Purpose of IWSG: to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
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Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh here.
Dream as if you will live forever.
Live as if you will die today.
Hello darlings, despite the black title, this post is meant to be encouraging, so please read on.
First, I’m going to tell you something a little scary about myself.
I’ve never dreamt of being a best selling author. My dream has always been to write a couple of books a year, sell solidly to a steadily growing clutch of faithful readers, and eventually be able to pay the rent and put food on the table—the quintessence of the midlist author. This was my dream, my castle in the air, my bright light of hope in the deep dark publishing forest.
Over the past few years, I’m sure you’ve all heard tell of the demise of the midlist author. And if you haven’t, um . . . well, now you have.
Another thing about me? I don’t believe in giving up on a dream—with one key caveat—that dream must have a foothold in reality. For example, I can dream all I want of visiting planet Gallifrey, but unless I get a role on Dr. Who, that’s not going to happen. Because in this reality, our reality, Gallifrey doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, the same is pretty much true of the self-supporting midlist author.
Yes, Broadway singers warble about the impossible dream. No disrespect to Don Quixote, but shouldn’t our dreams be tangible goals rather than pure fantasy?
I know of novelists who have more than a half dozen traditionally published books under their belt and still can’t survive solely on their sales. To make ends meet, they have a second unrelated job, they teach, they edit, they have writing gigs in addition to their novel careers, or they have a spouse and therefore a second income to fall back on.
No denying there are movie and TV deals, and long-standing best selling authors who take home a nice pay check. There are even book quirks like Fifty Shades of Grey that take hold like an infection, swelling and exploding like a rotted corpse on everyone everywhere. That’s not what this post is about.
I’m talking about midlist books written by traditionally published authors that sell enough to warrant publication, make a tidy sum for their publishers, but are not bestsellers. Few of these authors make a living with their books, and the ranks are thinning as I type.
Publishers are no longer in the business of growing authors. Advances are shrinking, marketing budgets are being slashed. The midlist dream has crashed and we can either get out from under it or be buried.
No matter how inspiring you find the fantasy, holding fast to the impossible and calling it a dream is guaranteed failure. You will eventually give up. There is no alternative.
Of course we must have dreams, but make yours attainable.
List what you hope to achieve with your writing. I mean it. Right now, sit down and put pen to paper. If your expectations are unrealistic, don’t try to book a Tardis to Gallifrey, tweak your dream so it fits the publishing world we live in today, not the one of ten or even five years ago. This may mean keeping the day job, going hybrid, moving exclusively to self-publishing, writing for hire, maybe even finding a sugar daddy or sugar mama to help make ends meet.
And what do you do once you dream your possible dream?
Lay claim and never let it go.