Wednesday, July 3, 2013


There are about 300 members of Insecure Writers' Support Group, the idea of Alex Cavanaugh.  If you want to read any of their entries do check it out here. Co-hosts this month are Nancy Thompson, Mark Koopmans, and Heather Gardiner.

Brass Ring:  n slang An opportunity to achieve wealth or success; a prize or reward

Several friends and I were having a discussion. It's something that has been on my mind a lot lately. The gist of it was how we want to be published. Most want a traditional publisher, for various reasons.  We devote years of effort learning about the craft of writing. We suffer rejection after rejection and still we strive for publication. We keep abreast of the current market and want to write books that not only sell, but those we can see on the shelf of our local Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. Hell, Wal-Mart would be great. A form of validation? Maybe. But, all that effort expended reaching for the brass ring.

I have quite a few friends who have gotten contracts. Champagne corks popped, confetti thrown, resounding cheers echoed. Then reality sets in. The day-to-day work of a writer and living up to contract. Fighting to meet deadlines, edits, having to rewrite sections, and sometimes the tough job of consistently meeting the standards of a publisher and perhaps a picky acquiring editor. Then there is writing through the dam that holds back the words, on occasion, and juggling real life and writing fiction. It’s not a job for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

Whether we create music, piece of art, or write a book, it all comes from our soul. It’s not like doing a report, or putting together a seminar, or creating a syllabus for the year, building a house from specs or rebuilding an engine. That takes talent, skill, and knowledge, yes. Creative works require the same but they also entail taking a flash of an idea, inspiration, inner vision, and giving it life. I think most creative endeavors are fraught with all sorts of insecurities. Are we good enough, can we continue to put out quality? If we do well with the first book will we do as well with the second? I have friends that have hit the bestseller’s list; more power to them, yet with each book there is still the worry, is it good enough? They haunt Amazon and Goodreads watching the reviews come in.

In this business, you can be golden with one book and the next out in the cold. Really, that’s true whether you have a traditional publisher (small or large), or are self-published. Readers love what they love and that may not be every book you write. Reviews are tough when they’re not at least 4 stars, or a reviewer shreds or snarks your work and then tweets about it. It hurts. It can be depressing. 

Sometimes, listening to friends talk about the good bad and ugly of the business is enough to make me wonder if that brass ring is worth reaching for.

The truth is, anything we want to make money from is a business. As writers I think we forget that. 

If you’re published with a traditional publisher that is their bottom line—the profit. It determines whether they want to take a chance on you or your story. Story might be good but can it sell enough to offset production and publicity costs? It is a determining factor on whether you’re offered another contract or released from the existing one. If you’re self-published it’s still a business of profit. Cost of an editor, cover work, uploading, ISBN numbers, the time involved in promotion, and sending out copies for reviews. While you might get 70% of the cover price in profit, does it offset the cost of producing it?

Reaching for that brass ring. Is it worth it? Only you, as a writer, can answer that.


Melissa said...

"Sometimes, listening to friends talk about the good bad and ugly of the business is enough to make me wonder if that brass ring is worth reaching for."

You hit that nail on the head. I've always entertained the idea of self-publishing, but recent events have pushed me more and more in that direction.

Great post! Welcome to the group. :)
IWSG #118 until Alex culls the list again.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

It's so true! It's a very, very personal thing. I talk about planning to give up today over on my blog, and it's because of all this you're speaking of. Sometimes it's just too dang hard and doesn't seem worth it at all. But then I look back at how much each book I've written has made me grow, and I know it's worth it. So I keep going.

Great post!

cleemckenziebooks said...

Some days it's brilliant to be a writer. Others, not so much. But you keep going around and around, up and down. You keep passing that ring, so you might as well grab for it!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Mellisa--I think any smart writer does look at self publishing. So many traditionally published authors do both and I can see why.

Michelle--I understand that. Yes, there are times I get discouraged and then I stop and realize any career choice requires time in the trenches learning and applying. Writing is no different.

