Monday, January 10, 2011

Published what?

This week, I've decided to write on the realities of being published, versus the romantic connotations of what it means to be an author.

When I was simply called a writer, I thought that was difficult. My life at the time consisted of writing, revising and editing my manuscript so that I could send it off to a publisher, agent, etc. The waiting at this point was excruciating, I would submit and wait with baited breath for a letter with the golden words:

Dear Ms Christman,

We’re happy to inform you that after reviewing your submission, we’d like to extend a contract for (INSERT MANUSCRIPT TITLE HERE)....

I thought once this happens, my life is going to be different. But more often than not, it didn't happen that way. I got the form rejection letters (although when I was subbing The Witching Hour, I did get a couple that were personalized and said something along the lines of: I really enjoyed your manuscript, however.... but I wouldn't recommend any changes) and felt the momentary disappointment at the setbacks. I believe I subbed five manuscripts before I had even written The Witching Hour, all to unanimous no's.

But enough dwelling on the no's. The purpose of this blog is not to give rejection stories.

When I finally got my letter with the magic words that my manuscript had been accepted for publication, I was elated and ecstatic. I was ready for the long road ahead of me. I finally had a foot in the door somewhere and my book would be distributed for the consumption of the masses.

Although I didn't feel any different, I had moved into a new category of writer. I had moved into author and from now on, the craft that I was so dedicated to was my business.

I was prepared for the long rounds of editing that I had heard some of my favorite authors talk about. The going back and forth with an editor who would work with me to polish and produce the best possible version of my book.

I was even prepared for the long arduous road of self promotion. Because let's face it, no one is going to buy your book if they have no idea who the hell you are. I hate self-promotion, but marketing was something that I was reasonably knowledgeable about thanks to my jobs in corporate America. I had learned the importance of branding and building a brand. Things that helped me as I moved forward. But in the meantime, while I waited for my first round edits to come from my editor, I read absolutely everything I could find about promotion and marketing even coming up with a plan.

The essential difference between a writer and an author is an author realizes that publishing is a business. An author wants to write as a career. A writer can write one book and be done with it all.

As any business owner will tell you, the only way to succeed is to have plenty of product and plenty of effective advertising. This is where my life became different.

When I was a writer, all I had to worry about was writing and I did that when the mood struck. As an author, I now had a business to consider. It is my desire to be very successful (we're not talking millions here, just a healthy royalty check); my ultimate goal is to be able to make enough to write full time. And it happens, but not without a considerable amount of work.

This point of my career consists of making sure that I continue to build my brand, promotion, writing, and revising according to my editor's suggestions. And while it seems that this is not a lot let me assure you, promotion and brand building take up about 75% of your time. Of course all the interviews, signings, etc in the world aren't going to help you if you don't have a healthy backlist, which is why I no longer write when the mood strikes me. I literally schedule time to work on my WIP. And because I am just starting out and have no assistant, I also have to make time to update my website (which can take some time depending on what I am doing);updating my blog, twitter, and facebook. I also have to make sure I tackle any and all revisions on time (so my release dates don't get pushed).

Then there is scheduling time to spend with my poor neglected BF and pooch, both of whom put up with it all so well.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't change a thing. I love the new challenges of this phase of my writing career. But I work harder now, then when I just worked a regular cubicle job. And I am more willing to do this because its my passion.

I am not advocating throwing in your pen. I'm just saying that if you want to just write, then being a professional author is not really for you. Similarly, if you expect to just write a book and get rich all of a sudden, it doesn't happen that way (there are a few exceptions--very few). There's a lot of work involved to just be able to make a decent living at it and like anything in life, you have to be willing to work incredibly hard to achieve your dreams. So my advice to anyone who wanted to get into this line of work would be: Be able to take rejection--its par for the course. Be prepared to work extremely hard, with long hours, and a flexible schedule. You have to really have a passion for your job if you want to be successful. Don't get into writing if you want to be rich.

I have a passion and I don't do this for the money. I do it, because for me, there is no better job in the world.

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