A little while back I was lamenting with a fellow writer over my frustration with publishing. I’d finally finished my fourth manuscript, a project that had taken me nearly eighteen months to complete, and had just been rejected by my publisher. My editor had said that the manuscript was too long and too slow and in her words, “not quite ready yet.” And after taking another close look at the manuscript, I had to agree. Then the next day, I received word that I was a finalist for a Whitney Award, which somehow only made things worse.
But then what could I expect. Throughout the time it had taken me to write the latest manuscript my life had taken a few dramatic turns including my husband’s serious motorcycle accent. Also during this time, I’d released three novels that included editing and promotions, one right after the other. With all of that going on it was a miracle, I know, that I was even able to complete a fourth manuscript. And probably explains why I’d overwritten it by approximately 50,000 words. You heard me, 50,000. Yes that’s right, in essence, practically another whole novel. Then after cutting as much as I’d thought I could, I’d sent it to my editor and the rest is, as they say, history.
Consequently, there I was, three novels under my belt, exhausted, rejected and wondering if all my angst was worth it. And my friend, Melina, being encouraging, had said, “But look what all you’ve accomplished. There are thousands of people out there with dreams of being published who would kill to be where you are right now.”
And so then I started wondering, why is that? Why are there thousands of folks with dreams of being published?
Because they think authors make lots of money? And sure, while some authors do quite well and many make enough to keep writing, the vast majority of fiction writers, like myself, don’t even want to think about how little they’re really earning. When compared to the time spent completing a novel, editing, marketing, etc, the monetary return is well, hardly worth mentioning.
Because they think being an author is glamorous? Picture a bookstore, stacks of a newly released novel, a life sized cardboard cut out of the author and a table behind which sits a mysterious yet suave author wearing geek-chic glasses and a demure smile to hide the smugness at seeing hordes of anxious readers lined up out the door just for the change to tell said author how beyond amazing he/she is—how life altering his/her novel was.
Rrrr-ight. At my last book signing I commented to the B&N Store PR person that I was disappointed I’d only signed three books to which she excitedly replied, “Oh no, Julie, you’ve done great! I have well-known authors in here all the time that don’t sign even one book.”
If glamorous is standing behind a table piled with my novels wearing a welcoming smile that has gone tight with chagrin because most everyone walks by with nary a glance in my direction then I don’t see what all fuss is about. No-Thank-You.
Because they think that completing the novel is the hardest part? Hold on a minute, I’m suffering from a fit of laughter… Okay, all better. If a writer truly loves his/her project then writing is, and should be, the easiest part. For me, I can’t rest until the manuscript is finished. Not because of deadlines or delusions of fame, but because the story is a living, breathing part of me. Because it wakes me up in the morning with an urgency that leaves me unable to focus on much else past releasing more of the story onto my computer screen.
No, completing the novel is the easy part.
I don’t know about the rest of you authors out there but I think writing a 100,000 word novel is 100,000 times easier than writing just one query letter.
Who’s with me?
Then there’s hope, rejection, hope, rejection…Acceptance! Editing…editing…blog tours, website, Facebook, giveaways. In other words, literally hours of self-promotion. These days all authors have do at least some of their own promoting.
The assumption that upon release of one’s book, the publisher is going to set-up a book tour with catering and beautiful people toasting said author’s accomplishment is probably the biggest misconception of all. Don’t believe what you see in the movies. It doesn’t happen.
Then the worst thing of all—reviews. And even worse than a bad review—a bad review on Goodreads. Ugh! Brutal.
Lastly, the first royalty check arrives…chirp, chirp, chirp.
So with all these misgivings running through my mind, I glanced up from my half-eaten Chick-fil-A breakfast and tell my friend that I’m considering giving up writing. That’s right, though I’d discovered my passion relatively late in life, I was seriously considering giving it up.
It was all just too much.
But then my deft friend looked me straight in the eye and said, “Julie, do really think that you could never, ever, write again… Ever?”
I couldn’t exactly answer that question because when she put it that way, the very idea felt like a vicious, dank hand had reached inside my chest and proceeded to rip out my still-beating heart.
Then she said, “Writing is not for wimps! Being an author is hard and it’s heartbreaking. It’s cruel and exhausting especially for small-time authors like us. But we do it anyway.”
And she was right. Through the rejection, the rewrites and the bad reviews, I knew I would never quit, that I could never walk away from all the stories in my head vying for my attention, from the most fun I’ve ever had at “work.”
And so, I will be brave, I will take a step back, reassess my priorities and then move forward. I will remember that I write because writing is what I do. And when all the dust settles, I will continue to write because even if I never make another dime off my work, the journey will be well worth the effort.
No Melina, writing is not for wimps!