Lately, I've been running headfirst into all kinds of questions and people who seem to totally not get how this industry works or what life is like as a full-time writer. I don't blame (or begrudge) some of these people or comments...I mean, I get how you can be pretty clueless about my job if you've never dipped your toe in this arena, but still....If I'm told one more time by a person with no writing experience or background whatsoever that "I want to do what you do - work from home and make money - how do I do it?," my head is going to explode.
So, to that end, I reveal my top five myths (and truths) about publishing. Have some others? Weigh in on the comments section.
1) This job is a piece of cake/a dime a dozen/insert cliche that implies lack of ass-busting work and a dash of talent. I am, I like to think and verified by those around me, a very easy-going gal. Not a lot ruffles my feathers. But so help me God, if one more friend of a friend of a friend (no, not you dear Ask Allison readers, whom I know are at least moderately invested in your careers) writes me or calls me or stops me at some social function and says, "Ooh, how can I get in on that," as if any old Joe can do what I do...well, as stated above, head meet explosion. The truth is that there aren't a lot of industries with higher failure rates (and lower success rates), and just because you have an idea for a book or 30 pages somewhere in the dredges of your hard drive, that doesn't mean squat. It certainly doesn't qualify you to assume that what I do is easy, nor that you could just slide in and assume my career as your own. UGH. Pet peeve.
2) That Oprah Will Love My Book. Even my dear mother, whom I love to pieces, suggested at some point that, "now, all I need to do is get The Department on Oprah." Well, mom, (and everyone else!), DUH! Wouldn't that be lovely? Of course it would! But Oprah (and the Today Show, etc) are but pipe dreams for the average lot of us, so let's just be happy with the kudos and press we do receive and stop pretending that the world's most influential television figure would even care a flying fig about us. 'Kay?
3) That Film Rights are a Given. Most writers fantasize about Julia Roberts and George Clooney or Reese Witherspoon embodying their characters. (Well, they might fantasize about Clooney for entirely other reasons as well.) Most writers will be sorely disappointed. The truth is that selling a book is damn hard. Selling the movie rights is damn harder. Actually getting the movie made is damn near impossible. Sort of like making the all-star team and then being selected as MVP. It happens. (And I hope it happens to me and in the near future.) But you can't - and shouldn't - spend a hell of a lot of time worrying and/or dreaming about it.
4) That Selling Your Book = Financially Loaded. The average fiction book advance hovers in the four-digits. I have no idea why people assume that when you land a book deal, you're also on the way to easy street...but people do. I can't tell you the number of off-hand comments I get. The truth is that - while this isn't a scientific number or anything like that - I'd venture to say that 95% of first-time published writers keep their day jobs. My advance was significantly higher than the average first-timer's, and after my agent's cut and taxes...I kept right on writing for my other clients.
5) That Writers Lead Lives of Leisure. True, I do wear sweatpants just about every day. (A habit I've tried in vain to break but just can't! Summer can't get here fast enough so I can at least switch over to shorts.) But I work damn hard. In my early days, my husband called this "hustling." I had so many balls in the air that I nearly had whiplash, but in trying to establish myself, I had no other option. These days, I've slowed down a bit due to a variety of reasons, not least my two kids, but that doesn't mean that I still don't hit the ground running. I have no idea why people think writers are lazy - maybe it's the sweatpants or the failure rate? - but to them, I say, "Try my job for a month, and then report back to me." Oh yeah, see #1. Good luck with that.