The madness of authors

There are, in all fairness, a great many ways in which people who attempt to earn a living by writing are a touch insane. This is just one facet. While I’m drawing heavily on personal experience, I’ve also watched a lot of other creative people do similar things.

You write a book, and into that book you pour your love and ideals, your beliefs, values and hopes. You try to make it the very best thing you have ever done. It could take a year of using up much of your spare time. It could take more. If you’ve made it and are a professional, it could be your day job for months, or longer.

While you’re writing it you are thinking about the people who want to read it and don’t know yet. Who they are, what they need from you, and how you can answer them. Most authors do think about readers and want to create something someone else is going to value.

Then a thing happens: Publication day is set. Instead of wanting to get out there and tell the world, panic sets in. What if everyone hates it? What if people hate you for drawing attention to the thing you made? What if it’s really, really awful? Part of the problem is that a year of working on a project means that by the end, you are better, more skilled and more aware than you were when you started. If you re-do the project to accommodate this, the same will be true when you stop. So inevitably every ‘finished’ piece has simply been abandoned when it became unviable to keep reworking it. When it’s published, you may have had another six months or a year to improve in, and see everything wrong with this piece. It’s not a strong position from which to launch the book.

Many authors are, by nature, quiet and shy people. They were the sort of people who preferred books to competitive sport at school. The withdrawn, reclusive, hours spent typing in silence aspect of being an author is probably something they like. I certainly do. And then all of a sudden you have to thrust yourself in front of people demanding they pay attention to, and pay money for, your thing. This doesn’t always go well.

For Pagan authors, there are other challenges too. Service is a big part of what we do, and service means as soon as you ask anyone to pay you’re on a sticky wicket. “Why should we pay to support you?” is something Pagan authors hear a lot. For me this is simple – everyone has to eat, and if someone is so involved in their service that they can’t make a living, and you aren’t willing or able to pay for the things they do that you want, then you should be prepared to feed them. That’s community. The author cut on most individual books will not feed a family for a day, incidentally. Not unless they really like beans on toast.

So I write books, and feel enormously awkward about asking people to buy them. I hope, irrationally, that people will somehow find and buy them anyway, but that’s not a good strategy and authors who adopt it tend to eat a lot of beans on toast. What’s in the books is wholly separate from what’s on the blog, so you won’t find you’ve paid for something I’ve already shared with you. And as a general thing, if you don’t want, can’t afford aren’t into books – that’s fine, but be gentle with the people who write them, all of whom are putting bits of self and soul out for public scrutiny.

I have a new book out this summer, and other books, and the Pagan ones are at Moon Books.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “The madness of authors

  • helenjnoble

    Once again your insight and incisiveness shine through like a pure stream of light/consciousness. Thank you for writing.

  • graemektalboys

    And if you do like books, you can buy them or borrow them from your local library. It all helps. And if you enjoy a particular book, take just a few moments to tell someone else about it, or write a review (just a couple of sentences will do), or buy a copy as a present for a friend, mention it on a forum. These are the best ways to ensure that authors get more than beans on toast.

  • Cianaodh Óg - a.k.a. Troy Young

    Reblogged this on The TOSSer By Temple Of The Standing Stones and commented:
    Please support your favorite Pagan (and other) authors. No one who works this much should have to subsist on only beans and toast.

  • druishbuddhist

    My family and I orbit a number of what I call “alternative” communities. These include the greater Pagan community, various “fandom” communities, and a few historical reenactment communities including American Civil War and Society for Creative Anachronism, and these realms all share a common characteristic: They celebrate creativity up to the point where the creator tries to make money on their craft. Then the public turns into cheap bastards. I’ve also seen this in the craft fair community

    I don’t understand this, because these creators have skills that “you” don’t, and the alternative community is the only place that people think “Pffft. I could do that, too” when the fact is you either won’t or can’t. You wouldn’t do this to auto mechanics, tax accountants, or physicians. The public has no qualms about paying a fair market cost for those services, but they balk when creators do the same thing.

    I know several authors (both “big name” and more modest ones), relatively speaking. I follow them on social media and they interact with their fans and followers on a regular basis, and one thing that I’ve noticed is that the public tends to support people with whom they feel a personal connection.

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