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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Madness of The DIY Writer

There has never been a more exciting time to be a fiction writer.  And while writers from different eras may disagree with me, I think this is also the most headache-inducing time for writers.

Assuming you've made the first choice, ie. whether you write as a hobby or write for the ultimate goal of publication, then you must decide if you desire to be traditionally published or publish your own work (I prefer to use the term indie publish, as too many people are still stuck on old "self publishing" stigmas).  There's no right or wrong answer, it's your choice as an author.

While I am not at all opposed to traditional publishing, I lean more and more every day toward the indie route (my reasoning is that there isn't a whole lot of difference between the amount of work an author has to do whether traditionally or self-published, so if I'm going to put in the work, I might as well be my own gatekeeper).

But let's talk about that work business.  And I do mean WORK.  Here's just a sample of what you can expect to have to pour into the process:

-  Research the novel.  Yes, even contemporaries require some research.  And research could take months or years and is a blog post all on its own.)
-  Write the novel
-  Re-write the novel (you may have to do this one to even a dozen times depending on your writing style and your skills and abilities)
-  Hire an editor to go over your book (you don't want to sling sloppy garbage up for sale--it will haunt you for a long time to come).
-  Cover design
-  E-book conversion (assuming you are not just doing print)
-  Website design
- Media outlets
- Marketing (the big evil "M" word)
- And oh yeah--write MORE books and start this process over again.

Can you see why it's enough to give you a headache?  And there's one added component I didn't mention above.  The majority of writers have to do all this IN ADDITION TO their day job.

So for the writer who desires to indie publish, the main issues are how to manage your time and resources.  Obviously the ideal is to hire someone to do all the extraneous stuff so that you can concentrate on your writing.  But ideal is often NOT reality.

I'm a secretary by day. Secretaries make survival money and that's it.  You know--cover the rent, car payment, electric, groceries sort of money.  They do not earn thousands of extra dollars to hire graphic artists, web designers, publicists, and so on.

Why do I tell you this?  Because my goal these last four years at Arizona Inspiration has been to share the writer's journey from one traveller's perspective. I tell you this because there are a lot of people who sit back and think "I'd like to write a book someday."  But those who do actively pursue that goal know there's a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, and a lot of cost to chasing the dream.  People who haven't begun their writing journey have a lot of misconceptions--and idealized notions--about the writers life. It is not glamorous, we don't turn in a book, get it published, and sit back and rake in our millions.

Instead, each writer represents one guppy in an ocean with a bazillion fish, swimming toward publication, recognition, and hopefully, a modest extra income.

In order to accomplish that, you've got to want it.  And want it bad.

I'm at the point in my writing journey where I have to make some decisions.  I have to look at my time and my money and decide which services I will hire, and which I will provide for myself.  On the next post, I'll talk more about my decision on that journey, and the side road it is causing me to travel.

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