The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: September 2014

Why authors are better off than NFL players

On any given Sunday in August, you can turn on an NFL football game and watch players you’ve never heard of fighting tooth and nail to make their dreams a reality. Browse through Amazon, a physical book store or a literary magazine and you’ll see the same struggle going on. The fight might not be physical, or as apparent, but the same hunger is there.

Vintage American Football

I know I’ll probably lose a few people opening this post with an NFL metaphor, but hear me out. A year ago, I’d just completed  the edits for my debut novel and was beginning to develop a list of agents to pitch it to. I thought I had a good book, but at the same time, I felt like a grain of sand in a desert. I couldn’t give you exact numbers, but I knew my chances of being picked up by an agent were somewhere around 0%. Still, I didn’t care, because I wanted to be a writer, no matter the odds.

It was then I realized, a similar scenario was playing out before my eyes every time I watched a preseason NFL game.

For those of you who aren’t NFL or football fans, let me give you a few numbers to put things in perspective: Rough statistics from the NCAA (National College Athletics Association) say that about 1 in 17, or just under 6% of high school football players make it to the collegiate level. Of that 6%, about 1 in 50 college seniors, or 2% are drafted by an NFL team each spring. That makes the chances that any given high school player will be drafted by an NFL team around 9 in 10,000 (.009% — also the same chances that you’ll have an IQ over 150).

retro football players in formation

Photo Credit: Cedarville University

Of course, there are players who will not be invited to the draft or go undrafted even after attending. These players may have the opportunity to attend a Rookie Mini Camp with an NFL team. There, they’ll hope to catch a coach’s eye and land a spot on the 90-man preseason roster. Last year, there were around 500 of these players, all vying for a coveted spot on the roster.

If they find a place, it’s far from smooth sailing, though. Once on the roster, they’ll spend all summer learning the playbook and competing with other, more experienced players at their position. When the preseason begins, these undrafted rookie free agents, as they’re called, will have a handful of chances in three games to prove they belong on the team.  On August 26, each team’s roster will be trimmed down to 75. Boom. Fifteen players and their dreams are cut. By August 30, teams will need to have their final, 53-man rosters for the regular season in place. There goes another 22 players. From beginning to end, that’s 1,184 players who are forced to reassess what they want from life.

Even if you make the roster, the battle doesn’t end there. It’s a constant uphill fight to stave off other players at your position and to keep yourself healthy. According to the NFL Player’s Association, when all the factors add up, the average length of an NFL career is 3.3 years. It’s a small window of opportunity and no one really knows when it’s going to slam shut.

A quote from Lawrence Taylor’s character in the film Any Given Sunday sums it up pretty well:

For every sucker who makes it, for every Barry Sanders, for every Jerry Rice, there’s a hundred (players) you never heard of. Suddenly, there’s no more money…no more applause. No more dream.

For us in the writing business, this scenario isn’t that different from our own struggles. Instead of the 32 teams, we’ve got the Big Three (or Five, if you wish) in publishing, each with their rosters of published authors.  Instead of 52 other players, there are thousands of books in most sub-genres out there, each a part of the hundreds of thousands in the main genres.  That’s a lot of authors.

So what are we to do? Many opt to continue chasing a publisher, improving their craft and querying, always querying their works. Others (such as myself) forsake the agents altogether and strike out on their own. Either way, whether seeking to traditionally or self publish, beginning authors are essentially in the same boat. 

American football illustration. With grunge texture. VectorBut there is good news: unlike our counterparts in the NFL, we don’t have to beat the numbers. We don’t have to compete against our fellow authors for a career. The only person who can tell us “no more dream” is ourselves.

Still want to be traditionally published? Submit short storiesto magazines and other publications and show your work on a blog and social media.  Self-publishers: do your best to make your books look indistinguishable from the bestsellers and treat your writing like a profession, not a hobby. Both groups: always strive to write clearer and more concise.

As authors, we’re blessed in that, even though we may receive rejection letters, get “cut” from the rosters of the Big Three or become buried in Amazon’s depth charts, our dream isn’t over. It’s not the end of the line. We have options and ways to make those dreams come true. For us, it’s not a zero-sum game. There will always be room for great writing.

It’s easy to get discouraged when our  queries are rejected, when our books sales are low or someone leaves us a scathing review. As Joe Konrath says: “We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.”

