Most writers start off naïve to the realities of publication. I suppose in some ways the ignorance is a good thing. If I’d known years ago what I know today, I don’t think I would have jumped in the publication waters with as much vigor or determination.
Writers need only start swimming to the opposite shore before we realize the distance is much longer and harder than we’d planned. Unforeseen obstacles get in the way and slow us down. Sometimes we get bit by the dangers lurking in the waters. Other times we get tired of paddling and want to give up. Maybe there are even moments when we feel like we’re drowning.
For the most part, I’m surrounded by other writers who understand the difficulty of the journey toward publication, who realize they won’t be on Paradise Island when they reach the coveted publication shoreline. Most of us who’ve been swimming toward publication long enough lose our false assumptions.
Yet, I’m learning that there are still plenty of people who think published authors live on Paradise Island. As I’ve rubbed shoulders with people at book signings, and the longer I wear my new published author suit, I’m realizing that THE MYTHS about published authors are very much alive and thriving. Here are just a few I’ve heard recently (And, yes, I really have heard each one of these):
“I suppose now you’ll be busy with all of your traveling.”
The Myth: Published authors travel across the country doing book signings, bookstores are eager and willing to host authors, and readers can’t wait to go out and meet them.
The Reality: Authors rarely travel anywhere except to the coffee pot and back to the laptop. The day and age of authors riding across the country for book signings is largely over. For the most part, book tours have been replaced by blog tours.
I’ve heard plenty of dismal book signing stories, where even more popular authors fail to entice busy, internet-oriented readers into the shop. My publisher has the philosophy that if book signings are something an author enjoys, then they’re willing to help with the promotion. But they don’t push signings because they’ve become unreliable in today’s busy society.
“With all the money you’re making, your husband can retire early.”
The Myth: Once your book hits shelves, you’ll be rolling in money. In fact you’ll be making so much money, all of your financial worries will be over forever.
The Reality: I wrote The Preacher’s Bride over three years ago. Since then, I’ve gotten one check—my advance which wouldn’t be nearly enough to feed and clothe a family of seven in a year’s time—not even close. If I spread the income over the three years I’ve worked on the book, then I’ve made only pennies per hour. When I explained that to my daughter she said, “Authors have to do a lot of work for nothing, don’t they?”
Granted, now that my book is on shelves, I hope eventually I’ll be able to earn enough to equalize some the work I put into the book. But there’s absolutely no guarantee. And before I can see my first royalty check, I’ll have to earn out my advance. So in reality, it will still be a while (possibly many more months) before I’ll see another check.
“Now that you’re an author you’ll probably move to the big city near other famous authors.”
The Myth: Being a published author brings us fame. We’ll become too popular for ordinary life and will need to move to places where we can rub shoulders with the rich and famous.
The Reality: Unless an author becomes a consistent New York Times bestselling author, there’s very little chance we’ll become a household name. There’s always the possibility we can become popular among the readers of our particular genre. They may send us fan mail from time to time. They may even tell us they’re anxiously awaiting our next book. But . . . most of the world is oblivious to all but the most noteworthy authors. The rest of us must learn to be content with obscurity.
“Oh, you mean you have to do other things besides the actual writing?”
Myth: The sole focus of our writing career is the book itself. We get many opportunities to take our lap tops to the beach or to the mountain cabin and type away at our stories for endless hours.
The Reality: Like any other job, a writing career has many various responsibilities. Sure, writing should remain the primary focus. But we’ll have increasingly more to do as we move closer to publication and beyond. We’ll need to respond to emails, write up interviews, network on Twitter and Facebook, craft blog posts, send out books to contest winners, work on intense edits on a second book, and eventually find time to start researching and writing a third book.
So what do you think? Have you ever heard any of these myths? Or have you ever believed one of them? Why do you think such stereotypes about published authors still exist?