By Guest Blogger, Victoria Moran, International Bestselling Author
Being a writer has never been a slam-dunk. Most have had the proverbial day job, writing early in the morning or late at night, hoping for publication and, once achieved, hoping with even more ardor that the book would hit it big. In the romantic days of Fitzgerald and Ferber, far fewer books were published by far more publishers. When I first heard that Ernest Hemingway had had forty-four rejections on The Old Man and the Sea, it said to me: “Never quit!” Now it says, “Ernest was lucky. These days, there aren’t forty-four major publishers left, or even half that number.”
Still, books are being written and, whether on paper or as e-books, people are still reading. To be a writer of these books, in the nonfiction world at least, is something else. It used to be that we could write about anything. We knew how to do research, find experts and interview them, travel and experience our subject matter firsthand. We still know how. But today’s market expects specialization and professional credentials beyond “writer.” That’s too bad. It means that books are written by (or written under the name of) TV stars, psychologists, physicians, stockbrokers, and the like, instead of by writers, men and women with that journalistic gene, people who love to disseminate information and do so in the most literate and literary fashion possible.
The web is another enemy of superb nonfiction. Information is now accessible immediately and for free. Authors who counted on magazine work for extra income are now writing for the web, usually for no pay. “It’s exposure,” we’re told. Yes, and that and $3.50 will get you a tall cappuccino. The other problem with writing for the Internet is the quick turnaround. I used to be on staff at a weekly magazine and it seemed as if we were turning out stories at lightning speed. Not so. A daily blog or impromptu Facebook post almost always suffers from lack of basic proofreading, much less the tedious and time-consuming rewrite process, complete with edits, copy-edits, and production edits of a traditionally published book.
So, where does that leave you if you’re an aspiring author with a book idea that wakes up with you in the morning and tugs at you throughout the day, saying, “Here’s something for chapter 7”? It means you’re facing tough odds if you want to write professionally, i.e., make a living—or at least some good extra money—from your work. If you don’t care about financial reward, you’re actually in a better position now than ever to share with the world what you’re passionate about. You can put it online from now till kingdom come. You can self-publish either an e-book or a fully bound and beautifully presented hard- or soft-cover book that can be sold on Amazon and elsewhere. If it’s successful, an established publisher may pick it up. (Of course, if it’s successful, you may want to just keep raking in the proceeds, and tell the publishing house that they had their chance five years ago when they rejected your proposal.)
If you want to “be a writer when you grow up,” however, and do this as your job, you’re going to have to be clever, and flexible, and humble, and willing. These days, even bestselling nonfiction authors do something else—or many other things—in addition to writing books. They either had an established profession before they started writing, or they create one or more of these based on the books they’ve written.
In my case, I make money from speaking, teaching (teleclasses, workshops), and magazine and web writing (yes, some of it pays)—and this is after writing ten books, including three bestsellers (I use the standard definition of more than fifty thousand copies sold for that often confusing term). I also work one-on-one, both by phone and in person, as a certified holistic health counselor. This ties into the subject matter of several of my books—Fit from Within, Younger by the Day, The Love-Powered Diet. The books support the coaching, and vice versa. I also do corporate spokesperson jobs, obtained via the “platform” created by both the books and the professional certification.
As books and entertainment merge into a giant industry that is not for the faint of heart, we writers are facing much of what has confronted actors for decades. An old saying goes, “There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway.” Well, there’s a broken heart for every book on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, too. But if you want it enough, you keep at it. And when you do get your words and your message out to the world, it was worth everything it took to get them there.
Victoria Moran, HHC, AADA, is the author of ten books on well-being and practical spirituality. Titles include Creating a Charmed Life (a classic bestseller in twenty-nine languages) and the Oprah-featured Lit from Within and Shelter for the Spirit. She is a holistic health counselor with a private practice in New York City and telephone clients around the world.