I’m two-and-a-half years into this author gig. At times, this new journey has been fantastic, at times nerve-wracking. Always it’s surreal. Opening myself up to feedback and criticism and whatever comes next (or doesn’t come at all) can be exhilarating and scary, sometimes within ten minutes.
Nearly every day someone asks me for advice. What’s it really like? Do you make any money? I’m always willing to share the tablespoon of knowledge I’ve collected. Today, I’m keeping it real, bringing you the great and the not so great. I’m sure other authors have different experiences, so as always, I’m only speaking from my limited perspective.
What’s it like?
In a word, rollercoaster.
Lucky for me, I’ve always been a fan of rollercoasters.
The beginning always starts with that nervous anticipation as I tug slowly, slowly to the top where the air is impossibly thin and the ground fades to a blur. The first plunging drop leaves my stomach hanging. And I’m off. Up and down. Up and down. The ride races along, super fast. I grip the bar and pray the latch holds tight. Wait, there’s an upside down loop ahead? I didn’t sign up for that. Did I? I squeeze my eyes shut and feel myself go topsy-turvy. Then, at last I reach a more leisurely part, up high above it all, and I can enjoy the view for a quick moment before, BAM, I nosedive beneath track so close to the railing I duck and dodge, feeling my brain rattle inside my head. My hair blows and my eyes tear. I slam against the side and know I’ll end up with an angry bruise on my thigh.
I pull into the station, inhale, and peel my fingers from the bar I’ve been death-gripping.
Wanna go again?
And I get back in line.
YAY. Getting my book published, going from a few random thoughts in my head to words on the page to a cohesive manuscript to a book on the shelf is a humongous accomplishment. A feat achieved. A top-of-the-bucket-list-item checked off. No matter what happens from here on out, I wrote a book. And that feels good.
BOO. Now what? Most readers have never heard of my book. Oprah has not called. Without an agent, without an appearance on the New York Times Best Seller List, without an extreme “in the right place at the right time sort of miracle,” she won’t. For the most part, marketing is on the author. I enjoy marketing, so that’s a good thing. As a blogger, I started with a solid base. But marketing is a full-time job that I’m still figuring out.
YAY. I’ve received overwhelmingly positive book reviews on Amazon. Reviews are vital and help to drive Amazon sales. And Amazon apparently rules the book world these days. If you did a review for my book or any book, thank you, thank you, thank you. If you haven’t, there’s always today🙂
BOO. Forgive the cliche, but getting reviews is like pulling wisdom teeth. Digging crab grass from the coneflower bed. Most people don’t do reviews because a) it never crosses their minds b) they don’t know how c) they don’t understand the importance d) they honestly didn’t like the book. Yep. Unsaid things speak volumes. That’s life, but it’s not life and death.
YAY. I’m getting paid to write. Wow.
BOO. But don’t expect to buy a new John Deere riding lawnmower with your first check. Sure, I imagine it happens for a handful of unicorn writers. In my experience, there’s a long long looooooong lag time between royalty checks. To keep yourself in strawberry ice cream and new tennis shoes, you either need a nest egg, a regular-paying job, a sugar daddy/momma, or a long-running best-seller. Of course, every contract is different. For me, I earn about two bucks on every paperback sold. For every book sold on Amazon through a third party seller, I get nada. Hopefully those readers love the book, tell other readers about it, and write a review.
YAY. I work from home. My schedule is flexible.
BOO. I miss my co-workers from the bank, the camaraderie, the we’re-all-in-this-together relationship. The laughter and morning discussions of our favorite television shows over coffee someone else bought—that doesn’t happen anymore.
YAY. I am doing something that makes my heart leap.
BOO. With this new endeavor, I wear all the hats including collection agent. Because like all businesses, there are bad apples who won’t pay or slow pay or can’t pay at all. And with income comes tax. I spend way more time than I imagined on the accounting and tax end of things. In Arkansas, sales tax is calculated and paid monthly and tracked per city/county.
YAY. I’ve had book events at my favorite bookstores, national bookstores, bookstores that make me pinch myself. Sometimes (okay, one time) the line to buy a signed book was out the door. I get a thrill every single time I see my book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble or out in the wild at a book club or when someone sends me a picture of my book on a beach vacation.
BOO. Sometimes no one shows up to an event. There was that one time in Florida when the coffee shop didn’t remember I was scheduled to speak. The only folks present were earbud-wearing college students with open MacBooks. I interrupted their study time to read in awkward, pin-dropping silence that made me want to crawl back to the bank pleading for my old job. Sometimes, at book signings, people say, “I don’t read fiction,” and “Do you know where the bathroom is in this place?” People rush by my signing table so close that the pages of my carefully arranged books flutter, yet they dare not make eye contact. And I vow to be more responsive to the perfume-spraying employees at Dillard’s. Because I’ve become that perfume-squirting lady.
YAY. With each invitation to speak at libraries and book clubs, my world has grown exponentially. These events are filled with supportive readers who can’t get enough of Gracie Lee. A friend I haven’t seen in years messages me about her parents who are having a blast reading my book aloud to each other. Or a reader I’ve never met tells me her grandmother, who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, literally comes alive while listening to The Accidental Salvation of Gracie Lee.
One thing I know for sure—on this author rollercoaster ride, the positive outweighs the negative. And I am inspired and fortunate to keep my pen moving. Thanks for riding with me!
I hope this post has provided clarification without being too negative. Do you have any questions? Go ahead and ask. I’m keeping it real today.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
Ohio Players, Love Rollercoaster