Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Writing is not for the faint of heart

My first two books were published by the now defunct Dorchester Publishing company.  A year ago Amazon bought out Dorchester and after two years of little activity, my books began selling again.  In the month of January I sold over three thousand copies of my first book.  My husband was ecstatic.  He was happy that I could actually make a living by my writing.  He couldn’t wait for the February statement.  I was, however, cautiously optimistic.  I know in the business of writing, consistency of remuneration is not always the norm.

When the February statement rolled around, I had only sold a few hundred copies.  My husband’s disappointment was obvious.  I calmly told him it was the nature of the business.  He told me he could never be a writer.  My response was, “Writing is not for the faint of heart.”

A professional writer’s life is one of crests and valleys, and a trial of patience.  You write a wonderful masterpiece, you edit it, you submit it to a publisher and you wait and wait and wait, only to be sent a form letter telling you that your masterpiece was rejected.  A person without tenacity or one who sees writing as a high-returns-low-investment scheme would give up.  After the sixtieth rejection letter even the dedicated writer might give up.  But who knows, the sixty-first could be the one who accepts your masterpiece.
Let’s say you’re fed up with the anxiety and stress of the traditional publishing houses and you decide to go the Indie route.  That still has its crests and valleys.  Many authors write and produce really wonderful literary masterpieces and publish them via indie publishing.  Some even offer free books and sweepstakes.  Yet often times the sales are erratic.  Sometimes they sell a lot, other times months go by and the sales are in the single digits.  Does it mean he or she should give up?  No, a true writer keeps writing regardless.  Even if a traditional publisher grabs up the book, sometimes the sales will be through the roof and other times they may lag.

Now you’ve gotten your book published and it is selling relatively well.  The reviews are good initially, but then you read one bad review on a blog that has an extensive comment thread, where people vow they will not purchase the book because of that bad review.  Do you give up?  Only if you are thin-skinned.  I remember reading a review of one of my books, where the reviewer began by saying all of the other reviews were good so she felt she had to give a bad review too even it out. Seriously?  No matter how good a book you write, there will always be negative reviews because not everyone will like your book, your writing style, or your characters.  So we have to grow really thick skin and like a duck, let the water slide of our backs and just keep writing.

So if you’re gonna write professionally there are a few things you have to do. 
1.    Get a backbone – you need it for the reviewers and critiques
2.    Be patient – getting published requires some waiting
3.    Ignore negativity – it’s not worth listening to naysayers
4.    Grow really thick skin-- again you need it for those negative reviews
5.    Be tenacious – just keep writing regardless
And finally, if you are going to be a writer, write for the love of writing.  If you’re in it for the money and not for the love of the craft, the anxiety, the stress, the waiting will kill you, because writing is not for the faint of heart.


William Doonan said...

Words to live by!

And hey, the most important thing I got out of your post is that you sold 3,000 copies of a book in a month. That's huge! You're a rockstar. Congrats!

Charles Gramlich said...

Every writer needs to read this!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks William and thanks Charles.

Julie Luek said...

Congratulations on your sales, first off. And yes, a thick skin is a necessity. Writers begin that practice with multiple rejections.

Liane Spicer said...

Hear, hear, hear! Words to live by indeed.

Congrats on the January sales, Jewel. So many Dorchester authors I know said their January sales for the Montlake books were higher than four years of sales with Dorch.

Carol Mitchell said...

A rock star indeed!

Definitely words to follow.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Julie, Carol, Liane thanks. Liane, in terms of Dorchester, I guess by the time we signed with them they were on their way to oblivion and falling apart at the seams.

The Divorced Lady's Companion to Living in Italy said...

Great post and congratulations on your January sales! So much to remember here. Especially about reviews and having a thick skin. And keeping on writing no matter what! Sometimes I think I am truly crazy - the waiting and the downside are probably much, much more painful than the writing itself, and yet when you hold your publication in your hands, or see someone else busy reading it, it really is something! best, catherine

Jewel Amethyst said...

Couldn't have said it better myself.