February 13, 2014

The Year of $100

One-hundred dollars.

That's roughly how much money I earned last year as a direct result of my writing. Three books and this blog as a platform to tell the world about them and all I managed to make off those books was one-hundred dollars. Sounds about right to me, and let me tell you why I think so.

For starters, I ain't no Shakespeare.

I realize that, as an author, I should be the first person shouting from the rooftops about why you should buy my books. I should be that person you avoid at parties, the one who'll bore you to tears with details about the painstaking care I took to plan out plot twists, afflict my characters with bizarre yet endearing traits, and leave the story dangling precariously at the edge of a precipice so the reader achingly yearns for the resolution offered in the sequel. But, even after years in sales, I've never been a fan of the hard sell.

What do I think of my books? I like them. I enjoyed writing them. They were fun to outline, fun to write, and fun to edit. I had a good time creating the covers. And while they are far from perfect, I think you might like them, too.

Secondly, I never planned to make a living off this.

Hobbies should be just that -- hobbies. The problem I see is when people experience the smallest taste of success or attention, they tend to run wild with it and get way ahead of themselves.

One of my lifelong dreams was to write a book. Just because I realized that dream doesn't mean my book is any good, or that I deserve legions of adoring fans tripping over themselves to hand over their hard-earned money. That I have a collection of blog posts and two finished fiction books to my name (with a third coming out in the next few weeks) means just as little. All I did was find the time in my busy schedule to indulge in my hobby. Nobody owes me anything for that. It's the difference between chasing your dream in the hopes of realizing fame and fortune and chasing your dream because it brings you a sense of fulfillment.

Sad to say, on those occasions when I do peruse the blogs and websites of authors with similar track records to mine, it seems these authors spend far more time than I working the market, buying ads, attending book signings, managing social media, and for what? So they can end the month having sold seven copies of their books on Amazon? No, thanks. I have far more important things to do (like spend time with my family and earn real money by being good at my real job).

Thirdly, I'm cheap.

If my hobby were wood-working, I wouldn't spend hundreds for a professional to design the rocking chair I planned to build in my basement. If my hobby were painting, I wouldn't seek out a mentor at a national art gallery for pointers on how best to paint a picture of my dog.

Likewise, with writing as my hobby, I'm not about to spend hundreds of dollars on cover designers and editors, regardless of how many times established authors tell me I should if I want to be taken seriously as an author. I'm a hobbyist. By definition, I don't give a crap if people take me seriously.

Of course, I do feel warm and fuzzy when people compliment my books in reviews, or tell me in person that they enjoyed reading one of my books. I'm not immune to feeling a sense of pride or accomplishment when someone shows appreciation or admiration for what I've created, but I try to keep it from going to my head. Publishing success (either through self-publishing or traditional publishing) is, like any other success in life, equal parts hard work and luck. Call me a no-fun practical stick in the mud, but I'd rather put my energy into my day job which yields success in the form of a paycheck every two weeks.

So, at the end of the day, I enjoy writing and hope that my skills improve with each book I complete. If what I write brings a few fleeting moments of enjoyment to friends in my neighborhood or strangers halfway around the world, so much the better.

© 2014 Mark Feggeler

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