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 Confessions of a semi-successful author

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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Wed May 14, 2008 3:06 pm

Most of the members here aspire to becoming full-time writers and imagine that fulfilling that dream will bring wealth and happiness. Maybe it will, but not for this author:

"Never an enthusiastic employee, I quit my job at age 35 to become a full-time writer, to live life on my own terms. After publishing four books -- each of them critically acclaimed, several of them award-winners, none of them big enough sellers to ensure my next book contract, let alone the lifetime of book contracts I crave -- I feel less in control of my finances, my schedule, my priorities and my well-being than I did when I had bosses and employees to answer to. "

Is this what you really want? Read this article and then decide for yourself:

http://dir.salon.com/story/books/feature/2004/03/22/midlist/index.html

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JoElle
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Wed May 14, 2008 4:36 pm

I suppose it depends on what we are looking to accomplish with our writing.

My goal is to write stories. I'm not seeking fame nor fortune.

And I love my 'day job' enough that I know I would actually miss it if I were to quit it to write full time.

The article is very helpful, in that it paints a realistic picture of what MOST writers will face upon gaining some success in writing.

And while many do aspire and have a dream, it is important to have realistic expectations.

I don't know, I think the longer we are at it, most of us know that most books on the shelves at the stores are by writers we don't know. Only a handful are 'big names'.

Thanks! It is a very good piece!
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Wed May 14, 2008 10:47 pm

Yes, a good article all the way through. I guess I had no delusions about fame and fortune. My thought in writing was to offer hope and perhaps encourage other women. I have already received enough feedback to know that I have accomplished what I set out to do. If it goes beyond that, will be happy, but for now I am satisfied. Perhaps I will aim higher with the next ones!!
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lin
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 12:31 am

I read that aritlce when in came out on Salon. Very interesting and good, gutsy piece.

And a good dose of reality for those who figure if they can just get a book done and it gets bought and published and well-reviewed and takes good sales life will open up and have meaning and treats.

Here is somebody all that happened to, and she didn't screw up, and the whole thing fell apart and she's less happy now than before her "success".

An interesting contrast would be Sue Sunshine's post on the fifth page of the "Plot of not to plot" thread.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 7:51 am

Forest Elf wrote:
I suppose it depends on what we are looking to accomplish with our writing.

My goal is to write stories. I'm not seeking fame nor fortune.

And I love my 'day job' enough that I know I would actually miss it if I were to quit it to write full time.

The article is very helpful, in that it paints a realistic picture of what MOST writers will face upon gaining some success in writing.

And while many do aspire and have a dream, it is important to have realistic expectations.

I don't know, I think the longer we are at it, most of us know that most books on the shelves at the stores are by writers we don't know. Only a handful are 'big names'.

Thanks! It is a very good piece!
I love it when I post information and someone interpets it exactly the way I did.

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P. Gordon Kennedy
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 8:41 am

Well, basicly I write my stories, because I like to write them. I love inventing fanciful new worlds....always have. I don't make fame the focus of my work, I realize the odds are heavily against being famous. Fame is not my goal, I'm not afraid of it, but it's not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to head through this journey we call life and enjoy the ride.
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 9:11 am

Shelagh wrote:
Is this what you really want? Read this article and then decide for yourself.

The short answer is "yes."

First, thanks for sharing the article. Depressing as it is, it's a wonderful read, almost refreshing because all of us know this is how it goes, but most people think one is being "overly negative" when they mention it.

Second, while I wouldn't trade my life as it is with anyone, it's fair to say that I would prefer to have had four books printed with the results the writer describes in the article than to have two POD books printed after years of fighting with editors and agents.

Third, like others here, I enjoy writing and write because I more have to. I'm as passionate about it as breathing.

Odd thing is this: The writers with clout aren't helping. We read the quotes about the "way it used to be" and "how hard it is to get in the door, especially now" and there never seems to be a writer's strike (figuratively speaking) to protest, to leverage proactive change.

