Busting The Myths That Most People Believe About Writers

This post is primarily based off a lot of stress and frustration I’ve been experiencing for the past 48 hours.  I feel like I’m a hamster running around in its wheel, desperately wanting to make progress but unable to.  I don’t like this feeling.  It leaves me unable to sleep.  In fact, that I woke up around 2am and haven’t been able to get back to sleep.  At the moment, it’s 6am.

I think a lot of people are under the illusion that writers can write one or two books a year then run off to vacations the rest of the year.  I blame this illusion on the movies, some blog posts, and some articles that make it sound like all writers everywhere are making a “Six-Figure Income”.    I could go into taxes and the like (which greatly offsets what writers get to keep, but I already did that in another post.

Today, I’m going to tackle other myths that have been plaguing me as of late.

myth-vs-facts

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Myth #1: Writers can write a book in a week or less.

I get it.  We live in an instant gratification kind of world.  People expect everything right now.  But if you want a good story worth reading, it does take time to get a book ready for prime time.  Unless we’re dealing with a short story or a writer who has done serious outlining ahead of time, most writers need more than a week to write a book.  It takes me 1.5 to 2 months to write a 60,000-word novel.  That is just to get the first draft done.

But let’s say for the sake of argument, a writer does manage this feat.  The book isn’t ready for publication at this point.  The book needs to be edited by someone other than the writer.  Writers should never rely on their own ability to edit their work. They will miss things another eye will find.   In addition to at least one editor, the writer may have beta readers.  I have two editors and four beta readers.  It averages me one month for all of these.  So from the time I start a book to when I can publish it, the soonest this can happen is 2.5 to 3 months.  That is the soonest.  That is me have awesome writing days at least 5 days a week where I can seriously crank out the words.

What is the reality?  Usually, 3-4 months.  Why?

Because….I have a life outside of writing.

Myth #2: Writers are robots who do nothing but write.

We have families and friends.  We have bills to pay.  We have chores to do.  Some of us work outside the home while writing.  I’m fortunate enough where I don’t have an outside job at the moment.  (That could very well change if my income keeps dropping.  Writers don’t make a steady income. This is a myth I’ll discuss in myth #3.)

We have emergencies that pop up.  We have car and house repairs that require us to stop writing and focus on fixing them.  We get sick or a family member gets sick.  Sometimes we need to take time off from writing to tend to things that occur in every day life, just like other people do.

We are not always tied to our computer.  But when we are on the computer, we need to answer emails, comments on social media sites, and promote our books.  And we need to do these things WHILE trying to get our writing in for the day.  It is not an easy balance to deal with.

Myth #3: Income is steady or goes up and up and up and…

Nope.  Most jobs you go to have a guaranteed salary or hourly wage.  You know exactly what you’re getting each month.  When my husband was in the military, I could rely on that money coming in, no matter what happened.

With writing books, this is not the case.  Now, I will say that even in previous years, every single month was a mystery.  I never knew how well my books would or would not sell.  The income was like a rollercoaster.  Some months were great.  Some were not.  Income is not steady.

And income does not ALWAYS go up from year to year.  This is a horrible myth that is leading to a lot of despair among some writers who believe they are doing something wrong.  SOME authors have seen their income go up every year.  But not ALL of them area. I’m one who isn’t.  Last year, my income dropped, and this is even after publishing ten books (which is more than I had ever published before in a single year).

Writing can be a very scary profession because you really don’t know how your next book is going to sell.

Myth #4: Writers don’t need word of mouth or book reviews.

Writers desperately need both of these things.  Our very livelihood depends on others helping us, but it’s not considered good practice to solicit help.  Which is why most of us don’t.  We don’t want anyone to feel like they “have” to spread the word about our books or leave us a review.  We prefer people who WANT to do it because they love our work.  While it’s wonderful to receive a great email (believe me, we need those, too!), we also need your help doing things we can’t do our own.

People are far more likely to trust their friend or family member to recommend a good book to them.  If you happen to know someone who would be interested in our books, please let them know.  Share a link.  Post a tweet.  Send an email. Share our books in discussion threads when they fit what the other person is looking for.

