While their overall market share continues to grow, the hard truth remains that the most successful self-published authors were already successful to begin with. The just made a business decision to go out on their own, cutting out the middle men either because they demanded too many slices of the shrinking pie, or they rejected edgier, more experimental submissions in favor of “safer” stuff.
Artistic integrity and creative boldness are two of the biggest reasons traditional authors make the leap to independence. It’s much harder for authors without a built-in audience to achieve any kind of equivocal success.
I’ve previously listed my reasons for self-publishing, along with the many reasons to forego this route, depending on your agenda as an author.
After a longtime movie deal collapsed right as it was finally about to bear fruit, I took stock of my professional situation and rather than just quit – which I can’t really do, being afflicted with the “writer’s curse” – I readjusted my priorities and goals. Perhaps I am not destined to be a commercially viable author. But that doesn’t mean I should quit writing altogether. Why? Because I’m a writer. And writers write.
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I do have a small but loyal fan base for my work, and my books are generally well reviewed, whether by readers or the few bloggers that deign to cover independently published work.
But I can’t claim any bestsellers. In fact, I am not exactly sure how many books I sell on a regular basis. I never even check. Because I no longer care. As long as I am producing work that honors my brand name as an author, that I can take pride in, I’m relatively satisfied.
That is not a recommendation. I am only speaking for myself. If your goal is to achieve fame and fortune as an author – well, good luck. The competition and odds are formidable. But so are the rewards. Or so I’ve heard.
I make most of my income these days as a dog walker. The upside is I actually get some much-needed exercise (not normally part of a writer's sedentary lifestyle), spent in my preferred type of company, sans any of the typical drama and issues that occur in other walks (cough) of life.
The downside is I can’t claim to make a living with my chief professional passion, writing, though I continue to be published – both on my own and by others – on a fairly regular basis. Recently I was flown, all expenses paid, down to Costa Rica to conduct workshops at a writer’s retreat. So I can’t declare myself a total failure, either.
Basically, I consider myself an artistic and personal success, if unable to boast much financial return from my decades-long investment in this so-called career.
The rest is out of my hands. That’s one aspect of my destiny I can’t control as an author. And I’m finally fine with that.
PHOTO: WILL VIHARO
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New Orleans, LA