Having Realistic Expectations

If you expect to be able to retire off your first contracted novel, you might want to stop reading right now.  I don’t want to be the one to dash your hopes and dreams.

Still with me?  Maybe your expectations for your writing aren’t so crazy then.  Notice I said ‘Maybe’.

Let me begin by saying that it does happen that first authors sometimes get a massive advance on their first books.  People also win the lottery all the time.  Unfortunately, it always seems to be the other guy (or girl) who does it.

There’s a reason for it too.  It’s called the media.  What do I mean by that, you may ask?  Simply this:  the media doesn’t report on Jill Author who gets a $1,000 advance on her first book.  It doesn’t even report on Joe Author who gets $10,000 for his first book.  Those types of stories aren’t interesting.

Instead, the media reports about the one author (out of 10’s of thousands) who gets the big money that happens once every couple years or so.  Starting to sound more like the lottery yet?  How about the saying that by the time you can wallpaper a room with your rejection slips you will be ready to be published?

It’s starting to sound like a lot of work for little gain (financial, that is).

Still, don’t despair.  A living can be made through writing.  There are many avenues to follow to have a journalistic career.  You can use novel and short-story sales to supplement your income.  It is a hard road to travel if you don’t have a little help though.

I have a friend who has five books out and a sixth on the way.  The majority of his income stems from school visits, workshops and doing editing for other writers.  He still finds it a struggle sometimes to be a full-time writer.

That really made me think.  You see, when I first considered the idea that I could become a full-time writer, I said I would be able to go full-time once I had five books written.  In my mind, the five books would generate enough royalties that I would get a good-sized check every month.

That still COULD happen, but I’m not expecting it to.  Rather, I’ve adjusted my expectations somewhat.  Now I’m hoping that my writing will allow me to retire a few years earlier and give me a good supplemental income on the side (not to mention the social aspect of signings, conventions and school visits).

Note that I said retire, not change careers.  Changing careers was what I first hoped for.

Am I bummed out by this forced change of plans?  Not in the least!  I’m not writing solely for financial gain.  I enjoy creating characters, worlds the stories that surround both.  I want to feel the thrill of seeing my books on the shelves of my local bookstore and enjoy the time spent with fans who appreciate what I’ve written.  The money, when it comes, will be a nice added benefit.

Am I saying it’s impossible to become a full-time writer?  Again NO!  If you have spouse who has a regular income or you live somewhere where the cost of living is low or if you DO get that big first advance it can most definitely happen.  I’m just saying ‘DON’T COUNT ON IT!”  The road to disappointment and despair is paved with unrealistic expectations.

Case in point:  I know a first-time author who co-wrote a book with another first writer.  His writing partner (he found out after the book was in print) expected the royalties to pay her way through university.  She had expected huge checks to start arriving daily as soon as the book hit the shelves.  All without any effort other than writing the book.

Oddly enough, that didn’t happen.  She isn’t writing anymore.  He still is.  The difference?  He knew he would have to work his butt off to make some (not lots of) money and she had no idea how the real world works.

So rather than telling yourself you will make your first million off your debut novel, look for it to hit the shelves and build from there.  That is the road to real success.  And you never know, you may be the next person to hit the jackpot with that massive advance.  Just don’t expect to be.

Personal Update

I’ve almost finished packaging my second novel for submission.  I’m almost through writing the synopsis.  It will be in the mail this week.  I’ve also finished rewriting the first chapter of my fantasy novel.  Chapter two will be underway this week.  I’ve also decided to do Nanowrimo again this year (unless I have a contracted book distracting me).  I pitched a story to my kids and they are after me to write it.


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