Clee--Yes, there are those days. The merry-go-round is still moving and yes, I still grab for the ring.

Karen Walker said...

If I were writing for the money, I'd consider myself a lunatic, but at this stage of my life, it's different for me than others. I'm retired. It's not a career. It's a passion.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It was worth it because I never would've done it on my own.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Karen, writing has to be a passion to be able to move forward money or no.
I think it takes passion to create anything worthwhile.

Miss Mae said...

Great post, thanks for writing it. You've definitely captured what all writers feel!

In the beginning, I naively hoped for TONS of money, a movie contract, and a star on the Walk of Fame. :) Now I'm realistic.

We write because we love to write. If we make money, that's a nice touch but it isn't the "all" of writing. It can't be, otherwise why are we all broke? LOL

Kimberly said...

Great post. Sometimes I have wondered if it's worth giving up family time, or getting depressed over the rejections. But I love to write, so I'm going to keep going.

michelle said...

Mmm... lots to ponder here...
I think every writer asks this question at some stage of the journey: is that brass ring worth reaching for? It differs from moment to moment. Sometimes we feel it's not worth it. Other times we wouldn't change it for the world.
It's akin to a love-hate relationship...
Writer In Transit

Yolanda Renee said...

I write because I have too, otherwise all the voices in my head would never let me sleep. I originally self published at a huge cost, then found an agent, who did nothing for over a year, and finally I found a publisher. It's been frustrating, heartbreaking, fun (at least the moment when I'm actually meeting with and talking with the readers) but mostly high stress. Yet I wouldn't change a thing. I worked in management and accounting for years and it was highly stressful, this kind of stress I prefer.

Suzanne Furness said...

I don't think the life of a writer is necessary an easy one - especially if you are trying to make any sort of career out of it. For me I write because I love it however, I do hope to say I'm published one of these days. Whether that is self published or traditional at the moment remains a mystery!

Meredith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meredith said...

What a wonderful post. More and more traditionally published authors are self-publishing too. I guess it's an outlet for those novels that they loved and their publisher just didn't. Thanks for sharing!

Meredith’s Musings

MollyMom103 said...

Hi! I find being flexible and cooperative are the keys to publishing collaboration. I found taking some classes about small business to be very helpful. :)

Morgan said...

Beautiful post, Sia. And totally relevant to my life right now. Thanks for your words. (And so glad to be connected now! New follower here... and thank you for your kind comment today on my blog!)

Al Diaz said...

It's very interesting to ponder on it. Is it worthy or not? I've never published anything. I write but I have often wondered about the big question. Is it or is it not? My answer is that I write for love to art and to make it grow. If it makes money, I don't complain but if it doesn't, I enjoy anyway.

DL Hammons said...

I'll let you know the answer to that question after I have the ring in my hand! :)

drea moore said...

I have been thinking about this too. I guess every writer has. My day job at the moment is in a bookstore, and I have also been thinking of the book industry from the bookseller's perspective as such. A whole 'nother perspective, working at an Independent Bookstore and the trouble we have moving self-published print titles. Meanwhile, the climate with readers of Print v. E-book and the readers who stand at the counter buying books as gifts for others while saying to their friend, "It was a great book, I got it on kindle." -- really makes me wonder if the E-book v. Print attitude among readers has any bearing on Self-Publishing v. Traditional Publishing attitudes/decision making process among writers.

Julianne Price said...

Here here. I think this is a constant source of insecurity and frustration for us all. And yet we never give up, because what if that one more story is THE ONE. Good luck and happy writing!

Julianne Price at Dragon and Phoenix

Heather M. Gardner said...

Thank you for posting for the IWSG!

Is it worth it?

Of course its different for each person. Some need the fortune. Some need the fame. Some just need the validation.

What do you need? That's the question you need to have answered.

Keep at it. Keep writing.
Heather M. Gardner

~Sia McKye~ said...

Mae, the truth is if we want to make tons on money we stick to those business that generate money.

Writing can earn a living. Some may even get wealthy and earn fame for their words.

