We’ve all been asked the $50,000 dollar question: Why do you write? Do you write for success? For the fame and fortune? Do you have a story that must come out no matter what? We all write for a reason, the reason that keeps us coming back to the laptop again and again.
But the fact is, after the writing is done, what can, what WILL, writing give us?
There are different kinds of writing, and each medium gives us different things:
- Blogging. Blogging gives us a place to vent, a place for our voice to be heard. Blogging lets us share information, be an authority. (That’s where the word AUTHOR comes from, don’tcha know?) But blogging can only give you those things if you have an audience. Also known as, a reader who will read your blog post, maybe share it, maybe leave a comment. Your voice can only be heard if someone is listening. Will the blogger make a sound if no one is around to hear it? Yeah, and her voice sounds like this:
You have to have good content, consistently, to find an audience who will enjoy your posts and keep coming back to you. And that’s difficult. I’ve blogged for the past few years, and finding consistent things I like to blog about and that I think others would enjoy hearing about, is downright hard. I’m not complaining, I love blogging. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I put a lot of my heart, soul, and time into my website, and I blog to keep it current. That’s something I get out of blogging. Good SEO. Everyone once in a while someone will tell me they learned something on my blog. That’s great, too. But I understand when bloggers give up, because the time it takes, money (let’s get rid of that pesky .wordpress.com at the end of our domain addresses, okay?) and the pounding our heads into the walls to come up with ideas. Well. There’s not a lot of return on investment there, is there?
- Other social media. You’re writing when you post a picture on Instagram and tell your audience the story behind it. You’re writing when you update your Facebook Author page. You’re writing when you tweet. What kind of payback is there from spending time on social media? There is some. You find camaraderie, you find support. You can find people who will help you publish, both indie and traditionally. You network. You support the “big guys” by buying their books and promoting them. But besides being involved on social media for all those things, you hope one day you meet the right person who can introduce you to the next right person (hello agent!), you tweet something that goes viral, and that maybe, because you cultivated a social media following, you might sell some books. But realistically, the “might” is pretty big. Skyscraper big. Authors learn early on that joining social media and screaming
will annoy everyone very quickly, and eventually get you muted or blocked. Which, by the way, is the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. Just a little FYI in case you’re doing it wrong. Stop it!
- Writing books. If you ask any writer, they’ll tell you that they would still write even if no one were to ever read anything they’ve ever written ever again. And I believe that because there is something that keeps us writing. The innate human need to tell stories and to listen to stories. It’s how we learn, it’s how our cultures are passed down from generation to generation. Someone may not read our stories now, but maybe in 50 years? 60? You never know! Storytelling is in our blood. There is satisfaction in storytelling. There is happiness in typing THE END to a book or a short story or a novella. There is joy in it.
But anyone who has ever published a book to crickets will tell you that sometimes you better be happy with self-satisfaction because that’s all you’re going to get. I was reading my friend Dave’s blog post right before I wrote this, and he gave me the idea for this post. He went through a lot with his release. A lot of anxiety and lot of pushing through panic publishing his book. And I wonder, if you asked him, if he knew what the outcome would be, if he knew that after all he went through publishing his book, if he would do it again.
Was the payoff big enough?
What was the payoff? That’s different for different people. Maybe it’s simply holding it in your hand. Maybe it’s seeing it “out in the wild” when your friends and family buy it to show their support. Maybe it’s that first review. Maybe it’s that first review by someone you don’t know.
But this is what this whole post is about–this is what it took 791 words to say. Those small things, they better the hell get you through, because in this day of self-publishing, in this day when 50,000 new books are published on Amazon every month, THAT’S ALL YOU’RE GOING TO GET.
You might not believe me when I tell you this isn’t a bitter post. You probably won’t after all the whining I’ve done about sales these past few months, and the huffing and puffing I’ve done about Amazon and KU. Those days are gone because I’ve made some decisions that feel right, and come hell or high water, I’m going to stick with the choices I’ve made. (My publishing career isn’t a ball in a pinball machine–I need to stay steady to gain ANY traction.)
This isn’t a bitter post, but it is realistic. You’re not going to set the world on fire when you hit publish. Anywhere. Not on FB when you publish an updated author post, not in a Tweet, though you may get a few hundred likes, and good on you if you can. You’re not going to change the world with a blog post. Someone did that already, back in 2011.
This is a new age of publishing, and you HAVE TO find little things you love about it to keep going, or you might as well quit. You’re not going to strike it rich with a book, or two, or even six, as I can tell you. 50 might be the new 30, but it used to be you could make okay money if you had 6-10 books out, and you can’t do that anymore. Indies making any kind of money have 10+ books out. Sure there are outliers, like Jami Albright, but for us little people who don’t have the means to go to an RWA conference and rub elbows with big authors who will put us in their newsletter, success is going to come much slower. We’re talking years. And the slower you write, well . . . you don’t need me to do that math.
So the question of this blog post wasn’t what do you get out of writing? It was, what does writing and publishing give you?
Besides bills from hiring editors and formatters and graphic designers to do your book covers, what DOES writing give you, and is it enough to keep you going until it finally gives you what you want?
And what is it you want?
Fame and fortune, of course. Fame and fortune.