But, like all dreams, it ain’t all roses.
While I’m not yet paying all the bills from writing, I am writing full-time. I’m livin’ the dream, and it’s wonderful. But the catch is when people ask me, “So what do you do?”
“I’m a writer,” I reply.
At this point, I get one of two reactions, and it’s about 50/50.
One person’s face will light up, and they’ll eagerly ask what I write, where they can buy my stuff, and when my next book will be out. They also applaud me for pursuing my passions and making a career out of it.
The next person will stare at me funny and ask dubiously how well I’m selling. These are the ultra-practical people who don’t like to think outside the 9 to 5 and believe that success is found inside a cubicle.
It’s that second group that we need to talk about. Because yes, you can make your living writing. (Thanks, ebook revolution!) And yes, there will be doubters.
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.
But I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake.
Shake it off! Shake it off!
Skeptics and Critics
The problem is not with you or your dream; it’s with the bad name that authorship carries around. Yep. Believe it or not, writing as a whole has a bad name – with some people, at least. About half the population, based on my conversations.
A lot of people equate authorship with celebrity. The problem with being a celebrity is that lots of people want it, and few people get it. When you say you’re an author – or want to be – some of your friends and family swear they see nothing but stars in your eyes.
Worse, some people are vaguely familiar with the publishing process – the traditional publishing process – and they know that the odds of nabbing a book deal, getting a good contract, and earning enough off advances and royalties to pay your way through life are about as good as finding a unicorn grazing in your garden tomorrow morning.
Things can quickly get worse if you explain that you’re self-published. Self-publishing carries an even worse stigma than trying to make it as a “celebrity” in traditional publishing. Self-publishing is what happens to failed writers. Right?
So what do you do? These are your friends and family or a new acquaintance you’ve made. Ideally, you want them to be supportive, right?
How to Educate Your Critics
If you’re already paying the bills plus a trip to Disney Land via your writing career, all you have to do is point that out – and send your buddy home in shame wondering why they’re stuck at their loathsome desk job.
But what about those of us who are still working toward that goal?
Much as I’d like to say, “I’m an author,” and be accepted as frankly as if I’d said, “I’m a plumber,” or “I’m a lawyer,” the truth is, naming my job usually requires educating the person I’m talking to. I make sure we’re both comfortable, and I run down the list.
- Agreed, you’ll almost certainly never make a living by traditionally publishing. It’s super hard to get noticed, and the traditional machine has so much overhead cost, there’s precious little left over for the author. The only way you’ll make your living with this route is if you’re a household name.
- Indie publishing is no longer the last resort for losers. There are thousands of authors who are switching over because of the drastic drop in overhead – which translates into way better pay to the author.
- With both the middle men and the overhead removed, publishing can now be run more like any traditional business. I’m selling a product directly to my consumers. My sales are dependent on the quality of my product and the quality of my marketing.
- And yes, there are lots of authors making their living indie publishing. And no, they are not celebrities. They are comfortable, mid-list authors you’ve never heard of, who are quietly and happily running their businesses, making lots of happy customers, and supporting themselves and their families.
Once I explain all this to whoever asked, I find that the waters are less muddied and their interest is piqued. They start asking more questions, and they begin to understand that writing IS a real job! The mystique of the Internet and the Way It Has Changed Everything helps a lot. LOL.
How about you? Do you ever run across criticism when you say that you make a living writing, or that it’s your goal? How do you answer?