Monday, July 08, 2013

Is it Worth the Effort?

As writers, we’re faced with constant discouragement—author scandals, blatant plagiarism, poorly written novels with overnight success, the collapse of the small press, he said/she said wars via Twitter, etc. It makes you want to ask, "What have we gotten ourselves into?"

Let’s take a look at what’s feeding this machine: 
  1. The Digital Era
  2. Writers with different goals
The first one is pretty self-explanatory. With the good (instant communication and more assessable content), comes the bad (text misinterpretation and people getting ripped off). Let’s sing.


As for the second one, well... I know we pride ourselves on our imaginations, but it’s time to face reality. Hard work does not guarantee success in this industry. Neither does being lazy and not bothering to learn the business. These days, we’re not-so-anonymous gamblers. Every time we publish, we insert a coin into the ol’ slot machine.
A million different things factor in, making the result seem completely random, i.e. shock value, supporters with influence, tapping into trends, having cookie-cutter book covers that mimic bestsellers, etc. But let’s not forget the standards of yesteryear: fresh concepts, unique delivery, voice, editing, formatting, well-researched marketing efforts, etc. So, which parts are you investing in? Which ones will pay off?

It depends (on these convenient generalizations). 

A) Do you want to get your name out there by creating a catalog as quickly as possible? Are you ready to generate income now? Then, crank those suckers out. Decrease your turnaround and push titles like it’s your job—because it is your job. Take a gamble, buy your promotional packages in bulk, and hope for viral success. Go, go, go! 

B) Or are you more concerned with how you feel about your work? At the end of the day, is your manuscript/book something you’re proud of? Is writing an art form, a way of expressing yourself, that you can’t live without? Take your time. Research every step of the publishing process, and learn from your mistakes. Look at your career—even if it's your second career—as a marathon and not a sprint. (I know you’ve heard that one.) You’re in this for the long haul.

Either way, you could be a great success or an abysmal failure. That’s life. That’s the gamble. So, is it worth the effort? That depends on:
  1. Your goals
  2. The path you’re willing to take
  3. How honest you’re being with yourself. 
This is 2013. Nobody is judging you. Just pick a path (or two) and own it. ;) 

Question of the Week for Writers: Is writing your hobby, your job, or your career? 

Question of the Week for Readers: Do you care which path an author takes?

P.S. If you signed up to help with my cover reveal next week, you'll be getting an email today.  ♥ Have a great week, guys!

54 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I couldn't crank out work if I tried!
Writing is a job but not a career for me. I've already gone farther down this path than I ever planned or thought possible.

JeffO said...

Writing is currently my hobby, though I'm trying to make it my career! As for question #2, I don't care how anyone gets there. However, right now, I'm far more likely to discover and read an author who puts out books on paper, since I don't have an e-reader, smartphone or tablet, and have no immediate plans to get any.

Now, what about you? You posed the question in the title, Is it worth it? What say you?

Donna K. Weaver said...

Man. Great article, Carrie. I have a dear friend who's cranking them out. Her debut novel came out in March and by the end of the year she'll have 4 books out (she's with a small press). Blows me away. I can't just crank out a rough draft and hand it over to an editor and be ready to publish the thing. Even if I was a stay-at-home mom like she is, I don't think I could do it. I'd love to, but I guess my learning curve is taking me longer. But the final result is important to me, and my rough drafts are essentially outlines. How could I publish an expanded outline?

Patrick Stahl said...

Writing is just a hobby right now, as is editing. Once I get a college degree editing will hopefully be my career, making writing sort of a sub-job.

Sarah Foster said...

If I could crank out books, I would have finished my current WIP two years ago! Unfortunately writing is not my career (yet), but I would rather take the slow way and have some pride in my work. Great post!

ilima said...

Probably B, career. I can't say hobby or else the IRS will come after me :). I consider writing more like a dream come true, or a blessing. I know, kinda lame, but it's a combination of yes, I do care about the quality of my writing as an art form and wanna pinch myself that others in the pub industry like it too and are willing to pay me for it. Haha. Suckers. :)

Julie Luek said...

Although I'm not going to label myself "old and wise" because, I'm neither (she says hopefully thinking about the aging part), but I have lived long enough to realize that life is rarely either/or and that we all find unique paths to travel in our pursuits. Also, a lot of our success is tied to our efforts and focus, but much is tied to timing, circumstances and a bit of luck. I'm not sure this is a right or wrong way of pursuing writing. As you suggested, some of it may be determined by your intents and motivation. Thought-provoking post.

Kyra Lennon said...

Writing is my job in every sense of the word. If it's not freelance, it's fiction! I am working towards making it a career,though. I'm probably not there, yet!

