I find myself having some big thoughts lately about my writing. Focus changing thoughts. Life directing thoughts. The kind of thoughts my tenth grade English teacher would call epiphanies, and bless her heart she’d pronounce every vowel in that word like it was a gospel being sung. There were, incidentally, a lot of epiphanies in the books we read that year.
No, the question at hand is, “Is writing a hobby, or is it a job?” Is it something I do for fun, or is it something I want to make a business out of? Where do I want it go?
To date, I have made less than $100 with my writing, ever. A pittance, to be sure, and hardly something to justify as a successful business. But that is as much my fault – I’ve done nothing to make it more serious. I write when the mood strikes, wedging writing in between day job, family, and other activities. I don’t treat it seriously enough.
It is the daydream of many of us to be able to live off our writing. To spend our days weaving world’s that then put food on the table and roofs over our heads. I’m not talking rich or even well off, just comfortable. I recognize this is fantasy, a daydream without form, but how else do we realize our dreams but by trying? I know I’m not alone in this fantasy, either – look at any of the other folks out there struggling to get words out. But I’ve done nothing to turn that fantasy into reality, and I think that’s because I haven’t embraced my writing as an actual side career.
The time has come for a change. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have told you I’d never self publish. At the time, that was sound thinking. But things have changed since then, and the market for self published fiction has transformed a lot.
For a test run, last weekend I cleaned up a trunked novel, “A Scent of Roses,” put a cover together, and set it out on Amazon. I used to worry what friends and family would think when they read one of my novels. Based on my sales so far, I don’t have that worry any more.
What I do have is a game plan. I’ve turned a corner in my writing, and it was hard. I can no longer write like it was a hobby, something I did when the mood struck me or the moment was right.
I enjoy writing, and that’s something I will never compromise on. When it stops being something I enjoy, I’ll stop doing it. But if I’m serious about making a go at it, then I have to treat it more seriously. I have to treat it like a business venture, something I’m doing on the side from my “real” job, but something I’m willing to put the time and energy into, every day.
What’s next? Well, they say you have to spend money to make money. If I want writing to be a business, I have to be willing to put something into it. Time and energy are certainly large factors, but recently I contracted someone to help me clean up another of my novels: I hired a copyeditor.
I don’t expect this editor to make my story beautiful. I’m paying, but not enough for them to turn dreck into gold. But I do have a novel that I feel halfway good about, and I’m going to have them help me clean that up this summer. From there, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll try and get a publisher for it. Maybe I’ll self publish it too and see how it fares.
Either way, I’ve made up my mind to treat my writing not as a lark, something I do to tell stories on the side, but as a startup business I’m trying to get off the ground. I’ve spent longer than I probably should have getting ducks in a row, feeling things out, finding my voice. Now it’s time for me to put up or shut up. It’s time for me to start selling.