The important thing to remember is that those are only setbacks, not endings. No one is telling you that you have to stop writing. We’re blessed to be in a profession where there’s not a limited amount of entries, or a time window to squeeze in. As bad as it gets, we can always write something new, something better. For us, the only ceiling is the one we place over ourselves. The only person who can close the door on your writing career is yourself. We’re not in this for 3.3 years, we’re in it for a lifetime.

Be patient. And keep writing.

This post has been re-purposed with permission from Derek Alan Siddoway. It was originally published on derekalansiddoway.com

Why I have to write

I tell stories. Out loud, to my inner self, to my wife, to my child, to anyone who will listen. When you ask me a question, expecting a yes or no answer, you get the long version in reply. Words just spill out, I once told my daughter when she complained about having to write so much in college, that if she couldn’t just sit down and write 1000 words on any given subject—well, we’d just have to consider her paternity.

Now I realize that not everyone is blessed/cursed with this ability. And, I know that getting the story in your head to flow out of your fingers onto a blank white page is not as easy as I make it sound. I believe that everyone can and should write. They should record the stories that are in them, regardless of the spelling and grammar challenges that they think they would encounter. What stories, you ask. Everyone has a story, everyone has multiple stories within them; they just have to share them with others.

You don’t believe that you have stories in you? I try to regularly watch “The Story Trek” on BYU-TV which is based on the premise that everyone has a story and it is the mission of the show to ‘trek’ about, drawing those stories out of anyone who can be convinced to share them. Time and again the host of the show, a former network journalist/personality, proves that, indeed, everyone has a story to tell.

You weren’t expecting to talk about you, were you? Are you thinking I suckered you with the lead-in? Nah, don’t worry. But in order to explain me, I first have to tell you what I believe about storytelling — before I can tell you why I have to write.

The first step in my journey to become a writer was learning how to make letters. Yep, I’m talking penmanship, printing block letters, learning to link them together in smooth, readable cursive script and all of that stuff. Later, I learned to make stylized letters when I was taught beginning drafting. I sucked at them all; there was nothing beautiful about my handwriting in any way. It did give me a tool that still serves me well; the stories within me are able to drain through my fingers onto that blank white page that lies before everyone sitting down to write.

I was bamboozled into taking a ‘type’ class, back in the era of manual typewriters. I was told it would add skills that would A. help in job searches in that foggy, nebulous time after high school or B. make college life easier if you took that path instead. Yeah, sure. Even with the advent of electric machines, my speed never got to the point where it would tip the scales in my favor in any job competition. But it gave me the skills to quickly write the ideas in my head and see the result on the page as if they were published. Bonanza! Eureka! The entire class period during my senior year in high-school (Thanks Mrs. E, I haven’t told anyone until now) was spent staring out the window, typewriting bad beat poetry and snippets of  bombastic manifestos about the power and purity of youth and the unfairness and corruption of ‘THE MAN.’ (If this doesn’t make any sense to you, Google the late ‘60’s and the youth resentment against ‘THE MAN’)

The second part of having to write is learning to read. Literally, from the Dick and Jane Readers and Scholastic Newsletters (fuzzily printed on newsprint) to an effort at “War & Peace”, reading was/is training for being able to write. I recently read that Hunter S. Thompson (Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas and many other great stories/essays) retyped “The Great Gatsby” and “A Farewell to Arms” in order to learn about writing styles and to experience what novel writing is about. Reading has done this for me. I will share my old cliché to explain. I read voraciously, upwards of 8-10 novels per month. This doesn’t count the magazines, newspapers, websites, scriptures, proofreading, editing, etc. that I do. If there isn’t anything else in the house to read, my Amazon budget is expired, or the library doesn’t entice, I will read the dictionary or the encyclopedia.

When I read, unless it is very poorly written, the story comes alive in my mind. Characters are fleshed out, dialogue is virtually heard, there in my mind, and scenes play out as if in reality. I am transported into the world of the story.

Why do I have to write? I might as well ask why I have to breath. Expelling CO2 from your lungs is fundamental to life. Expelling the words from my mind is fundamental to making my life sane.

Whether telling a story or watching words  dribble. down. a. page. in poesy, I am expelling word-steam from my mind that is overheating and expanding to the point it must come out.

I wrote above about the reality of the story as I read a novel. When I write, those same realities play out. Characters and plot drive themselves. A friend, who is a published author, told me that she writes because it is the only world that she can control. I write because I have no control. If I decide that a character must go West, the final words on the page show that indeed that character went South because he had to see a man about a dog. Does that make any sense to you? It startled the hell out of me when it first happened.

In the end, and after talking around a lot of other things, I write because I must. I was created to write, I write to honor that creation. I hope you enjoy reading my writing, it is why it was created.

