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Jeri Cafesin Guest Blog

 

I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Jeri Cafesin, author of Reverb to my blog today. Please read and share this insightful guest post. I’m hoping to have the review of this book up by the end of this week or beginning of next week.

Living As a Novelist

It has been said there are two kinds of scribes:

Writers.

Authors.

Writers write to recreate their reality, a refuse from the real world, a space to hide. Classic socially retarded recluses, they avoid readings, public appearances, networking functions and social gatherings.

Authors write to highlight/amplify their reality; like people, enjoy showcasing, their works often an entrée to the spotlight. They write to connect with their world.

The writer is generally deemed to be better at the craft since they spend more time practicing it.

But the author makes more money.

—–

I was asked to guest blog on writing…so this blog post is about Making A Living as a Novelist.

Seven years ago my mom died of cancer and on her deathbed asked me if she made a difference (beyond giving life to three kids, I assumed she meant). As a teacher and facilitator, of course she did, but her question ricocheted off the walls of my brain as I pondered what my contribution would be, beyond developing advertising campaigns.

So I decided to take a year off of marketing and write a novel. Sure, every other copywriter and executive and housewife and kid over five was writing a novel too, but I’d finish mine in a year and get an agent to rep it who’d become my new best friend like in the movies, and she’d sell my book to Random House or their like and we’d make enough to fund my next novel, and so on…

Okay, so I was naïve. You have to be innocent, ignorant, arrogant to sit down and write a novel and believe anyone will be interested in reading it, especially among the rapidly growing menagerie of choices out there.

I finished Reverb in a year and tried to sell it for the next two. Sent out queries to many agents and publishers, even rewrote the work in 3rd-person as one agent suggested, all to no avail, until finally my current publisher contacted me with an offer to publish the novel. No royalties. Professional line editing of the work, and two printed paperback copies, all others I have to buy. Oh, and I do all my own marketing. And she gets the greater percentage (by a lot) of everything I make, which so far is virtually nothing. In five years publishing I’ve made less than three grand collectively from fine writing (novels, essays, articles, blogspots and such).

Many writers start the litany of pious rhetoric right about here‘I write because I’m compelled to write, driven to create, not to get rich and famous.’ Right. But it sounds literary, don’t you think? “…A writer who writes because I am,” someone commented on What Are You the other day, whatever that means…

Personally, I write because I love to, and I’d love to make even a meager living at doing what I love!

But I don’t. And I am not alone. Most every writer I’ve met producing fiction, even with multiple bestsellers (sold 5,000 copies or more), has a ‘real’ full-time job/career doing something other than fine writing. Electricians, Software Engineers, Plumbers, Doctors, Civil Service workers, even teachers who work only three-quarters of the year generally don’t have two careers. They make enough annually in their job to pay the bills. Most writers working a day job/career write at night, and/or on the weekends; throw in a family and they fit writing in whenever they can, making it difficult to get better at the craft with negligible practice, and virtually impossible to find the time to then market on top of writing and editing. Pursuing a career in writing fiction is unwise at best unless you are privy to public or private funds without needing to earn them, or you’re willing to tolerate homelessness.

And right about here we have authors screaming, ‘James Patterson; Harold Robbins, J.K. Rowlings—all successful writers. Success is possible!’

Like winning the lottery, getting struck by lightning…that kind of possible.

Sorry for the hard dose of realism, but the odds of getting hit by lightning are probably greater (especially if you golf) than selling enough books to pay the bills. And regardless of all the PR people pushing SEO online success if you just by their book on how to market on the internet, it’s getting harder to sell novels among the torrent now hitting the market. Self-publishing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble…etc., has opened the publishing world to anyone and everyone. Ask just about anyone and they’ll say they plan to write a novel, or are maybe even working on one. Now, just about everyone is publishing them, for 99 cents.

There is a TV commercial with a guy jumping up and down on a parked car, smashing in the windshield, denting the roof and hood. He says he’s ‘Mayhem,’ like tree damage from a storm, and proceeds to sell car insurance.