Reviews are equally important.  I just learned that Amazon gives more exposure to books with reviews on them.  I didn’t realize this until recently.  It doesn’t have to be a 5-star review.  It just needs to be what you honestly think about the book.  Reviews give potential readers an idea of whether or not the book would interest them.  I understand some people are afraid to review books because they fear the writer might retaliate if they don’t get a 5-star review.  In that case, avoid reviewing books by those authors.  But please don’t lump all authors into that mold.  Your favorite authors should be ones who won’t jump down your throat because you don’t give them five stars.  If you feel they deserve less than five stars, then you should be safe to give them less than five stars.

When you find a writer you love, please pass that writer on.  It could mean the difference between the writer being able to pill their bills (through increased book sales) or having to quite writing to make money another way.  As much as I’d love to say writers don’t need money to keep going, most of us do.  Word of mouth is the VERY BEST marketing tool we have, and yet, it is something completely out of our control.

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Does anyone else have a writer myth they’d like to share?  I know I didn’t cover them all. 🙂

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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10 Responses to Busting The Myths That Most People Believe About Writers

  1. We never have enough of these posts, because there are still people who have trouble believing them.

    • Thank you. It doesn’t help when the movies portray authors as people who can publish one or two books a year and not take a second job to make ends meet. When I got into publishing back in 2008, my uncle asked me if I was making a living at it. Back then, I made $20 in the entire year. Granted, authors stand a good chance of making more than that today, but it’s not like we’re all sitting in a paid off beautiful house making a six-figure income. (I blame part of this on marketing gurus who are also promising this to people who sign up for their program.)

      As you can tell, I was very frustrated this morning. 🙂 Writing the post did help to relieve a lot of that stress.

  2. Amen to all of this!

    Rami, I don’t make much more than that anymore, either. I can remember when I made more from book sales (a long time ago!) than I did in my day job. Now, I’m lucky to sell 2 or 3 books a month. That’s why I’ve stopped writing as much…I’m just discouraged. But I’m going to start writing more because I feel like the more books you have out there, the easier you are to discover. So I’m going to sit my rear end down and write. LOL I’m also going to focus on my other pen name and a different genre, and then I’ll see what happens. I think the interest in paranormal romance is dwindling a bit.

    • No wonder you stopped writing as much as before. It’d be hard to focus on writing with those kinds of sales coming in. 😦

      What I noticed is that Regencies are still outdoing my historical westerns, and yet it’s the historical westerns I get the most requests from. Except for the mail-order bride books, the historical westerns didn’t do well at all last year. I got a good boost initially, but they pretty much sank like a rock after the first couple of weeks. I’m still doing a couple of historical westerns, but I’m focusing mostly on Regencies this year. Sales really do determine what we write.

      Do you think paranormal is dwindling because the vampire craze is starting to decline? I wonder if Twilight happened to come up at the right time or if it gave the genre a boost. I would think your pen name’s genre would be more stable, but I don’t know much about that market. I hope you start gaining momentum this year.

      • There was a big surge in paranormal romance interest, especially vampires, right about the time I started publishing. Since I had always loved vampires (Dark Shadows when I was a kid), this worked out well for me. Twilight was part of it, then there was the TV show Vampire Diaries. But historical romance, especially Regency, has ALWAYS been popular. I remember reading every book Barbara Cartland wrote when I was late in my teens/early twenties. Those would now be classified as novellas because I could read them in two hours. I don’t think historicals are ever going away.

        I think another problem with me is that I don’t write usually write series. Readers seem to be big on those, but my reading and writing tastes are so varied, it’s hard for me to focus on more than a trilogy, and even that is hard for me.

        • As a reader, I try to stay away from series unless I know the author. My reading time is so limited that I average one fiction book a month. I get extremely frustrated when shopping for books because so many are in a series. But I also know I’m not the average reader. Most readers aren’t writing books, and they love to invest in the characters longterm. They also average a book every day or every other day. (At least in the romance genre.)

          All of my standalone books sell less than the series one do. I had to cut off any story ideas where I can’t somehow put the characters in a series. I keep thinking if I can get my house paid off, then I can afford to take a chance on a book that might not do as well as the others, but right now that is five years out. Who knows what the landscape in publishing will look by then? Things change so fast.

        • It does help when there’s a built-in interest to what people want to read and what you want to write. It’s too bad you can’t still ride that vampire romance wave. 😦

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