I want to Caveat this post (even though it’s made clear), that this post is speaking to people like me. People who have full time jobs and are writing for the joy of it. People who are not looking to forge a career and become an indie powerhouse or even submit to big publishers. This is for people who’s attitude resembles mine, in that they just want to put their stories out there and if success happens or one day there’s enough money coming in that you get to leave a day job….. so be it.
There’s a myth that if you do everything right and just as the experts say that whatever you throw onto the internet will explode. That in my experience is all it is though, a myth.
Lightening strikes happen because of one of two reasons – pure luck or money.
The things that make millions, the stories that capture hearts and minds across the globe, that explode onto forums and everyone talks about. They come from one of two things;
- From a big marketing budget that can push something so hard you either want to read/watch/listen to it just to see what the fuss is about, or because you become genuinely interested from being exposed to it so much.
- Dumb luck. Pieces on a board aligning at just the right time that sees the story catapulted into the stratosphere.
That’s not to say those creators didn’t work hard on those stories either. Of course they did. It’s just that the aftermath of that hard work, doesn’t always match up.
Back in 2013 Forbes reported that in the US alone there are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published every year. Given how much e-books and the internet have exploded since then that figure is likely to be much higher. That was in the US alone, imagine that figure for worldwide.
How many of those authors had a lightening strike? Because it certainly wasn’t all of them. Most of them were probably making barely enough to pay the bills through books, which is why a lot of full time authors throw around the phrase multiple streams of income and, sensibly, encourage it.
It’s highly unlikely, if you’re just starting out or are persuing this leisurely, that you have a big marketing budget, a huge platform and it’s even MORE unlikely that luck will be on your side.
Which is why one of the first and most important lessons artists in general, not just writers, need to learn about sharing their work, especially online, is that nobody – well, very few people – care. They support you, they want you to do well but they don’t and will never care about the thing you’re writing more than you.
I know it sounds cynical and generally I’m not a cynical person but that is the simplest, barest bones fact.
If nobody cares that means nobody is watching and if nobody is watching, nobody is waiting for you to fail, no matter what the demons in your head try to tell you.
How freeing is that?
Half of the people supporting you probably won’t even read your book, not for any other reason than reading a book takes time and energy. It’s a big investment. Sure some people fly through books at inhuman speeds but most people take about a week to read a book. A week is a big commitment, especially with everything else they have going on in their busy lives.
Starting out you really need to come to terms with this.
You need to come to terms with the fact validation and criticism for your work will not come easily (unless it’s massively controversial). You need to understand that your writing, especially today is a drop in the ocean of overloaded senses and at best you can expect a luke warm reaction. A like from your mum and auntie who haven’t actually read the story you put up but feel a like is the best way to support you.
And yes, sometimes that support can feel hollow. You have to realise though it’s not a reflection of the work or of you.
You have to be your biggest cheerleader, fan and critic first and foremost. You have to be your biggest support first and foremost. You have to find that internal Disney sidekick and let them champion you.
So the first thing to accept is very few people care and you are a tiny piece of lego in a vat of coloured bricks.
This might seem cynical but it’s not, it’s actually good for you. Admitting this truth to yourself takes the pressure off you. It makes you understand you can write whatever the fuck you want. You can just write for yourself without worrying about word counts, genres, marketing, where your book will sit on an amazon shelf, will it get a bestseller tag? (the answer is yes if you want it to. You can post a picture of your big toe, whack it in an obscure category, have 3 people buy it and it get a bestseller tag, they’re ten a penny).
You are free to experiment, to try out different genres, to take a dip in every kind of story water you want. Fancy trying your hand at grisly horror? Go for it. Fancy writing some mushy romance? Get on it. Want to try your hand at some Downton Abbey inspired dialogue? DO IT.
If someone ten years from now wants to focus on a badly worded sentence from when you first started out, let them. Growth is something that only really comes from doing the thing, from FAILING at things.
So if you’re just one grain of sand that helps make up the beach of the internet, a single shrimp in the ocean, an amoeba floating along the bottom of the sea, why not just GO FOR IT?
The person you should be writing for when you first start out is yourself. Your biggest cheerleader should be yourself. You should stand strong on the solid shoulders of self-confidence.
And you should realise that your first book, unless you’re blessed with a whacking dollop of good luck, is not going to break the bank, make you a millionaire, be beloved by millions or hit best seller lists.
There is a lot of freedom in realising that nobody is watching and waiting with baited breath for you to fuck up and that freedom opens the door to all kinds of possibilities. It’s just up to you to seize them.