What I want to see is this: A bestselling author telling his publisher and/or agent that if they don't start looking at unsolicited queries again, he or she is leaving. Then I want to see other bestselling authors joining in. How passionate we are about the business BEFORE we get one or both feet in the door, but once there, nobody wants to rock the boat and lose an income that exceeds that of my entire street. Heck, if I'd already made several million dollars or so in this business, I'd have enough to live on for the rest of my life even if I did tick off HarperCollins. I could afford to write the way I wanted and place my books with a small press who promised to give aspiring writers a real chance.

Malcolm
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zadaconnaway
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 10:06 am

Well said, Malcolm, but I doubt that will ever happen. Unless you make it big, that is! That would be refreshing, to say the least.
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 10:35 am

I just want to write. I believe that what I write will be placed in the hands of who needs it at the time. But you must remember, right now I am doing non-fiction. It may be different if I get involved with fiction. I look forward to the changes that will make in my life. NOT! *giggle*
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 15, 2008 1:49 pm

I had to quickly run off when I was writing the above post. I would like to add that it all depends on what we consider successful as to what someone else may consider successful. Also, I have discovered by reading this thread that it depends on the school of thought you have gone to that ends up deciding what is right or wrong in the writing and publishing business.

Like I said before, what I was taught about English, grammar, and punctuation is not the way I write. Does it make it wrong? In my foreword the lady said it was colloquial. I write the way I talk. Growing up that was a no-no in Journalism. It had to be a specific way. People actually love my book because it isn't the way I was taught to write. It is me, plain and simple. They say it feels like I am actually there talking to them. To me this is success! And to me this is the right way to write... for me!

I believe as writers we need to be true to us and what we are writing and to our readers. Not to those who set "standards." JMHO Thanks for reading and listening to me vent.

sunny
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Karina Kantas
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 2:58 am

I'd love to be a best selling author. Realistically that's not going to happen.

I'd love to have a literary agent. Realistically that's not going to happen either.

I write because I enjoy it. I get some much pleasure knowing people are reading my books.

I want the world to read my work. I don't expect to make much money from it. That's not why I'm doing it.

By the end of this summer I'm hoping to have made the 600 sales mark.
I'm turning In Times of Violence into a screen play ( very difficult) and I have a new release due out the end of this summer.

As long as my readers continue to love and praise my work, then I'm a happy lady.
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lin
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 8:28 am

Let me put another perspective on that, Karina.

OK, so you sell 600 books in 3 months. Unworthy of notice by the book world.

BUT, your publishing model allows you to pop out 2,3,4 books a year.

You are bound to start experiencing some snowball/crosslink/returnpurchase from that as it grows.

So if you have 5 books out in two years, and they are all performing at 1000 sales a year, that's 5,000 books.

During the time it would take for a book to hit the stores if you scored immediately with the traditional model.

Another 4 years and you easily be topping 20,000 in sales if things just go the way they are now.

My main interest in POD publishing is SPEED. Get the stuff out there and let the market make it's decisions rather than fool around with the process.

Good luck
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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 10:24 am

In most posts concerning writing, it is suggested that one does not give up their day job. That is good advice.
When I was an instructor for people seeking a business of their own where most could start it part-time, I gave the same advice. "Don't give up your present job until your part-time income exceeds your full-time income." Some ignored that advice saying that if they were to succeed they needed to give their new endeavor 100% of their time. They usually lost. Why? They were giving 100% of their time to something where they had little or no experience. They ignored the fact that 95% of all new businesses fail in their first year. There is a learning curve that not only applies to the business or product but also to the person doing it. Does she/he have what it takes to run a business?

I think there are similarities with writing and getting published. Keep learning, keep writing, keep seeking publication while at the same time retaining the means to eat - to survive. If nothing else, you will have a great hobby, learn much and meet lots of nice people like those on this forum.
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 10:32 am

Lin, I had never looked at it that way. You may have something there.

Just this morning I was thinking about the next book(s) and thinking that since I don't even have this one "out into the mass population" I shouldn't be thinking of the others. Your perspective allows me to do that.

