Home » Books in General, The Business of Writing » It’s Just Books

It’s Just Books

29 August 2013

From author Lara Schiffbauer:

Now, as we know, some writers have (what appears to be) lucky success. I’m not saying they don’t work hard, or aren’t talented. But, how many hard-working, talented writers do you know? That’s right. Quite a few, huh? And what makes any one writer who has that crazy-good success better than any of the others that you know? See what I mean? For every one lucky hard-working, talented writer there are many hard-working, talented authors who just didn’t have the stars align in quite the same way.

. . . .

I’m a very competitive person. I’m so competitive that I don’t compete. I hate losing that much. Plunk me down in the middle of a competitive field like writing, and I’m sure to have some mental ticks.

. . . .

And the truth of writing is the majority of authors are going to be disappointed over something, sometime. Maybe even frequently disappointed. Heck, even those with crazy-good success blog and post on Facebook about how disappointed they are with something that would make 99% of other writers drool. (Can I just say how irritating that is…)

. . . .

It’s just books.

All of it is not life or death. Whether I sell a zillion copies or two copies, it really won’t change the important things in my life. I’ll still be a wife to my dearest husband, I’ll be mother to two of the quirkiest, most-lovable kids in the world. I’ll still have a job as a social worker if I want it. I’ll still be a daughter and an aunt, and a friend. I’ll still write and create the fantastical and magical.

It’s just books.

Link to the rest at Motivation for Creation and thanks to Stacy for the tip.

Books in General, The Business of Writing

35 Comments to “It’s Just Books”

  1. Plunk me down in the middle of a competitive field like writing, and I’m sure to have some mental ticks.

    Oh, thanks for that image, Lara. Now I’m going to be having psychosomatic itching on my head all day.

  2. And on a serious note: Nope. It’s not just books. It’s my life. It’s taken me twenty years to get from the Clarion Writers Workshop to published novelist. You better believe that I’m going to hold up the success (or not) of my books to a pretty high standard.

    I want to earn a living from my writing. That is success. All else is failure.

    I guess that’s why they cut out a headline with “Publish or Perish” and put it on my door at Clarion. I don’t give up.

    • “I want to earn a living from my writing. That is success. All else is failure.”

      Same here.

    • Ha!

      “All of it is not life or death. Whether I sell a zillion copies or two copies, it really won’t change the important things in my life.”

      One pays the bills. The other decidedly does not!

    • Having tenacious ambition–and a sense of perspective–are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Just because someone might have the latter doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t BURN for success–as defined by publishing success and lots of it. In any pursuit–not just writing–there’s that random universe. One can do everything in their power to achieve the grail of making-my-living-as-a-writer–and still come up short, through factors beyond his or her control. So I think it’s a good idea to have other things to define one’s success and meaning as a person. For me? I’m a published author (traditional and e-books), once got that 6 figure advance, write EVERY day, but you know, even if I reached a level of material success that matched my wildest dreams (and yes, ambition), I would remain most proud of raising two fine sons when I was a single father. Mileage varies with each person, but we’re human beings first–and then writers.

  3. This is my career. There’s no fallback.

  4. Saying “It’s just books” to me would be like saying “it’s just lines of code” to a programmer or “it’s only water” to a plumber. Yes, it’s books. Why is that less important than anything else?

    I think in the post author’s drive to keep from going insane with competitiveness (something I can relate to), she’s belittling her own efforts and desire for success. Instead, perhaps only setting goals which contain items under our control rather than having the goal be to do better than someone else would be a start.

    In some ways, yes, we’re in a competitive business, but people buy more than one book. You don’t have to fail in order for me to succeed, and your success doesn’t diminish or define mine.

    • Saying “It’s just books” to me would be like saying “it’s just lines of code” to a programmer or “it’s only water” to a plumber.

      I don’t see anything wrong with that. There are plenty of programmers who spend their twenties and thirties doing twelve or more hour days writing code, then wake up in their forties and wonder where their life went.

      • I’m one myself. I used to have a ball talking to programmers in their 20s and saying, “So, how many programmers in their 50s do you know?” A certain percentage could then be coaxed into broadening their skill set into business systems as a whole, not just code.

  5. I want to earn a living from my writing. That is success. All else is failure.

    I hope no one told that to Shakespeare, or the many authors who publish books while teaching full time or otherwise supporting themselves via other income.

    I’m happy for you, but writers who earn their living solely from book sales are an even more limited population than those who manage to score corporate sponsorship for their books.

    That said, I agree it’s not just books. It’s never just books. It’s stories, and they may be the most important thing of all.

