You're a writer. You've written your story. You've had it published - either self published or (joy of joys!) by an actual publisher. Now sit back and wait for the money and adulation to roll in. This is what being a grown up writer is all about.
Only it doesn't. Drat!
Your writing career requires that you approach it as a business. Ugh! Pauline Baird Jones explains why you need to do this to succeed as a writer in today's How to be an Author guest post.
Managing your Writing Career by Being a Grownup - Or Bluffing Until You Are One!
Do you ever miss being able to wail when you want something? As a newly minted grandmother of twins, I found myself thinking it would be nice to have even an hour where I could wail for what I wanted and someone would give it me. I would pass on the leg kicking and arm waving, because it’s not a good look for me. But I do have my moments when I would so rather not be the grownup in the room. Even when I’m alone.
Whether it is good news or bad, the fact is, time marches forward and we get older. Whether we become grownups—and stay grownup—is a choice, one we make again and again as life’s challenges whack us upside the head. Hey, it’s not a perfect process. But I have, for the most part, accepted my place in the adult world. I’m the grownup (at least until my brain starts to shut down).
What I did not expect was how hard it would be to become a grownup writer. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth goes with the process. Going public with all that is not a good idea.
Think about it. To write authentically and honestly, you have to dig deep into your own soul. That means tapping into all parts of who you are and were, including your inner child.
Creativity is messy and whine inducing and bleeding onto the page hurts to your toenails some days. It tests us in ways even our children didn’t get around to. It’s raw and humiliating and humbling and amazing.
And Then You Get To The Hard Part
Because if you want to share what you wrote with more than your mom and a few friends, then you will find yourself managing a writing business. Yup, a business. You actually have to be the grownup in the room with yourself. The CEO (you) has to manage the talent (you), while learning how to navigate contracts and publishing options and praise and criticism.
Back in 2008, when Jamie Engle and I wrote Managing Your Book Writing Business, many of our conversations with authors about the business of writing resulted in the same comment: “I just want to write.”
Of course you do. And you can “just write.” But if you also want to publish, then you will have a business, whether you planned to or not. In this brave new world of publishing, you can mismanage your business and still get published. The thing is, writing something isn’t just about you. Oh, it is while you’re writing it, but when you make the effort to share it with others, then you enter into an unwritten contract with each reader.
Your Contract With Your Reader
I hereby agree to give you the best story I’m capable of in exchange for your coin of the realm and I agree to do it without getting in your way anymore than I absolutely have to. This includes not abusing you if you don’t like it.
How you fulfill that contract with the reader is by being a grownup in your business, by managing it to the best of your ability. That means educating yourself about the craft of writing and then learning everything you can about the business of managing your writing. Yes, it is hard. It is confusing. It will make you crazy at times, because the writing business is bat crap crazy. And it’s gotten better. It kind of boggles the mind to realize this is better than it was. But it’s true. There are a lot more options for authors now then when I first started trying to publish. Last century. Hey, it wasn’t that long ago.
Look at your options. A writer can try for a legacy contract with a major publisher, find a smaller, boutique type publisher where you have more input into the various elements, or full on self publish. Or you can mix it up, become a hybrid author.
The key is to choose what’s best for your business, not what is easiest for your creative self, or what your best friend did, or what the cool kids think you should do. Because you’re not a kid now. Being the grownup in the room means balancing facts and figures with desires and wants and wishes. It means having a plan for when you don’t get what you want. It means daring to dream and plan big—while keeping it going in the little time.
And when you get what you want, you have to not poop all over it by letting your creative side engage in public meltdowns or attacking reviewers who didn’t get your story. It means biting your tongue and keeping your fingers off the keys until you’ve eaten enough chocolate to be able to deal with not being universally loved.
All Roads Lead to being a Grown Up
All roads lead back to being a grownup. I am sorry, because there are days it gets old. And there’s more. I’ve discovered it means being more than true to who you are. It means being true to your better self, to the person you hope you are, or are trying to be. We all make mistakes, but if we are consistently striving to stay above the pettiness, the jealousies, the envy and knee-jerk reactions that can stink up our online interactions, and sometimes your real world ones, then the people who matter will forgive us. They’ll know we’re better than that, too. And the people, the readers who don’t get us won’t matter quite so much.
This business can beat you up, but if you stay centered on why you wanted to do it—sharing your passion for storytelling with readers—then you suck it up, be a grown up (or bluff until you are) and keep going. We owe it to all ourselves, our characters, our stories and our readers.
Are you a grown up? I fear I am not so much - I do get upset if someone gives me a bad review - my baby! You were mean to my baby!
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