What they don’t tell you when you write a book

​There are things people don’t tell you about being a writer. It has only recently come to light that writing doesn’t usually pay well, if at all. In fact I think in my writing career I am seriously in the red. 
I say career loosely because I don’t make a living from it, but I have had relative success for my age. I turned 25 last year and have had 15 publications with Forward Poetry. I was also discovered at 15 and got very close to being published with Nightingale Magazine but my work was too detailed for an extract. I was in talks with agents before I was 20 and even though that fell through, I still have a few industry contacts. So not too bad.
There’s finance, time, arguing with demons, working when you are totally uninspired, long nights, early mornings, no days off, intimidating interviews and presentations, events planning – and it’s all worth it If writing is where you truly want to be. 
So firstly writing costs money. That’s a fairly common piece of information now but let’s just run through a few fees I have, and these are based on my tariffs as a self published writer so they can vary.
We have proof reading and editing, I do this at £5 per chapter for a general read through plus £2 – £5 extra for various checks ranging from spellings to grammar edits. So on a book of 36 chapters (which is my average) that is potentially £360 for just one reader and one read through. I usually like to have a few readers at the lower price too just to check out other content like continuity and engagement of plot. This price too doesn’t include any mistakes or rough chapters you then have to edit or remove. Reasonably you’re looking at £500 if you have friends who will do this at a cheaper rate such as a day rate. 
A lot of people will offer their time for free. It’s up to you whether you accept this but I would advise a fee because the people you ask should have relevant skills. As an artist yourself you should know that time is valuable.
Then there is cover art. You could go with a classic cover of just text if it suits the theme of your book but generally you will have to put some money in. I have an Art A Level and a History of Art A Level but I always find that I can spot imperfections in my work and often I lack the style I want, so I nee to employ either an artist or model. My average rate is £35 – £50 per cover or shoot which is actually very cheap, but I use collage students or friends looking to build their portfolio. 
Whether you take the printing or ebook method you will need someone for layout. A lot of people now can do that, me personally – I just don’t have the skill. There’s a fee for this service. Unfortunately I don’t know it as my last few pieces have been trade offs for my skill sets. This can be a huge advantage to cost. Having a way to trade is always useful. In my case art work is usually a save. 
Putting your book on ebook is actually quite simple and cost effective, though it varies in price depending on where you want to sell and how big your book is. Physical prints can be a whole lot more, trust me, it will be a while before I get there. At the minute I use my local library to bind me printed copy for about £7 if I need a hard copy – and that is not a sellable standard, just something I do for cherished people who helped on a project or for back ups. 
And let’s not go into advertising. All I will say on that is: business cards, flyers, book marks, giveaways, promotions, stalls, PR events, fuel to events, postage, hotels, sweetening up clients, printing costs, letterheads losing time from other jobs… A cheap brand is a brand not worth having.
And if you’re entering competitions and such to boost your portfolio (an you need a hot looking portfolio case) great idea, but be prepared to purchase your winnings. Quite a few companies make back their book costs by selling copies to the writers, usually a about £16 a copy in my experience. You could keep your success email or letter but when published, a good da of the time you loose printing writes to that piece, so you need the book to back it up – smart trick, they know what they’re doing.
But enough of money, let’s tackle some other writer secrets.
You can have a million social media friends but maybe 10% will buy your book, half of them won’t read it and half of those are going to be super nice so you can’t improve. If you want to be a writer you need to be able to take criticism AND find people brave enough to give you it – and that isn’t the easiest to do. One of my favourite requests is ‘be a bastard’ or in other words tell me where every wrong full stop, spelling mistake or dull bit is. Rip me to shreds even if it means I have to start entirely over, and if people can’t fid a better line than ‘I just don’t like it’ that’s fine, because that’s what the world will be like. Readers rarely come with advice. Reviews will quite often be things like ‘couldn’t get into it’, ‘hate it’ or other such unproductive lines. That is the world we work in.
