Writing is hard. What? You don’t believe me? Try starting a book. Then try finishing it. Then try sending it out to a publisher. Then try getting a rejection or five. Then try writing another one and repeating the process. Then try finally getting accepted. Then try editing the crap out of as per your editor’s advice. Then try not to bite your nails off when it’s released into the world. Then try not to let it hurt you when you receive your first one star review. Then try not to notice that horrible feeling when NO ONE buys your book and your sales tank. Then try writing another book…
Yes. Writing is damn hard. It’s not for sissies or time wasters. Or people who are in it ‘for the money’. Because dudes? If you’re after the get rich quick, step away from the keyboard now because unless you’re unbelievably lucky, it’s not going to happen.
So what do you need to not only publish a book and make a career out of it? Not creativity. Not genius. Not skill. Talent helps but there are as many talentless writers out there as there are skilled, and both do perfectly well (ahem). I’m not even talking about huge success as there’s so much luck involved.
What I’m talking about is making sure you have the kind of career that you want and that satisfies you. So here are five hard-earned, tough-love recommendations from yours truly:
- LOVE what you write. I mean this. If you do not love writing, if you do not love the type of book you’re writing, it will NOT work. Because getting something accepted is not the end of the line. You have to do it again. And again. And again. And without loving what you do, the crap parts of this job will defeat you. And I know this because I lost the joy once before and it was awful. Never, ever lose sight of why you wanted to be a writer in the first place – because you effing love writing.
- Sheer bloody determination and perseverance. They’ll get you through rejections, criticisms, writer’s block, deadlines and all sorts of other crap. They’ll pick you up when your publisher drops you or your book doesn’t sell. Or the critics cut you up into tiny little pieces and everyone hates you. Or your friend gets a massive advance and you don’t. Or your friend gets picked up by your dream publisher and you don’t. Determination and perseverance will get you published. They will help you stay published. Never let the bastards get you down.
- Manage your expectations. Firstly understand that sales take YEARS to build (unless you have extraordinary good luck or are EL James). You’re not going to be able to quit your day job anytime soon. Secondly, as hard as it is to believe, amazing writing does NOT equal sales. Thirdly, publishers do NOT promote everyone equally. In fact you’re damn lucky if they promote you at all these days. Self-promotion is a fact of life and whether you’re Big Six, e-pubbed, or Indie, you will most likely have to do your own.
- Know why you’re doing this. To help manage number 3, ask yourself what it is you want from publishing. Are you just happy to have some kind of audience for your work? Or do you want to make a living from it? Do you want more than just a living? Do you want to build a long term career? Realize that this will take time and you have to be flexible. Try any and all opportunities that come your way, even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone. Be open to change.
- Hard work. You think writing one book will set you up for life? That two will? Sure, you can do that and hey, Harper Lee only wrote one and she was happy. But if you want more, you’ll have to write more. So learn your craft (you don’t need craft to get published but you sure as hell do if you want to stay published) and most of all, write lots of books.
Now go forth and write your little socks off.