Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Long Game

By M. Christian (Guest Blogger)

I'm not too sure whose been spreading the rumors but, believe me, I'd like to get my hands on them.

Not that it's anything new, I admit. I'll betcha that for as long as human beings have been putting one word in front of another word for money there's been a whispering, a murmuring, a seductive allure that all it takes is just the right story, the perfect book, the ideal concept to launch the author from zero to bazillionare.

But that's all it is: rumor, hearsay, gossip... hollow promises. Okay, sure, it does happen but I'll betcha with what little money I've made with my own writing that the number of people who it has happened to would comfortably fit in an elevator... and a small one at that. In short, while fame and fortune can and has happened with just one book the odds are nightmarishly against you.

But the myth – sadly persists. The reason I'm writing this is perfect evidence: no fewer than four people recently asked me to be their book doctors, yet each and every one vanished when the reality of what it actually takes to make even a moderate amount of money as an author sank in. All of them had actually written a novel, each of them had put aside money to have it professionally edited, and they'd even started up the long social media ladder... but they all vanished in the space of a few months.

I'm a dreamer ... hell, half my waking life seems to be spent drifting from one fantasy to another: from super heroics to an immaculately imagined life as a pulp author in the 40s, I'm usually lost in the clouds. But while being able to support my very simple lifestyle with only my writing income is one of them I also really try to make at least that fantasy as real as possible.

Part of that is that I really want to make that happen. I know that it won't take one novel ... hell, it'll more-than-likely take dozens and dozens... and that it can sometimes take decades before my work gets noticed and, most importantly, purchased by enough people. Just look at how long it takes to build up a social media presence – and then to turn those numbers into people who actually care about what you say.

In short, I've always accepted that writing is a very, very, very long game. I just wish everyone else would ... not just because I feel for the pain of their expiring hopes but because it's making the world a lot damned harder for the rest of us.

For example, I hate NaNoWriMo – well, actually I loathe it. Okay, I accept the fact that a lot of people need an impetus to write and that some truly great works have come out of it. But for every great novel and each person discovering the glorious thrill that can come from writing there are hundreds of thousands of people who think that because they actually wrote A Novel In A Month (in case there are a few folks out there who don’t know what NaNoWriMo stands for) they can be the next J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, Stephenie Meyer, or [insert author of the moment here]. They take their book and hire (sigh) a book editor, set up a tweet feed, create a web page, sign up for Facebook, and Red Room, and [insert social media of the moment here] with expectations that they will Hit It Big.

As I said, this has always been a problem. There were probably more than a few Sumerian scribes who thought they were going to make more than a few [insert whatever money Sumerians used here] and retire to a little mud hut on the shores of the Euphrates – only to take what few coins they made and go into the sheep herding business like their parents wanted them to.

The problem is that this isn't Sumer – this is 2014 and we aren't writing on clay tablets. The good news about living in this day and age is that we have seen the death of death, at least where books are concerned. Sure, a few of my early books have crumbled to dust, reduced to a few tattered copies in a few struggling bookstores. But those that have been republished as ebooks will be there for as long as the Internet is.

Don't get me wrong, I love ebooks – hell, I absolutely adore working for two different ebook companies as a publisher right now – but the downside of this digital literary immortality, with the perfect storm of an exponential increase in the number of books being written and published, means that being noticed as an author has gone from unlikely to utterly impossible. Add to this the people who still think that the pot of gold at the end of the literary rainbow is there for the taking with just one book and you can see why things have gone totally and absolutely nuts.

Yes, I like to dream; but I when I want to actually make a dream a reality I know that it will take a lot of hard work, that there's no Leprechaun to capture, no social media lamp to rub. I'm not perfect – far from it – but I made a decision some twenty-or-so years ago that to live my dream of being a working writer that it wouldn't be easy ... as well as accepting the sad fact that it may never come to pass.

I have more than a few gray hairs, so I get to say "get off my lawn" now and again: write your novel, have fun, dip your toes into the lake of glorious creativity, know the giddy thrill that can come from creating a work that has never – in the entire history of ... history ... existed before, do the NaNoWriMo thing but, please, for the love of all that is good and wonderful, don't step into the world of professional writing unless you are willing to accept the facts of The Long Game.

Please don't waste my time as an editor and a publisher – and, most of all, do your readers a service and don't waste their time by writing just one book, expecting overnight success, before deciding that all this is – sniffle – too much hard work.

I've said it before and I'll say it again ... until I can't say anything else: the only time a writer ever fails is if they stop writing!


About M. Christian

Calling M.Christian versatile is a tremendous understatement. Extensively published in science fiction, fantasy, horror, thrillers, and even non-fiction, it is in erotica that M.Christian has become an acknowledged master, with more than 400 stories in such anthologies as Best American Erotica, Best Gay Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, Best Bisexual Erotica, Best Fetish Erotica, and in fact too many anthologies, magazines, and sites to name. In erotica, M.Christian is known and respected not just for his passion on the page but also his staggering imagination and chameleonic ability to successfully and convincingly write for any and all orientations. His short fiction has been collected into many bestselling books in a wide variety of genres, including the Lambda Award finalist Dirty Words and his novels include the queer vamp tales Running Dry and The Very Bloody Marys, the science fiction erotic novel Painted Doll, and the gay horror tale Fingers Breadth.

In addition, he is a prolific and respected anthologist, having edited twenty five anthologies to date. He is also responsible for several non-fiction books, notably How to Write and Sell Erotica.

M.Christian is also the Associate Publisher for Renaissance eBooks, where he strives to be the publisher he'd want to have as a writer, and to help bring quality books (erotica, noir, science fiction, and more) and authors out into the world. 


Lisabet Sarai said...

Hey Chris,

Welcome to Beyond Romance!

Oh, I do so agree with you. Anyone who thinks being a writer is easy should get his head examined!

Unknown said...

This would make a nice addition to our theme at OGG of the book we'd like to write. Most of us would like one that sells. We know better but yes we like to dream.

mchristian said...

All yours, Spencer - yeah, it's all about what we want to do/what pays the bills. Tis life ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great post - thanks to both of you for writing and hosting it. So many points that really ring true here. I have to admit I'm not a NaNo fan either, mostly because I think it prioritises quantity over the quality of writing.

Liz xx

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