When asked as a little amoeba Hillary what I wanted to be when I grew up, I think I’ve always said a writer. There were phases of veterinarian (but mom pointed out I’d have to put cute fuzzy animals to sleep and that depressed the crap out of me), doctor (way too much school involved and I didn’t want to give a six-year-old goblin a shot) and coroner (it was my way of dealing with my disdain for my fellow man, stop judging me) but I always came back to “I wanna be an author!” in the end. Writing’s been something I’ve always loved doing, something I’ve done since I was a wee little Hillary watching my grandmother henpecking on her old fashioned typewriter, and it felt right. From the time I won a short story contest in fifth grade, to a writing award against hundreds of other students at a summer program called PCC, I knew. And lo it was that the heavens spoke unto me and said “HILLARY, THIS IS WHAT YOU SHALL DO, GO FORTH AND PLAY WITH YOUR IMAGINARY FRIENDS ON PAPER.”
Kay, heaven. Whatevs homie.
Slight problem with this whole “being an author” plan, though. A few problems, actually. The first? Is it’s not the glamorous lifestyle of mocha-chinos and flashy cars people think it is. The ugly reality is only two percent of writers make it on their own paycheck, which includes authors. Unless you’re James Patterson (one out of every seventeen books sold in the US is one of his titles, that lucky SOB) you don’t make a ton of cash. It’s extra money you shouldn’t count on at best, and incremental after the initial pay out.
The second problem is once your book is bought, it will rarely sell to its advance, so don’t expect the incremental royalties to come rolling in to save you. I think I read an author blog last month where the woman said it took two years for her to see any royalty money from her debut novel going onto shelves, and she’d beat the odds. She became a mid-list author after that, meaning she’d get on the extended NY Times bestseller list with her various releases, but even then after taxes, moneys sent to her agent, and all other expenditures associated with getting the book into print, she made approximately 40,000 bucks on her writing that year. She can stay at home and make it on her writing? But not to excess.
The final problem is, of course, people don’t read as much as they used to. This isn’t a surprise, but at least with the presence of Kindles and other E-Readers people can find a reason to get back into reading if they fell off the path. I will say I’ve felt a lot of warm fuzzies hearing people talking about books they’ve picked up recently, so not all is lost, but hearing that a lot of kids today just can’t get through a whole book is disheartening. (I’d digress and talk about the study that says Sesame Street’s thirty second blips of information before wandering off to something else is responsible for short attention spans, but it’s sort of unrelated.)
So yes. Being an author is a long, ugly road but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying, nor does it mean the stories will stop coming. Just today I found out my agent liked my new manuscript, The Legacy. It’s the first solo project I’ve handed over to her, so I’m encouraged that she “loved it”. We’ll see what kind of editing it’ll need, and what she thinks needs to change. Perhaps that will warrant its own write up in a few weeks!