Reality Checks Hurt Sometimes

FirsWorld Dark and Cold - High Resolutiont, just a little happiness because the new book cover for A World Dark and Cold is up on Amazon (about four days after they said it was, but seems I’m not alone in that).

Isn’t it pretty?  My first paid-for cover ever and worth it.  We’ll see at the end of the month whether that and advertising help move the book.  Should be fun!  (Or depressing, one or the other…Always fun to risk depression right before the holiday season.)

So, the reason for this post…

I’m taking a great online course right now from Dean Wesley Smith about how to make a living at writing.  Two weeks in and I’m very pleased so far, although the reality checks involved hurt.

I’ve alluded to it before because I’d kind of figured some of this out myself, but his class is reiterating for me how much production matters.  I won’t give away his secret sauce, but if you look around enough you’ll see over and over and over again how much production drives success.

(Of course, just like you see Powerball winners every week, you’ll then see someone who “just threw a book up there with no promo, first thing I’d ever written” and makes tens of thousands of dollars.)

I remember seeing Amazon’s interview with Russell Blake recently.  (A highly successful indie for those of you that don’t know the name).  Two things stuck with me.  First, he had about seven novels written before he decided to jump into self-publishing.  (Can’t find the link right now, but I swear that’s what I read).  So, he was able to hit the ground running.  Second, the man writes 12+ hours a day.

He writes good books, sure, but he didn’t get to where he is by writing one amazing novel and sitting on his ass telling people about it.  He got there by releasing one novel a month on average.

That’s right, one 100,000-word novel a month.

Me, it just took me two months to write a 75,000-word novel.  (Impressed the hell out of me, but when you start crunching numbers and thinking, “Could I really do that five more times in the next ten months?” it gets a little scary, because I fear the answer is no.)

So, there’s that example.

I also went to a talk by a very successful traditionally published romance novelist a few weeks ago.  She mentioned the very nice $2.2 million dollar contract she signed at one point in her career.  After, that is, she’d spent five years writing five novels a year and building a readership that justified that advance.  That’s twenty-five novels in five years.  And she started with piddly little advances, too.

As DWS says, some people are fine working their day jobs and writing on the side.  But if you aren’t, if you want to do this full-time and aren’t expecting some lightning strike, it gets a little intimidating to realize just how much you need to produce to make it.

Now, I think it probably is a bit like rolling a rock down a hill.  Once you get a certain amount out there, it becomes much easier to see success with each subsequent release.  Question is, for someone like me, writing what I am, how much do I need to get out there before that starts to happen?  Can I do that?  How long will it take?  Will I have a roof over my head by that point or will I be writing in McDonald’s everyday because they have free wi-fi?

It’s scary.  And it’s easy to decide that the saner bet and the safer bet is to go back to that day job that pays $X per year and all it requires is your soul and physical health.  (haha.  sort of kidding.)

In January I have to make a decision to either continue with full-time writing or start to look for new work.  I’d really like to continue with the writing, but I expect it’ll take a huge, huge leap of faith to do so.  (Or a lightning strike.)  I’m hoping one of the things I get out of DWS’s class is enough knowledge to make an informed decision about it.

In the meantime, I know one thing: I won’t be able to continue writing full-time if I don’t WRITE.  So, with that, time to turn my attention elsewhere.


About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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