Tuesday, September 24, 2019

So you’re a published author, now what?

by Rick Blechta

Tom’s post from yesterday is well worth reading — especially if you are a new author. He speaks truth, and if it’s not what you want to hear, it’s still truth.

As much as we would all like it to be so, getting a book published does not automatically open a door to untold riches. Certainly it is better than not getting a book published, but don’t get your expectations up too high.

I came at the book publishing game (and it is a game) from the music business (which is also a game, with an even more un-level playing field), so my expectations about being an author were more tempered than the average person.

My wife and I, both being musicians, teach private students to supplement our income. Every now and then we get a student who shows ability and decides they want to focus their life on being a musician. In those cases, the first thing we do is to ask them about their other interests in life. What else are they good at? We focus in on those things upon which they good build a solid working life.

The goal here is to find out their commitment to the life a musician. If they have anything else in their lives that would generate a living wage, we encourage them to do that and play music as their outside-of-work passion. However, if their answer is “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do than be a musician,” only then do we talk turkey. “So you want to be a musician, this is what you have to do and how hard you have to work to at least give yourself a chance.” It can be a hard thing to hear — but we present them with the truth, then help them as best we can to achieve their goal.

Yes, I have musician-friends who make a ton of money. But I have a much larger number of them who don’t make much money. They struggle to keep afloat (and that’s why so many of us have private students), so they can keep their dream alive. Most of us wind up taking day jobs in other fields so we can keep body and soul together — and finance our real passion in life.

It is exactly the same in book publishing. The only realistic course to plot for oneself is to write and get your works published simply because you just love writing and enjoy then being an author (which is not much more than being a sales person for your work). If you win the “writing lottery” and sell a ton of books, great! I’ll be cheering you from the sidelines — and be a slight bit envious at the same time.

Being a successful author or musician — or any sort of artist — involves far more luck than talent. Yes, there are those once-in-a-lifetime talents who just can’t miss, but they’re few and far between, and even then, the right people have to come in contact with them. Remember this: Mozart died penniless.

The reward for a writer is to hold in your hand a book you wrote. If you can accomplish that, you have gained a hell of a lot and won the most important prize. If you go into writing as a means to generate a living wage, then you are in the wrong business, or perhaps the right business — but for the wrong reason.

I like to think of my published books as my “letters” to the world. Someone on the other side of the world, perhaps years after my death, will find one of them and read it. Even if they don’t like it, I still touched their lives.

That’s the payoff in writing. If you get past that and go on to making a living wage from your writing, even better.

And if you strike it rich, well then God bless you!

But for the moment, keep your day job, please?


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