Monday, October 10, 2011

Monetary Monday & the Indie Author

What Writer's Risk


"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."– T.S. Eliot

Every writer risks something when writing anything. Time is the biggest since writing a book either nonfiction or fiction is a publishing gamble. A writer can spend hours, days, weeks, months and some even years writing. The gamble is whether an agent or publisher will accept it or not and whether or not the reader will buy it. It's like jumping off a cliff with an air foil. You will either catch the upward flow of air or spin down to a horrible death.

I've never met a good writer who didn't believe in what he was doing and put his whole heart into it. Notice I said good writer. Bad writers are in it for the money and rarely see any. Who wants to read a bad writer...come on now, raise you hands. Ah ha, just what I thought. Nobody. I have critiqued quite a few budding writers whose project needed serious work and thought, but that's not necessarily bad, if they are willing to risk the hard work it takes to make it better. There is a wide gulf between good and bad. There are some writers who straddle the chasm.

This is the second risk...hard work. Writing never comes easily. It takes a concentrated effort of the part of the writer. You take a seed of an idea, expand it, make it creditable...you make it creditable because readers are not naive, they question everything. Don't believe for a second that a writer can make something up to fill in the gaps with erroneous information. I guarantee there is at least one reader out there who will call him on it. It's a difficult task to make sure continuity remains throughout the 100-400 pages of a novel or nonfiction. Just make one slip up by saying your character's eyes are blue when you previously said they were brown and watch the emails and letters fly in. Nitpicking you say, but the reader is particular and can make or break a budding novelist. No sales, high returns and the writer becomes a possible one-hit-wonder.

Another risk, I do quite frequently is change genres. As a novelist or nonfiction writer you decide you want to write about something else and watch your sales drop. I remember when Tony Hillerman changed from writing his Indian-detective type novels to one about Vietnam a few years ago and kept the same name on both genres. It was a disaster...sales plummeted and the book ended up on the sales table at a highly reduced price. Although I take the risk and write several genres, I use pseudonyms for each change. Although I run the risk of being a "new author," readers and lovers of my espionage stories are not disappointed when I change to nonfiction in a totally different area, or southern fiction. The copyright is still listed under my real name, but not too many people read copyright information in the front of the book. All they really care about is reading a good story and that's what I give them. It's a tightrope at best.

Still for other writers there is a financial risk involved. The simple fact is the chances of becoming traditionally published are small. Too many authors and too few printed books. It's a buyers marketplace. Investments in writing can be as small as the purchase of some writing books, paper, envelopes and stamps, and some investments are quite higher. Unpublished writers spend their days creating text in the hopes of being published forsaking standard paying jobs to fulfill their dreams. Others invest hard earned greenbacks in book doctors and scams to still seek their vision of seeing their work in print. With the advent of Print on Demand (POD) publishers, many writers who have received enough rejections letters to wall paper a living room, find their dreams realized at a cost.With e-publishing there is little up front cash, but the hours spent drawing attention to your work is costly.

Times have changed in the publishing world. An old dinosaur like me remembers a time when editors really edited books. Books were written on typewriter with carbon paper. Publishing houses were small and plentiful instead of the huge conglomerates they are now with all the mergers. You could even approach publishers without an agent and if you felt you needed one, the publisher would pick up the telephone and recommend one to you. Now, the writer is stymied by "don't call us, we'll call you." Even literary agents want referrals from other published writers, and a long list of credential. They want to reduce their risks which is understandable...but difficult for the writer who waits and wades through the mire of rejection and indecision. So the current trend of e-publishing has blossomed. While there is a lot of trash out there to be had, there are some really precious gems out there in cyberspace.

So is it ultimately worth the risks to become a writer?  To me, yes. There is no greater fulfillment for a writer than to see what you wrote in print. What's even better is to hear from a reader they enjoyed your novel. Whether you start out small with letters to the editor of your local paper. Catch an updraft into blog writing and soar into being published. There is no greater thrill than seeing what you can accomplish in writing. The sky is the limit and although there may be a downdraft or two, continue to take the risk to achieve new heights. A risk not taking is filed away and sometime in the future can become a regret. Me, I want no regrets so I stretch farther across the abyss. Soar high, my friends and ...
Keep writing and loving the Lord.

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