This is my big excitement for the week – a friend spotting my new book in Minneapolis-St. Paul, right next to Guy Gavriel Kay. Funny how these little joys make it all so fun.
Because, we all know that getting our books published and out there doesn’t always bring joy and fun. Far from being the Golden Ticket that transforms our lives and brings us Eternal Happiness, publication brings a new set of problems. Once we get over the shock of this revelation, it makes total sense. After all, life is like this. Any grown-up knows it. Each new step, every new phase brings its own joys and sorrows. The trick is to manage the sorrows and savor the joys.
One of the biggest discoveries that publication brings to most is that it doesn’t pay all that well. Especially to begin with.
It’s part of the mythology of the author – that it’s a career guaranteed to bring in wealth. Maybe we believe this because we hear the book deal numbers for those high-profile authors. We see the JK Rowlings, the Stephenie Meyers and the James Pattersons making literal fortunes and extrapolate that to all writers. Again, once we get a grip on the reality, it makes total sense. Really in no profession does anyone make the CEO salary when they’re at entry level. Any grown-up knows this. We figure out how to manage our expectations and move on.
What’s difficult to manage is the expectations of other people. Especially the predators and parasites.
I’m seeing more of them than ever. I think this is because of the boom in self-publishing, with so many high-profile voices publishing their sales figures, trumpeting their financial success. (How prevalent that success is would be a whole ‘nother discussion. Suffice to say, I think a small percentage still makes the really high dollars.) Like coyote populations expanding after a boom in bunny rabbit births, like mushrooms after a rainy summer, “Author Services” are popping up everywhere.
I can think of five people offhand who’ve started businesses as author assistants or ebook formatters in the last six months. Several times a week – sometimes several times a day – I receive “offers” for some kind of service meant to help me write or sell books. I see notices of new followers on Twitter that are book publicists, publishers, cover designers, author assistants – you name it.
I’m not saying this is a bad thing.
But I think it’s not always a good thing, Certainly not for all authors.
Sure, it’s great that these services are out there, if you need them. If you can afford them. But there’s increasing competition for the prey. Once there are more coyotes than the bunny population can sustain, the coyotes start to get hungry. These folks are getting hungry. Which means they need to convince more authors that their services are not only necessary, but crucial to success.
They can instill panic. DO THIS OR YOUR BOOK WILL FAIL.
I’ve seen it.
So, my point is – beware of author “services.” They might be very nice people, with great stuff to offer, but you’re not necessarily their cash cow. They figure you can afford it. That you are the wellspring of wealth, with so much that it could spill over onto them. Most of us – particularly early in our careers – simply can’t afford that outlay. Most of us have day jobs for that reason. If you can’t afford it, don’t feel pressured into ponying up for it.
Services are lovely to have and they can help us out. But they’re luxuries, not necessities.