Saturday, June 27, 2015

Thinking of becoming an author? My juggling act.

Earlier this month we were treated to another episode in the long running saga, “When Authors Go Bad.”  Either you caught it or you didn’t, because, like anything on social media, your fame wanes fast.  I choose not to name or link to the saga, because a nice person pointed out to me that we didn’t need to make the situation hundreds of times worse by sharing it endlessly.

The bit I want to mention from the melt-down that happened, is that this author made a statement early on his rant that made me laugh.  I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like:  My book deserves a five star rating because I worked for 100 hours a week on it.

Does anyone else find that this is a little ridiculous?

I don’t know about everyone, but the majority of authors I know would all be millionaires if effort counted toward the amount they were paid.  See – that’s the gamble we take when we write a book.  Some people are just going to be better at it.  And then there is the fact that some people market their book better.

There are endless examples, stories, anecdotes and legends that circulate about the internet with authors giving their opinion on what caused their book to “make or break.”  Sometimes the cover just wasn’t right.  Sometimes the cover was perfect, but the story inside was panned early on and it never took off.  Then there’s the price.  The names of the characters.  Whether there’s a dog on the cover.  Release timing.  Other books coming out at the same time.  Similar stories…  Yes.  It’s a hard life of an author to try and get all their apples lined up and shoot for stardom.

There’s also the question of publicity versus writing time.  There’s an author who I became friends with early on in 2014.  They had a book out which, in my opinion, sported an excellent cover.  I was jealous.  Then, three times a day, for the next six months, this author would “do the rounds” on all the promo sites and plaster this cover everywhere.  Soon my patience was up.  I was sick of seeing this cover.  I wanted to write to the author and say, “Look – we all saw your book.  Either we bought it, or we didn’t.  Don’t you think your time could be spent more productively writing another book?”

I spend my time daily working out (ie stressing over) writing time versus publicity time versus other time.  If I write a blog that is 1200 words long, that’s 1200 words that could’ve (potentially) gone on my latest WIP.  Is the time worth it?  But if I only write, then yes there are more words on my WIP, but that’s the fastest way to burnout.  And if I don’t tell anyone about my latest release (via blogs, social media, etc) then was it worth it?  And then there are the times where just looking at pretty pictures (**cough**) and reading other books is more helpful than sitting in front of your computer wondering what comes next in your story.

For those who don’t know my journey, I wrote my first novel in 2013, exploring the world of authoring and wondering if there was any money in it.  You see, I was a mother of two young children – one of whom wasn’t even in school yet – and my future was looming big on the horizon.  I needed to consider going back to work, but the question was what, how, when, and where?  I looked at job ads and could find nothing that could allow me to work for a couple of days a week, during school hours.

I needed a job that was flexible.  Any parent can tell you that kids get sick – and they don’t care if you have a deadline or if it’s month-end or if you really can’t take that day off.  There was also the question of school holidays – what to do with the kids?  My husband was singularly unhelpful, telling me that I couldn’t rely on his help with the kids at all, because (for example) he couldn’t guarantee that he could leave work at a certain time each week to accommodate my potential working hours.
So that left me with the option of looking outside for childcare assistance.  My mother and in-laws could help – but they are all retired and frequently jet/drive off on holidays at the drop of a hat.  Or else I could pay for childcare which would cost more than my pay cheque – so why would I bother working?

Last week I was extremely glad for the flexibility of my authoring as a job.  On Thursday I attended the school assembly, and had been home 18 minutes when the school rang and told me my 8yo was vomiting.  I was back at the school within 3 minutes.  Had I been working at the job I had before I went on maternity leave, I would’ve been in the city.  To take public transport home would take a minimum of 40 minutes – if I got the connections.

Friday I deemed my child recovered enough to go to school again.  I dropped the kids, attended my weekly doctor’s appointment for two desensitisation needles, popped into the shop for some groceries, and had been home about 20 minutes when the school rang again for me to pick him up.

I adored the flexibility of my job those two days.

This week I’ve had my husband and kids home ALL week – all three of them in various states of sickness.  Today I can feel myself coming down with it, and expect the next week to be rough.  Can you imagine trying to explain to the boss why I needed all that sick leave? 

Working from home seems wonderful.  However, it’s sometimes a pain.  When you mother drops in for a “quick coffee” and stays two hours in the middle of your working day, it is sometimes frustrating.  Or when you hang up on the eleventh telemarketer for the week.  Or when someone says, “You can come to this meeting can’t you?  It’s in the middle of the day and you’re doing nothing.”  And even when your husband says, “But you’ve got the whole day to iron my shirts.  What do you do?”

**Renae reminds herself that prison wouldn’t give her the chance to write more**

So for any person out there who thinks that they might like to become an author, here is a cautionary tale for you.  Be prepared for what you’re getting into.  It’s possible that you slog your guts out doing 100 hours a week.  It’s possible that your work is not taken seriously by anyone in your family.  It’s possible that your friends and readers think that it’s just a matter of a couple of hours a day for a month for you to churn out the next 100k novel.  It’s possible that someone may loathe your story and leave a bad review. **gasp**

And sometimes it’s possible that you put ALL that work in and get the equivalent of two cents an hour pay.

At the moment, my focus in my life is on raising my children.  They come first with me.  It also falls to me to run the house.  Now, I know technically my husband and I both work, and should therefore share the burden of scrubbing the toilet, but in practice, it never works this way.  So I consider I have THREE jobs – Mummy, Housewife and Author.  On any one day, it is a juggling act.

So why do it?

Because at this moment in my life, it’s working for me.

Back in 2013 when I was contemplating being an author instead of going out of the house to work, I had no idea how much an author could earn.  I knew you had to be one of the lucky ones to earn more than a bit of pocket change.  I remember writing to one of my favourite authors, and she wrote back and told me that if I was good at it, I could buy some furniture with the earnings from writing, but I would never be able to earn a living.  (That was a little bit of a let down).

Since I became an author, I’ve seen people claim time and time again that it’s impossible to be an author fulltime, unless you’re retired, rich or have a partner supporting you.  But, in the midst of all that bad news, there’s a couple of glimmers of light.  There are authors who are doing it.  And they’re doing it writing M/M.

The more successful authors in the genre have told me to “get my backlist working.”  In other words, stick at it.  Writing more good quality novels is the only way to make it.  Don’t rely on that one brilliant book.  There is only one JK Rowling.

So I remain hopeful, and I remain writing.  At about 28 months into my new “career”, and 14 months after my first publication, I still hope to be able to do this fulltime one day, earn enough that I can claim it as my profession, and not have to find a “real” job.

Of course the perks of the jobs are brilliant too.  Who else can stare at semi-naked bodies all day and claim it’s for inspiration and research purposes?

How to contact Renae:
Twitter:  @renaekkaye
Instagram:  renaekayeauthor

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