Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Finding Happiness as a Writer: ACCEPT THE UNACCEPTABLE TRUTHS



If you’re new to the series, check out the beginning. You'll have to scroll down and read the posts from the bottom if you want to go in order because I'm too lazy to link to them individually ;) #SorryNotSorry

Okay remember how I told you that the info you wrote down about yourself last week would come in handy later? Later is now. 

This week is going to deal primarily with people who have a high need for information. If you read the last post and decided you are someone who does better without all the info, then you might want to opt out of the bulk of this post. If you are someone who thinks that writing is this romantic endeavor where you sit by the fireplace at your secluded lake cabin and idly pen a few sentences each day while sipping wine bought with your huge advance, and you prefer to cling to that illusion, consider yourself low information. I don’t want to kill Santa Claus for anyone.

[Just imagine there's a GIF of Stewie Griffin 
saying: "I'm going to KILL SANTA!" here.]


People with a low need for info might also want to consider:
  • Not reading all their tweets. I have periods where I only read my @ feed and even that can get taxing when I get tagged in a long conversation.
  • Telling their agent to withhold rejection information and their editor to withhold bad reviews/bad news. (This is totally acceptable and in most cases they will do that for you.)
  • Not reading every message posted to their debut group/FB group/author newsboard. There are a ton of groups like this now for authors at all stages of publication, and although they can be supportive, they can also be overwhelming. It’s okay to opt-out, temporarily or permanently. You have to take care of yourself.
  • Not sharing rejections or sales numbers with other writers.
  • Staying up on the publishing industry by reading a minimal number of blogs. I recommend YA Highway’s Field Trip Friday. I can go AWOL from the interwebz for a whole week and if I catch the posting of FTF I feel like I haven’t missed a thing.

"With the lights out, it's less dangerous."
(Bonus points if you can name the song.)

People with a moderate need for info:
  • Hey, look at you. You sound very healthy and well-balanced. Will you be my friend? ;-) As far as the post goes, I’d look over all of it and decide what works for you. 
  • P.S. Tell us your secrets in the comments area.

And now for the rest of us...

Before I went to nursing school, I asked some medical professionals their opinions on nursing. Almost all of them told me not to become a nurse--even the ones who had been nurses for twenty years. They told me it was hard, thankless work. Long hours, physically demanding, everyone from patients to doctors yelling at you, lots of bodily fluids and possible TB exposure. [This was before Ebola. I can only imagine what they'd say now.]

But I went to nursing school anyway, because I listened to what they said, accepted the information as likely to be true, and decided I was okay with it. Don't get me wrong, I've never been all like "Yay, feces!" or anything, but being warned about the potential grossness of nursing made it easier to deal with the occasional Code Brown. [Yeah, that's what we call, well, you know.]

And yeah, people with books out already will probably just nod their heads sadly to most of this info, but this is all the stuff I didn’t know going in that I wish I had. [Warning: some of it might hurt.]


Writing isn’t fair.

Not in an equity or an equality kind of way. Let’s say you get hired to make $30/hour as a nurse. You’re thinking that’s pretty decent money until you find out your friend, who has the same years of experience, is making three thousand dollars an hour. That’s a ludicrous scenario, right? Not when it comes to publishing. Some debut novels sell for $3000. Some sell for $300,000.

I am not going to pour Haterade all over this post and say that anyone who sells in a major deal “got lucky.” I believe everyone who achieves traditional publication has worked hard and produced a book that industry professionals think will find a readership. Plus, some of my best friends sold in ginormous deals :) [Full disclosure: VENOM sold in a three-book major deal, but as the work-for-hire writer I made a small percentage of the money from the sale.]

But I am going to say that sometimes you can set a "major deal" and a "nice deal" manuscript side-by-side and not necessarily tell a difference. You might prefer the cheaper book. Critics might prefer the cheaper book. [So far, most critics prefer my cheaper books.] Sometimes the cheaper book even outsells the expensive book. No traditionally published book is a hundred [or a thousand!] times “better” than another published book, so I do believe there is an element of luck in writing the right book and getting it to the right agent who gets it to the right editors at the right time to have publishing economics work to your best advantage.

I know if you don’t have an agent or a book deal, part of you is screaming “I don’t care about money!” but you probably do care about your future as an author, and disparity isn’t just about cash. Disparity also exists in cover creation, marketing support, promotional efforts, etc. and these things can impact your sales numbers. This is also why you can’t compare yourself to other authors. A book with a gorgeous foil cover that gets a US tour and a TV commercial should sell more copies than a book that gets none of that. And maybe you're still screaming that you don't care, but it can be tough to see giant tables full of some other writer's debut book at B&N when your book isn't being stocked in a single store, and yeah that happens. If you like information, it’s better to know going in that the treatment your book gets and the treatment the book next to it gets might be completely different.


Writing is a business.

Businesses often come with long waits, seemingly inefficient processes, colleagues you will like to varying degrees, and a lot of administrative work that has to be done by somebody. Regardless of whether you pub indie or traditional, your workday might consist partially of sending emails, packing up prize books, mailing things, balancing accounts, understanding tax laws, doing design work, doing market research, promoting your product, maintaining a website, etc. The time I spend doing the not-writing work of writing is often more than the time I spend writing. Before I got published, I naively thought I could just hire someone to deal with all of this—an accountant for my receipts, a publicist for my social media, a web-designer, etc. Yeah, no. If I hired someone to do all the stuff I don’t want to do, my writing income would be negative.


