Today I thought I’d go over some common misconceptions about what it’s like being a published writer. This is part of a “I wish I knew this when I was starting out” post. Hopefully, what I had to learn the hard way will be something others can learn the easy way. I’ll start off with part 1 and add more to it as I think of more to add. 😀
Myth: Once I make it big, I’ll be on easy street.
Fact: The truth is, sales fall and your next book might not be as big of a seller as the one that just made it big.
There’s no telling which book will sell better than another. I’ve written books I thought were going to be popular because I received emails requesting them (seemed to have a big demand so they had great potential to be good sellers), but in the end, they didn’t sell as well as some of the ones I didn’t think would do well at all. It’s like playing the lottery (in some ways) because you invest months to years writing the book, hoping your work will pay off. You never know for sure what your next book will do. All you can do is write more books to add to your odds of “winning”.
Myth: I can write whenever I feel like it and thrive as an author.
Fact: Writing is like any other job…and you need to do it even when you don’t feel like it.
This is not an easy job, and it’s not for the faint of heart. Like any small business owner, you will have to deal with everything yourself. (I’m talking specifically to self-published authors, not traditionally published ones.) Everything is on your shoulders, and it’s a lot of responsibility if you’re going to treat it like a job. You’re going to have to establish deadlines because if you don’t have deadlines, you will probably keep putting things on hold. A business needs to produce a service or product on a consistent basis if it’ll have the chance to thriving. You can’t sit and wait until you feel like writing. Some days will feel like you’re pulling teeth just to get a few sentences down on the page. If you have a job outside the home, you will find a way to do it. The same has to be true for writing. It has to be a priority, not something that happens when it’s convenient for you.
The exception to this is when an emergency comes up (ex. illness, death in the family, tornado blew your house down). You can’t write when under tremendous stress like that, and if an emergency came up when you are working outside the home, you will take the time off of work to tend to that emergency. Same is true with writing. Treat it like an outside job and use common sense on when you need to take time off. But don’t take time off just because “I’m bored” or “I don’t want to write today”. If you’re not writing, then do something to add to your business: make a book cover, outline a future book, work on some blog posts, answer emails. But make sure you aren’t using the extra stuff to get out of writing. Writing is the key job you have.
Myth: Once I make good sales, all my financial woes are over.
Fact: Your financial woes will be over when you learn to manage your money effectively.
Sales have nothing to do with your financial well-being unless you are smart about how you’re handling your money. You can sell a ton of books and be a mega-star in the self-publishing industry, but if you didn’t plan for real life, then you’ll be up a creek without a paddle. People seem to assume that more money = less stress. I think the opposite might be true. With more money comes more taxes, more demands from family members to get stuff (and it’s hard to say no to your spouse when your spouse really, really, really wants something), and you’re tempted to get more things because suddenly the money is there. It takes a lot of discipline to put aside money into the tax account so you can pay your quarterly vouchers, stay out of debt, build up an emergency fund, and save for future expenses. This is all common sense stuff, but when you make sales, the temptation is there to spend the money as fast as it comes in. You just can’t do it.
Myth: Everyone will love my book because it’s THAT good.
Fact: There will always (and I mean ALWAYS) be someone who hates your book.
It doesn’t matter what the reason is. The fact of the matter is, you can’t please all the people all the time. Tastes are too subjective and human nature is fickle.
Myth: I got 1-star reviews. That means I suck as a writer.
Fact: Not necessarily.
1-star reviews does not mean you suck as a writer. It could mean the people reading your book don’t agree with something you put in your book. Say your book features a smoker and the person reading your book hates cigarettes. They probably won’t like your story because you have the smoker in your book. Or it could be some other factor. (I got a complaint from a reader saying she’d never read one of my books that featured a smoker in it. I got another complaint from someone who didn’t like the fact that one of my families I feature in some of my books have blond hair.) So the reason could be minor. It could also be huge. Religious and political differences could be a reason that someone will hate your book. Any time you write a story, you have to select characters and situations those characters are in, and there is bound to be something in there that someone will hate. It’s part of the game.