Tuesday, 19 January 2010

What they don't tell you- about being an author

I know there are so many people out there who dream of getting published but sometimes I think it might be a little like getting married.

All that time, money and effort that goes into planning the wedding day and it seems that a lot of young brides don't seem to think past the big day- to all the days weeks and years beyond that. They are more important than a single day, if it is going to last.

The reality is probably not exactly what anyone expects and there will be times when it lives up to and even exceeds expectations. But as our expectations are often the result of dreams, where everything is so perfect, perhaps it is not surprising that the reality is not always quite so perfect- sometimes better and sometimes not.

I am not saying that being a published author isn't wonderful at times and I wouldn't wish to be anything else, but no one tells you about all the other things.
Those things that don't really involve living in the wonderful world you created, populated by characters you have dreamed up, where you have some control.

Granted, your characters, if you have given them enough complexity to live and breathe like real people, will not always do exactly what you had planned. Sometimes they are horrible and they will act true to themselves - which is where the writer is not totally in control, but that can be quite exciting, too.

So what are these other things no one told you about?
Some of them are things like...

  • answering requests to go and speak or present in schools
  • working out how to cost these out and finalising details
  • working out how to get to places where you have been invited to speak
  • All the background paperwork associated with being self employed such as keeping accounts, tax etc.
  • reading over contracts with publishers, agents etc etc Even if you have an agent you should never sign anything without reading it first and asking questions, everyone makes mistakes
  • finding out about PLR (Public Lending Right) and ALCS
  • joining societies and writing associations (These can a good idea for advice and so that you can keep in touch with the writing world)

And then you need to think about publicity. Do you have a website? Can you keep it up to date? What about a blog, facebook, Twitter? Some of the above are essential parts of the job and others are necessary for your sanity - because writing is basically a solitary task.

In the end all these things can keep you from that one thing you got into this to do - and that is WRITE!

At the moment I am trying to avoid getting my head about the complexity of the Google Settlement and whether to opt in or opt out. But I am concerned that this will be just another displacement activity....

If you are published I wonder what keeps you from writing? What did you not expect?

If you are not published is any of this even on your radar?


  1. There should be a handbook...

    The main thing to remember is the story of the seven fat cows and seven thin cows from Pharaoh's dream. Some years you may feel quite rich but do not be deceived! You'll need to ration this income to get through the famine.

    Congratulations on your new blog! The (thin and hungry) unicorn salutes you.

  2. Yes, many congratulations on the new blog. And toooooo right - it seems far too long since I had the opportunity to simply shut the door, sit down and WRITE!

  3. Katherine R, A good point nothing is as unreliable as a writer's income! Hello to the unicorn, I am still looking for my muse, I am sure he's hiding here somewhere!

    Katherine L, Me too, The thing that helped me most last year was the spring challenge with some of thee other scattered authors - 28,000 words in three weeks. Maybe we need to try that again.

  4. ALL of this keeps me from writing. And most of all, the fear of how on earth I'm going to keep my head above water financially and pay the bills! Even though I'm published and not selling badly, I still earn far less than the minimum wage. I feel as if I should be focusing on doing anything that'll earn me money - teaching writing, getting school visits - and of course, just sitting down and writing a book does not bring income in the short-term, maybe not even in the long-term. It's hard to disappear into the world of imagination when you're wondering if there'll be enough money in your account to pay the council tax.

  5. Even with all these perfectly valid reasons to stop writing, we keep on.
    I think we write because we are writers and that is what we do, because we love it - but definitely NOT for the money!