Being a writer is a wonderful thing. Like most of you who create stories by pounding on a computer keyboard, my life changed for good when I decided I wanted to dedicate myself to the world of books, first as a writer and then as a teacher.
But let’s not kid ourselves: being a novelist, an essay writer free, or whatever modality you choose is also challenging and complicated. Depending on the type of writer you want to be, you may be forced to make difficult decisions. In this article, I want to bring you closer to the different paths you can take if you consider dedicating time to creating stories.
The amateur writer
When we think of a writer, we almost always think of great best-selling, and famous authors. Those who accumulate long lines at book fairs fill bookstores at their presentations. The author for whom writing is his job. I warn you: very few of those (although I will talk about that later). Be that as it may, a writer should never lose sight of the fact that, first and foremost, writing is a vital necessity. Let’s always remember that we started in this business because our hearts told us to, not because we wanted to make money.
All writers started as amateurs; it is not a failure to remain so. Publishing work is a great satisfaction, but only some feel that need. Some authors are happy writing for themselves or their family and friends. Short stories, poems, and even novels serve to fill our souls and travel to those places and times we love. To live the story of our characters. Some sporadic publication, but without going any further. It is undoubtedly the sincerest way with oneself and perhaps the healthiest mental. It is certainly much less stressful, I assure you.
The professional writer
On the other hand, it is also very understandable that we want to take the step to something more serious at some point. But as I said before, you will have to be aware that becoming a professional author, that is, one who publishes regularly, is very difficult. Many of us aspire to that, and the number of readers is limited. The competition, therefore, is brutal.
Even if you gain a publisher’s confidence and your publications are common, you will need more time to make a living from your work. You need to become a bestseller; if publishing is difficult, imagine succeeding. You will have to continue working in your usual profession for a long time before you can fully professionalize. And when this is the case, you will certainly need to support yourself in jobs related to literature but not to your books: editorial reader, proofreader, conferences, etc…
You must work very hard and prepare yourself well before taking this step. It is no longer enough to write when you feel like it when inspiration strikes you. You will have to create a stable habit and forget about procrastinating. Because this time you won’t get paid a single euro if you don’t do that work.
But hey, you’re stubborn like me and decided to go for it. The question is how to do it. Do I go for the known and look for a publisher? Or do I do an “I’ll do it myself, I’ll eat it myself”? I’m talking about self-publishing, of course.
You already know that I work with publishers, and that is the direction I decided to take at the time. But I am not at all against self-publishing. However, it must be a choice made out of conviction and carefully considered. This path should not be taken despite a few editorial rejections, because it would be a mistake. Publishers are not your enemies. If they have not accepted you, it is generally because your work needs to improve or because they need more time to read everything they receive.
If you decide to self-publish you should do it right. You say you want to be a professional writer, so you must prove it and behave like one. Self-publishing requires you to do all the work that a publisher does or to hire one (which is not cheap): proofreading, layout, cover, promotion… You will have to do it all yourself, and you must do it well, so you will have to learn how to do it. Either through specialized courses or a lot of practice. Because, whether a book is published by a publisher or by Amazon, the reader will always deserve the highest quality. Never forget this.
The traditional writer
This is the path I chose: write my novels and send them to publishers. It takes a lot of pressure off you because you practically forget about the editing work. But beware, this also has its downside. Because from the moment you sign a contract, your work will be in the hands of the publisher as far as its commercial exploitation is concerned (don’t worry: you are still the owner of the copyrights). So if the publisher doesn’t do a good job or the book simply doesn’t sell well, you will have your work paralyzed for the duration of the contract unless you agree to terminate it.
You already know the advantages of traditional publishing: distribution in bookstores, the possibility of reaching other markets, an editing job done by professionals… Of course, there is a lot in your favor, but it will require patience, since there are many other writers like you, and publishers have a limited number of novelties. Or to put it another way: patience, a lot of patience.
Is there a better way than another for a writer? A priori no. You can be happy either by choosing to write for yourself or by embarking on a professional career, whether traditional or self-publishing. You just have to be aware of your choice and act accordingly.