Friday, October 28, 2011

It Ain't For The Money Honey...

Welcome to my blog! After years of reading the many writing blogs out there I decided that it was finally time to join in the fray.  There are a lot of romance writing blogs to choose from, most far better than this one but hopefully someone will wander by on occasion!!

So, you want to write a book.  You've got a great idea, you've prepped your query, you're formatted properly, you even landed an agent - you're ready for that million dollar contract!  I hate to break it to you but there really isn't one...

I love how people just assume (and you know what they say about assuming...) that because you've written a book (or thirty) that you're going to be rolling in dough.  Ah, nope.  A colleague and I recently had a discussion regarding the profession of writing and being a published author - most of us write for the love of a good story, not because we are getting rich.  For every "million dollar baby" there are at least a hundred, maybe more, authors who crank out a book a year, or every two years, are waiting on edits, waiting on royalties, dealing with publisher problems (AMP anyone?) - the days of making millions in romance publishing are long gone in my opinion and many of my colleagues agree. 

Yes, there are authors who can make a comfortable living. Yes, there are authors who make millions of dollars.  But one's chances of making it big on that first book are now slim to none.  I, personally, know many authors who've written many, many, MANY books and have yet to even make a solid living at it.  I know just as many authors who've written just as many books and have yet to make it on the New York Times Best Seller list.  AND (yes, I started a sentence with "and", shoot me...) as a long time member of Romance Writers of America and as someone who's been a member of several regional and online chapters, I know just as many excellent writers who aren't even published yet! 

So what's happening out there?  Well, celebrity for the sake of celebrity for one. This is not so much in the romance writing industry per se, but in general fiction and non-fiction? If you have a famous name, a famous parent, child or spouse OR if you have a famous pet - in today's market you're qualified to write a best-selling book and get the huge advance to go with it.  If you're also infamous or you've been through a traumatic experience, the same applies.  The latter, in my opinion, is completely acceptable in certain instances.  Carolyn Jessup, Jaycee Dugard, Natasha Vins, Trudy Chase - these are all women who faced incredible odds and moved ahead in their lives, they deserve every penny paid to them for their books.  But Paris Hilton for being sent to jail for drunk driving? Ah, sorry, fact that book sold she badly I heard she had to pay the publisher money.

Secondly, the market is clogged.  Which is both good and bad.  It's fantastic that there's so much to read and that there are so many people to write but, at the same time, there's a lot out there and not all of it is good reading.  With the advent of Amazon's Kindle publishing and Createspace for hardcopies - just about anybody can get a book published.  This is not to say that self-publishing is a bad thing. I know a lot of authors who are now taking that avenue due to the harsh realities in publishing these days.  We're talking well published, well recieved authors.  So I don't knock anybody who self-publishes - unless I read their book and it's wretchedly horrible. Which brings me to my point. 

A lot of the SP stuff out there that is written by people who don't know what the hell they're doing.  I've seen hellacious spelling, horrific grammar, empty plots and odd ball characters that make no sense at all.  Add all the celebrity driven or written stuff - Lauren Conrad's book comes to mind and what you have is a clogged market.   There are many, many, many books out there.  Editors are inundated with tons of manuscripts and money is limited so only a certain few make the cut.  If they get a MS from someone who is already published and a proven money maker then they're going to go with them much quicker than an unknown name.

Lastly - there's nothing new under the sun, it's been done.  I once read that there are only seven or eight storylines in the world. I don't know if that's actually true or not, but I do know that there are a plethora of books out there about vampires - sparkly or not, anarchist teenagers, werewolves, evil angels and good demons.  A new writer has to have a truly unique idea these days and I'm hearing more and more from long published authors that even they are having to reach into the creative well to come up with new and innovative ideas for their storylines. Editors grow weary of seeing the same storylines over and over - authors really need to know their genre market, know what's out there, what's selling and what isn't.  They also need to know how to work with a topic and reinvent it.  Making one's work truly unique is not as easy as one might think.  Subtle nuances and important points need to be clear and concise, characters must be three dimensional and POV limited.  It can actually be hard sometimes to recreate something that's already been done but it is possible - the author just has to figure their way through the maze. 

So why do we do it? Why do we keep writing even when we know that the odds are stacked against us?  We do it for the love of the story, the love of the craft - creating characters and situations for them to get into so they can fall in love, have great sex and then get into trouble some more.  It's that simple.  I will grant that there's always the hope of hitting it big - it IS nice to be paid for what we're doing but sometimes those large sales just aren't there but you've still gathered a group of fans who will be loyal to your work in the long run.  I have fans from wayyyyy back when I wrote as Emily Ashton back in the late 80's that still follow me today.  To me that's a good thing. To have a group of people who love your work is better than having none at all. 

We also love romance - on whatever level - and I think that many of us still hold onto that whole Happily Ever After thing.  It probably doesn't exist in real life but it sure as hell is a good thing to write about!

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