Well, I’m ‘Reality.’ Curse me all you want, but there are some very harsh realities for writers these days.

‘It’s always been hard to rise above obscurity,’ the writer insists here, and then proceeds with a diatribe on how their story will entertain, captivate, illuminate, [sell].

Writer or Author— we write to be read.

Final note: It would be great if my reality with writing was mine alone, or even unique, but of course it’s not. Hope entices, enamors, enchants writers to continue pursuing the dream of being read by many. And while most of us don’t imagine we’ll be the next Ms. Rowlings, selling enough copies of Reverb to cover [the babysitter] this year sure would be nice…

Everyday I struggle with quitting fiction and going back to marketing. It’s one or the other with no time to manage two careers with two kids, a DH, a bratty (but cute) pound hound, and a packed schedule. And while I love the process of writing— creating worlds to escape to, interesting people to watch, virtually hang out with— I’m growing ever so weary of indulging Hope. (…though it’s possible Reverb goes viral, and then Tales of Finnegus Boggs and then The Activation and then Disconnected, and then…;-)

The first six chapters of REVERB can be read (on most electronic devices) here:

 

 

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About Heather Powers

Extraordinary girl in an ordinary world. I'm a mom, part-time poet/writer, and earth goddess-protector of the furries and like.

6 responses »

  1. Heather, I was really naive and spoiled rotten when I retired and started writing novels. Everything I wrote since age 18 was picked up by one newspaper or another (I even wrote a poem that the Optimist Club adopted in the Sacramento area). 🙂 I was married and having babies (one almost each two years; some with 3 years between) so couldn’t work full-time at first. BUT in each city we lived in I wrote a column and took it to the local paper…and in every case they accepted it and I became a weekly stringer columnist.

    I progressed to stringer feature writer and so on… Then when the kids got bigger, I graduated to editing local daily papers and ended up owning and publishing my own in San Jose. With that track record (where I interviewed Clint Eastwood, Jane Russell, Ted Kennedy and others along the way), I thought it would be so-ooo easy to get my first book published.

    NOT! Like you, I waited and I waited and I waited… I waited eight years for the New York Biggies to discover me (came close with Wm. Morris agency once) and then decided to go with smaller independents. I’ve published five books since then, but made much more money during my career as a journalist. Two of my books have been considered for movies by several producers, but ultimately rejected. So there’s still hope. I’ll always be optimistic and hopeful…though not as naive as I once was. 🙂

    THAT said, I must say I really enjoyed reading your article, Jeri. Thanks, Heather for bringing her to us.

    Hugs – Betty Dravis

    Reply
  2. Well written and well stated, having experienced most of what was said. Sad but true about the aspirations and the reality that follows. The books that already exist, stay, with more being published as we speak. It’s like locking your work away in a vault and then hoping someone can find the combination. Not inspiring by any means from what I have stated but to quote a quote, “It is what it is”. And yet, perseverance can prove to be that stroke of luck that propels you past the rest. So, I always hold out hope that luck will spring my way or your way and prove us all wrong.
    Ciao,
    B

    Reply
  3. Great article! I knew I was facing an uphill battle in getting my picture book published but you spelled it out for me. Thanks for showing me just what I’m facing. Thanks, Heather for introducing us to Jeri!

    Reply
  4. I write, because I can’t be happy if I don’t. I am an observer and recorder, pen in one hand, camera in another, and I see a world of beauty and wonderful people and I want to share it with people who focus on the dark and ugly side of living. That said, I would love to be able to live on my novels, but I am another who does not sell enough to give up the day job. So, I write and teach and yet, I am happiest when I get to do both, talk about my writing with the kids I teach and encourage them to write their own story.

    Reply
  5. I’m agreeing with everyone here. I’ve been telling stories my entire life and have only recently been able to devote the time to showing it to others. I am happy with the reviews I’m getting; it validates my choice to actually put my books out there, but I know a millionaire I will never be :). I do it because I love to do it and can’t imagine doing anything else with my time. Great post! A good dose of reality is always good!

    Reply
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