See, it wasn’t that hard, just over a 1000 words in little over an hour. You can do it too. You should do it too.

Michael, “Mike” to his friends, is a writer, striving to be an author. He has been a teller of tales since elementary school and garnered a slew of rejections from even that early age (you can read samples of his stories at www.skullvalleytales.blogspot.com). Since retiring from the 9 to 5 grind in 2005, he has, in addition to writing more, taken up a lot of hobbies like gardening and hiking that he neither had the time nor space to work at before.

Author Origins: Blake Atwood

Blake AtwoodBlake Atwood is a freelance editor and writer at EditFor.me and the author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad. He’s proofread Texas legislation, led communications for a large church, written copy for a law firm, and edited hundreds of articles for a niche content marketing platform. Today, he offers affordable editing and writing services to self-publishers. Download his Self-Publisher’s Checklist: 33 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing for free by subscribing to his helpful email newsletter for writers. 

Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.

Every serious writer wants to “graduate” to become an author. Seeing your name on the spine of a book is every writer’s ultimate dream. Whether we admit to it or not, there’s validation there—the fact that something I created out of almost nothing exists in the real world.

I became an author because I wanted to prove to my insecure writer self that it could be done.

Two months after starting the initial writing of my book, I quit writing, sure that no one would be interested in what I wanted to say about a critically acclaimed show I thought few people had been watching.

Then fate intervened. 

That’s when I became an author. That’s when I got serious about finishing my book regardless of public reception. That’s when I got up at 5 a.m. almost every day for weeks on end to write for one or two hours.

I knew that if I was going to self-publish, I at least wanted to take advantage of free publicity and have the book’s release date coincide with the final season premiere episode of Breaking Bad. Following those two months of having essentially given up on the project, the powers that be announced that Breaking Bad would return to the small screen one month later than it had in previous years.

As if by magic, I’d be given back an entire month.

That’s when I became an author. That’s when I got serious about finishing my book regardless of public reception. That’s when I got up at 5 a.m. almost every day for weeks on end to write for one or two hours.

Four months later, I had an author page on Amazon.

It’s been a year since then, and that one book has opened doors for me that would have never been opened otherwise.

Though I’m adamant about encouraging self-publishers to always start the next book after they’ve finished their first, I’m terrible at taking my own advice. I have yet to start another project of my own, but I’m getting restless about it. Plus, my highly encouraging wife keeps goading me about the next book.

What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?
When I wrote my book in early to mid-2013, I was working 40 hours a week and I was a newlywed.
In July of 2014, I left full-time employment to pursue full-time freelance editing and writing work. But, when I wrote my book in early to mid-2013, I was working 40 hours a week and I was a newlywed. I wrestled with finding time for myself to write the book. I wanted to spend quality time with my wife, and I didn’t want my writing efforts to take away from my day-job efforts. Eventually, I capitulated to my own comfort and began writing at 5 or 5:30 a.m. every morning for at least four days a week.

Before I began freelancing, I assumed that having myself as a boss would grant me at least an hour or two out of my work day to write my own words, but my outside work has been consistent. Consequently, if I want to write and publish another book, I’ll very likely have to revert to the daily, early-morning discipline that helped me write the first book!

For me, the hardest aspects were (and still are) finding the right time to work on a book, being absolutely dedicated to the writing for that time block, and working as hard as I can to meet deadlines, even if they’re arbitrary.

Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).

Even though I’m freelancing, it’s still a full-time job, and I have to be intentional with how I spend my time. When I was employed by a company, I had to get up early to write. There was simply no other way the book would ever be written, as I certainly wasn’t going to sacrifice time with my wife, family, or friends in order to write (though I’m sure that happened on certain occasions).

Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.

Now that I’m fully in charge of my own time at work, there’s less urgency to giving time to my own writing—and that’s not a good thing. Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.

I need to get back into the habit of rising early to write my own books, else they’re likely never to come into existence.

At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?

With my wife’s blessing—because I wouldn’t have done it otherwise—I quit my full-time job in July of 2014, but it wasn’t because of my book sales. When I made the transition, I felt equally excited and terrified.

If you’ll allow it, I’d like to offer a specific word of warning to first-time authors considering quitting their day jobs to become full-time writers: don’t.

I’m going to be far too honest here and share my current book sales and revenue. This is neither gloating or bemoaning. Such numbers are something I wish more first-time, self-published authors would share, which is why I’m doing so here.

