Sunday, September 1, 2013

One-book wonders.

image copyright most likely held by the 20th Century Fox
from Wikipedia
In the music business, to continue the theme of last week's post (and to attempt a clever segue), a term became popular in the '60s to describe bands that had just one good song in them. They were known as "one-hit wonders." If you've ever seen the movie "That Thing You Do!" with Tom Hanks, you'll get the significance of this term. Hanks played a music promoter in the wake of the British invasion in the 1960s. His job was to find garage bands with a marketable sound, and give them a record contract.

The Oneders -- whose name Hanks's character changed to the Wonders because nobody could figure out how to pronounce the original -- were signed on the strength of their song "That Thing You Do!" They toured the state fair circuit, playing to screaming fans, with Hanks's character orchestrating their every move.  But when it came time to record another song, the band fell apart -- and the promoter went on to find the next potential big thing.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, perhaps inadvertently, tapped into this idea in a blog post this week. She was attempting to explain the difference she saw between writers who want to make a living at fiction writing, and those whose aim is mainly to tick "get published" off their bucket list. That's probably more flippant a description than those writers deserve, which is likely why Rusch had so much trouble coming up with a term for them.  "Hobbyist writer" doesn't cover it, any more than "amateur" would; after all, these writers do sometimes make money from their novels.  And many of them are perfectly adequate writers who pay attention to their craft. Sometimes they have ideas for two books, or even more than two books. But one thing delineates them from the career writer: they are focused on the goal of having their book accepted by a traditional publisher. They want to see their work on a bookstore shelf. They want to be able to hold their book in their own two hands and see their name on the cover. They want to be published

Rusch dubs these folks "one-book writers."

Sometimes, she says, a one-book writer believes it's impossible to make a living at writing. Sometimes it's that the writer has other interests he or she would rather pursue. In any case, she says, the vast majority of the writers she has met over the course of her career have met this definition.

By contrast, she says, career writers view the business of writing very differently:
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at: http://kriswrites.com/2013/08/28/the-business-rusch-a-career-versus-publication/#sthash.Jfa6OXla.dpuf
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living -- a good living -- from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.

She's not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She's not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
I realized, while reading this description, that I've been straddling the fence for quite a while. I've said here before that I'm on a seven-year plan, and that I hope to make enough money from my writing to retire before that seven years is up.  Now I realize that at some point in this journey, if I'm serious about making a living from my writing, I'm going to have to give up the day job. I'm not there financially -- yet. But it's time for me to start planning for that day.

Another observation Rusch makes is that most of the writing advice you find on the web is aimed at the one-book writer. It's either for people starting out in the writing business, or for people who are seeking that elusive contract. They want to tick "published author" off their bucket list. And they want to do it "legitimately," in the time-honored manner, with a "real" contract from a "real publisher."

These people, Rusch implies, will never be happy as indies.  Because they've been led to believe (often by other one-book writers!) that it's impossible to make a living as a writer, they don't expect to. So the idea of learning to publish and market their own work doesn't make any sense to them, even if they could make a living at it. The concept of living off their writing income seems crass or vulgar. If their work doesn't sell, it simply means the public doesn't understand them -- not that either: a) their work stinks, to put it bluntly, or b) they don't know how to find their readers and market their work to them, and they won't bother to learn.

I know it's possible to make a living from one's writing; I did it for 20 years. But I confess that I've been buying into the idea that one can't make a living from writing fiction unless you're extremely lucky, the way J.K. Rowling and Stephen King are lucky. But you know what? Maybe all it takes to make a living at writing fiction is to have a lot of books for sale, and to market the hell out of them.

So I'm spending this Labor Day weekend making a dent in the word count for Crosswind, the first "Land, Sea, Sky" book, and I'm going to be packaging some of my other work in different ways for the upcoming holidays. It's nearing the end of Year One of the Grand Seven-Year Plan, and I'm going to start putting stuff out there and seeing what sells.

***
These moments of bloggy determination are brought to you, as a public service, by .
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at: http://kriswrites.com/2013/08/28/the-business-rusch-a-career-versus-publication/#sthash.Jfa6OXla.dpuf
The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.
She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.
- See more at: http://kriswrites.com/2013/08/28/the-business-rusch-a-career-versus-publication/#sthash.Jfa6OXla.dpuf
Post a Comment