I’ve been pretty committed to my resolution to stay in my lane. When I first started this indie journey I was a sponge, absorbing every blog, tweet, and news article related to self-publishing and not just the useful bits of information but the toxic jealousy inducing stuff too. It wasn’t long before this started to get in the way of my writing.
First it just felt impossible to start and then in the midst of writing it would be harder to keep going. I was doubting myself at every turn and eventually I had to stop. I had to stop watching what other people were doing, I had to stop comparing my sales to theirs, I had to stop thinking that I was supposed to be anyone other than myself.
Today, I only check-in with a few of my favorite indie authors and bloggers like Joanna Penn, J.A. Konrath, Nick Stephenson, and Lindsey Buroker. Not only do they provide excellent resources for other indie authors but they also offer an excellent perspective on indie publishing as a whole, which seems to be formulated around the idea that there is more than enough room for everyone. I share in this belief, which is why I only try to expose myself to likeminded creatives online.
This summer (my first since becoming a teacher), as I’ve been slugging through the emotional fatigue of finishing my 8th novel, I’ve had a lot more “free” time (i.e. brain breaks between writing/revisions) and have found myself dipping my toe back into the online indie world mostly out of curiosity but also out of my desire to stay semi-plugged in to the changes that are happening in self-publishing. What I’ve discovered is that not only are there more ways to reach success as an indie author these days there are also a lot more definitions of what that success actually looks like.
I used to think the only goal for an author was to be able to write full time. Turns out, plenty of people have day jobs they love and enjoy writing on the side for a little extra income. Speaking of income, I used to think that an author had to be making at least as much as that day job in order to make the transition. In actuality, people are leaving their jobs for a lot more and a lot less in order to pursue their dreams. For some writers, a couple thousand dollars a month is plenty. For others they won’t be satisfied until they reach six figures. For some authors freedom means having the time and flexibility to write 10 books a year and for others it means being able to squeeze in writing time between a full-time job and a family without having to worry about their creativity being the sole means of paying the bills.
Everyone’s writer life is different.
We work and reach milestones at a different pace and the milestones we reach are totally unique to our needs and goals. And that’s okay.
Listening to other writer’s stories over the past few months has gotten me thinking about my own goals–not the short-term yearly goals that I discussed in this post (speaking of which, I’ve got 2 down, 1 to go, 2 to be postponed until 2018)–but my vision. What do I want life to look like in the future? How am I building something for the long-term?
At first this vision was contaminated by all of the things I’d been reading and listening to from other indies. I have to be making six figures, become a public speaker, teach self-publishing workshops, create a podcast, become Instagram famous, become friends with all of the big name indies on Twitter, buy a huge mansion, and eventually become a multi-millionaire.
And how was I going to get there? Don’t worry, other authors online had plenty of advice for that too. From what I gathered…
I need to write 5-15 books a year, I need to pump up my mailing list to 10K, I need to blog 2-3 times a week, I need to find an agent and become a hybrid author, I need to wake up every morning at 5AM to write before work and then I need to forgo personal time and stay up writing until 1AM, I need to buy FB ads and Amazon ads and BookBub ads, and I need…I need…I need…
What I needed to do was stop focusing on what others are doing and stay in my lane. Not only because most of those things are not humanly possible for me (who writes 15 quality books a year?) but also because they have absolutely nothing to do with my vision.
Which is, very simply, to make enough money not to worry about having a bad writing day.
Over the past four years I’ve learned so much about the importance of my mental health and now all of my writing goals–short-term and long-term–revolve around taking care of me first. So even though I still get a twinge of envy when I see other authors who aren’t so crippled by their own anxiety that they can quit their day jobs after making only twenty thousand…thirty thousand a year from writing, I know that my path requires patience for a reason. That reason being my mind and my body’s inability to deal with the pressure of putting all of my eggs in one basket. So even though some people might think I’m crazy for pursuing a totally different career and sticking with it despite the fact that I’m on track to make almost fifty thousand dollars this year…I just don’t think I’m in a place yet where I can take the plunge.
And, like I said before, that’s okay. Because I’m not thinking about the fifteen books I could write next year if I’d just quit my day job. I’m thinking about the books I’ll be writing over the next fifteen years that will be so much stronger thanks to the fact that I’m not constantly worried about whether or not they’ll make me money.