At work today, my coworker made a jab about my lack of progress on any of my writing lately. Part of me needs to be jabbed on occasion.
Not with anything sharp or pointy though. Not the literal jabbing. Please.
We got to talking about how hard it was to really “make it big” as an author these days. The market is saturated with books, and unless you can land publication with a huge publishing house, the odds are definitely stacked against you.
(For the record, I am NOT bashing self-publishing by any means. So please don’t take it that way.)
It is definitely possible to make it big in self-publishing. It’s just really, really hard. You have to do everything for yourself.
But for many, it’s our only option when it becomes obvious that the big publishing houses aren’t willing to take many chances on new authors.
The chances that your debut novel will make it big time are slim to none.
But then I got to thinking about Paula Hawkins (author of The Girl on the Train). I did a little digging and learned some super interesting things about her. For example:
- Her agent got her a job writing what would be described as chick lit, under the name Amy Silver. She published 4 of those. But they never took off.
- The Girl on the Train is technically a debut novel for her, under her real name.
- She wrote The Girl on the Train in just SIX MONTHS.
- “She was, she says, “starting to panic. I don’t have a partner so I take care of the mortgage by myself and I was thinking, ‘Oh God, I’m going to have to sell the house, or find a new career.’ I was not in a good place but it was a real spur to get The Girl on the Train right. I had to nail it and do it really well. It really concentrates the mind, that kind of thing. For the six months I was writing it, I didn’t really do anything else.” In order to survive, she’d had to borrow money from her father.”
- In 4 months time, she’d already sold over 2 million copies in print and ebook.
- DREAMWORKS has picked it up to make a major motion picture!
- One year later, she is still sitting at #30 Paid in the Kindle Store.
- There are almost 40,000 reviews of her book on Amazon.
- Read more about her here: The Girl on the Train: how Paula Hawkins wrote ‘the new Gone Girl’
She did what we all want to do! She made it on a debut novel! And I can’t help myself but admire how she did it. Running low on money, she took 6 months off and exclusively wrote in this terrified, suspenseful time of her life. And that definitely worked its way into the tone of this novel (disclaimer : It’s on my TBR list, but I have not read it yet).
Putting the debut novel thing aside, making it big as an author these days is hard, period. But what I love about the community of writers is that we don’t let that hold us back from going for it anyway.
No, we tell ourselves that we’re going to be the exception to the rule. We brush people off who question our choice to write. We major in English even though there’s really not much to do with a BA in English anymore (really, there’s not. I got a PT library job that doesn’t completely pay my bills. I need a Master’s Degree for everything!). We keep writing and sending query letters no matter how many rejections we get.
Because we know that eventually, something good will come of this. We will touch somebody’s life in such a way that all the stress was worth it.
I truly wish I could take a 6 month hiatus from work to write full-time and actually try to make something happen. Unfortunately, I was not one of the winners of the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot. My student loans have to get paid. So does my rent. Besides, I kind of like my job. I get to talk to people all day. I’m not necessarily an extrovert, but I don’t like being cooped up with myself all the time.
Maybe one day though. One day I’ll pick up an agent who loves my book, and they will be able to convince one of the Top 5 publishing houses that my book is worth taking on. And I’ll sell 2 million copies in 4 months. Dreamworks can pick up my book and make it a movie. I can be just a tad bit reckless with my money. I want to go to a tropical island! And I can tell my future child(ren?) about how I made my dreams come true.
Until then, I’ll keep working in my spare time (I really do have plenty) and keep trying to make the dream a reality.
I’m gonna make it big as an author one day, dangit!