Thursday, September 8, 2011

An Author's Guide to Turning Tricks

Many writer dreams of making it big. We fantasize about winning awards, signing million dollar contracts and landing that sweet agent who'll turn out movie deals like a Sin City hooker turning tricks on  Saturday night.

But wait. Why is the term, "starving artist" still in our vocabulary? If the publishing world is changing so rapidly in favor of the indie author, why aren't we all talking about how rich we're getting?

Okay, I take that back, some authors are talking about their money, but they have all been guests on J.A. Konrath's blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing. The rest of us just read about them and inhale another hit of hope with each new post, promising ourselves that we'll get another book on Amazon's shelf as soon as we find the cash; you know, to pay the editor, cover designer and professional formating.

Listen, I don't mean to be a party pooper here, but the truth is, and I have to thank my buddy Scott Nicholson for pointing this out in a previous post; this business will not always work as planned. Sometimes, the success of an indie author is pure luck. Sometimes an author can snag a gazillion 5-star reviews and still hang out in the 100,000 zone, which sells what, maybe a few books a month? And some books in the top 100 are holding down 5 well deserved 3.1-star reviews.

Not fair is it?

I don't think any author, indie or otherwise dreams of selling a few books a month when they hit the publish button. No. We dream of bestseller status. We dream of selling books by the thousands.

The truth is, indie fame and fortune, as in any source of fame and fortune is fleeting and rare.

In case you're wondering, this blog post was not written for the seasoned author with 20 bestselling titles. This post was written for the rookie author and the midstream author with one or three titles struggling to stay under six digits.

If I've learned anything in the last few years, I've learned that nothing is guaranteed in publishing. I've learned that I need to get a serious grip on my expectations and as William Esmont, one of my good writer friends has said more than once, "Just enjoy the ride,"when things go well.

And when they don't, keep typing.

As the maker of The Kindle Book Review, I see many wonderful books out there with dazzling reviews that can't seem to make it out of the six digit range. It's quite a conundrum indeed, leaving many first time and midlist authors scratching their heads.

If I'm hitting a nerve, I have a message for you. ~~>Don't give up. Keep writing. Keep marketing.

This industry is based on luck, timing and a wink from the gods, so don't let your current level of success make or break you. This is not a get-rich-quick business. This is a keep writing because you love it business and maybe, just maybe, the stars will align one of these nights and your novel and marketing efforts will start a chain reaction that propels you into stardom.

Ask Stephen King how many words he typed before he sold Carrie. Ask Dean Koontz how many times he was rejected. What makes us any different? This is tough stuff. Expect hardships.

Writing is not for the faint of heart. It's a choice - a choice to persevere through storms, droughts, wind and rain. Writing comes from the heart, not from a bank account, and it will never satisfy or bring an ounce of fulfillment if you do it for money or fame, although we all would like a little change at the end of the day - I get that.

Authors certainly have more choices today than we did two years ago, and it's obvious that indies are gaining credibility and selling more books. But if you're in a rut, if you're having lack luster sales, and if your reviews are crappy, take heart. You're next book will be better. You'll learn from your mistakes. You'll find a better way to market your work. You'll meet a more talented cover artist. You'll read a few more books on writing, and you'll make a few more connections.

Keep your eyes on the keyboard, my friend, but always look forward. Turning tricks isn't about one hot night on the town. It's about standing on the street corner night after night, taking your blows (I didn't mean it like that) and putting in your time.

Nothing good rarely happens overnight. The road to publishing success, no matter which road you choose, no matter how much hype that's out there, will take years of hard work, studying, reading, thick skin, and connections, all while sliding down a never ending learning curve.

But you can do it. Be patient. Keep writing. And keep sticking your leg out. You're bound to turn a trick one of these days.

Oh, and please, share this post, and for God's sake sign up for my blog via email and get my weekly posts delivered right to your inbox - You won't regret it!

Jeff Bennington
Author of Reunion and other thrillers.


  1. Truly inspiring as always Jeff - and you're right of course, if we all did it for the money, the fame and the few minutes of red carpet treatment, there would be fewer indie authors out there struggling to make a living. The fact that we are gathering in our thousands proves a point - we love what we do, should stick together and celebrate each tiny success along the way.

    Best of all wishes to you my friend.

    J x

    PS - your new book covers look awesome!

  2. Thank you, Jemima. I've really enjoyed watching/participating as indies cross promote and support each other. Does that happen with authors in the big leagues? I mean, do Penguin authors help promote authors from Random House?
    And thanks for the compliment on the covers...branding.
    Ta ta!

