Not too long ago, I fantasized about eliminating the workaday pressures of practicing law, and instead living off my fiction writing. Boy, was I in for a rude awakening! I don’t care how good a writer you are, how committed, or how relatively successful. Chances are, you’re not going to single-handedly support a family on the vagaries of the literary marketplace.
Sure, you might get lucky and sell a few hundred copies of your title, or even get picked up by a publisher. If you’re really fortunate, you might be one of the chosen few who sees income in the six figures from the sale of a single book. But what if you live in a high-priced metropolitan area and need those six-figures each and every year to feed your family? Unless you’re Stephen King, can you realistically expect to launch hit after remunerative hit with the same certainty as you’d produce a paycheck? Hardly.
Knowing this, I have come to embrace my writing as a purely pleasurable indulgence—one I must pander to despite its inherent costs. Up until now, I have deliberately limited those costs to forfeiting precious sleep and foregoing irreplaceable time with my family. But now, after two disappointing rounds in the self-publishing arena, I am beginning to suspect that, to become a successful writer, one must be willing to spend money on becoming well-known.
Which is why, this time around, I hired a publicist to help launch The Floater. Such folly has admittedly set me back nearly two thousand dollars—money I may technically be in a position to spare, but which my breadwinner conscience tells me is sheer wastefulness. Because the only guaranteed gain from this outlay is a pricey ego boost from doing something so-called professional writers do. Even if my launch is a smashing success, I’d have to sell thousands upon thousands of copies to recoup that expense; chances are, I won’t.
If (more realistically) my campaign is a flop, exactly how foolish will I feel having invested that much money on a purely self-indulgent creative pursuit? Like many people, I know all too well the fear and angst that come from watching one’s savings dwindle steadily in an unrelenting recession. I can easily see myself wishing I had left that money in the bank to pay bills.
I suppose the real question is this: What price am I willing to pay to promote my passion? Isn't the real joy in the writing? That part is free, so can someone please explain to me why it isn’t enough? What is so important about selling books for $9.99 on amazon.com, when I can earn exponentially more with each taxing, soul-depleting hour I dedicate to practicing law (my lucrative day job)? Isn't it ridiculous of me to nurture a speculative and unconfirmed transformation from successful legal professional to poorly-paid prose pusher?
These are all very good questions I simply cannot answer. But I got my first "nibble" yesterday from an online book reviewer requesting two copies of my book. This is an outlet I probably never would have discovered on my own. As it takes a wellspring of optimism to pursue any career as a writer, here's hoping my media campaign is a smashing success!