Writer Beware: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

My first romance novel (first novel, actually) was published two years ago. I was absolutely certain by this point I’d have a best seller and be raking in the dough.

Guess what? I’m not.

We writers tend to believe in our own brilliance. If we don’t, who will, right? It’s important to keep believing in yourself. It’s also important to be realistic. Today’s writing world is tough. It’s competitive, and it’s crowded. Everybody has a story to tell, and chances are, the literate ones are writing it down. And there are a number of schemers out there ready to take advantage of that.

I recently heard about a man who had a successful business. He also wrote a book and got it accepted by a publisher. Banking on his success in the writing world, the man planned to quit his day job and write full time. When I heard about this, I looked up the publisher. Turns out they charge writers for the publication of their books, for the editing, for the cover design.

In other words, it’s a scam. Yes, they’ll publish your book, but it’s a vanity publisher. Maybe your books will sell when published through a vanity publisher. We all know the success story The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. But that was in the early days of self-publishing. Before everyone started publishing their stories themselves.

I am often asked for advice for writers starting out. I want to be encouraging. I never, ever want to take away anyone’s belief that their story is going to be the next rising star on the literary front. I still maintain a tiny flame of that hope myself. Every time I finish a project or have something accepted for publication, I fan that flame a little bit, keeping it alive. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m a stay-at-home mom who has no intention of quitting her job as a stay-at-home mom, even if “it” actually happens for me. I’ll continue to steal my moments of creativity when I can, in between working my 24-hour “day” job.

But for those writers starting out out there who have day jobs, I have to say my best advice is don’t quit ’em. Self-publishing is a real and rapidly becoming more acceptable way of telling your story, but search for the right way to do it. Don’t buy thousands of copies of your book yourself and hope they’ll sell. Maybe they will. Maybe they won’t. A better avenue is to e-publish. It costs less (sometimes just time), and your book can be made more widely available.

An even better avenue to explore first is to do some research. Submit your manuscript to legitimate small publishers who won’t charge you for editing or publishing or “marketing”. They are out there and they are looking for the next rising star in the publishing world. Maybe it’s you.

But please don’t fall for the scams and schemes. Those people will talk a good game and then they’ll take your money and squash your dream right under their feet as they walk away. And they’ll piss me off in the process.

2 thoughts on “Writer Beware: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

  1. Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t have given my notice. Okay, I really didn’t, but it’s amazing how often this enters the thought process of a writer. I can recall in my younger days thinking all I had to do was write a couple of novels and life would be easy. Little did I know. I can say I never fell for the vanity publishers — I’m naturally cynical enough to smell a rat when one walks into the room (or advertises in Writer’s Digest).

    Nice column, though, Michelle. Enjoyed reading it.

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