What drives an author? Is it the belief that publishing a book will lead to instant riches? Fame? Going from obscurity to being the person chatted about at parties? Hearing stories of your friends living vicariously through you?
Is it simply that there are stories inside us that must be told? The driving need to take something from our imagination and immortalize the creation in print?
Or could it be all of the above?
Most authors will tell you that they simply can’t not write. That it’s as necessary as a cup of coffee in the morning, breathing, or eating. That they dread the day a medical condition robs them of the ability to take a story from concept to print.
I’ve said it many times before. Becoming a published author is not an instant road to fame and fortune. It takes years of hard work, promotion, and focus. It’s working on the basics of your professional image, connecting to readers, and learning how to balance promotion with writing time. It’s being aware, on an hourly basis, of promotional opportunities. When you can talk about your books, and when you have to be a parent/spouse.
The rewards you get from being published come in a series of moments. This calling is not one where you’ll get instant gratification. It’s spread out over months, years. It’s being able to take the words of a teenager who’s giddy over meeting an author with grace and humility. Talking with people who read your books, answering their questions. Signing your name on the title page and handing it to someone who hugs the book with happiness on their face. Putting your name on a Wall of Fame at a bookstore known around the world.
Most people never see what happens behind the scenes. They don’t see the years of struggling to get a single sale in a month, or even finding a publisher willing to take a chance on you. They don’t see the balance of family time and writing time. Darting up at 3 am to get a scene out of your head because there’s a school event you have to attend that’ll make writing in the evening not happen.
If you’re of the belief that your book is going to make you millions within a few days/weeks/months of release…stop now. If you think you’re going to have a book signing event with people lining around the block within 2 weeks of release…stop now. There is a greater chance that you’ll be struck by lightning, win the lottery, and be nominated for a Pulitzer all in the same week.
This job takes hard work, dedication, and time. Lots and lots of time. You’re going to have months, even years, at the start where your royalties aren’t going to be enough to buy a latte. You’re going to have people ask what you really do for a living, because you’re going to have to keep that day job for several years. Most authors won’t ever be able to quit that job. Fame? You’ll have more people who think you owe them a free copy of your book than buy it. They’ll say they support you, but won’t open their wallet. And, should you actually start getting sales, they’ll be right there wanting to ride your coattails.
Why start, then? Why spend all the time polishing the story, submitting it, getting rejection after rejection? Because there is more to life, and being happy both within and without, than fame and fortune.
The series of moments you’ll experience over the years is worth more than you can imagine.