Man, this gig is hard. All those years I spent dreaming of writing full-time, I had no idea just how hard it is. When I sold my first book, I plunged in head-first without a plan and without any particular goals. I just wrote and sold some books and made money.
I got lucky. My first book sold moderately well. So did the second. In three months, I made twice my yearly salary working in retail. I was actually making an adult living wage for the first time in my life. I thought, This is it! I’ve made it! No worries from here on out!
Ha. I was so sweetly naive.
No plan, remember? No goals, other than the vague idea that I wanted to be a New York Times Bestseller. No actionable steps for how I could make that happen. I knew nothing about how to market my books, nothing about how to maintain a regular work schedule while working from home, or how to produce words under the strain of a deadline. I. Knew. Nothing. And I thought it was okay because all I really needed to know was how to write a book.
For the first couple years of my writing career, I did well. But with each release, my sales numbers decreased because I was just tossing the books out there and hoping someone would read them. As those numbers sank and that nebulous goal of New York Times Bestseller-dom drifted farther and father away, my writing self-esteem took a nose dive off a cliff.
It became hard to sit down and put words on the page. It became a chore rather than a joy. I was afraid to write because I felt like I was failing and my fear was a self-fulfilling prophecy.
So, even as the books I’d already published were picking up accolades and nominations, I wrote less and less. I started missing deadlines. I lost a contract. My royalty checks shrank. I eventually had to pick up various part time jobs to make ends meet. And then full time. The more I worked outside the house, the less I wrote. A vicious cycle was born.
I released one book last year. To date, it has sold only 4438 copies. For some writers, I know that number is amazing. For me, it’s dismal compared to how my books used to sell. My paycheck this month was $1200, about 1/9th of what it was at my highest point. Since I have student loans, my writing income is no longer a livable wage and I’m back to looking for full time work.
Why am I tell you all of this? Well, a few reasons.
First, I don’t think the struggle is talked about enough. Most writers are introverts and when we are struggling, we clam up. (Just ask my agent— she knows how well things are going by how talkative I am.) It’s just the nature of the beast. So, even though it’s uncomfortable to open myself up, I’m doing it. Maybe I can help someone to keep from making my mistakes.
Second, numbers. It’s considered rude to ask a writer about their numbers. When a writer does discuss numbers, it’s seen as bragging or woe-is-me. But, you know, I think it’s so important to be more open about the numbers in this industry. And I’m not a number person.
Third, accountability. I’ll admit it, I need it. If I don’t have someone checking in on me, occasionally poking me in the right direction, I go off the rails. It’s easy to tell myself I’m going to fix my career this year, but it’s also just as easy to tell myself I’ll start tomorrow. And then the next day. And then it’s December 31st and everything is still the same or worse. If I want to keep this career I’ve dreamed about since I was six years old, I need something to help me stay accountable. I’ll post my goals and share my progress whether I reach those goals or fall short. I’ll post my writing numbers. I’ll post my sales numbers. And… whatever else writing-related happens this year. All of the mountains, the cliffs, and the valleys. I’m taking you along for the ride to keep myself accountable.
Originally, I choose “hustle” as my word for the year because I know I have to make a change and it’s going to take hard work. Problem is, I didn’t like the negative connotations that come with that word. Instead, 2019 is the year of the reboot.
I’m rebooting my career. Sink or swim, I’m going to document the whole process. To follow along, just look for the #AuthorLifeReboot tag on my blog and social media. If you’re in the same boat, join me! We’ll reboot together.