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.