Friday, September 2, 2016

Debunked! Common misperceptions of authors.

After some time working part-time outside the house and writing I got a full time job that has me driving in crazy traffic. My first day of work, a relative of mine called when I was on my way home in heavy traffic and after asking me how my first day was, she welcomed me to the “real world”. I asked her what she meant. She said writing was living in la-la land and this is the real world. Really!?

There are many misperceptions of writers, novelists, authors or whatever we choose to call ourselves. They range from denigration, considering what we do not a real career, to thoughts that we are insanely rich. Here are some common perceptions of authors that totally miss the mark.

1. All writers are rich
Show me a rich writer and I’ll show you a thousand more who are not. I saw a Facebook post recently that said the average writer makes less than $10 000 a year. While our income generated by our writing may be erratic, unless you are already famous, are really lucky, are James Patterson, JK Rollings or one of the 1% that hit it big, that average income is just about right if you supplement it with a part time job. Consequently, most authors have day jobs or are retired.

2. Authors have it easy
Really? First of all, getting a book published, even in this day and age where self-pub is now the norm, is a nightmare. Major publishing houses publish anywhere from an estimated 1% to 25% of their submissions. That means 75% to 99% makes it in the slush pile. And if writer’s block was an author’s only worry it would be fine, but that’s not our major headache. After making huge investments of time and money into our books, if we get them published then there is the marketing and promotion.  Many times we invest way more money into our books than we ever make back. Liane posted a pic some time back with a poster that says, “I work to support my writing habit.” That’s the way it is with many authors. Author conferences cost money. Publishers do not give you a budget to work with and of course self-pub authors have to self-fund. Even worst, book sales at conferences are extremely low.

3. All authors do is write
Yeah right! Being an author is running a small business, whether you are published by a major or minor publishing house or Indie. You are the writer, editor and first reader (even if you have an outside editor). You are the publicist, promoter, and marketer. You are the accountant, CEO and business manager. Outside of writing you have to establish a platform and build on it. Social media presence is a must if you want to sell books. Author talks, book launches, book signings, conferences, presentations etc. are all on you. Publishers in this day and age hardly ever arrange these things for you. The modern author spends less than 50% of his or her working time writing. The vast majority is taken up with all of the other stuff.

4. Authors have a lot of time
Ha! I think there are 24 hours in a day that’s given to everyone.  Most authors have day jobs that range from full time to part time. Even if an author writes full time, he/she has to spread himself/herself between so many things. It’s only after becoming an author I had to get a giant calendar to keep track of all the different things that I need to do and get organized. We wear so many hats that we don’t have a lot of time in the day. Of course we have flexibility of schedule, but to be successful, we have to spread ourselves thin. Like people in most other professions, authors wish we can have more time in the day.

5. If your book is good it’ll be a bestseller
LOL! There are so many excellent books that make it into the slush pile of publishers because it’s not their market, or they just have too many submissions to read through. Then there are thousands of books that sell less than a thousand copies, that are excellent. There are no formulas for what makes a bestseller. If you have name recognition, it increases your chances. That’s why when famous people write crappy books it immediately makes it to the bestseller list. Bestsellers doesn’t indicate the quality of a book, but the quantity of the sales.

There are even more misperceptions. So if you have other misperceptions of authors, please share them in the comments. Let’s see how many misperceptions we can debunk today.


Maggie King said...

Good post, Jewel! Thanks for dispelling the myths.

Liane Spicer said...

"Bestseller doesn’t indicate the quality of a book, but the quantity of the sales". That is so true that I'm very reluctant to read most popular bestsellers.

Yes, those myths are persistent--which is why it's so difficult for me to even tell people outside the writing community that I'm a writer. Another popular myth: "Just get it on Oprah." *eyeroll*

Neil Waring said...

Great post, very glad I have other income to supplement my writing income, actually it's the other way around.

Linda Thorne said...

All so true. My writing right now is an expense. I feel lucky that I have a day job because I need the money and some of that money goes into my promotion, conferences, etc. I hope to someday start getting some of it back, but not totally counting on that happening.

Charles Gramlich said...

You hit the nail on the head with all these.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Lol, Liane. I've heard the "Get it on Oprah" so many times. One guy even sent me information about a former producer of Oprah who gave instructions on how you can get it on Oprah. Of course it was for a hefty price.

Jewel Amethyst said...

Neil, Linda, I've tried it with the working part time and writing, income-wise, it didn't work. Even if you make a lot, it's so erratic and variable in the amount and frequency you make, while the bills are so consistent.

Marissa Monteilh said...

Every word is soooo very true, sis - and the "rich" part had me laughing (okay crying, lol)!