By Jaimie M. Engle
With today’s competitive market, I think many authors are failing to make an income because they haven’t decided what kind of author they are. Knowing what level you’re willing to work, how much time you have, and your goals determine your success. Like rock bands, authors need to know where they stand:
For as long as I can remember, musicians have been trying to break into the industry. They start out as garage bands, to which I liken a writer who writes to publish. Someone who likes to share their work with their few followers of friends and family. They are content here or they wish to grow. But this is the type of writer who doesn’t work their business as an author. They do it more for fun.
This group of musicians has established a following and has proven talented enough to be booked by a restaurant or club for regular performances. They may be just as good as the original band, they just haven’t put in enough time and effort to be noticed by a producer or record label. To this, I liken those authors who write to the trend. They write what sells. Some ghost write, blog, write web content, or workbooks. The point is, they write to get paid.
This group writes their own music, they practice on a regular basis, and are serious about their music, but many of them still hold a day job. A local band that plays its own songs stands out and builds a following. They may record their own music and submit to various venues or record labels, hoping to really break in to the music industry. And you know what? Some of them eventually do. They work hard, get better, get discovered, and get their big break. In the publishing world, this is that indie press that takes a chance on an unknown author. They front the cost, help publicize the book, and encourage their author to study and improve their craft. Or that self-published author who knows how to work their business. Some of these authors work hard to build their brand through marketing. Some may even get to quit their day jobs.
The superstar is the musician who has proven their worth, can sell out shows, and produce new and relevant music on a continual basis. They treat their music career like a job, not relying on inspiration to motivate their record release or song writing, and they are constantly improving their skills. They’ve made it! An author reaching superstar status doesn’t have to be equated with J.K. Rowling or Stephen King. To me, superstar status is when people beyond your scope of friends and family are buying your books, and when that day job moves farther in the background or becomes non-existent. They work hard and know that they have a show to put on regardless of whether or not they feel like being creative.
Think of it this way: You may invest a year or two writing, editing, and publishing your book. That’s two years salary, and you should expect to make $20-$50K, right, depending on what you currently do for work, of course. So, my question is: Are you worth it? Is your manuscript polished enough to be worth that sort of an investment? Is your story original enough to gain a fan base? Are you working your book career as if it were a business to earn that salary? These are questions every author should ask; and if the answer is no, then it’s time to start taking those steps to perfect your craft in order to answer, “YES!”
Jaimie M. Engle is an award-winning author and the owner of A Writer For Life, an editing and coaching service for aspiring writers. She has written professionally since 2003 with publications in Space Coast Living Magazine and Florida Today Newspaper along with Writer’s Digest and the Dr. Laura Program. She independently published her anti-bullying children’s book Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light in 2013, which won a BRAG Medallion in 2015, and she published The Dredge in 2014, an L. Ron Hubbard Writer’s of the Future honorable mentions. Engle ran the PR department for an independent publishing house and lectures regularly at colleges, conferences, schools, and libraries. Her passion is to educate authors on marketing and publicity. www.jaimiengle.com