The path of an author is neither a straight, or smooth one. Your readers only see the final packaged version of your work and assume you had the best of times putting it together. On your side of the page however, that book probably looks a lot different.
The loneliness you faced as you kept your head down and ignored the outside world who seemed to be having more fun than you. The struggles in your confidence as you read back over your work and convinced yourself that this was both the best and the worst you’d ever done. And then maybe the odd bottle of wine to clear your head of a character or storyline that still lived on in your head hours after you put them to bed.
Who’d want to be a writer, right? Well if that opening paragraph hasn’t made you want to give up before you begin, here’s five more things to keep in mind so you don’t come undone.
1 – You’ll Be Too Attached To Your Work – Locking yourself away, being hunched over a laptop for hours at a time means you can’t help but be attached to what you’re creating. Then there’s the characters that you know almost as well as family members. Like family members, anything negative said about them is going to affect you too. You’re going to want to stand up for them, fight back, and take any criticism they receive personally. They are your babies after all.
Because of that you’ll need to distance yourself from your work. Any attacks made on your book, are that, they’re at your book. It’s not personal, and even if it is, they don’t know you, or how great your next book is going to be. No matter how bad your book is received, if you work on your craft and put in the hours, your next work will be better.
2 – You’ll Be A One Book Wonder – In your head you see the light bulbs flashing. The microphones pushed toward your face. The eager reporters scrambling over one another fighting to get a question in. “What gave you the idea for your book?” “What’s it like having it made into a movie?” “Have you been around the theme park yet?”
Oh, the joys of writing a one hit wonder. You know how many of those there are? About as many as the unicorns running around my back garden. They might be out there, but I’ve never seen one.
I don’t like slapping anyone’s face with the hand of reality, but you’ll never retire on one book. If you do, you’ll have another bestseller, “How To Write A One Hit Wonder.” If you’ve only got one book in you and you just want to see it in print, go for it. If, however, you see your calling as being a well-known author, you better be prepared to spend a lot of butt on seat time. Sorry, for bursting your bubble.
3 – You’ll Be Afraid Of Seeking Criticism – Like asking for a punch in the face, you’ll avoid criticism like the plague. Who in their right mind would? But who said being an author was a sign of sanity? Because of that, you’ll go out with cap in hand, asking people what they thought of your book. But while that may the words coming out of your mouth, the thoughts in your head will be completely different. Your internal dialog will go like this… “Please, say you like it, please say you like it…. I’ll even pay you to say you like it.”
For those that like it, you’ll get those that don’t. And you’ll also get those that think someone should take a hammer to your fingers. That’s life. You’ll never be able to please everyone. If the thought of asking for reviews feels like putting your neck on a chopping block, read and memorize number 1. Then go out there and close your eyes.
4 – You’ll Try To Do It All On Your Own – If you think you can handle, the writing, editing, book cover design, blurb writing, promotion work all on your own, you’ll find out very soon that you can’t. There will be things that you’re good at, things you’re not, and things you know nothing about. Because of that your writing, sanity, and book sales will be affected.
Trying to do all of this on your own is like driving your car with the hand brake on and two wheels missing. Like that shuddering and wobbling vehicle, you’ll make it eventually to your destination. But by the time you get there, you’ll be exhausted and won’t ever want to do it again. There’s a reason large publishing companies have departments for each of those tasks. It’s also why they hire a professional to create a great book cover, and not Sam that has two months experience with Photoshop.
If you don’t have the money, outsource the weakest parts of your system to someone who knows what they’re doing. You mightn’t have a fully working car but adding a wheel or two will sure make that journey a whole lot better.
5 – You’re Not A Business Owner – If you were a store owner with a stockroom full of peach tins and no one in town liked peaches, you’d say that guy had to get his shop in order. “What an idiot, right?” But every day, authors write books for audiences that don’t exist, write the wrong type of book, or spent a fortune on book illustrations that they can never recoup.
Your book may be the greatest thing since the earth cooled. But if no one wants to read it, what’s the point in writing a sequel? If your book cost you $300 dollars for illustrations, but only brought in $50, was it a good investment? If you’re happy writing vanity projects, I’m here to say keep going. But if like that store owner you want your book business to be a success, you’re going to want to rethink what you’re doing. If something you’re doing isn’t building your business, it’s costing you both money and time. Money you can get back, time you can’t.
Now If you’re still crazy enough to give it a go after reading all of that, the best of luck to you.