WRITING MYTH: Professional Writers Can Quit Their Day Job

Quitting your day job and making a fantastic living off your books. Isn’t that almost every writer’s dream? The Greats make it look so easy. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Laurell K. Hamilton. J.K. Rowling. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find out they all came from modest pasts, and fought hard to get where they are today.

Even those who are mid-list authors, those who don’t make a million dollars a year, and maybe make less than you do in your corporate job, make it look easier than it is. “They’re doing it, why can’t I?” Dig deeper. Sometimes they struggle to make ends meet. It isn’t all fun and games, even when you do work for yourself. There are no paid sick days for authors.

Still, that’s what most of us yearn for. I hate to break the bad news to you, but that’s not likely to happen. Many, many professional writers – even those with traditional publishing deals – still have a day job. Even those you may be familiar with. Chances are, they’re still working in a cubicle or retail store somewhere, and writing in their time off from the “day job.”

Making enough money from your books to quit your day job is HARD. That doesn’t mean you’re not really fantastic at it. You might have written one of the best books of this century, but there’s no guarantee it will become a best seller.

There are tens of thousands of books in the world. Think about your own “to read” list. Be honest; is it likely that you will make it all the way through that list (which likely grows almost daily as you discover new books that pique your interest) before you die? Probably not. There are a lot of great books on that list, and the fact that you may never get around to reading it is not a dig on said book.

When my own “to read” list grows too large, I take a break from looking for new and exciting books for a month or two. How many great books made their way to the top of Amazon lists in that time, but fell back down before I noticed them?

And in this never-ending sea of books, how do you make yours stand out? You can’t just click “Publish” and wait around twiddling your thumbs. You have to work hard to market your book. The vast majority of authors are far more creative than they are business-minded, so this effort falls flat.

But every once in a while, a book will come out of nowhere, and not even the author expected what was coming. Look at Andy Weir, author of The Martian. He was originally a self published author, who sold enough books on his own to catch the attention of a literary agent. The stars then aligned for his book to make its way to Ridley Scott, who eventually turned it into a movie.

It is possible. And I don’t say all this to discourage you. I want you to be BIG, but realistic with your goals. That way, if you aren’t able to quit your day job in three years, you won’t be as devastated. Yes, it will still be disappointing, but when you have a healthy dose of realism, it’s much easier to dust yourself off and say, “Well, self, we’ll do better and make it next time.”

As long as you never give up, the dream is still alive.

Happy Writing,
Jen

Don’t Write What You Know

 It’s one of the biggest cliches you’ll hear related to writing fiction – write what you know.

STOP IT

Please. For the love of books. Please stop writing what you know. Nobody wants to read about your daily life sitting in a cubicle all day, or the trials and tribulations of being a stay-at-home parent, or whatever mundane thing you know about. Nobody cares. I’m sorry to be the one who breaks it to you, but writing what you know will not sell books. Look at Tom Clancy – he worked in the insurance industry. (Then again, some suspect he had insider ties to the CIA, and no one knows where he got his military information, so maybe he really was writing about what he knew…but I digress.)

Anyway, if authors only wrote about what they know, why are there so many vampire and werewolf books, so many science fiction novels, so many books about elves and dwarves and wizards? (We can argue whether or not these things really exist till we’re blue in the face, but for the purpose of this post, let’s assume they don’t.)

I’m here to shatter this cliche. I’m here to tell you to write whatever the heck you want. Alright?

I want you to let your imagination run wild. Don’t limit yourself by only brainstorming ideas about things you’re familiar with. Go crazy! Want to write about a mermaid living in the clouds? Do it! Are you a female suburban office worker, but want to write about a teenage boy in the middle ages? Do it!

Here’s a secret THEY don’t want you to know – you can write anything you want, whether you know it or not.

Now, I’m not saying you CAN’T write what you know. Just make it interesting. Office life is boring. But add a healthy dose of corporate intrigue, the threat of prison, and a bit of romance, you just might have a bestseller on your hands. (Have you read Paranoia by Joseph Finder? I never knew it was possible to make corporate life so interesting to read about.)

On the other hand, look at John Grisham. (If you’re still a fan, I apologize – this is only my opinion.) His first several books were really good. He took courtroom drama and made it fascinating! But then, he started writing the same story over and over again, with a different cast of characters. Writing what he knew only took him so far before it got stale.

So dare to write something totally foreign to you. Yes, you still need to make the story authentic and believable. But get the story out. You can make it real in revisions. The important thing is to let your imagination run wild. Don’t trap it in a cage called The Daily Grind.

Now go write that fantastical story about pixies on a spaceship you’ve been thinking about all these years!

Happy writing,
Jen

The Writing Process: Idea to Publication Explained

If you’re new to the world of publishing, you probably don’t even know where to begin. Let me help you out with that. Keep in mind the process will be slightly different for each writer, so I’ll keep it high level.

Self-Publishing

    • *Write book (duh)
    • *Edit book
    • *Design cover
    • *Format book
    • *Publish
    • *Marketing

That may seem like a lot, but it’s pretty simple compared to traditional publishing. Now, I don’t have direct experience with traditional publishing myself, but I’ve read a lot, attended lots of workshops, and listened to a lot of podcasts, so I have a pretty good idea how it works.

    • *Write book (duh)
    • ***(unless you’re writing non-fiction. Then it’s best to send proposals before starting your work.)
    • *Edit book
    • *Query agents
    • *Sign contract with agent
    • *Agent queries publishing houses
    • *Sign contract with publishing house

From here on out, everything is completely out of your hands

    • *Publisher will have their in-house editor go through your manuscript
    • *You change manuscript based on their edits, sometimes going back and forth with editor
    • *In-house cover designer creates cover based on what they think your book is about. (They likely haven’t read the book.)
    • *Copywriters create back cover blurb based on what they think the book is about, or from their memory of when they read it months prior.
    • *Publish
    • *Marketing (You still have to do a lot of your own marketing, even with traditional publishing.)

That’s a LOT more steps, and you have a LOT less control with traditional publishing. You also only get on average 15% of the sales, where as a self-published author you get 100%.

I know it sounds like I’m kind of dogging traditional publishing. I do intend to publish a book this route one day just so I can have the experience. You have to do your research and evaluate your options to decide which route is best for you.

So what do you think? Which path do you think you’d like to go down? Whichever you choose, I can help you every step of the way with my coaching program. Check it out!

Happy writing,
Jen