Having written a book is such a larger achievement than having made money from it.
Though Amazon offers stellar royalties, I never assumed that one book would allow me to quit my job—and it didn’t. However, like I said, the book opened doors for me to pursue other paid writing work on a full-time, freelance basis. So I guess I could argue that the book has allowed me to help financially support my family, but it’s by no means the sole supporting cause.

As of the end of July 2014, or nearly a year’s worth of sales, I’ve sold 1964 copies (digital, print, and audiobook versions), given away 1274 copies, and have made $2447 total for an average of 110 books sold per month with an average monthly revenue of $245.

Considering that some sites say most indie-published books sell less than 500 copies in their lifetime, I’d like to think my book’s done well, and that’s the point. Even with generous royalties and fairly good sales for a seldom-marketed book with a no-name author, I’ve only made $245 per month.

I’m absolutely thankful for that income, but it’s nothing to quit over. At this point in my life, it’s an important part of a larger business plan, but I’d like to caution would-be writers and self-publishers that, unless you strike the lottery with your book, quitting your day job after releasing one book (or even two or three) isn’t encouraged.

But you should still write that book. Having written a book is such a larger achievement than having made money from it.

What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?

The actual genesis for my book started in 2010 with this article. I had no idea then that I’d ever write a book about the show and was fairly certain the website wouldn’t even accept the article.

Outside of writing, I read and drum, though not at the same time.

What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?

Be patient and focus on the task in front of you. That’s two pieces of advice, but they’re two sides of the same coin. Trying to write a BOOK is much more difficult than trying to write a page of a book—and even that can be difficult at times.

By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.

Maybe you want to build a writing career on the back of that book, but that’s far too much pressure to place on yourself and your book, especially while you’re writing it. By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.

Yes, this will take longer, but the reward is worth the focused effort.

Is there anything else you’d like to touch on?

I’m happy to offer an editing quote for any self-publishing authors. And whether or not you choose me to edit your book, promise me that you’ll pay some qualified editor to edit your book. Everyone needs an editor!

Introducing the Everyday Author

Let’s cut to the chase.

It seems like everyone today wants to be an author of some sorts.  Since the advent of Amazon’s KDP and the Kindle gold rush, indie authors and self-publishing services have sprung up like dandelions in a suburban yard.  Maybe it’s a revolution, maybe it’s just evolution. Either way, traditional or indie, books still have to be written and word counts must be reached. Starting out, learning  how and when to write can be challenge enough. If you’re going to self-publish, actually writing is only the tip of the iceberg, friend.

See, being serious about being indie means you’re more than an author. You’re also a marketer and a publisher and that’s only the beginning of the job description. (Even writers with traditional publishing goals need to know how to pitch and package their manuscripts.) For those of us who want to hand in our two week notice, self-publishing a book means more than submitting a first draft draped in a clipart cover onto KDP, Kobo or anywhere else.

There’s a lot of work to balance out: writing, marketing, blogging, social media… and the list goes on. For most of us, this is work we’re doing on top of the “day job” that pays the bills and feeds the face. It’s work we’re fitting in during the wee hours of the morning when the world is asleep, at lunch while the rest of the office is on break or late at night after the kids have gone to bed. Whether you’re working at a downtown office, a fast food restaurant, or as a stay at home parent, it can feel like there’s never enough hours in the day.

When you first start out, there’s literally a horde of information to sift through. Most of it is sound, but no matter how great the knowledge, education without application is worthless.  This is where your search for wisdom can become overwhelming. See, the majority of the best blogs and podcasts for the aspiring authors are run by folks who have already paid their dues and arrived. Although they give fantastic advice and offer themselves as  mentors to the community, sometimes it can be a challenge to incorporate their strategies when you’ve only got a couple of hours a day to build your author empire.

That’s where we come in. The Everyday Author is a blog  by and for working class authors who have yet to turn their writing into a full time gig. Make no mistake — our writing is a profession, not a hobby and we’ve set our sights on it paying the bills. Together with you, we’ll produce, curate and share the best advice in the self-publishing industry and then translate that content into strategies that work for the authorpreneur with limited time on their hands.

We’ll be sharing tips and advice on how to treat your writing like the profession it is, even when there’s bills to pay and life to work around. In addition to blogging and gathering great content,  The Everyday Author is also a forum for discussion and support amongst part-time authors.  Although we’re geared towards authorpreneurs, self-publishers and indies, The Everyday Author has something for anyone with dreams of writing for a living. Together, with a lot of hard, lonely work, a little obsession and a dash of luck, we’ll get there.

 Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com

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