Topic of the Night: Perspective

This is just a thought a friend had about why so many great writers are getting discouraged and quitting. He thinks it might have something to do with perspective, and I think he might have a point.

The system when he and I came into publishing worked like this in general: You expected to spend five or so years learning your craft, getting rejections, then eight or ten years into the process you would sell a novel which would take a couple years to come out.

Then, if you wrote regularly a couple books a year, in ten years you might be able to make a living at your fiction if all things went well.

Our perspective was ten to fifteen or more years to making a living. At least.

We hoped it would be faster, but we understood it would not be, and that it might be longer. (It took me 13 years to sell my first novel.)

Then the indie movement hit with the Kindle Christmas of 2008 and then again in 2009 and the gold rush was on. Writers who started or got wrapped up into that period suddenly had success quickly, without regard to writing ability or years of practice, but instead focused on how fast they could mine the gold of the gold rush. What mattered was how many books and what trend could be chased down like a half-dead rabbit.

The perspective of earning a living with your writing went from a 15 to 20 years horizon for success to expecting it in a year.

Expecting it.

That was the key. These new writers expected it and were discouraged when it didn’t happen.

Of course, with any gold rush, all good things must end and now the indie world is a more stable place, with readers no longer buying anything they can load to their new device, but instead looking for good stories presented well, and often in niches.

Indie books now sit side-by-side with traditional books and must be, in many respects better to be noticed.

Earning a living with your fiction has become much, much harder and the time frame has moved back outward to the ten year or beyond levels of expectations. It takes that long to learn how to tell great stories lots of readers will want to buy.

And it takes that long to build a solid, stable small business, which is what writing is these days.

And so many writers, thinking because their sales are low for one year (with no perspective on those sales at all), give up.

When trained to think that success is going to be quick, I can understand why it is almost impossible to move to the ten to fifteen year perspective.

I can’t begin to tell you how many writers I have listened to or heard of who thought they would quit their day job for a year and make a living by the end of it. In the gold rush, some made it for a short time. Now, I doubt that would be possible, yet writer after writer goes after it with the expectation of success in one year.

Let me repeat that: The expectation of success in one year.

When those of us came in under the old system, that one year to success expectation would have been so laughable as to be sad. It is back to being sad today as well.

Perspective… it takes four years just to get an undergrad degree. This is an international profession, yet these writers think one year is enough to conquer it. Head-shakingly silly, yet considering the gold rush years, understandable.

So many of us older writers are comfortable with slow builds, with longer time windows for success. Still doesn’t make it easy, but at least at a deep level we understand it. And we are building our indie businesses on that attitude.

So I think my friend is right, this complete lack of perspective that comes with this indie world is taking a major toll on writers who, if they had had a different starting perspective, might have made it.

Sad.

Time for indie writers to start thinking about a ten to fifteen year time frame for building a good solid business and storytelling skills. Shift the expectations and thus the chance of success for the long run.