Ever wondered what your life would be like if you became a published author? Like many people, I had a lot of romantic expectations – did they all turn out to be true? Of course not! Here are a few of my expectations and their reality.
1. Being an author is glamourous.
Fiction. While there are some moments where you think to yourself is this really happening, for the most part being an author is a lot of work. Colin’s Firth’s portrayal in Love Actually - think long summer days over-looking a lake while someone brought him cups of tea - is pretty far removed. To keep writing and to keep writing well, you need discipline as your best friend and inspiration as your soul mate. It’s an incredibly competitive job and a thick skin is required to deal with the rejections and criticism you might receive – not always easy when you’ve dedicated months, if not years, to writing a book. My advice? When success does come, make the most of it, celebrate as much as possible and always, always, keep a bottle of champers in the fridge!
2. Getting published via the traditional route is difficult.
Fact. There’s no doubt about it – the odds are stacked against you when it comes to the traditional route of publishing. An agent may get five thousand enquiries a year and only a very small percentage of those lead to the actual manuscript being requested. You could have the best idea for a story line but if it’s the wrong genre for the market or the synopsis isn’t structured correctly, it’s game over. Taking the time to research and getting as much advice as possible is worthwhile. Attend book fairs, go to seminars, and network as much as possible. And if you feel disheartened, remember that some of today’s most famous writers such as Dan Brown, JK Rowling, Stephen King, and John Grisham all got rejected over and over again before finding success. In addition, don’t forget the opportunities offered by self-publishing – while it’s not for everyone, it’s definitely a route worth considering.
3. It’s all about the creativity.
Fiction. While creativity is at the core of any good novel, selling books is a business. While digital tools have made it easier to communicate books to potential readers, it’s also made it a lot more competitive. A good agent and publisher know what to sell and how to sell – they understand the trends in the market, the rapidly shifting consumer, and the impact of titles, covers, and blurbs. As an author, it can be difficult to find that balance between creativity and commercialism – whole chapters that took you a month to write suddenly deleted, your precious title replaced with an alternative – seek others’ opinion, and of course trust your gut, but remember to try and be as flexible as possible.
4. Authors ‘love’ writing.
Fiction. Like any job, there’s the good and the bad but when I tell people I’m an author, people often say how lucky I am to get to write all day. That’s absolutely true but there is a bit of a love-hate relationship going on, which can be hard to describe. Orwell comes close though when he said: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon which one can neither resist nor understand.”
5. People love meeting authors.
Fact. A 2015 YouGov study showed that being an author is the most desired job in Britain, even beating careers such as a Hollywood film star. While I doubt I would turn down the opportunity to swap places with the likes of Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson, there’s no doubt that since becoming an author, it’s been a great talking point. People are genuinely interested in learning more about you and your book and when good reviews come in, well frankly, there’s nothing like it.
This post first appeared as part of a blog tour for the publication of The Good Mother.
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