You’re Famous! (and other myths)

34063824There are many myths about publishing and being a writer. There are so many that I don’t really know where to start. Other Debs have talked about agent myths and so forth. I’m going to talk about the expectations of those around us. Here we go.

Myth #1: You’re famous!

I have super supportive and wonderful friends. They often refer to me as their “famous author friend.” I know they’re just joking around, but I still cringe because it is one of those myths about getting a book published…that everyone will know your name. They won’t. It’s nothing personal, but there are so many authors out there, there’s no way to know everyone.

So last week I was at a writing workshop for a week. Basically it’s summer camp for writers. One of my workshop mates was astounded that another workshop mate didn’t know a particularly famous author. I suggested she give the other writer a break. I was at a book festival a couple of months ago and shocked a couple of other authors when I didn’t know what Meg Cabot wrote. It’s about perspective, folks.

When you’re a writer, never assume anyone has heard of your book unless they are your agent or your editor. Seriously, it’s so rare. Once a sushi chef recognized me because I’d commented on a his restaurant’s post on Facebook with my author account. But that’s the only reason he knew.

Myth #2: You’ll be rich!

Uh, no. If I calculated the time I spent on my novel with the money I’ve received from it so far, it would be probably less than a penny an hour. Now, that’s not exactly the ratio you want. But honestly, there are few writers out there who can make a living on their writing alone. I did meet one last week, but he went to live in Costa Rica for eight years so that he could do it. OK, maybe E.L. James can live off her royalties and Stephen King seems to be doing really well. But they are the top 1% of writers. For the rest of us, we have to figure out how to balance our writing income with other ways to support ourselves.

Me? Even though I left my high tech job to write full time, I still do some consulting work. And I’m super lucky to have a wonderful supportive husband. Together, we manage and I get to do what I love. It works out.

Myth #3: One novel makes your career.

Just because you were able to get one novel published, doesn’t mean there will be a second or a third or a fourth. Each time you have to write something worth publishing, something worth a reader’s precious time. You can’t rest on your first novel laurels. You’ve got to go out there and do it all again!

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Shelly is the author of THE MOMENT OF EVERYTHING, story of love and books in Silicon Valley. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains with her husband, two big dogs, and a disapproving cat.

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