  3. Thanks for the post, Jeff. I never dreamed of those things you say "every writer" wants--all I ever wanted was to do this for a living. That is done, for the moment. But it wouldn't have happened without 15 years of writing even when the odds looked bleak and the world wanted it to go away.

    Writing is NOTHING but a persistence!


  4. Well said, Jeff. You have to do it for the love.

  5. Amen brutha! When I was in my 20's, I was apprenticing to become a mechanical engineer. I apprenticed under a man who was the modern day Leonardo Da Vinci.

    I remember telling him once, "You should be a billionaire with all the things you invented."

    He replied, "Wanna know something ... I would do this for nothing, so to me, I'm way ahead of the game."

    He did it for 54 years ... and yes he made a lot of money but the money to him was just 'keeping score' and a pleasant afterthought.

    I always wanted to love what I do as much as he did ... now I do.

    Living ... breathing ... writing!

  6. Great post Jeff. It reminded me of the sage words of a dog trainer we were working with for one of our two dogs.

    We had an old dog who hung out under the table during dinner, waiting for food to fall. The new, younger dog was bugging us and making it hard to eat. The dog trainer showed me how she'd trained him to stay beyond the doorway by command. We could eat in peace.

    "But," I said, "the other dog is hanging out under the table and this one has to stay out of the dining room?"

    She looked me in the eye and said, "Life isn't fair."

    Keep hanging around and maybe you'll get a treat, but you need to keep hanging around and remember, life isn't fair. It's about perseverance,breaks and luck.

    Keep working hard and luck will come your way!

  7. Another great, motivational post, Jeff, thank you.

  8. Excellent article. It's a great reminder to write for the right reasons.

    As I prepare to re-publish my book for the Kindle (and other formats), I try to remind myself to not worry about whether or not I sell a lot of copies or if I get the dreaded 1-star reviews. It's about the joy of writing and sharing your story with others. Not everybody will like it, but as long as we as writers continue to put pen to paper (er... fingers to keyboards) and enjoy every minute of it, then that is what matters most.

    Thanks for posting, Jeff.



  9. Scott, Thanks for dropping by! Yeah, I'll admit it; I have a bad habit of over generalizing. Probably won't be the last time you call me out on that. Thanks for inspiring so many indies!

    Hi Matt, Thanks for visiting. Glad I could inspire.

    Gerard, Great story. I know a few people like that. They are the happiest people I know. Thanks for reading.

    Doug, Thanks for coming over. One wek I'm at your place, the next your at mine! Thanks for the story. I'm definitely learning that what works for one person doesn't always for someone else.

    LJ, Someone needs to keep you inspired. The worlds waiting for you to finish that book. Seriously thanks for visiting.

    Hi Sharkbait, You're re-pubing your book? Did you do a pay to publish deal or something? I did that in 2009 and it didn't work out so well. The vanities can rape the unsupecting author. I know, I bleed for some time.

  10. So, so true. Funny, I'm only 10 minutes past finishing an article about what compels writers to write. I think I used the phrase "Don't give up" about 4 times. It sounds corny and trite, but it's true.

  11. Hi Hunter, You've got the key. What's your blog?

  12. Great post, Jeff. In this business, giving up would be SO easy, and many do. I truly believe that only those with the desire to write no matter what will be successful. People looking for money and fame will soon find out what a tough gig it is and that they will likely never be rich or famous from their writing. Of course, we all define success in different ways as our goals vary widely, but true passion for words should be the driving factor in reaching them, IMHO. You are a great support to other writers! That's also key to keeping our spirits up:)

  13. I graduated from Writer's Boot Camp in Santa Monica - and the very first day, the owner, Jeff Gordon, came in and said, "Most of you will not succeed because most of you will give up. The ones who will get movies made, TV pilots and books into print, will be the ones sitting here who don't give up." I have to think about this everyday - because I do want to give up sometimes!! I wonder what the heck am I doing with my time. But I believe I will make it.

    Thanks for this blog! Angie

  14. Michele, Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate knowing that what I write is encouraging...I get down sometimes too. So thanks for being here and encouraging me!

    Angie, Somtimes I have to give myself permission to take breaks and to remind myself that writing isn't my greatest priority almost as much as I have to tell myself that if not this book, then the next one. I think balance has to fit in there somewhere too. Bug a healthy balance of life, family and passion can make a writer dangerous indeed. I'm sure you will be one of the non-quitters.

  15. WOW, I must say that was truly inspiring and well written. This is motivating for me to keep going as I have seen some rough spots. Thank you.

  16. Hey Belgerith!
    Glad you joined the bomb. And I'm doubly glad that I could inspire you. But don't worry about the rough spots; those are to be expected. I think if we adjust our expectations that writing IS a difficult road, the bumps will seem normal. Good luck and come back often!


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