But...writing is the love of telling a story. Building a world and offering an adventure. The love of taking someone and putting them on the scene. For the storyteller, the characters and stories are always there in our minds and pushing outward. Telling the story gets them out of our head.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kim--do we really have a choice when a story is yammering in our head and we want to see where it goes? You're right, we keep going.

Michelle--Love/hate relationship. Yep. Very true!

Yolanda--good point. Everything in life has it's stress. It's a matter of picking the stress we can live with. :-)

Suzanne--traditional or self published we still have to perfect our craft, we still have to create a good story. There's nothing wrong with either choice.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Meredith--Personally, I think publishing both ways, if you're lucky, is great. There are a lot of good stories written that traditional pubs hesitate with taking on.

Molly, absolutely.

Morgan, thank you. I enjoyed your article!

Al--good attitude. So many commenters here express the love of telling the story and writing.

Don--lol! You see the ring and are reaching. That's a good thing.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

With an agent, if your first book doesn't sell well, you could well find yourself agentless! The shelf life of any new book is so short.

Self-published ebooks are always there. It is hard to do it all, but you do not have to compromise your vision to placate a nit-picking editor. Brass rings are illusionary. Contentment with your dream lived out is priceless. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Drea--there is the cost of trade paperbacks which is more than mass so that would play into the equation. The other thing I've found is there are those self-published that do not avail themselves of a good production team--editors both story content and copy, or cover artist. Consequently, they don't have a good product.

I know from talking to many bookstore buyers when I represented several smaller presses, that self-pub were difficult to sell. The list I gave above were the top contenders of why they hesitated. Why buy something you can't sell? Or makes your store look bad?

They were also careful of buying books from small independent presses because of pricing and some small presses weren't as careful with editing or cover work.Books that look good are easier to sell. Ones that scream poorly done photoshopped hard to sell. They simply can't compete with traditional books unless professionals help with making them inviting and competitive within their genre.

I, as a reader, am investing $13-$16 per trade paperback, I have a right to expect quality. Not a book full of mistakes typos, font errors, and page spacing errors.

You pose an interesting question. Part of the answer, in my opinion, is self-pubbing the work is all on the author. Traditional, even with limited promotion funds, have teams of professionals to do so much of the work for the authors--editing, artwork, promotion, and have selling connections self-publish don't.

Sorry, didn't mean to wax poetic here but this is a subject I have strong feeling about.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Julianne--hope springs eternal. It also makes us work hard. That's a good thing.

Thanks for the link. It's hard, sometimes to find blogs or websites of those I don't know. This made it much easier to visit your place!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Roland, ebooks do have an almost infinite *shelf* life. As you write better and better stories and attract more readers those older stories (what trad pub used to call their backlist) attract new buyers.

I agree. Whatever your choice is in life, being content is important. When you're content you enjoy everything more. Good for the heart, too.

Loved your article for IWSG. said...

For all those reasons, self-publishing is a wonderful thing. You bypass the ego dance ("Am I good enough? I'm leaving that question up to a complete stranger, and strangers have rejected CS Lewis' writing 800 times. Still, they know best.").

Happy weekend, Sia.

Cherie Colyer said...

Very thought provoking. I know best selling authors who have the same fears I do. That makes me feel better about my writing. :) And no matter how one is published we face the same insecurities.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Robyn--a bit tongue in cheek, lol! The truth is, questioning whether you're good enough or THIS book is good, is one common denominator of all writers, regardless of how they're published. With each book an author sees released that question is ever present. :-) Ego? Not so much as insecurity and worry about the book's reception by those *strangers* and readerbase.

Pk Hrezo said...

Great point, Sia. It's a personal endeavor that we have to come to terms with repeatedly. Not much payoff for most of us, but then, that sliver of hope that maybe someday we'll create something wonderful makes it worth it for me. Regardless, it's always work and there are no cheats.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cheri--That's the truth. At least it tells us we're perfectly normal with our worries. :-)