Wednesday, April 20, 2011

You Mean I Should be Famous and Filthy Rich?

I write a bi-weekly column on writing for our local newspaper here in Hanover, PA. I cover topics relating to the craft and the life. Occasionally, I'll write a column addressing some of the more popular misconceptions about writing and authors. Here's a few I've pointed out in the past:

One, anyone can write a book, it’s just a matter of finding the time to sit down at the computer and hammer it out.

Actually, that's a true statement. Anyone can write a book. But not everyone cane write it well, or even write a book someone else will want to read. But it's like saying anyone can pick up an oboe and play Bach or a paintbrush and create another Mona Lisa. The reality is this, writing is an art and like any other art form it takes hours and months and years of practice and sacrifice to become good at it.

Two, all authors must be filthy rich.

Don’t I wish. The reality is that the vast majority of authors don’t make enough from their books to quit their day job. A small percentage consider themselves “full-time authors” and a miniscule percentage is actually filthy rich. The bottom line is that writing is not lucrative. If you’re looking to be filthy rich, marry a Trump.

Three, if you get a book published, it will be in bookstores.

Not necessarily. Booksellers only have so much shelf space so they have to be selective about the books they choose to stock. And the reality is that there are way too many books published each year for bookstores to even think about stocking them all. As an author, you hope your book gets stocked.

Four, if you become a published author, you’ll be famous.

Really? Because it seems nobody told the 99.9 percent of people out there that I’m published. Here’s how a common exchange goes:

Jane Schmain: “You published a book?”

Me: “Yeah, four actually.”

J. S.: “What’s your name?”

Me: (Doing my best to sound modest) “Oh, you’ve probably never heard of me."

J.S.: “I’m sure I have. I’ve read, like, everything.”

Me: “Um, Mike Dellosso.”

J.S.: (Pretending to think, cheeks getting pink) “Sorry. Never heard of you.”

Open mouth, insert healthy helping of humble pie.

Reality check: Writing is hard work, work you may never make any real money from and may never get any recognition for.

So to the authors out there, what are some other misconceptions you've run into? And for the readers, what are you conceptions about authors and the writing life?


Lena Nelson Dooley said...

A very good post, and a good friend of mine who just received word of her first sale needs to read it. I'm sending her the link right now.

Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar said...

Mike, you are SO right on about this. Once when my hubby and I were looking for a new church, we actually had the pastor "court" us because he found out I was an author. He thought we'd make great tithers. (Incidentally, I am a cheerful giver *grin*). But, really, there is a misconception out there and you nailed it. Thank you!

Tanya Cunningham said...

I agree, great post. I started writing about a year ago and have learned a lot in that time. It is a ton of work, not only becoming more skilled in the craft, but also the effort that goes into building your "platform" and such. Would it be wrong of me to say I would be perfectly fine remaining inconspicuous? :)

Mike Dellosso said...

Ha! Tanya, not wrong at all. I often wonder if that's the reasoning some use for having a pseudonym. Maybe I should use the name Steven King (the real guy spells his name "Stephen"). That way at least people will recognize the name :)

Jillian Kent said...

Rich and famous? I'd love the rich, don't need the famous. :) When I think of the hours of work that go into writing a book and the hours that go into the revision process it's mind boggling. There really must be something wrong with us. Who does this to themselves? Yet, I love it!

I'm still trying to find my balance with writing my first series and working full-time and dealing with the sandwich generation needs.

Rich and famous does not enter the equation. I just want to do a good job.