The Writer's Life: On Being a Jill of All Trades
Either you do it yourself or you pay someone to do it for you, and sometimes both. That's pretty much the way it works these days.
What the heck am I talking about? Being a writer, of course. Way back when I was a naive, innocent little writer wannabe, I had some grandiose notions about sitting in front of my typewriter (yes, I'm that old) and punching out stories, novels, fabulous words strung one after another that people would just be dying to read. And not having to do anything else except sit in front of that typewriter. Ha.
So I honed my craft. I read everything I could get my hands on, from wonderful fiction to how-to-write-a-great-novel books. I took workshops and classes. I wrote, edited, scrapped it, and wrote some more. Eventually I reached a place where I felt confident putting my work "out there" where others could see it and maybe, just maybe, want to read it.
My first two books, published way back in 2001 and 2003, were pretty easy from my end. I wrote them, even drew the illustrations for them, but the publisher took care of everything else, including handing me a tidy advance, editing the manuscript, doing all the marketing, and setting me up for interviews.
But the Big World and the publishing world have changed a lot since then. The economy ain't what it used to be. Unless you're J.K. Rowling or a similar big name, there are no more advances to be had. Publishers are stretched as thin as other businesses. They do their best but there's only so much they can offer any more.
So when I published Ariadne's Thread in 2013, I knew I'd have to put a lot of effort into marketing the book myself in addition to what my awesome publisher did. And every book I've finished since then - a novel, another non-fiction title about Modern Minoan Paganism, and a coloring book - have been monumental tasks. I did all the writing and the art myself, as I had with previous books. But I typeset the manuscript myself, formatting the print and e-book editions (I also do this professionally for other authors, but somehow it's a drag doing it for my own work!). I paid and/or bartered for help with the editing and the covers. And then I took a deep breath and dove in to all the marketing.
No, I don't expect to be another J.K. Rowling, ever. But I'll never stop writing. And sometimes I find myself wishing I'd been born a few decades earlier, in a time when I might have had a chance to make a small but real living off my writing, niche though it is.
Yes, I know exactly how far wishful thinking will get me. But that's how the world is now compared to how it used to be. In just a decade and a half I've seen some big changes, and it's not going to get any easier. So I do my best to support my fellow authors just as they support me, and I remind myself that I do this because I love it, even if parts of it are very hard work.
And when budding writers ask me what they can do to break into the industry, I usually say, "Expect to work harder for this than you ever have for anything else." But then, that's what we writers do, because we have to. Because it's in our blood and our bones, and we can't do anything else.