    • You really cannot compare the opportunities for writers today with the opportunities for writers in Shakespeare’s time. And you’re not taking note of the many, MANY people who are earning a living from their writing these days–fiction writing. The internet–especially Amazon–is the great equalizer, and the great opportunity.

      I’m only in the first year of my business plan. Give me two or three more years and let’s see what happens.

      But believe me, I do not give up until I attain my goals. Ask anyone who knows me well.

      I’m happy for you, but writers who earn their living solely from book sales are an even more limited population than those who manage to score corporate sponsorship for their books.

      I’m calling BS on this. You haven’t been paying attention to the working writer blogs if you think this is true. And if it is, let’s see a cite.

      • I don’t read many blogs. I’ll admit that was a bit of a combination of anecdotal (I’m friends with a lot of writers, and I think the only writers I know who only write are either screenwriters or a spouse’s support) and rational (based on the idea that, what, 200k books are published per year and the vast majority sink? To be honest, I don’t know if 200k is the number. Find all the articles from someone in corporate publishing trying to argue why gatekeepers are needed, and generally it’s there, and generally it’s underestimated because they can’t track so much of the digital market). I don’t know “many, MANY people who are earning a living these days,” but if you do, I’d love to see a cite. And by cite, I mean a percentage ratio of books published/sold or something otherwise concrete, not merely a list of dozens of authors. Believe me, I’m aware of dozens of authors, both corporate and indie, who are making very good money (but out of how many authors overall?).

        I think if you had said “For me, all else is failure,” I probably wouldn’t have take exception. One can really only define one’s own values for success and failures. I see that’s where you’ve drawn your line in the sand and wish you luck in crossing it. A lot of writers have different sticks and different sands and different goals.

  6. I like this article. I think alot of indie writers are feeling some pressure to be wildly successful and taking it very personally if they aren’t.

    It’s good to put things in perspective.

  7. It’s just life, guys. No big deal.

  8. I enjoyed the article, and agreed with most of it. Like pretty much all of the advice-y posts that we see on TPV, this has “your mileage may vary” written all over it.

    For some, it’s a writing career or bust. Some others really want it, but if the sales don’t follow, their lives won’t be adversely affected.

    • Some others really want it, but if the sales don’t follow, their lives won’t be adversely affected.

      Then they should think twice before belittling the rest of us by telling us that ‘it’s only books’. We don’t all have her advantages.

      My own life is worth precisely nothing to anybody unless I can sell the products of my labour. Writing is the only kind of labour at which I have a comparative advantage. It’s not ‘just books’, it’s food on the table, hope for the future, and not least of all, an answer to the people who think money is everything and shame me for not having it.

  9. Writing is only a single facet of who we are. We write and, for a while, assume a persona, fall in love, suffer withdrawal when it’s over, and then learn to embrace the other facets of our lives again–regain the balance.
    Writing is seductive and addictive. We wield unbelievable power, creating life with words, and then we go wash the dishes. lol. It’s a hard act to follow.

    Lara just put it in perspective. It is just books–it’s the living that’s important.

    • Around here, living requires money. If you’re not bringing any in, all this talk about embracing other facets and regaining balance is so much platitudinous claptrap.

      • Living does require money. That’s why many writers work at other jobs that pay the bills, dreaming of the day their words will bring the paycheck home instead.
        The point of the blog was accepting that, whether or not this dream happens, you still have to maintain a healthy balance.

  10. “But, how many hard-working, talented writers do you know? That’s right. Quite a few, huh? And what makes any one writer who has that crazy-good success better than any of the others that you know?”

    The crux is how you define talent, and who decides. Your talented writer is my appalling hack, and anyone who sets themselves up as the arbiter is a pompous fool. Selling books is about popularity underpinned by luck, or vice versa. ‘Talent’ is really a purely personal and perhaps individually visceral opinion.

  11. I actually know a number of talented and/or prolific writers making a living writing. I know a number of “not yet ready to be publishing” authors who aren’t making much. I know some talented authors not making a living for a variety of reasons. I also know a number of badly written books not doing well and authors who spend too much time promoting their single book they’ve forgotten to write the 2nd book.

    I also know authors whose definition of success is to be #1 on the big list and making $100k+ a year from their writing would not be good enough.

    Lots of factors to take into account
    1. How do you define talent (does talent really matter?)
    2. How do you define success
    3. Are you putting yourself in a position to get lucky (getting work out there)
    4. Is the work saleable (different from good although its possible to be both)
    5. Is your work easy for people to find & buy

  12. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke

    I am a solitary individual in the face of a collective infinite. I write because I have to write. I write for the sake of me.

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