Carrie Butler said...

Me neither! I can't do anything assembly line style.

What about blog writing? You've built a pretty illustrious career there. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Darn it, Jeff! I wasn't planning on anyone asking me. LOL

You know, at this point, I'd say it's my career--or something I'm trying to make into a career. I think it's worth the effort of learning every little nuance, if only for the enrichment factor. And as a reader, I don't care how an author releases books, as long as they're well done. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Oo, I like the evolution of that. Hobby to career. Hobby to sub-job. Sounds like you're on the right path, Patrick! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Me too. But who knows? Maybe after we're at this for a couple of decades, we'll be able to crank out quality work. :) Thanks, Sarah!

Emma Adams said...

Interesting questions! It might be a tad melodramatic, but writing's my life and I don't see it as like a regular job (although I do set clear goals and try to finish a certain number of books a year). It's something I would spend every day doing if I could, so it's a hobby in that sense, but it's something I take seriously. I write as much as I can, but I write for the love of it, not for the sake of publishing as many books as quickly as possible. So my writing's more of an art form. But I also want it to be my career!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

I want to have a writing career. A life where writing makes all the income I need a huge dream of mine. You share some very true thoughts in this post Carrie and I can't wait for the cover reveal next Monday.

Carrie Butler said...

Good point! And who's to say we can't take one path, realize it's not for us, and turn back? The other path is always going to be there. Heck, we might wear the grass down, running between them! :)

Carrie Butler said...

LOL Good answer. Let's all take a moment and vouch for Ilima's writing career. ;)

It's not lame at all. I love the idea of getting paid to follow our dreams!

Carrie Butler said...

Let's just say we're at the beginning of our writing careers. :D

Carrie Butler said...

The writing trifecta! I love it. :D

cleemckenziebooks said...

I loved the slot machine metaphor. That's exactly what this writing/publishing business is all about. And I agree that working hard does not mean automatic success. It's a bumpy road and a roller coaster all in one.

Writing is something I enjoy doing. Publishing is something that happened, then happened again. Then got under my skin, so I made it happen a third time. I'm just going to see where this bumpy road goes and hope my stomach can continue to take the dips and rolls.

andrabrynn said...

Definitely my career. I've written 4 books this year already, and plan on at least 4 more under two different pen names. It's all about hustle if you want to make a living, but I don't think that means you have to just vomit up books you don't care about. I just have a lot of books I want to write, and luckily some of them make me lots of money. Some of my books I love, and some I'm kinda meh about. But that's the way it is with every story a writer writes. If you can sit your butt in the chair and do that work, you come up with SOMEthing, and I usually feel decent enough about it that I publish it and move on to the next. No matter what I produce, someone is going to love it, and someone is going to hate it, and I might be both of them at the same time. C'est la vie.

prerna pickett said...

I want writing to be my career, but that may be a ways off. For now it's something I love and enjoy and try to fit in to my routine as much as possible. At the end of the day, even if it doesn't ever turn into a career, it makes me happy.

Eric Muss-Barnes said...

What we want something to be, and what it actually becomes, are often very different things in life. Temet Nosce. The path shall fall into place of its own volition.

Reese Monroe said...

Great post. Yeah, it's worth it. I hope to make this a career one day. But if that's not in my future, I'm okay with that, too. I'll continue to write AND work full time to pay the bills. As long as I can write, I'm happy!

Press on, my friend. It's a crazy industry, but we're crazy writers, so it's a great match. :)

Angela Brown said...

Wonderful post, Carrie.

Writing and publishing is my career-in-the-making as I currently have a paying gig as a job. I treat my writing as a business, taxes and all, or at least the taxes that would be due if I had some sales. I have yet to put out the story that appears to be gaining much attention and no, not really interested in just putting out anything that I wouldn't want to stand beside with pride. I want to write stories the fans-I-hope-to-one-day have want to read and ones I can sit back and read too, forgetting my fingers tapped the story out on my cute little laptop.

I'm not much for cranking out stories given my schedule and my need to be a good mom to my Chipmunk.

Angela Brown said...

And yes, the gamble seems against me at the moment...but I can't help myself. I love writing and sharing my stories...so yes, it is worth it :-)

JeffO said...

I'm a troublemaker, what can I say?

Nancy Thompson said...

I actually care a great deal about the work my name is associated with. Trouble is, readers in certain genres don't care one bit. They just want more and more product, as fast as it can be given to them. That is what drives the trend. While financially benefiting from a trend would be nice, I don't want to be just a trend. I want to last. I want this to be a career.

