If You Write to Make Money: You’re Doing it Wrong
If you’re anything like me (and most of the author population), you grew up with fantastical notions that you’ll finish your opus, send it to a few publishers, and in a few months one of them is bound to recognise your literary genius and send you a book deal (with that all important advance). Sound familiar? Sadly, this daydream was successfully shattered for me when I went to study for my Masters in Creative Writing, and was given the pleasure of an hour long seminar where a tutor explained for us all in no uncertain terms how unlikely that dream was to ever become a reality.
The success stories we hear about in the papers and on the TV all the time are the magical minority, and sadly we aren’t all JK Rowling.
On reflection, I realise now how that tutor was just trying to instil a very tough but important lesson in us bright-eyed twenty-somethings: if you only write to make money, you’re doing it wrong.
There are now countless options open to authors: eBooks, self-publishing platforms, hybrid publishing, traditional publishing. All of them have their positives and negatives, and with all of them you only get out what you put in. Finding a highly regarded literary agent or getting the attention of one of the Big Five traditional publishing houses remains the dream for a majority of authors, but even then success isn’t a guarantee. With the world of publishing as competitive as it is, there are no certainties anymore. This is the reason so many agents and publishers are unwilling to take the risk on new talent, and the reason that, even if they do, they’re unlikely to offer an advance. The bygone days of publishers paying out thousands of pounds for a manuscript they enjoyed written by an, albeit very talented, author they have never heard of are a distant memory. There is no longer any such thing as ‘normal’ publishing.
The important thing to remember is: writing is a calling, not a choice. It’s an uphill battle. It’s mentally and physically exhausting. And you can’t not do it. For that reason, getting to share your story with the world should be something you are so passionate about that you will never grow complacent and you will do anything for it. Finding an agent or a publisher is one step, reaching your audience is several more.
Ask yourself this: are you willing to labour in obscurity? If you knew you’d never make a penny from your writing, would you still do it? If you knew no one beyond your circle of best friends and family would ever read it, would you still do it? Yes? Then it’s your calling.
Don’t get disheartened! This isn’t meant to be an onslaught of negativity, just a reality check. If becoming a published author is your dream and your calling (and why would you be here reading this if it wasn’t?) then make it happen. There are all sorts of ways to make it happen, if you’re willing to put the work in!
So many of us have a story to tell, but not all of us are determined enough to push through the barriers and get it written down and get it out to the world. If you are one of those people and you have your offer of publication, no matter the form it may come in, be proud, but remember – success is more than just your royalty check each month. It’s that one person who writes to you one day to tell you your story changed their life.