I have made a conscientious effort to adjust my expectations as a writer as I learned about the field. First I recalibrated my assumptions about how much promotion a publisher would provide, and how effective it might be. Okay, I’ll have to do a lot of that myself.
Then I learned how few writers can make a living from it, even though they appear “successful” to the public at large. That’s fine, too. I never planned to get rich, I can live with writing as tip money. Maybe it will pay for the annual Bouchercon trip. It’s all good.
Of course, getting an agent is an enormous pain in the ass. I know they’re busy, but the advent of e-mail should make the “if you don’t hear from us, we’re not interested” answer a thing of the past. It takes ten seconds to hit Reply and drop some Auto text into a message and send it back. Still, I hung with it and actually found two agents the old-fashioned way, through cold queries. The first relationship dissolved amicably, the second not as much, though I’ve since learned I may have been a little hasty, so I’ll eat that one.
A few bits of encouragement got me to thinking I might be getting closer to a deal, so I stepped up my study of what happens after you get a contract, and learned that, no matter how much bullshit has to be endured to get an agent and a contract, it probably increases after you get a deal. Edits, copy edits, marketing, all compete with trying to write the next book, and there doesn’t seem to be much consideration for the fact you’ll be balancing this against a full-time job while you’re at it.
That’s a writer’s life: lots of bullshit, no money. If you have some success and cop a contract, the money goes up a little; the bullshit goes up a lot. The only reason to fool with it at all is the joy of losing yourself in the actual writing.
Except now that’s not so much fun, either.
Adrian McKinty has a book trailer from comedian Lewis Black near the bottom of his blog. (Take a minute to check it out. Black is, as always, a riot, and Adrian’s blog is always worth checking out. I’ll wait here for you.) Black sums up exactly how I’ve come to feel about writing: it’s like having homework every night.
I’ve treated writing as essentially a second job for almost ten years now. Two agents thought enough of my writing to hire on. Writers I respect have said kind things, and I’m proud of being included in Todd Robinson’s newest Thuglit anthology. I’ve written five novels in that time, with a sixth just a polishing draft away from completion, with nary a sniff from an editor. (With one exception, which doesn’t count.)
I have a concept called the “Income to Bullshit Curve” I like to use when making career decisions. Picture a standard graph, with a line running diagonally from the lower left corner up and to the right. The vertical axis is Money; the horizontal axis is bullshit. For any job to be worth the effort, the point where you are needs to be above the line. It may dip below for brief periods; all jobs do that. It can’t live there.
The point occupied by my writing on the Income to Bullshit Curve is 0.0001 inches up the income axis; right now it’s pretty far to the right on bullshit. It’s a bad deal. The weather’s nice, I have a couple of family trips planned, it’s baseball season, and I’m too old for homework every fucking night. It’s time for a break.
I’ll finish the WIP; it’s too close not to. I’ll send it out. It would be stupid to spend almost two years on it and not make the effort. Other than that, I’ll write what I want, when I want. Blog posts as the spirit moves me. (I’m having fun with the new sports blog.) Flash fiction. Maybe a novel, though I’m more likely to update those already on the disc, maybe post them via Smashwords or something. If it gets to be fun again, I’ll dig in. If not, I’ll look forward to having more time for recreational reading.