Sunday, September 24, 2006

This is Your Career Wake Up Call

(ring, ring)

Good morning, this is your career. It's time for you to wake up.

You're in trouble.

You've written a good book, or maybe even a few, but you aren't selling as well as expected.

Your publisher is behind you, but they're spending most of their marketing dollars on books that are selling better than yours. That may seem unfair, but it is the way of the world.

You've done signings, but you've never done well at them.

You've got a website and a blog, but even though you seem to be getting some visitors, it isn't translating into sales.

You've gone to conventions, literary festivals, and conferences, but you've never sold enough books to justify the travel cost.

You're doing all the things you're supposed to be doing, but no one seems to care.

Don't you think it's time to quit?

You're never going to be a huge success. A few good reviews and a few fan letters don't mean a thing. This business is about numbers. And yours aren't nearly good enough. You're small potatoes, and you need to recognize that.

You got into this because you love to write. But now you have to deal with deadlines, bad reviews, and overwhelming apathy toward your work. People may think you're doing well, but they don't know the truth. You spend more time promoting than writing, and it never seems to pay off.

You aren't making enough money to justify all of your time and effort.

Don't feel bad. You gave it your best shot. No one could have asked for more. This is a hard business where only a few thrive. Did you really think you would be one of them?

Look at how many other writers you know. How many of them make a living at it? How many are bestsellers? Five? Maybe ten? Out of the five hundred you've met? Doesn't that tell you something?

Why torture yourself for years to come with dreams that will never be fulfilled? Why force yourself to visit one more bookstore, one more conference, one more event? Aren't you frustrated? Don't you realize that every other author has this same problem? You're all desperate and struggling, no matter how much bravado you show the public.

You'll never make a difference, and you'll never be happy.

Quit now, and save your sanity.

You'll never... hey, wait, don't hang up!

You have to listen to me! I'm the voice of reason! I'm cold, hard logic, telling you that you suck! You need to realize...


We apologize for the preceding announcement. That wake up call was not for you.

You may go back to sleep now.

Dream big.


JA Konrath said...

Before I get hit with comments asking if I'm okay, I'd like to point out that this blog entry is meant to be provacative.

All people have doubts. Writers may have more than most. But we manage to keep them contained pretty well.

That's useful, because it keeps us going. But I wrote this blog, and deliberately kept it downbeat, to show writers that we all have the same doubts.

Dealing with self-doubt is something that rarely, if ever, gets discussed. Our public personas are formulated to be upbeat and confident. We soldier on, smiles in place, even if we feel like jumping out of a window.

Remember that you're not alone. We're all in the same boat. Even those ten bestselling authors I mentioned feel this way sometimes too.

Reality isn't about numbers. It's about perception.

Keep fighting the good fight.


GC said...

I thought it was well said.

s.w. vaughn said...

Dear wake-up call:

Thank you for trying to crush me with a resurgence of insidious doubt.

I'll show you. I'm going to go and write an even better book now. A departure from my usual fare. Something so amazing it will blow my publisher away.

Author X didn't hit the bestseller list until his 10th book. I still have time, 'cuz I'm still breathing here.

I will now go learn something new and improve my writing. You may move on to the next neurotic, insecure author. Your work here is done.

(Thanks, J.A. I needed that. :-)

Rob Gregory Browne said...

Even though I only recently got into writing novels, I've been writing professionally for quite a few years. I got those phone calls at least once a week, but I never gave it up, even though sometimes I wanted to.

At my age, I'm pretty much a testament to never giving up. There's nothing better than launching a new career when so many told you it wasn't possible, or gave you that skeptical look when you said you were writing a novel.

Yes, we writers get down on ourselves, but those of us who continue to believe and keep at it, usually wind up succeeding despite the odds.

Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Joe.

It's nice to know I'm not the only one with those types of thoughts sometimes.

Mark Terry said...

Thanks Joe. Without a doubt, I get a call from that--like Rob said--about once a week. Yet I'm making a living as a writer, have a multiple book contract, etc.

Just keep on keepin' on, I guess. That's how we do it. And ignore that rational bastard talking in our heads.

Mark Terry

Jana Oliver said...

Ah, reality with one's morning coffee. Thanks. As if I wasn't already obsessing about my "where the h*ell is this story going?" first draft.

But you hit it right on. Perception is everything. Writing is like any other pursuit. Some day it's magic, other it's pond scum. The trick is to refuse to give up.

I know I won't. Then I'd have to get a "real" job.

Unknown said...


Why should I listen to that nonsense. Incidentally I want you to attend the premiere of the movie when I sell the rights - and get the film made. And I might ask you to help me select the leading lady ...


JA Konrath said...

Catherine Zeta Jones, Pat. Hands down.

Anonymous said...

Cat Z-Jones is the one. What a woman.
Incidentally, Mr. Konrath, what are the Genny awards? It just happens to be my nickname - so I am intrigued. Good looking blog, too. I am about to give up my book blog, so I can get back into the garden and lose some weight. So in a sense I'm taking up some of the time you need to talk to other authors. But I'm going to cruise down your archives now, and check over at Metaxucafe as you genre writers are a bit under-represented in the book blogosphere, aren't you? This post certainly hooked me...

Jim said...

Joe: Judging by this post your beer intake is obviously off. I don't know if you need more or less, but one or the other. Grins, Jim.

Aimlesswriter said...

Whew! Thank God you didn't mean it! I would have had to drive out to where ever you are in the midwest and rap you up side the head!
When I get depressed I start writing about a depressed writer ...I get some good ideas from that fellow....

Creekshine said...

After I read your post I had to run in the other room and look at the words of another joe. I have them posted above my writing desk where my book has yet to even reach beyond outline. I would like to share them with you, if you don't mind, even if you have heard them before. I think I may need to just type them myself.

Until one is committed
there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back,
always ineffectiveness.

Concerning all acts of initiative and creation there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans:

That the moment one definately commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one's favour all manner of unforseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.


PS: Your point made me get a blog so that I could post this. I guess there is some truth to the above statement.

Jeri said...

I'm pretty sure this was the first time I blurted out, "Joe, I love you," after reading one of your posts. Probably wasn't the first time I thought it, though.

Jude Hardin said...

Wonderful quote, Creekshine!

It's so relevant to my current situation. Thanks!

Mark Goodyear said...

This is awesome. Great blog. I can't wait to browse the archives.

This post reminds me of one writer I work with. She took her manuscript to a workshop, where she learned the cold hard truth that she isn't ready. She needs to work more. Rewrite more. Hone her craft.

She said the realization made her cry. I'm guessing she felt like she got a cold wake up call.

Hopefully, she'll hang up and get back to work.