February 10th, 2021

Gutenberg

Don't give up, writers!...But don't expect fame either.

On Twitter recently there was a hashtag that got going in which successful authors encouraged struggling writers to keep at it, because it took them (the successful ones) X number of years and manuscripts and rejections before they Hit It Big. And now they’re on bestseller lists! And have Netflix deals! And fan art! So don’t give up!

Normally you can count on me to be the encouraging optimist too. But in this case I feel the kinder thing to do, in the long run, is to deliver an opposing viewpoint consisting mainly of, well, I won’t say “pessimism,” but more like realistically tempered expectations.

I’ve been writing books since I was 12. (I’m now 45.) Counting just the published ones, I’ve had 12 novels or novellas published, with two excellent small presses. I have never hit a bestseller list. I have never been offered a screen adaptation deal. I am not getting fan art or fan fiction, and hardly ever fan mail. I’ve never in all these years had a royalty check big enough to cover more than one month of the mortgage. (And keep in mind royalties are paid once every three months.)

I’m now taking work as an editor/proofreader, not only because I like the work (which luckily I do), but because writing is clearly not going to bring in enough money for me to stick exclusively to that as my career. 33 years of fiction-writing experience and 12 published books is evidently not enough for me to Hit It Big, and I’ve given up on expecting it ever will.

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