This blog post is a little different. Think of it as a brain dump as to how I feel about being an Author.
Now, trust me when I say I would love to be comfortably well off thanks to royalty payments from my books. And, maybe one day I will even get to the level of paying a phone bill with them. Woo! But I have approached this ‘being a published author’ thing with both feet on the ground and what I’d like to think is a firm grasp on reality. Well, I may not have when I started… but I’ve finally found my place in it all.
Here’s the thing, when I told my friends I had signed my first publishing contract I got the usual “Remember us when you’re rich and famous” or “Wow, you’ll be raking it in” and took it in the jest the majority of it was intended. When asked what I hoped to achieve with one of my works finally being out there in the public eye, my response was simple – I hope they enjoy it after buying it and I hope to earn enough per quarter to go to my favourite chocolatier café for a hot chocolate and a brownie. And you know what? First royalty payment – I achieved my dream. Yay!
No I am not a defeatist or only think small. Yes I am a cynical and sarcastic cow… but that’s not the point either. I write because I have to. It’s almost like the need to breathe and eat. Stories take over my train of thought and I find myself running scenarios over and over in there until I just have to write it down to free my brain up for more important things. Like where I left the kids, what was I making for dinner and how that stain got into the carpet?
I have honestly been writing stories since I was taught to write and string sentences together. I never set out to become a millionaire (either over night or through time) from my writing. I simply had a story I wanted to share and it just got to the point where some people felt it was good enough to share by them publishing it while others thought it was good enough by reading it. Ta da – My secret is out!
When I realised someone wanted to publish my work I thought them a kind soul giving me a break. I never expected instant fame and fortune. Heck, I will admit to being pompous enough to feel what I wrote was worth publishing, but that was about it. Which is why I set my goal for being a published author as what it was – hot chocolate and a brownie. I refuse to say I set my goal low, I merely set it at what I felt was an acceptable level of reality.
Yes I can write, oooh I even got published! Yeah so? Where in the line of millions of others with the exact same CV do I now stand?
Why aren’t we all getting a ticker tape parade as we’re now authors don’t you know? Meh, we’re all now authors. Small, unknown, emerging authors who are either self-published or have been lucky enough to have a small Indie Publisher take their time, effort and money to take a risk on our work. I am happy… Now.
For those of you who still need lots of gold star reviews, attention and that even elusive royalty cheque for thousands of dollars – you need to be out there. Shaking you assets, schmoozing the crowds, waving your book about and acting the spoilt only child by shouting ‘Look at me!’ I even do this from time to time. Yes because I want to go to the café again after my next quarter payments are sent. I also do it as I want to thank the people who are taking the risk on me and hoping they make what they can from our success… limited or otherwise.
The most interesting thing about my secret is this happiness of being an author is new to me. Days old in fact. Yes I never expected stardom or fame and fortune… but initially I felt nothing. I just smiled and nodded at all my friends and family getting excited about me getting the publishing contract, I just grinned and beared it when I had to do photo shoots for newspaper articles or attended my book launches. The funny thing is I think my writing is good enough to be on show, but I personally hate being in the public eye. Initially I even felt despondent and disappointed more than elated and excited. I felt my book was good enough to have the major publishers at least skim it rather than bin it as soon as they got it. I felt the literary agents who strung me along with questions and bios wouldn’t then drop me or simply ignore me. I. Was. Good!
Remember my comment about the millions of others just like me? We’re all good… but there are millions of us! I didn’t even want to sign to my publisher as they were a small, Indie place and my first book, green and arrogant as I was, deserved better. Then my publisher sent me their business plan and I realised – wow! They have limited time, limited funds and they want to risk them on me? Their existence in the literary world is fragile and they want to help me become published as they felt my book was worth the gamble? And I signed. My first book is good. I rather enjoy it and others seem to as well… but now I’ve taken the rose coloured glasses off, it wasn’t going to get me the attention I so felt it deserved. But it has got the attention it needed, and given me the experience I really needed too. And, remember it is merely my first book.
Once I was out there shaking my assets and schmoozing, I hit a new barrier. The literary circles in the part of the world I live in are rather snobby. They go to universities to learn to write, rather than just teach themselves like I did. They write literary fiction, not the common as muck commercial fiction I love to both write and read. They want real paper books you can hold in your hand, not a business card giving them the link to where they can download my eBook. Despite being 6’2 and taller than all these folks, they do a very good job of looking down their noses at me and dismissing me as one of those millions I keep mentioning. And I let it get to me.
And then, the other day, in the afterglow of my first royalty payment, I had to update my writing history and I suddenly realised exactly how awesome I was. Yes I am still one of those millions, but guess what? I have my money for that first hot chocolate and brownie! For writing my commercial fiction eBook! Better yet, I’ve just signed my second publishing contract within twelve months of signing my first. And, I got to choose which publisher to go with as I had more than one offer. Yes they were both Indie publishers, but hey – two offers! It will mean that, hopefully, this time next year I can shout a friend when I go for my drink and cake. Yes!
I’m also embarking on a new series of books that my very small fan base is looking forward to reading. Even if I don’t find a publisher for it to be shared worldwide, I still have people willing to read it and asking to read it. This is what I really wanted all along. And hey, they can always pay me with a visit to a café for a hot chocolate and a brownie.
So, there you go. You have my secret and can hopefully see that being one of millions is still pretty awesome.
My only advice from all of this, to other emerging authors (or even those wanting to take the first steps to being an emerging author) is this: write because you enjoy writing, not because you want to make money. Set realistic goals, no matter how good your writing is. There are millions of very good writers out there, but there are only a few lucky ones who got noticed and get the big bucks. And, for heaven’s sake – write! Don’t just say you’re going to. Don’t just tippy tap at it a few times a month. Write. Write it all down, don’t re-read every single page every time you do it, don’t try and edit it while it’s still being written. Just write it down until it is finished. Then analyse it, pick it to bits, edit the crap out of it. But finish it first. Research your audience, research your options of how to become published and research the millions of us also out there.
Maybe one day we can shout each other to a hot chocolate and brownie as we are Authors!
PS: THE brownie the royalties went on. It was the size of my smartphone and twice as thick. The dark hot chocolate drink was good too. Strong, dark, bitter and a bit like being smacked in the face with a chocolate pillow… er…. in a good way that is.
Thank you Chocolate @No 5 in Hahndorf for helping me living the dream. 🙂
See, life as an author is what you make it to be.