Being talented does not mean publication or buyers. As important as word of mouth is you need to be proactive. If I had bought half of the books people told me I should read or were really great reads I would have several SD cards and a very full house. You need to make your book sell on more than just your writing. Even J K Rowling was rejected. And in my experience even with my publications and a 2:1 degree I got rejected from a Creative Writing MA because my work wasn’t up to scratch. You need an extra sparkle.
But what is that extra sparkle you ask. That I can’t help with, but I can tell you a few things that help. Having quality stationery (especially letter heads) for submissions, doing publicity events and remaining active on the right forums helps. And of course knowing people in the right placed.
But despite all of this there is a lot of rejection in writing. Manuscripts will get thrown away, and half the time you won’t get a response. Deals fall through at the last minute. 
And one thing you need to know about being a writer that you don’t often get told, and that I learnt the hard way, is this: most professionals do not care about your work. I actually lost an entire manuscript when I was younger because the woman working on my printing case quit the industry and took all of her existing prints with her – and I didn’t have a back up in those days. 
That is the only example I have because I’m annoying to work with. I push for things and send email after email until it’s done, but I know that that beloved ink baby we all have is just a pay day at the other end.
One more thing. You work for you, which is a plus but if you have demons to fight it needs to be on the page and out of the office. You are responsible for your contribution to your daily word count, for updating your social media, for adding interesting new side projects like blogs and charity events. Whatever is going wrong in life you still have as much responsibility to this as any other career. There will be days where you’re tired, or you have a party, or family from afar coming but you need to make that time up. YOU. And it’s super easy to slip behind, honestly I do it all the time and then have to be a hermit for a week or two to catch up. 
The last issue with being your own boss is an age old argument. I respect all opinions on this one from a creative standpoint, but, on a career point there’s only one via answer for me. You have to write. Sounds silly but what I mean is: you have to write the hard scenes, the chapters that don’t inspire you and all the teeny tiny boring details that set up the rest of your book. As a career writer there is no ‘waiting for inspiration’ – you sit down and you do it. End of. And sometimes you’ll hate doing it but you cannot let your work suffer because the author isn’t simulated enough.
If you’re still passionate about writing and answered most of these problems with determination and a plan – good news! You were probably meant to be a writer. 
So congratulations for making it this far, let’s talk about some of the positive things people don’t tell you about being a writer. 
Writing gives you an excuse to do pretty much any cool thing you want to. 
I know I said that you can’t just sit around and wait for inspiration but there are exceptions – like research. You would not believe how many amazing places are around you until you go out looking for inspiration. And even better you don’t know which will give you what you need. So try it all. 
Want to visit a stately home for your historical novel? Do it.
Want to book in to swim with sharks to know the feeling? Do it.
Want to go to comic con for some time with manganese fans? Do it.
And  it works the other way to:
Done all your word count and want to get more inspiration? Flip open a paper, see what’s on, go. Have fun and maybe find a gem that could save a scene or an outfit that makes you want to write a new quirky character.
Then there’s the excuse to go out and get involved with your local community. Most of us do this anyway but some of us (like me!) have social anxieties on occasion we need to overcome. As a writer you really need to interact with your potential fan base and trust me, you forget that they’re your fan base when you have so much fun. Become a regular at your local comic book store, become a regular at your favourite bar, join a theatre company and blame the whole lot on writing. I started going to my local because of friends and now I’m a regular, not just for the tapas either! There is so much inspiration to be had around people – and my local has great banter and even better live music. I’m upping my potential fan base without even thinking about it. And what other job allows you to work over a gin and orange?
You also get to meet other writers by making yourself known. I’ve had the huge honours of reading unpublished (and some never to be published) works and had my work reviewed by published authors across the world.
So writing is hard and the money isn’t great but we get to bare our soul to the world, live amazing experiences and bring new world’s to readers – with so many faults what could be better?
I give you writing, the beautiful and demanding mistress.

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