I’ve always said that there are three elements to a successful writing career – Talent, Perseverance, and Luck. The trouble is, you really only control one of those things.
The not-giving-up, working-as-hard-as-you-possibly-can part.
As far as talent is concerned, you either have it or you don’t. Fortunately, I seem to have some degree of writing talent to work with. Add a large degree of perseverance to that degree of talent, and I at least have a shot at making it as a successful writer.
Luck is just random. Some good writers get published by traditional publishers. Most don’t. And there is absolutely nothing you can do to improve your luck when it comes to getting a literary agent or big publisher to give you a chance.
The whole self-publishing deal changes the whole dynamic. For once, it’s the hard workers, not the lucky ones, who can find success. I’ve spent fifteen years working hard as a screenwriter, and then four years working hard as a novelist. I’ve had a few near misses with success, but have ultimately been unlucky.
Like in Hollywood, traditional publishers count on those huge blockbusters – the Harry Potters, the 50 Shades of Grey, the Hunger Games kind of books to make their money. They make very little money on moderately successful, known as midlist, authors so they don’t pay them much mind. Simply put, publishers and agents aren’t interested in writers unless they think they will become the “next big thing”. The beauty of self-publishing is that an individual author *can* make money with midlist-type of success. Indie authors don’t have to sell nearly as many books to make a living as a traditionally published writer does because we don’t have to fork over well over half of the money to somebody else!
If you’re a really hardworking indie author who is willing and able to write lots of good books, over time you can make your own success. I’m so excited at
the prospect of actually being able to make money doing something that I love.
Plus, you know, there’s that whole thing about having people actually READ your books. That’s the best part for me. It really is. If I cared just about making money, I wouldn’t be donating the proceeds from my first published book to the Harvey Milk Foundation. This isn’t just my first published book, it’s also my favorite and it practically makes me tear up just thinking about the fact that people have actually bought and read it! Real readers who read it because they liked the concept and they wanted to read it and see what happens.
Real readers are so much different than making family members and friends read my book whether they want to or not. My closest family members and friends have read it (Thank you, guys!) but I have other friends, acquaintances, and coworkers who claim they want to read it, ask for me to send it to them, and then I never hear another word about it. It’s gotten to the point where I just smile and nod as I listen to them tell me that they can’t wait to read it. Suuuuuure you’ll read it, I think.
They never do.
When I published QUEEN HENRY, people bought it. People read it. Not thousands, but readers nonetheless.
No matter the number, how big or how small, people will continue to read it. People who I don’t know. They don’t know me, but they’re going to come to know Henry and Thomas and Sam and Alice, those characters that I’ve lived with and loved for so long.
To paraphrase a well-known inspirational baseball film (you have to whisper it…):
If you write it, people will read.
I better stop. I’m tearing up again….
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