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Saturday, January 02, 2016

It's Awful Being a Writer, It's Wonderful Being a Writer

To help us all tilt our pens forward and launch them into a vibrant and productive 2016, I thought I'd share some bad news and some good news about writing. First the bad news. Kristen Lamb's blog entry today sums up the bad news about publishing, for the writer. Never mind if book sales are up over Kindle sales, and don't bother with the debate about Amazon vs. Indie bookstores. You're almost never going to make a living as a writer, she tells us -- as do countless other books and articles -- unless perhaps you self-publish and hit the sweet spot of a category or -- rare as a UFO sighting -- general audience. Know your enemy, and your enemy is the overwhelm of books now out for sale online and in stores.

Here's the good news. Writers don't care. Well, I'll qualify that. Most of us don't totally care. Especially poets. We eat poverty for breakfast and wash it down with a large helping of being the most misunderstood and least read of writers. We write because we have to and love to. Readers are a bonus, a necessary one, but if you're stringing words together because you hope to make a fortune, try selling cars instead. Or houses. I write because I can't stop. I haven't stopped since I was eleven. Writing is my form of meditation, being here now, self-discovery, discovery of the world, and -- along with reading -- my greatest pleasure. If I get a readable product out of writing, and if that product somehow sells -- that's gravy. I have a day job. And I don't want my greatest pleasure to turn into a day job.

Other great posts along the lines of good-bad-essential news for writers: Anything by Jane Friedman. Starting with this article on how to self-publish a book. And focus on this sentence: "An author who is primed to succeed at self-publishing has an entrepreneurial spirit and is comfortable being online." She is also a freelance editor.

My big recommendation: read well and hire a book editor. Even if you're putting together a poetry book. Yes, pay for someone to tell you how everything you wrote has to change. I highly recommend The Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, without whom my novel-in-progress, The Renaissance Club, would be stuck on the starting square.