Joe Konrath wrote a post about quitting in your writing career, and takes an interesting approach to it. Basically, he says if you’re not willing to do what you have to, to give it your all, and it’s not the most important thing to you, than you might as well save yourself the trouble of the torment and quit.
Now, that’s a bit harsh and it’s a paraphrase, so please don’t think he’s pushing people away from writing. Konrath is the Pope of self publishing and has been more supportive of new authors than just about anyone else I’ve read. And 99.9% of the time I agree with what he says. The tone behind his post really is more of a, “this is a rough industry, only do it if you really want to,” message. In fact, I agree with 99.9% of the post, it’s just that .01% I want to discuss.
On August 12th of this year, I became an author. I considered myself an author at that point because someone who wasn’t related to me had purchased, paid actual currency, for a piece of work I had written. That was an epic moment for me and since then I have sold over two hundred books. Chump change, I know, but more than I thought I’d ever earn as an author and enough to start having an impact in my life. More importantly, there are a potential two-hundred people reading Sorcerer Rising.
If this is all I ever achieve, if a few handful of people buy my book(s) each week…well, that will drive me insane. I wanted to say I’d be good with that but there will never be an amount of sales I’ll be happy with. If I sell a million books tomorrow I will be disappointed if I only sell 900,000 that day after.
But I would still be writing and I’m not quitting my day job over this. My fear with Mr. Konrath’s post is that people will think that because they have a day job or a family or other responsibilities than they will not be able to make it as a writer because they don’t have what it takes.
That’s not true and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. What I took away from his post was this, as long as you continue producing good work, that work will attract people to it. He goes into a lot of other things, visiting bookstores and traveling the country in particular, and that’s the thing other people won’t be able to do, myself included.
If that makes me a hobby writer, so be it. I am the sole income for my family. I don’t believe that if you want to be an artist than you should devote everything you have toward that goal. I’m not knocking anyone who has done so, everyone’s situation is different, I’m just standing up for those that can’t and don’t, who haven’t taken that plunge. Everyone has different responsibilities and one of the fantastic things about self-publishing to me is that it has given people the ability to write and publish their work without putting themselves in risk. It is fantastic that mid list writers are earning a living or that more established authors are able to publish their back list and earn more, but I think it is also fantastic that you don’t have to throw everything into that career path and hope that it takes off. You don’t have to keep the buzz alive twenty-four hours a day in the fear that your publisher will drop you the moment sales drop.
I will never put my home, my wife, or my son into the cross hairs of an unreliable paycheck. Not gonna happen. Even when my family’s situation changes, when my wife begins her new career or my son moves out of the house, I will more than likely have a day job. It will be the bedrock that are finances are based on and anything else will be for everything else we want in our life. Odds are I will never make a living at this, and even if I did, I would still continue my career for the company I enjoy working for.
So I’m not quitting. I have an idea of what type of success I want and that is and will always be tempered by the other responsibilities in my life. There is no reason they be mutually exclusive.