Some people will hate your work.

I don’t know what it is, but each time ARCs go out for a book and I start to get early reviews on Goodreads (I always read the very early reviews because sometimes reviewers bring up legit problems that slipped past everyone else), some arrogant, delusional part of me thinks “Maybe this’ll be the book no one hates.” I’ve gotten over the idea I can write a book everyone will love, but a book that no one despises enough to write a huge scathing diatribe about—I mean that’s possible, right?

Probably not. There are a ton of factors that go into why people love or hate a book, some of which have more to do with the people than the book. Either way, just as all of us probably have extremely negative feelings about a small number of books, expect that a small number of people will have extremely negative feelings about yours. Those people might write reviews that make your face burn when you read them--they might even make you cry. [Truth time: my Kirkus review for VENOM made me cry.] Be prepared, but if it happens try to let it roll off you, because more people will like your book than hate it, and those are the people who might have some say in impacting your future career.


You are not the boss of your book.

If you want to be the boss of your book [*gestures at high-control people*], you need to self-publish. When you sell your book to a publisher for an advance or for the promise of royalties [not all books get advances], you relinquish a lot of control. You can suggest a title, but if the publisher wants to replace it with a different one, they can. Sometimes your publisher will take your ideas for a cover into consideration, but other times you are not even consulted until the cover is basically done. Your publisher can also switch your cover and/or title when going from hardcover to paperback. They can redo your cover mid-series, even if you don't want them to. [They're usually doing it in an attempt to reach more readers, so you should probably just be glad they're spending additional time and money on your book.]

During edits, your editor might want you to change something that you don't want to change. Generally author and editor can find a compromise, but you should know that you being paid depends on delivering a "satisfactory manuscript" and it's within your publisher's power to refuse to publish your book if you and your editor can't agree. It's also generally within your power to walk away, but that means giving back the money you've been paid and probably burning a bridge with that publisher.


Success is somewhat out of your control.

OMG guys, this is the HARDEST thing for me and the thing no one tells you. You work your ass off for years trying to get an agent and a deal and then when you do you think “Yay, I’m an author now. The hard work is over.” Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the hard work is just starting. Unless your first book rockets onto the NYT bestseller list or outsells publisher projections, selling your next book will be just as hard—or harder!—than selling your debut novel. A debut author is like a thoroughbred racehorse running its first race—so exciting, so many possibilities. After that horse runs for a year and consistently finishes in the middle of the pack, people are less willing to bet on it.

Essentially, writing comes with all of the risks and responsibilities of being a small business owner. You can create a quality product, market that product effectively, provide good customer service, and still “go out of business” because for whatever reason enough people don’t buy your book. There’s no job security until your books have theme parks. I don’t tell you this to depress you. I tell you this so you won’t get punched in the face by any of it later. Also, you can make responsible choices about your finances, your day job, the time you invest in your writing, etc. If you read all this and you're like I was with nursing: "Bring it on. I'm informed and I'm still all-in," that should give you power and confidence as you progress through your publishing journey

But if you are depressed, never fear. Next week we’re going to talk about how you can take back some of that control, how you can compensate for some of that disparity, what you can do to maximize your chances for success. 


In the meantime, people with a high need for info might want to:
  • Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do with the data you want. I am hugely high-info it it’s data I feel like I can do something about, but not so much when it comes to stuff I can’t control.
  • Sign up for an Amazon author account to access Bookscan data
  • Share sales data with trusted author friends
  • Become a GR author so you can edit your GR page and use GR (responsibly) for market research and promotion
  • Become active in author online communities
And then finally, my last tip and the place where I admit embarrassing things about myself:
  • Go ahead and email your agent/editor with that nagging question. Don't ask your debut-group pal who doesn't know. Don't ask twitter. Ask the person who probably has an answer. Better to ask than to let your brain spin worst-case-scenarios to the point where you can’t function. Awkward revelation: Doing this is hard for me. I still sometimes cower when I email my agent questions that I’m not sure I should be asking, like: “OMG, she’s so busy, I shouldn’t bother her. OMG, she emailed back. What if it’s a lecture about being too needy or neurotic??? I think I need an internet break! *hides under bed*” This has everything to do with me being a ninny and nothing to do with my agent, who is the most awesome agent ever and has never yelled at me, not even once or twice when she probably should have. If you need to know, just ask. Even if the answer is "I don't know" or “there is no real answer to that question,” you’ll feel better after putting it out there.

Happy rest of the week! See you next time :-)

4 comments:

  1. This post is fabulous and now I need to go read the rest of this series. You are telling it like it is, girl!!!

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    1. Well I am just getting started, but definitely come back and share your thoughts along the way :) PS Did I congratulate you on the book with Anne? I saw it on Twitter but my web access has been spotty so I didn't get a chance to email. CONGRATS! I can't wait to read it :)

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  2. This is just fantastic! As a book lover and intrigued about the whole process because I always seem to NEED to know about things, this is a lot of info and I'm sure for anyone or everyone that is an aspiring author or an author it'll be a lot of good info and help!

    Also re: nursing, when the trainees come I always tell them the very good, the very bad and the things that you might think them obvious but they don't seem to realize (aka, you work on holidays, A LOT, you work on weekends, A LOT, and you work loads of night shifts).

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    1. It's definitely best not to give people false hopes about a possible future career. I would never discourage anyone from trying to get published, but at the same time I want them to know that it's not as easy road so that people who feel like they need a fall-back option make sure to have one in place :)

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