Behind the Writer Scenes

There is a whole world of the writer of which most readers are completely unaware. (That’s probably a good thing.) If they think of us authors at all, they might think we’re at swanky coctail parties or hosting charity auctions.TV shows like Castle (although I admit I love that show) don’t help.

But the reality isn’t tinsel and tiaras. I recently read this 2004 article of confessions of a semi-successful author both surprising (because she’s not been living the jet-set life even though she’s reached what most authors aspire to–The New York Times Bestseller List) and at the same time, the article came across as a little whiney. She talks about how many copies she’s sold, the advances that she got, and her struggles with agents and editors. But,  I mean, come’on. She’s made a chunk of money in a profession at which most people who attempt it fail to make a brass farthing. Heck, I remember how thrilled I was at the first publisher that offered to pay me in copies for one of my stories.

A Twitter-friend posted something about this same article called Mopey-Midist-Authors where she said, “A lot’s happened since 2004, but one thing hasn’t changed. That thing is this: There are lots of writers, very few of them are published, and even fewer of those make kajillions of dollars doing what they do. (Okay, that’s three things. It’s Sunday and I don’t have to count if I don’t want to.)” Jen is right. Publishing is changing. But some authors seem more focused on the fact that huge advances are no longer the norm, publishers don’t shell out for publicity tours for most, and contracts are turning into huge grabs for the publishers. The truth is, most authors (even celebs) don’t earn out their advance, so it’s understandable that publishers no longer want to lose money on the majority of books they publish.

I think it’s all about adjusting our expectations as professional authors. Do your research. There are ways to find out sales figures for books, and know that although bestsellers sell millions of copies, a debut author will do well to sell thousands.

But you know what? So what? So, the job doesn’t pay well for 99% of those lucky enough to get accepted, published, and receive actual money. Get over it. As author BobWeinberg said:

Writers are driven. We are obsessive. We are the describers, the explainers, the comforters, the storytellers. We write not for the money, the fame, the fortune, but because it is in our blood, in our genes. We write because we have no choice. We write because if we did not, who would?

I would just add to that: We are the lucky ones.

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11 comments

  1. I earned the grand sum of $78 from my published novel, but that could be because the publisher shut their doors after a few months. I have a new contract for another novel from an e-publisher, and although I would love to be taken up by a mainstream publisher who will put my work into Waterstones, I still feel lucky that someone sees merit in my work and offers me a contract.
    I will keep writing because as you said, India – It’s what I do – and if I never get any further, I intend to enjoy it for what it is.

  2. Well said India. I think too many people expect truck loads of cash to come their way, the moment they pen their first novel. Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality for most of us. Still, I wouldn’t change a thing. If you love to write, you love to write.

  3. Lucky and cursed at the same time! :-)

    Take care
    x

  4. Hehe! Is this in response to my Twitter status (and yes I do realise I’m being very narcissistic here!)? I should stop whinging, I know, and suck it up. And weren’t you going to send me a tiara? Or at least a brass farthing.

  5. Thankfully, I’m writing simply because it’s what I love doing and am fortunate enough to be able to do it full-time at the moment, thanks to an extremely supportive husband.

    I know I will need to get a day job to support myself at some point in the not too distant future though. However, I have also had a job which I didn’t particularly enjoy but which paid extremely well. Yeah. It really wasn’t all that wonderful. I’d rather be doing what I’m doing now and enjoying the simpler life that comes with it.

  6. @Marsha My dear, I would never tell you to stop whinging! I’ve been planning this post since I read that article a few days ago, but our ‘tiaras’ talk did give me some inspiration for the funny bits. :D You’re always good for funny bits.

    [ Follow me on Twitter:

  7. I have no delusions that I will make a ton of money. If I see more than my advancement, I’ll be thrilled!

  8. If I made any money it would be nice but what I really want is to see my book in print. I have seen articles and stories in print and loved it. Now I am going for the novel. We has see what happens but whatever the end result I want to hold a copy of my book printed out and ready to sell, that is my dream.

    Ciao,

    Ardee-ann

    [ Follow me on Twitter:

  9. I totally agree with you India, particularly the last line. If I could find a lovely supportive husband like Kath, I’d write all day every day and never worry at all about getting money for my work!

  10. I suppose people hear about the piles of cash and tiaras authors like JK Rowling and Dan Brown receive. As you so rightly say, that is a level most of us won’t achieve.

    And so what? For me being published would be nice, but I know it’s getting harder all the time as money’s tight and there’s loads of talent out there.

  11. Sometimes, during a lull in a lecture course, students bait me into talking about myself — killing time — AND it may be more interesting than a lecture over verb tenses. Someone will ask me what I write. Then a math, science, business major who only writes because he can’t graduate without Comp I & II and Humanities will ask WHY I write, implying there are more practical, worthwhile things.

    Yeah. I’ve done some of them myself. Nothing else “lights up” that part in my middle that glows and hums and makes my heart beat faster, makes my insides vibrate, makes my head know exactly where to go. I can feel all writers and poets similarly humming inside in faraway times and places, living as long as their works live, vibrating to the same music.

    Money? I can get money much more easily than writing for it. I write for the same reason I breathe: I must.

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