Thank you for giving me another way to look at things.

sunny
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 10:52 am

Abe F. March wrote:
In most posts concerning writing, it is suggested that one does not give up their day job. That is good advice.
When I was an instructor for people seeking a business of their own where most could start it part-time, I gave the same advice. "Don't give up your present job until your part-time income exceeds your full-time income." Some ignored that advice saying that if they were to succeed they needed to give their new endeavor 100% of their time. They usually lost. Why? They were giving 100% of their time to something where they had little or no experience. They ignored the fact that 95% of all new businesses fail in their first year. There is a learning curve that not only applies to the business or product but also to the person doing it. Does she/he have what it takes to run a business?

I think there are similarities with writing and getting published. Keep learning, keep writing, keep seeking publication while at the same time retaining the means to eat - to survive. If nothing else, you will have a great hobby, learn much and meet lots of nice people like those on this forum.
I couldn't agree more Abe. Very sound advice. Unfortunately, not everyone will follow it and will end up losing.

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Jeffrey J. Mariotte
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 12:57 pm

lin wrote:
Let me put another perspective on that, Karina.

OK, so you sell 600 books in 3 months. Unworthy of notice by the book world.

BUT, your publishing model allows you to pop out 2,3,4 books a year.

You are bound to start experiencing some snowball/crosslink/returnpurchase from that as it grows.

So if you have 5 books out in two years, and they are all performing at 1000 sales a year, that's 5,000 books.

During the time it would take for a book to hit the stores if you scored immediately with the traditional model.

Another 4 years and you easily be topping 20,000 in sales if things just go the way they are now.

My main interest in POD publishing is SPEED. Get the stuff out there and let the market make it's decisions rather than fool around with the process.

Good luck

Although there's no reason that someone working through the traditional process can't also release several books a year. I've had 4-6 books a year published for each of the last 5 or 6 years. Yes, there's usually a delay of 9 months to a year between finishing the book and it turning up on store shelves--but that also allows time to promote the book, sell it into bookstores, etc. And I've been paid up front for each of those books, rather than paying something to have them published. Cashing those checks is the part of the traditional process I like best--but I'm also a fan of not having to be the guy who makes appointments with the big chain store buyers and the thousands of independent bookstores across the country, not having to make my own foreign rights deals, and so on.

I'm not rich, or especially famous--but I'm making a living (albeit a precarious freelance living), selling approx. 10,000-25,000 copies of each book. It's not a life for everyone, especially for those who panic when the check "in the mail" doesn't show up. But I like it.

There's a lot to be said for traditional publishing.

Jeff
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lin
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 16, 2008 1:14 pm

I did worse, I made writing my day job.

Looking back on it, I regard that as a mistake. I generally suggest to young writers that they seek out a means of boiling their pot that will leave them in physical comfort but not clutter up their creativity.
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Jeffrey J. Mariotte
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Mon May 19, 2008 2:58 pm

Writing is my day job, too, but I put it off until I was old enough to know that if I kept working for other people, I'd end up in jail for murder (or possibly murdered myself).
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 22, 2008 9:19 am

I like the speed lin, but I question the marketing plan. An unknown (in fiction) writing one book a year with minimal sales doesn't seem much better off to me than unknown cranking out multiple novels a year with minimal sales.

For one thing, the more novels one writes per year, the more time it takes away from other work that might be paying the bills. Needless to say even 10 novels a year at 600 sold per book isn't going to pay the bills.

Why not be patient, get an agent, and have a shot at one or more of those books actually a respectable number?

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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 22, 2008 9:23 am

Jeffrey J. Mariotte wrote:
Writing is my day job, too, but I put it off until I was old enough to know that if I kept working for other people, I'd end up in jail for murder (or possibly murdered myself).
Sounds like the title of a novel: Kill or be Killed.

Malcolm,

Check out what Marilyn Henderson says about making a living as a novelist:

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/novelist.shtml

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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 22, 2008 10:11 am

Decent article, Shelagh, though what she's not covering is the reality that many novelists will spend more time getting their books in the door at an agent's office than it took to write them.

Malcolm
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E. Don Harpe
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Thu May 22, 2008 11:10 am

"Why not be patient, get an agent, and have a shot at one or more of those books actually a respectable number?"

Not to be negative, and while this is a good plan, the fact is that a huge percentage of new and/or unpublished authors can't get an agent, and many don't have the time to be patient.

