For most fiction writers I know (primarily in the women’s fiction and romance categories) becoming a published author is akin to running a marathon filled with buried land mines. For those aspiring to race on this crazy road anyway, I wanted to brake down these hazards into easy to understand categories:
Hazard 1: writing a story good enough to get published
Hazard 2: trying to get a publishing deal
Hazard 3: trying to make money on your book after said publishing deal
Writing a story good enough to get published was extremely hard for me. I was surprised at this, considering I graduated from a great (state) college and received an honors degree in English Literature. (Hey, that’s ego for you.) It turned out that although I could analyze books fantastically well—I still had no clue how to write them. It took me over five years of attending classes at a local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter to learn how to write “deep” POV. I also needed to learn how to effectively pace my story to avoid saggy middles. How to “arc” my character’s growth. And what constituted a true “black moment.” (For those of you who don’t know this industry term, the “black moment” is the turning point in the book where the protagonist believes all is lost.)
Once I finally had a good story down, I thought getting a publishing deal would be easy. (What can I tell you? I suffer from a lot of delusional thoughts.) My RWA chapter thankfully taught me how to query and pitch. They even set up pitch appointments with editors and agents so RWA members had hostages right there in front of us to victimize. Luckily, it worked, for me and many other “perpetrators” at that conference. But I had gone to countless other conferences where my pitches fell flat. Or (almost worse) an agent or publisher loved my pitch but ultimately declined me anyway. Every time I heard the words “thanks, but your story is not right for us,” or “I like your story but I don’t feel strongly enough to represent you,” I felt another land mine tossed onto my marathon track. Or, as if the canoe I was paddling was sent off-course, straight into a waterfall.
I was lucky to ultimately get a publishing deal. I got signed by a small press that I love. But that does not mean that I am now sailing on smooth waters. Selling is something all publishers expect an author to do. It’s an author’s job, in addition to writing the book. From the largest publisher to the indy-published to the self-published, sales remain paramount. Authors have to transition from crafting beautiful prose to crass “look at me” language. There’s a lot of competition out there, and all of us authors are desperate to be noticed. In order to be noticed effectively we use social media to scream from the edge of the waterfall, hoping our words are not drowned out.
Many publishers are cutting back on market expenses in this tough industry. Some good publishing houses are even closing down entirely. Leaving authors to fend all on their own.
Solutions have not been easy to come by. Many authors drop the prices of their books anywhere from free to less than a dollar to get people to “try them out.” But even sales of their books at full-price (still not expensive, mind you—mine are averagely priced at $2.99) can generate a very low pay-out due to the ever-changing pay schedules from on-line retailers.
In my humble opinion, all this has made it very hard for authors to earn a living wage.
So why write a novel? If you want to become a published author, ask yourself what is your motivation to write. If it’s not all about the love of creating a story, think carefully about the pitfalls ahead. Is it worth traveling on this long and treacherous journey?
I write because I have a desire to write stories. I enjoy manufacturing drama, adventure and humor. I love dreaming up crazy scenarios and then picturing how anyone would live through it. Plus, I have voices in my head that just won’t shut up. So it’s either let my characters loose on paper, or have them continue to pester me in the recesses of my mind. Besides, writing “happily ever afters” keeps me happy.
Writing is a journey I am sometimes tortured by, but love. Excuse me while I go to my canoe.
Do you write? What’s your motivation?
WEBSITE & SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS FOR STACY HOFF:
AMAZON LINK FOR DESIRE IN THE ARCTIC by Stacy Hoff:
AMAZON LINK FOR DESIRE IN THE EVERGLADES by Stacy Hoff:
AMAZON LINK FOR LAWFULLY YOURS by Stacy Hoff:
AMAZON LINK FOR SEASON OF LOVE (Box set with Stacy Hoff):