What I wish I’d known back then…
When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I had visions of myself at a big desk, typing away on my Mac and making magic. I’d tell my stories and send them out into the world and then get started on the next one. Write, publish, repeat.
I never thought I would stray from the traditional publishing path. I never thought I would need to know about audiobook contracts, translations, or marketing. I certainly hadn’t anticipated how fast the publishing world would change or the directions it would go. Most importantly, I had no clue that committing to being a working writer meant I’d have to do an awful lot of tasks that had little to do with writing.
For example, I recently ventured into the translations market. I first had to decide whether I wanted to hire a translator myself and then market the final product once it was complete or seek to work with a foreign publisher.
I chose the latter because I don’t have the time or energy to spend finding reputable translators, hiring an editor in that language, picking cover art that will resonate with a foreign audience, and then do all the marketing myself in a language I don’t speak. That’s a big nope.
After making the decision that I wanted to sign with foreign publishers, I did my research. I found a French, German, and Italian publisher that all had strong reputations in my genre. I queried each one to see if they’d be interested and was fortunate that all three wanted to work with me. Even though successful, the research, cover letter, and contract negotiation took a lot of time. Time that I wanted to be writing.
Incidentally, I’m proud to say that my first German translation of By Fairy Means or Foul released well. I’m still waiting on the French and Italian translations, but they should be out in the near future. It was time well spent, even if I wasn’t actually writing.
When I wanted to put one of my books on audio, I reached out to a narrator whom I wanted to work with. Again, I was fortunate, and we soon made arrangements. Those arrangements took time, but I now have two audiobooks with this narrator, and they sell more than my e-books and paper copies combined. Audiobooks turned out to be a great investment, but it was more time away from my stories.
The time sucks are endless; I never expected to do regular Facebook author takeovers (where you go to another author’s fan group and usually give away a book or two), maintain two websites, go on blog tours with each book/audiobook release, interact in author marketing groups, blurb other authors’ books, publish a monthly newsletter, work with graphic artists to produce swag for conferences (and soon merchandise for my series!), or maintain such an active and engaged social media presence.
The list goes on. These activities have helped me continue to write, while each taking more time away from my actual writing.
So, what did I know when I started writing?
I knew that making a living as a writer would be very difficult. Writing’s a tough gig. It isn’t a get-rich-quick career for 99 percent of us. In fact, many writers barely break even. A sizable amount make below the poverty line each year. “Don’t quit your day job,” is sage advice for the majority of us.
But for those of us who love to tell stories, who feel the need to put pen to paper and want to make a living at it, we have to wear many hats. We can’t afford to ignore opportunities to increase our reader base. We need to find as many ways as possible to get our books in the hands of readers and to make them want more.
I know many writers who balk at the idea of turning their “art” into a “product,” and I get it. I really do. I chafe at the mention of marketing. I want to be at my keyboard, simply telling my stories.
I also want to continue to be able to do so, and whether I like it or not, that means learning how to do things I don’t like as much. I wish my now-self could have prepared my then-self for this reality. It’s not what I expected it to be.
And, yet, I have no regrets. All the extras are a small price to pay for getting to do what I love.