Laptop with money

Author’s Lament: For Many, Success Is Merely Money

As I face yet another birthday three weeks after launching the sixth book of my Other Worldly series, Altogether Alien, I’m feeling altogether hopeful, though I had been bordering on despair and wondering if I should give it all up. Or at least take a break from the emotional roller coaster that authoring can be.

Then I got to thinking about what a friend commented on Facebook in reply to my latest book announcement. First, she liked the cover. But she also said, “Congrats on your success!”

I admit this gave me pause. Because I knew for sure this person, who happens to be my tax accountant in possession of my 2022 “earnings” data—if you can call it that—knows well that publishing six books since February 2020 does not render you financially successful.

This led to me ponder how, for some people, success is defined solely by the amount of money one makes in any given endeavor.

How truly sad that is. And unenlightened when it comes to writing and publishing novels. It reminds me of how far too many folks also assume that becoming a lawyer is a surefire path to riches, something I snark about in Alienable Rights, first novel of the Other Worldly series.

To begin with, novels take money to produce, a fact some don’t seem to realize when they comment with disdain on the price of a paperback novel. And are they aware the author only makes pennies on the dollar for any book sold?

Even more daunting, promotional services are astoundingly expensive, especially when there’s no guarantee that your book will sell no matter how many thousands one might spend for publicity.

But it’s far more than that. Because no amount of money can buy what it takes to persevere. To sit your ass down, focus, and take the time to create a fantastical world. To let one’s imagination fly, and to actually conjure the will to write six novels, with more planned and in the works.

It takes courage. It takes drive. It takes nurtured talent. Creativity. Tenacity.

It means overcoming crippling self-doubt, and recognizing that making money is not likely going to be an end result, at least not anytime soon. There’s a reason those engaged in this process hear the constant refrain, “Don’t quit your day job.” Not beating yourself up about this, not letting it consume you, can be difficult.

Especially when someone random will come right out and ask if your books are selling well. The lawyer in me longs to reply, “Define well.” Because anyone can buy a book, but getting them to read it to the end and comprehend its message is an ultimate goal, and the most daunting challenge.

Every now and then I am also approached by someone asking me about the publishing—not the writing—process. Perhaps they don’t ask about writing because they may presume they already know how to do that, or worse, they think that anyone can do it.

Yet I’m hopeful I’ve found a kindred spirit, right up until they say, “I want to publish a book because I need to make some money.”

It remains gobsmacking for me every damn time.

Suddenly I realize that I likely can’t help. And yet I try. I say that if they have a story inside them, whether it’s a memoir or that great American novel, that they should simply write it. For them.

After all, no literary agent or publisher is actually going to engage until you have a finished—as in written, rewritten, potentially overhauled and hopefully professionally edited—piece of work.

The response you receive is the moment when you can tell. Do they have that burning need to write? To communicate a thought or message or life experience to others? Have they listened to a word I’ve said or is it all about them and their dreams of vast wealth?

Plus, putting yourself out there to be judged is as daunting as not making gobs of money at this. Because people will judge. Too many will only see you as successful by terms the industry has coined. Best seller. It’s all they know, and perhaps they don’t realize what it’s like to have the longing to actually write something of substance.

For those who share this passion, don’t let it get you down. We know why we do it, and that’s all the reason we need.

Many thanks to Carol for seeing me as “successful.” Sending out appreciation as well to another high school friend, Jamie, for commenting on Facebook about what a “prolific” writer I am. As well as stalwart and stellar beta reader Melissa, who messaged that she’d keep reading as long as I keep writing.

That’s all the impetus I need to tackle that seventh Other Worldly novel. Plus, there’s this new idea taking on life inside my head. A separate story—not with aliens, but perhaps some similar concepts involving the recesses of the mind. It came to me at three in the morning, as these things so often do.

The brain, and the will to write, has a mind of its own. There’s richness in that. A vast wellspring of imagination waiting to be tapped.

2 thoughts on “Author’s Lament: For Many, Success Is Merely Money”

    1. Thanks Gigi! Enjoying my last day of being 61 now that the rule of law finally prevailed yesterday, at least in Manhattan. Cheers!

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