Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why Continue Publishing?

Radine Trees Nehring wrote an inspired blog here recently about the reasons for poor financial prospects in the mystery writing game. My heart sank as I read it because it mirrors my own experience.

Even Marilyn Meredith, who has a publication list as long as your arm, writes: “Of course there are those few authors at the top who are actually making money with their writing--but I'm not one of them.”

I’m relatively new at writing mysteries,but I’ve been a paid wordsmith for many decades. I have three police procedurals out and another coming in January. I began self-publishing with Createspace in 2011 with, I think, realistic expectations; that is, it would take a long time for my revenues to exceed my expenses. I’m figuring at this rate I will need to keep producing mysteries until I am 127 before I make a profit.

Those expectations were brought front and center in an uncomfortable meeting with my tax accountant this year. He kept pushing me to say yes or no to the question, “Is this a business that you expect to make a profit from?”

I kept dancing away. Realistically, no.  I can read the trades as well as any of you. But I gave him the answer he wanted to hear. Yes, it is a business.  I’m not such a fool that I’m going to discard the tax advantages that go along with a small business. Profit is another matter entirely.

Last night our writer’s group met, here in the mountain village where I live in Central California. Most of the small group were writing, or had written, or were intending to self-publish. 

When I talk about the money I’ve spent on editors, proofreaders, formatters, designers, conferences, web sites, promotion, and the like, I can read their faces. They think that I needed to do that, but they don’t.

Writing is work, hard work, and discouraging at times. Why keep doing this?  I am a widow with a very satisfying social life, but I spend way too much time alone. Sure, I could work in the SPCA Thrift store, and run for the homeowner’s board, or take up quilting.

But writing structures my days. My detectives in the two series that I write are there waiting for me in the morning. They are my companions. I guess I keep going because I want to know what happens next. Their adventures will never be mine, but I get to tag along and enjoy living in worlds I will never know.

Is that so bad?  Why do you keep publishing?

Mar Preston

My latest contribution to the pile: Free 9-9 to 9-12, 2013


Morgan Mandel said...

Simple answer is I can't help it. Once writing got in my blood, it's so much a part of me, I can't do without it!
Morgan Mandel

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Mar, YES! Thanks for continuing my thoughts about our business so brilliantly. My (fictitious) characters, Carrie, Henry, Shirley, et al, are probably my best friends--other than my (real) husband, John. I find much happiness while entering their adventures and finding out what happens next in their lives. (You guessed it -- I am a "pantser," discovering stories as I write.)
And, it my life, it has always been thus. Many, many years ago Radine the child had an imaginary playmate-friend. Still do, I guess. Much more fun than quilting or crochetting or watching TV shows. I WRITE! YOU WRITE! YEA!

Mar Preston said...

My series characters are so real to me that I can overhear them talking. Does that make me schizophrenic?

Randy Rawls said...

Well said, and I echo your comments. Anyone who doesn't enter this business these days with your attitude (and mine and Radine's) is setting themselves up for heart break. I don't know what percentage of published "writers" show a profit on their work, but I'm betting it's way down in the single digits, or perhaps in the 0.? digits.

Mar Preston said...

I just wish I could be more optimistic about our prospects changing.