This game is very frustrating, but like you pointed out, it is what it is. We can't change it. We can only work within it.

Melissa said...

Great post. I take my writing seriously, but I'm lucky (in some ways) that it's not my bread and butter, and that eases the pressure quite a bit. Maybe once my kids leave home (more writing time) and I get more skilled with the craft, I'll be able to crank 'em out. But not right now.

Every author's situation is different, so they have to choose the path that suits their goals and their ms. Some of the best books I've read have been self-published works. As a reader, I don't care which path they take as long as they write a good story and publish/promote it with a reasonable amount of professionalism and integrity.

Carrie Butler said...

Mine too, Sheena-kay! We just have to do everything in our power to help that happen. :)

Thank you!

Carrie Butler said...

*Grins*

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Donna! :) I'm the same way. Even if I blocked out free time to write, write, write, I wouldn't be able to produce that many books a year. Once I start a project, I become completely absorbed in it. The overlap would have me so frazzled!

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Lee! I'm right there with you. Here's to a bumpy, yet satisfying ride! :D

Carrie Butler said...

C'est la vie, indeed! :) Thanks for stopping by, Andra!

Carrie Butler said...

And that's all that matters, Prerna! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Deep, Eric. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Reese! I'd call writing your second career. It doesn't have to pay the bills, as long as you have long term goals and you're pursuing them with full-time devotion! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Angela! You know how much I admire your work and priorities. I'm sure your Chipmunk appreciates that extra time. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Well said, Nancy! I'd rather be an artist than an assembly line, even if it takes longer to get the desired result. :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Melissa!

Man, I wish I had another source of bread and butter... LOL Oh well. My sad lack of employment helps with the whole "starving artist" image. ;)

Yes, your entire second paragraph, yes!

Tara Tyler said...

hey, put me down for one cover reveal! if its not too late!
and i think every business has evolved for good & bad, but writing the most visibly.

i write part time & sub part time. and i'm cranking out stories, but not taking any shortcuts so its not speedy turn around...

congrats on next release!

Carrie-Anne said...

I've been writing for 29 years, as long as I've known how to write. It's just something I've always done, and I used to believe I'd be a famous, rich writer by this age. Even if I'm never rich, my ultimate dream is still to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. I want to be remembered as a writer for all time, like Shakespeare, not someone who was only famous or popular for a little while in my own generation.

Carrie Butler said...

And as a bonus, I can tell everyone I knew you before you won the Novel Prize! :D

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Tara! I'll email you. :)

And that is a GREAT point. If I could, I'd highlight it!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Writing is my passion. I don't think of it as a job, but I know I should be more disciplined and write under every circumstances. Great post, Carrie. Really got me thinking.

Carrie Butler said...

Joylene! I've missed you. :) Thank you for stopping by!

Kanettra Holmes said...

Hey Carrie,

I'm a few days late but I couldn't help but leave a response.

First I have to say, Carrie you have some of the best posts, I'm never disappointed when I come on your blog and I feel like I am always learning something new.

In response to your question writing for me I would have to say is a hobby that I am trying to turn into a career. I am new to writing and i am taking my time with publishing my first novel because I DO want it to be something I can be proud of as well as a story many others will enjoy.

Natasha Hanova said...

Thought-provoking post, Carrie. I agree there are many paths and it's important to figure out end goals. For me, writing is a career, an I-can't-belived-they-pay-me-to-do-this passion.

So excited about the cover reveal next week!

Lydia Kang said...

Great post. It's so true--there is a lot we control, and a lot more we can't, once our book is out there. As for me, writing is both a job and a career. Anyone who calls it a hobby is going to get a dirty look from me. ;)

Eric Muss-Barnes said...

Succinct too! You should be proud. ;-)

Carrie Butler said...

No sweat, Kanettra! People usually comment throughout the week, whenever they find time. Thank you very much!

I am so glad to hear that you're taking your time and learning the business. IMO, that's really the way to go. :D

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Natasha! I really love the way you put that. It's an I-can't-believe-they-pay-me-to-do-this passion for me, too! :)

Carrie Butler said...

Thanks, Lydia! Yes, anyone who calls it a hobby is going to get a dirty look from me, too. *Grins*

Rachel Morgan said...

I love that picture of the slot machine. That's exactly what it's like! We can do our best to a certain extent (good story, proper editing, amazing cover, great marketing), but after that it's a total gamble. We could have all the ingredients for success and STILL wind up with barely anyone reading our books!
But ... if writing is what you really love, then it's still worth it.

Carrie Butler said...

Thank you, Rachel! It certainly feels that way, doesn't it?

Here's to doing what we love! :)