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Don’t tell anyone you’re an author. It’s a good way to lose friends…

My 1936 Royal Portable

Somebody asked me what it’s like to be a writer. I thought about it for a bit, then said, “It’s difficult to put it into words.”

Sometimes I get confused about why I keep writing. Between the agonizing labor required to bring forth a fully finished plot and going through all of the multiple steps to format it into a professional-quality book, there’s a lot of unrewarding work. Granted, I do still get a thrill out of typing “The End” when I’m finished with the manuscript, but that’s fleeting and no longer brings tears to my eyes the way it did for the first few books.

The only difference between writing heaven and writing hell is that your books are popular in the former. The pain and labor involved are the same in both locations. I sometimes think that editors, while they are essential, are a form of lesser demon. If an editor was shown a lamp, they’d want to change the lightbulb, even if it was working. They’d replace it, then break the replacement, install an LED bulb, then finally remove that and question why the lamp was necessary in the first place. Seriously, though, I love my editor. She’s excellent and helps make my books far more readable.

The process is more expensive than you might think. Cover art, interior formatting, copyright, ISBN, and editing eats up a considerable amount of money. Unfortunately, sales are more and more challenging to come by, mostly because there is so very much competition. How does a reader find my book or any book he or she wants to read? Some are poorly done with lots of errors, others are poorly written, although a certain percent are quite well done. I aspire to create books in that last category.

It’s said that everyone has a book in them. I wonder if that is meant literally, and if so, where the book is stored. Most of the body doesn’t seem to have any spare space. Getting the book out is a different matter. I was educated to write scientific research and I thought I knew how to write. It’s not all that easy, though. It takes lots of practice. The best way to get better is to keep writing. I keep telling myself that my next book will be perfect. There’s a story in the publishing world about a company that decided to publish a perfect book. It was edited hundreds of times until everyone agreed that it could be no better. Once it was printed and hit the bookstores, someone noticed that the title had a misspelled word. As I said, it’s not that easy.

But, how does a reader find a book out of the millions on Kindle, for example? The key is marketing, and that is the responsibility of the author.

Once the book is finished and uploaded to Kindle for ebook distribution and Ingram for print copies, I belatedly start thinking I should do some of this marketing stuff. I’d much rather be writing another book, of course, but I still make an effort to get the news out.

It got so bad that when I saw an old friend at a party for the first time in several years, I told him I was writing books. When he asked if I’d sold anything, I responded that I’d sold my house, my car, and all of my possessions. I don’t think he got it. He wandered off, and I later saw him pointing at me while talking to the host. I don’t know what was said, but I haven’t been asked back.

I guess whether you’re happy or not in your writing career depends on how you define success. What do I mean by that? I have it on good authority that one of the most successful authors–one who writes things that invariably make people react emotionally, cry, curse, howl, and scream in anger–is the guy who writes error messages for Microsoft.

I like it when readers comment that they loved my characters and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen in one of my books. That’s a thrill, but it doesn’t pay the bills. The fact that some readers do leave reviews helps, though. A series of excellent reviews give a book some credibility so that a potential reader who is searching for a new read might be tempted to pick the one with better reviews.

Then there are the service providers. Those are companies that exist solely to “help” authors sell books. It’s easy to spend far more than the book will ever bring in, so one has to be careful here. Fortunately, I’ve already had a good education along those lines, having taken lots of courses on real estate during my life. Ultimately, you just have to get out there and do things yourself. That’s the most important lesson.

My books do sell, and many readers have left reviews, a few have hated the stories, but most like them, so I feel happy about that. I’m also pleased with my initial decision to publish as an independent. Indie publishing has become mainstream now. There are still traditional publishers, but unless you’re already a success, your chances there are minimal. If Moses were alive now, he’d show up with the Ten Commandments, but he’d spend the next five years trying to get them published. Unless, that is, he did it himself. Then he’d have to go through the entire marketing thing to get people to read them.

At the moment, I’m two chapters from writing “The End” in my latest story, and this little screed has taken some of the time that I should have been using to tie up my work-in-progress. I guess I’ll call this a marketing effort so I can justify my effort.


BTW. I’ve never written a word on the Royal. I keep it to remind myself how hard it used to be in the pre-digital age. Can you imagine? Spell check used to mean paging through a heavy dictionary:-)

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