That was the title of a featured story in this morning’s Times Union (Albany, NY).
If a best-selling author, with multiple appearances on “The Colbert Report,” documentary films and a wildly successful blog-not to mention 18 fiction and nonfiction books to his credit and another due out on July 5-can’t survive financially on his writing, what are the odds for the rest of us?
I have been thinking about this issue a lot, long before the article appeared. Fortunately, I don’t need money from my books to survive-I’m retired, with Social Security and a modest pension. But self-publishing costs an author a bundle. If a self-published book doesn’t make at least enough money to cover those costs, let alone make a profit, that is money spent that could be used in other ways–house upgrades, nice vacations, etc. The first couple of years, you can claim a loss on your taxes, so it isn’t so painful. But eventually that avenue dries up.
And the time spent on writing books, posting blogs, managing a website, staying active on social media – that time could be used in so many other satisfying ways that don’t dead-end in the disappointing collection of agent and publisher rejections. It’s long past time for me to choose doing things with my husband and dog and family and friends over writing-related activities that go nowhere.
After I finished Gram & Me and had it edited, I began the query process – primarily agents, but also a few small publishers. I sent queries to 52 agents and three publishers. I’ve already received 18 agent rejections and 1 publisher rejection. Many of websites of the remaining agents say they don’t reply if they aren’t interested, so who knows how many additional response I’ll receive? I did receive one manuscript request, but the odds still are against me. I’ve been down this road with three previous books.
I’m not trying to discourage budding writers. I’m simply being realistic about my own chances, at age 66, and questioning if I might prefer doing all those things I have been putting off in hopes of making it as a traditionally published writer.
My internal jury still is out. And I wouldn’t throw in the towel before I’d heard from every last agent and publisher (or enough time passed that I’d assume silent rejection). And I’d probably keep up my writing on some level. But maybe just for my own personal satisfaction.
Surprisingly, this doesn’t make me as sad as I would have expected (or would have been maybe five years ago). Maybe I’d be a little relieved if I actually stopped pursuing publication.
Life is full of disappointments. As life goes, and in the bigger picture, this is not a tragedy.
But I’m letting the idea gel a bit before I commit one way or the other. I have, after all, always felt like a writer.