I read an article by Anne R. Allen, who I’d like to make clear I really like and has a great blog, but I apparently don’t always agree with her. That’s a bit of a joke, because that post is really well done, I just don’t agree with a few of her definitions. My disagreement then got me to thinking about how I define myself as an author. A lot of her definitions don’t apply to me, which isn’t the problem I had and I’ll get to that in a minute, I just don’t agree with every point. Some, like not publishing your beginning stuff, fly in the face of the advice others I’ve followed these past couple of years have given.
Of course, what the hell do I know, I’m not a professional author. That’s really what I wanted to talk about, because the more I thought about it the more I realized it was true. Not only is that alright (and Allen makes that point herself), I think it’s also a position many people find themselves in. I’m not being a smartass either, I’m still dipping my toes into indie publishing, still learning all its ins and outs (like everyone else) and still growing as an author.
Does that make it a hobby? Does that make me an amateur? I don’t think so, at least not on the amateur part. I am, by and far, not in the caliber of those that I follow, I don’t have the books, the sales, or the presentation, but I’ve done what many fail to and can actually pay a bill or two with the proceeds. Furthermore, I’m improving. My editing, my presentation, my platform, my writing, I am improving it all. I have projects planned, which are actually being worked on instead of talked about, and am building a business. I account for my expenses, reinvest my profits, and am continuing to create a product line.
Just very slowly.
To really get the impact of that word, drag it out like it was in slow motion. Slooooooooowwwwwwwllllyyy……….
You get the idea.
I’m a moonlighter, a lot of times pretty literally. My business, my writing, anything that is this vein of thinking, gets taken care of in the off hours. I could be doing a whole hell of a lot more, sure, and the discipline required to become a full time writer is something I’m honing. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be churning out words. Honestly, DITF (that’s the working title on the second book) should have been done right after Sorcerer Rising, at the very least the end of the year, and I should have written many short stories, blog posts, novellas, and been working on the third Virgil McDane novel. There’s no excuse for this.
But it doesn’t usually happen like that. I let this or that get in the way, or I have a genuine need to spend time with my family (who are just as busy as I am) or take care of work, school, etc. I might be off the mark, but I think that’s a position most people find themselves in. Most everyone who wants to write has to be willing to do it for very little money, at least at first, and may very well never, ever get to the point where they can live off that income. Many people find themselves in a position where they think they either have to throw the dice and gamble it all or not do even attempt it. Neither is true, depending on what you want it to be and how fast you want to get there. Write when you can, hone your skills, pay for what you can, and publish it. Build a side business and use each success to continue its growth. Build on it until it becomes the biggest part of your life.
I’m not going to quit my day job, possibly not ever. I enjoy that work and it takes care of my family. It is the bedrock on which our revenue is based. The hours in between are all I have to work with, and honestly, they’re a lot more than I think they are. You can get a lot done in an hour or two a day, a lot more than I do. Anne R. Allen makes a great point, citing Hugh Howey who said it first:
“Of…hobbyist writers, thousands now make a full-time living from their work. Thousands more pay a huge chunk of their bills from their hobby. These are part time artists who have thousands of fans and hear from readers all over the world. Some of them go on to get offers from agents and publishers and score major deals. All because they are doing something they love.”
“There are tens of thousands of authors out there now making $20 or $100 a month doing what they would happily do for nothing.”
And I’m making more than that second part. You can to, even if it is a hobby. Maybe not if you’re an amateur (which really just means you do it for free) and have an amateur approach but definitely if you’re a rookie. I’m a rookie. I haven’t mastered anything, not my writing, the business, or my presentation. Maybe I’m not a professional because it’s still a small part of my life, but I will approach it in a professional manner until I can claim that.
Everyone has to start somewhere. You’re an amateur until you’re getting paid, a hobbyist until your take it seriously and treat it like a business, and a rookie until you’ve done it long enough to have credibility.