The sensible thing to do would be to give up. Stop writing, realize that I've given it the good old college try and move on to something else.
I'd gain a lot of time back in my life, could focus on other priorities and that would be that.
But I won't. I really can't.
I just don't want to give up writing books.
Have you had this conversation with yourself?
Maybe it's one that you've had fairly often or maybe it's that creeping voice that comes to you when you're down and out: "Give up. You've failed as an author. You can't survive off of writing."
I have dreamed of writing books since I was about 8-years old. I wrote my first story around then with dialogue like looked right out of a Batman and Robin episode with "Zaps!" and "Pows!"
One of my earliest positive memories of writing comes from elementary school. I had written a story in which heroes from a bygone day are teleported to our modern world and need to fight to survive. My teacher allowed me to read the story to the class and I still can remember how entranced my fellow classmates as they listened to me.
But you might say: "That's great for you. You can take those memories and cherish them. Let's talk more about making money."
I wish I had an easy answer to that.
What I see as a successful path to make money as a fiction author is the following formula:
Write to market
Put out a book every 4-6 weeks
Bust your ass in marketing the book
Rinse and repeat
Branch out and co-write with other authors and get into box sets
Seems like a simple formula, right?
I can't really do this path because I'm not willing to drive myself into the ground and then deal with burnout.
I have a full-time job (and really enjoy it!) and popping out a new book every 4-6 weeks just isn't what I want to do.
In looking at my track record, I put out 1-2 books a year. To date, I have 11 novels.
I have a mailing list of a little over 2,000 readers who I send my newsletter out twice a month.
I've done newsletter swaps with other authors and have tried (though I wouldn't say I've been successful) at running Amazon ads.
When my budget allows, I've run promotions and continue to try for a Bookbub.
After 8 hard years of writing and not finding financial success, the logical thing to do would be to give up.
But what keeps me going?
I love writing. I've loved it since I was a little kid and found that writing could lift me up and out of my problems. Being able to communicate with words helped me bridge a gap from one mind to the next. I could take an idea, wrap it in words, and plant it into the fertile ground of a book. Others could read what I wrote and come away with me on an imaginative journey.
When I write, I do so with great hope — hope that all the problems of the world can be stripped away, and for a moment in time, I can share with someone my true self. No ideas would be mocked, no fantastic place too creative, but there is a sense of togetherness that's intimate and free. You can read the words that formed within my mind, and they are immortal as they are passed on from reader to reader.
And the faith I've found over the years through writing rises within me. I have failed, made mistakes, been beaten down, and yet I still have faith.
I could stop writing. I could put away my pen and paper, my laptop and my iPhone, but then I would be losing my voice.
Without art in the world, where would we be?
I have not been a utilitarian writer. For better or for worse, I write because of what moves me. I write the stories that I believe are important to be told.
Over the years, readers have written to me and told me how much they had enjoyed my books. Some have shared their personal stories of pain, suffering, and grief, and let me know that, in a small way, my words have helped them. And I truly am thankful for that.
Now it's time for me to go.
I will not do the sensible thing and stop writing.
But I will read, listen, and learn.
To become a better writer, to let loose the words without fear of rejection or judgment. I will write what needs to be read.
I think the hardest part of the journey has been finding you — the reader.
I'm sorry it took me so long to find you. But if I could look you in the eyes, I would do so and share this with you:
Don't ever give up. Find a way to keep on writing. Write the books that you believe you were meant to write. But true to yourself and allow kindness, vulnerability, and authenticity to wash over you. Let your words be seen.
I cannot promise you that you will be rich, but you will be happy.
And somewhere, somehow, your words will find someone and inspire them. Your words will give them hope. Your creations will live in love.
Not bad for some drawn symbols on a page.
Not bad at all.