What I’ve Learned from Three Years as a Published Author
Posted Oct 16 2016, 1:03 pm
Lately, I’ve seen a lot of posts on social media about authors burning out, losing their muse, or being forced to quit writing to find a full-time job. I’m lucky that I can still write full-time and am grateful for my readers. However, there are a number of things I’ve noticed over the years that seem to contribute to an author’s burnout/exhaustion/writer’s block and/or being forced into finding a day job again. These are all entirely my own opinion and some of them I’ve learned myself the hard way. Maybe no one will read this or maybe someone will find it helpful. Regardless, I feel as if I should write these out for myself if no one else. I like bullet points, so here we go:
- Constantly changing what you write to grab the latest trend disrupts your brand. There may be a few who have wanted to write the latest trend for years, but were afraid no one would read it. But there are far more who hop around from one to the other hoping to gain traction. (Think stepbrothers, sports romance, shifters, aliens, etc.) Now, if you love a subject and really want to write it, go for it! (I did with dragon-shifters.) But if you keep changing from one to the other with one or two books in each and no real series, readers will start to wonder if they can read everything you write and still like it. Or, worse, they may not like the constant jumping around and eventually forget who you are. Set expectations and readers will trust you even with a brand new series.
- You don’t have to publish a book a month to be successful. This one in particular seems to be the hardest one for most authors to acknowledge. I will fully admit that I sometimes wish I could write faster, but I can’t. And for my voice and storytelling muse, a novella isn’t enough to tell the story I need unless it’s a follow-up novella. So, I content myself with four books and one novella a year. Sometimes, I can write more, but not by much. Readers will wait for a 68-90,000 word book from me, which I’m grateful for because it means I can take care of my health. I can’t imagine working 16 hour days, seven days a week, and not having an ulcer or some other health ailment. I did work 10-12 hours a day, six days a week for the first half of 2015 and it nearly killed me. I finally realized that an extra book or two a year wasn’t worth it since I’m in my 30s and hope to live many more years to come.
- The publishing industry is constantly changing and you need to be flexible. This is probably the hardest one for many authors. What worked in 2011 most likely won’t work in 2016. And what works today probably won’t work late next year. The online retailers will *always* change their algorithms, pay out systems, promotions, etc. You need to be prepared for it. For me, writing the next book is always my best marketing tool. You just need to find yours and be willing to change it as the market shifts. Just as I run my business for my best interests, the online retailers do it for theirs and their stock holders. Whatever change may come isn’t personal, it’s just business. Take the emotion out of your decision making and create plans for changes in the future.
- Nothing replaces hard work. Some authors try little tricks or to game the system when an opening is found. Even if this helps them for a few months, things will change, the loophole will close, and they’ll be out of luck. Writing full-time takes hard work, discipline, and even sacrifices. I write five days a week, every week, unless I’m sick or it’s one of my vacation times. Waiting for the muse isn’t an option. This is my job and I have treat it as such.
There are, of course, many more things I’ve noticed but these are some of the main ones. At the end of the day, listen to your body. If you’re constantly sick, can’t eat, or are always stressed out, something isn’t working for you. Find the balance to both keep writing full-time and take care of yourself. Good luck to all. <3