work. It’s a hell of a lot of work. But you can. Believe me. You can do it. What does it take? Walk away from those doubtful words. Focus. Finish a manuscript. Then another. Learning. Dedication. Laughing at yourself. Forgiving yourself. Not comparing yourself to others. Hard work. But, if you want to do it enough, or, if like me you can’t stop doing it because you might suffocate to death and drown in untold stories, then you’ll do it.