This past week, I almost threw in the towel.
I’m not the quitting type, either. But between life, my day job and a general discouragement for writing and self-publishing in general, I was more tempted than ever. So tempted that a large part of me didn’t even want to bother writing this post. I don’t consider myself a ranter — at least not a public ranter. But then, it hit me. This might be exactly what someone else is going through right now. And I want you to know you’re not the only one.
After finishing my latest book and taking a relaxing, unplugged vacation, I thought I’d be read to jump right back into things when I got home. I spent the next two weeks outlining a novella. The going was slow as this is the first project I’ve ever attempted to do an extensive outline for. Nevertheless, I finished on schedule and was ready to dive into the rough draft. My goal is to work up to 2,000 words/day, far enough out of reach I’ll have to stretch the old writing muscles, but close enough I can hit it, if I focus and just write.
The first day, I hit around 750 words. At the same time, I also hit a wall. Not just hit it, but smacked into it full force like Wily Coyote barreling toward a painted-on tunnel entrance. Upon impact, my give-a-damn busted into a thousand different pieces. I struggled to get up early enough to write before work. I stopped devouring my favorite writing and publishing podcasts and I also found all the emails I was receiving about Facebook ads, Scrivener tips, list building and marketing webinars really bugged me. In short, I was pretty fed up with this author business.
This quote by Steinbeck found me just when I needed it (thanks Blake Atwood). It made me realize something: I’d lost hold of the illusion. Self-publishing is a not a grandiose dream, no matter how much hoopla we pile on it. It’s a slogging-along-through-muddy-trenches type of dream. Bereft of the sugar coating and rose-colored glasses, it can seem pretty bleak at times.
Worse still, it seems like EVERYONE ELSE is making it. Everyone’s sales are increasing, their email lists are skyrocketing and life is all puppy dogs and daisy chains. I’m here to tell you it’s not. I’m here to tell you that the vast majority if us aren’t striking it rich. The vast majority of us aren’t supporting ourselves, aren’t even covering half our monthly expenses. As far as I can tell, the oft-touted rarely seen midlist self-published authors is as small as the upper echelon of millionaire authors. And that’s not even factoring in what genre you write.
“Who’s got it better than us?” Jim Harbaugh, ex-NFL and now college football coach, asks his players when they’re at practice. The idea is that, no matter how miserable they are, they’re still out on the field, living their dreams. And if you thought WE have it bad, read this.
No matter how impossible it all looks, you’ve got to realize that there are hundreds of thousands of dead wanna-be authors who never had the opportunity to get their work out there. Even if the chances are slim for us, there’s still a chance. Sometimes, that’s all you can hope for.
Working to be a successful author, whether self or traditionally published is a really crappy endeavor sometimes. There will be times when we want to call it quits, when we think we’re never going to make it. And if we ever do make it, it might be much later than we were planning on. It’s okay to get down. It’s okay if we say “screw it, I don’t have time to market this week! I don’t have time to rewrite my blurb. I don’t have the cash to pay to redesign my cover.” It’s okay if we get fed up with the self-publishing courses, webinars and all the ra-ra-ra and just disconnect. There will be days like that. There will be weeks like that. There may even be months like that.
None of that matters as long as you can lay your head down at the end of the day and tell yourself two things:
- That you wrote something, even if it was so bad that your local dump would refuse to dispose of it.
- That there are THOUSANDS of people in the exact same situation as you, fighting the same battles every day.
Sometimes you have to forget about those people with seemingly perfect writing schedules. You have to forget about the people making thousands, hundreds or even tens of dollars each week from their books. Instead, take some small, twisted comfort in the fact that you’re not alone in your struggles. We’re all slogging through the trenches together.
Who’s got it better than us? Looking up the ladder, lots of authors do. But considering the hundreds of thousands of authors whose work never saw the light of day back in the “old days”, it’s not so bad. We have a chance.
Self-publishing is in the midst of another transformation. It’s going to get harder and harder for new authors to break in and grab a piece of the pie. When the smoke clears and the dust settles, there’s only going to be two groups left: those who found success and established a readership early on and those who are still slaving and trudging away with little or nothing to show for it…yet. Maybe one day we’ll hop the fence to the other side of things, but in the meantime, if we get discouraged and despair, we might as well do it together. After all, who’s got it better than us?
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.