I agree it's the best way to go about getting your books published and earning a few dollars, but it's just not gonna happen for most new authors. Or for a lot of the people who didn't start seeking publishing until they were well into middle age, or, as in my case, creeping old age.

So, there is a question that is seldom answered. What do you guys suggest for those who try for ten or twenty years and never secure an agent or a publisher, or for those who didn't even start trying until they were past 60?
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Malcolm
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 23, 2008 9:28 am

Don,

Don, I'm in a dense frame of mind today, so I don't understand what you mean exactly by not having time to be patient.

If the author's intention is to get his or her message (story, facts, or whatever) out to as many people as possible and possibly make some money, being impatient and rushing out to Lulu isn't going to accomplish anything. Almost nobody's going to read the book.

So what has been accomplished by the rush to print? I know it's nice for stuff "to be out there" but, for me, selling 25 or 63 or 87 copies is pretty much the same as not being out there.

My 2.5 cents.

Malcolm


Last edited by Malcolm on Sat May 24, 2008 11:43 am; edited 3 times in total
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Sue
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 23, 2008 3:12 pm

I see both Don's and Malcolm's point of view.

I feel that I started this late in life, even though it has been with me all my life. I also see where less than 100 copies just doesn't seem like you "have arrived." I felt that way once. Until I got feedback on my book and realized that it was touching people and helping them make the changes in their lives they want to make. So to me it doesn't matter how many copies I sell. If it touches one life, one soul, then all the hardwork and money was worth it. But then again, I am writing non-fiction. I am sure that thought may change when I am ready to publish my fiction.

It's all in the perception of the author and his/her goals.
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PostSubject: Re: Confessions of a semi-successful author   Fri May 23, 2008 8:16 pm

Malcom, for the countless authors out there who will never be able to secure the services of an agent, and the fact is that this applies to the majority of the people who write books, especially first time authors, being patient only means that they may wait forever on something that just isn't going to happen. How long do you suggest they wait? What do you say to those who have tried for 10 or 15 or 20 years and haven't made it yet? Telling them to be patient just doesn't make any sense, at least not to me. And how about those who didn't even write anything until they were retired? Do you tell them to be patient, even if it takes 20 years, knowing that a lot of them won't even live that long?

Being patient is more a young mans game, or at least it is best applied to those who exhibit some amount of exceptional talent. And I'm not talking about reviews of famliy and friends, or even from kindred souls on message boards. I'm talking about someone who has written something that might actually have a chance of getting noticed by an agent or a publisher, and we all know that not everyone fits into that category.

I've often wondered what all of those who don't like vainity publishing, or Lulu type companies, or PA or others such as that want people to do. There are a lot of people who will never be published unless they choose one of those routes, and that isn't a guess, it's a fact. So what do you tell them? Do you think they should be patient and pursue an agent? Do they keep their books on their desk forever if they don't find someone who will publish them? I'm really curious. I know that a lot of people think that if one isn't published by the traditional route they should just work harder and keep trying, but it seems to me as if they really don't think these people should do anything at all with their books if they don't find that magic deal. What do you tell these people to do? Do you think they deserve to publish their own books, even if they only sell 25 or 63 or 87 copies? What exactly do you think these folks should do?

I think that at some point in time you yourself may have to make a decision. What will you do if in 10 or 15 years of being patient you still haven't found an agent or gotten a book published? Will you just toss everything you've worked on in the trash? Apparently if no one will publish it, that's all it's worth. Or will you decide to do it yourself?

It's easy for established writers to tell all of the new authors out there to be patient and to keep working, but with the exception of Jeff, I don't know that there are any truly established authors here. At least not that make their entire living by writing fiction. There may be some that write for hire, but that's kind of a different thing. If writing is your job, and if you write what someone else tells you, such as technical papers or newspaper columns, then you are making a living writing, but we all know it isn't the same thing. So, most of us will never actually get an agent, and most of us will never actually be published by a major publisher, so what are we to do?

I'm not being negative, I'm simply asking what people are supposed to do when it becomes apparent that the traditionaly route isn't going to work for them. For either the lact of talent or time.
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