“You’re a published writer? Why the hell are you working here?”
This was the most common comment I received when I told my coworkers I was published. And it made me grimace and shake my head a little each and every time.
The ebook boom on KDP and the success of authors like J.K. Rowling have woven an aura of financial status around writing that simply doesn’t exist. The ugly truth is that the penny a word paid out by publishers in the days of Robert E. Howard in the pulp era is still frequently offered as compensation in today’s fiction markets. Those few publications that pay a modern “professional” rate (Cemetery Dance, etc.) do so with the headache of year-long response times and competition with hundreds of other authors. The rivalry for attention is just as intense on the indie scene where writers constantly undervalue their work to attract customers in a sea of peers who have the exact same idea.
Frankly, the opportunity for the average fictioneer to make a decent living off his writing stinks no matter which route he takes. The odds will always be stacked against him or her reaching the lofty heights of a Joe Hill or J.K. Rowling. But you know what? That’s okay. Because money is the last thing any author should be concerned with before setting a pen to paper.
Save the dreams of movie deals and appearances on late shows for later. Why are you really doing this? Why is that story in your head so damned important you allow it to eat up hours upon hours of your free time? If the answer is those visions of stardom, you’ll burn out fast. Guaranteed. So stop while you’re ahead and go take some business courses. But if you’re like me, like any true writer, your answer is entirely different.
It’s the idea that drives us. The characters whispering in our ears, the places we’ve envisioned so intensely without ever being able to step foot inside their borders, and the chance of sharing all that with other people–to let them inside the worlds our minds have wrought–that keeps us going. And while I’d love to have a fanbase large enough to provide me with financial security, right now, I’ll settle for the catharsis of creating something new–something mine–that will never know old age or die.