Today I was thinking about how I don’t really offer up the “I’m an author” line to many people. Generally speaking, I keep it to myself unless it comes up. I was wondering if I made a living writing (which I do not—I couldn’t feed my cat with money from my writing, let alone a family of five) would I be more inclined to pony-up the information?
Not that I am ashamed of how I spend my free time. Hell, I’d like to let people know that my house gets cleaned even less lately because I’m “working” in my free time. This place isn’t a pig sty because I’m watching Vampire Diaries and eating bon-bons for the eight hours a week all three of my kids are in school.
I don’t suppose I can call it work if I don’t really make any money doing it, can I?
But it is work. It’s a time-consuming job trying to crank out enough coherent words strung into sentences, glued into paragraphs and sandwiched together with a layer of literary bubblegum to create a short story. Forget about the bigger projects I try to make time for.
When you think about the time spent simply daydreaming up an idea–which is usually during dinner or while your Lego master is explaining his latest creation, or while you are driving a bus of wild animals to choir practice—already you are looking at hours and hours spent on a short alone. Again, a full novel takes weeks of thinking, planning, outlining, note-taking and people-watching before you even sit down at a computer. Then you get there and realize you know nothing about the California Gold Rush and the research begins. Think term papers without direct quotes, only on a major scale.
Have we started writing yet? Maybe you are a fly-by-your-seat kinda author. Cool. I salute you. That could save you a bundle of time. Or it could burn you alive with re-writes once you get half way done and realize you have plot holes the size of Jupiter. Me, I outline. The carefree method that would seem to be my style superficially, just doesn’t pan out for me when I’m sifting for gold nuggets. In California. In 1851. With the help of my time machine. Just tying that back together.
Okay, so all of the homework completed, we move on to the writing part. Now, I’m a fast typist, so essentially, this doesn’t take all that long provided I am not distracted by squirrels, or bon-bons, or laundry, or singing karaoke to Breaking Benjamin songs that are too R rated to play at full blast while the kids are home. So let’s say I rein in my ADD for the time it takes me to hammer out a 5,000 word piece.
And then saunters in my arch enemy of the writing world—editing. I’d like to punch this guy in the face, but I can’t. He is the most important piece of the puzzle (or so he thinks, the conceited bastard). Editing takes a number of days, if not weeks, and a number of reads.
All the while, an equal number of hilarious squirrels are jumping around my lawn like little clowns, waving their bon-bons at me and flipping me off to the tune of Shallow Bay. I ignore them. I hope. And I get it done.
Oh! Lest we forget, I must check the submission guidelines and format my work to the specifications of my chosen market. Busy work, but, like editing, a necessary evil.
Now, what was my chosen market again? In all likelihood, especially for newer authors, the publisher may have a cute little sentence under the title PAYMENT. It could very well, and very often does, read “For the Love.”
For the love of Pete. This is why I cannot feel comfortable saying “I’m an author.” Like, “I work from home. I write.” And I do. But non-paying markets, or token payments, for—how much time did it take me?—they don’t add up to a living.
Therefore, this is not my job. It is my hobby (cringe).
Do I enjoy it? Yes. Do I love to see my name in print? Absolutely. Do I want to do it for free just to spread my creativity like an infection to the masses (or the few, as the case may be)? No, I don’t. I can blog for free to reach out and grab someone. I can make pointless, but ultra-funny, nonsense flyers and staple them all over town in the middle of the night.
I loved working as an RN. Would I go pull an eight-hour shift sans pay just because helping sick people is so rewarding? Ah, no. Florence Nightingale I ain’t. And she probably got paid anyway.
So why is the “For the Love” trend so prevalent? Could be the saturation of the market. The name in print scenario I mentioned so enough people are willing to work for free, perpetuating the problem. All the free e-books on Amazon from self-pubs and fledgling indie publishers that make people think that the written word shouldn’t cost a penny. It’s possible.
But these little anthologies that are just getting their foot in the publishing door could still offer a small royalty payment. That way the authors are more vested in promoting the material. The publishers don’t have to come up with up-front payment. And the authors don’t have to feel like someone is bending them over and…I’ll keep it clean, but you know where I was going.
But when I spend more money than I earned to buy a copy or two of “my” book, it hurts my heart a little. I end up paying more than I was paid. That is essentially paying to have your work published, which is a number one no-no, as everyone knows.
Can I be one of those working writers? Go get a day job like so many and write in my “spare” time? Yup, and I just may one of these days if my Sugar Daddy gets tired of supporting my pipe dreams.
Or I may decide that my massive amounts of time are better spent elsewhere and give up the authorial ghost.
I hope that day never comes, because as much as “For the Love” is a gang of rude squirrels defecating in my sandbox, I still love to write. For now I’ll throw my bon-bons at them and power through.
I don’t need the empty calories anyway.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a cannibalism story that needs to be written. Twenty-five bucks and a zombie t-shirt riding on this one, baby. Woo hoo! They had me at zombie. And again at t-shirt.
Take that, you stupid squirrels!