You know, as authors, people often disclose to us that they are writing their book. Maybe they just have a kernel of an idea, maybe they’re half way done. And they think that anyone can be a writer.
And you know what? They’re totally right.
Anyone can be a writer. If you’re putting words down on paper, you’re a writer. Trust me on this one.
There are a lot of good writers out there. There are a ton of former English majors out there (myself included!), and, for the most part, we’re all a pretty decent set of writers.
Before I ever set to write a story, before I ever thought to myself “Can this get published?” I was a good writer. I could crack out a paper in a couple of hours. I told stories to myself before I went to sleep.
Even the whole process of writing a book didn’t set me apart, in the great scheme of things. Lots of people have written books. Some of them are pretty decent, too.
Now, I’m no pillar of the publishing world. I’ve got a total of three books out, with a fourth book due out early next year, all out with small presses. Let’s be honest: most people won’t make it rich writing books and publishing them. Authors get between 7% and 35% in royalties from our publishers for the books we sell (and sure, there’s variation in there). Many people with small presses don’t get advances, and of those that do get an advance, it’s generally pretty small, so most of the money we earn comes from royalties. When you’re in competition with millions of other books, it’s pretty hard to make a decent living.
Most of us have other jobs that actually pay the bills, and if the writing supplements that, then AWESOME!
But, to all the budding writers out there, there is one thing that sets authors apart from writers.
Writing a book is hard work. So much goes into it. It takes persistence and patience to write a book, and to see it through to completion, especially when it’s a longer book. You will get stuck. Hopefully, you’ll push through it. But the real test is when you go to submit.
Writing the perfect query is hard. Shipping it off is harder, if you ask me. You will check your email a dozen times a day, hoping to see an email that says, “Congratulations! Your book is awesome!” (Because you know it is, right?)
Only, more than likely, you’ll get rejected.
The first one will sting.
The second one will sting.
The third one will sting.
Every time I’ve been rejected, it has broken my heart. Every time. The real test of your mettle as an author is whether you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and try again.
I’ll be honest, every time, I think about quitting.
You will question: is it worth it? What kind of blows to my ego am I willing to take in order to achieve this dream? Because it’s one thing to think you’re a good writer. It’s another thing to have other people in the industry think the same thing.
I’ve gotten some really harsh rejections, ones that made me question what I was doing. And it’s when I’ve gotten those that I’ve gotten some chocolate, had a glass of wine, and told myself I will never subject myself to that again. Let’s face it, sometimes life is hard enough without adding additional blows to the ego.
If you need an ego boost, a rejection letter is not usually the place to find it.
Anyway, I think that’s where authors and writers differentiate. I don’t think it’s a matter of talent necessarily, or innate ability (because editors rock). It’s a matter of being able to take the criticisms and the rejections and try again.
And doing it again and again and again until you finally get a yes.
It’s about believing–no, knowing–the yes is out there.
Maybe this book won’t hit. Maybe it will be the next book or the book after that. Maybe you’ll write for 15 years and finally get that yes. Maybe you’ll hit on the first book. But, if you keep trying, and you keep honing your craft, you will eventually get it.
Be brave. Be persistent. Never give up.
It will happen.