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September 7, 2012

or "How Being an Author is Like Being Unemployed, and What You Can do to Deal with the Stress"


That was the original title for this blog post, but that is a bit wordy, isn't it? This blog post is inspired by the fact that my business account is dwindling, delays on Hunters publishing are stressing me out, my husband is under-employed and for all intents and purposes, I am technically unemployed. Given today's market climate, even the non-writers out there can understand that stress. 


What matters is what can I (or if this relates to you, what YOU) can do about it?


Most writers have a full-time job while they struggle at the beginning to "make it". The reality is that money is a necessity in this world we live in. We need food, clothes, a roof over our head. Many writers work a full-time job and then put in 20 hours a week to their craft. Just like any good entrepreneur we are putting in long hours with no immediate benefit.


Yet, with the economy as it is, many who always wanted to be writers have turned full-time to this pursuit because we thought it would be less depressing than the constant rejection of all those applications. In some ways it is. We are actively pursuing something we love. We are constantly learning. We are developing skills. We aren't just pushing applications around the internet hoping something will give.


BUT (I hate that word!) in a lot of ways being a writer is like being unemployed. There is no one there to make you put in job applications, and there is no one there to make you sit down and write. You can send out application after application and never hear back why you were not accepted for the jobs. Writers live on rejection letters that are as pro-forma as the rejection notices the unemployed receive. Those who have been unemployed for months get desperate and apply for any job, not just ones they are qualified for. Authors who keep getting rejected may settle for lower quality agents/ publishers, or worse pay what little money they have to a vanity press in hopes of providing the basic needs for their loved ones and themselves.


Some who have been unemployed may track back to that good old American trait of ingenuity and create a start-up business. Everything from handyman services, to tutoring. It is no different with writers, we turn to self-publishing. In modern America it has never been easier to self-publish. And as any other entrepreneur, when writers turn to self-publishing they find themselves doing more than they ever expected. It is overwhelming.


As bills come due, and money isn't coming in, the entrepreneur may find themselves tempted to cut corners. Writers have to publish to make money. It is tempting to put out as much work as you can, without taking the time to make sure it is quality work, in hopes of making money now. I know. I am feeling that pressure intensely.


But like any good business person, you must remember that quality is more important than quantity. Take on those extra hats. Sure, if you can send your book out to a professional editor, you should. But when you only have $60 in your business account, find a creative way to get it edited. Writer's groups help a lot. Friends and family will often be happy to do so. English teachers are great. Just know that it will take time. Send it to more than one person. I have yet to have a single person who offered to edit get all the way through the book. Learn from what they send you and fix the rest yourself.


Book covers are hugely important. Many people stop to look at your book solely on the look of your cover (especially if you are new in the business and don't have a name out there). Putting the bare minimum cover together is not an option. Talk to friends and family who are artistically inclined. Check out DeviantArt, and ask people whose artwork you like if they would be willing to do it for a % of sales. If all else fails, do it yourself. It takes time. It is hard, but make sure you make the best cover you can. Don't slap something together and say "Meh, good enough."



Marketing, especially on little or no budget, is tough. It takes a lot of time and energy. But without marketing, you are just another author out there with no audience. Marketing is much like pushing a really big boulder up a hill. You will backslide, it will get heavier and harder the closer to the top that you get. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, you will be running to keep up!


Most importantly, keep at it. Step-by-step, you will be closer today than you were yesterday. Eventually you will get there. Take your time and produce quality work. You will build a following. You will make something that you can be proud of. You will get the work out there. Then one day, if you work really hard and make sure that the product is the best that you can make it; perhaps you too can become the next John Locke, Amanda Hocking, and J.A. Konrath!


As always until next time,


Keep Writing!


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