Being a writer… Surviving the not-so-good bits.

If you’re a regular visitor to my blog or social media, you’ll know that before I was a writer, I worked as an assistant in a management library. I was there for seventeen long years, and spent much of my time standing at the photocopier, fantasising about the day when I could finally give up the day job and become a full-time writer. Well, my dreams came true and I now have a dozen traditionally published books to my name. Not bad for the girl they said would never leave!

So is the reality of writing life, as good as the fantasy? The short answer is most definitely, YES! However, there are a few things that I hadn’t envisaged during those long hours at the photocopier and I thought I’d share a few of them with you today.

Number one: Money

Writing is a funny old business and getting published and paid can seem like an uphill battle. Advances are normally paid in three parts: On signature, on delivery, and on publication. This means that sometimes your advance can be paid over the course of two years – maybe even longer, and just because you’ve been offered a deal, doesn’t mean you’ll be paid straight away. It can take months for your agent and publisher to come to an agreement on terms, then months more for the publisher to pay the first advance. That can be a real lesson in patience!

After publication, your royalties are paid every six months or so, but this is only when your sales have paid off the advance. I’ve been lucky and many of my books now pay royalties, but not all of them do. Hollywood Scandals was published in 2013, but it still hasn’t paid royalties and I don’t expect it ever will.

The unknowing of when you’ll get paid is daunting and it takes a while to get used to, especially when you’re used to a regular pay cheque. My best advice is to have a strict budget for your finances. Just because your latest royalty cheque is a healthy one, does not mean that your next one will be, so don’t blow it all as soon as it’s paid. Also, have several projects on the go wherever possible, as this gives you a bigger chance of earning some money.

Number two: Armchair Critics

We’ve all read books that we don’t like, or watched films that we just couldn’t stand, but when you’re an author, you see this dislike up close and personal! When I wrote my first book – Marilyn’s Addresses – it was 1995 and the Internet wasn’t even a thing yet! In that regard, the only time I ever heard a stranger’s opinion of my work was when they wrote to me via my publisher. Thankfully the only letters I ever received were positive, but that’s not the case anymore.

Thanks to the Internet, disgruntled readers can leave comments on social media, Amazon, Goodreads and more. When Private and Undisclosed was published, this was my first experience not only of opinions on Amazon, but on Marilyn pages and forums, too. While the book was well-received by many, I still received occasional one-star reviews and they were very upsetting to me. My family would ask why on earth I was even reading them, but I couldn’t stop torturing myself. Nowadays I take everything with a grain of salt, but it’s taken a while to get there. I’ve learned that some negative reviews are beneficial to my growth as an author – for instance in one of my books I apparently used a particular word too much. Now I catch myself if I happen to do this. I’ve also learned that some negative reviews are just silly – for instance one ‘reviewer’ said my book was so awful that she threw it out of the window for the raccoons to eat! Well, I hope they enjoyed it, and thanks for paying $20 to feed the wildlife! 🙂

My advice for anyone dealing with amateur (and sometimes professional) reviews, is to just not read them. Easier said than done sometimes, so if you must read, just know that every single author in history has had at least a handful of bad reviews. Look up your favourite author on Amazon or Goodreads and you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Number Three: Haters

This follows on from armchair reviewers, only goes one step further. Whereas reviewers just leave their comments and run, haters seem to follow you around and let everyone know just how much they hate you!

When I wrote a column for my local newspaper, there was one man who would read the page religiously and then get straight onto the website to tear me to pieces. He would criticise my words, my views, how I looked and much more. His behaviour bothered me so much that for a while I tried to write pieces that I thought he’d enjoy! I soon realised, however, that nothing would ever please him and so I went back to writing the things that I wanted to write about and stopped reading his claptrap.

Haters come in all shapes and sizes. Some will tag you on social media, so that you can see their petty comments, while others will hide behind false names and hope you never find out who they are. (Note: I had one of the latter quite recently and it took me all of two minutes to find out who it actually was!) Whatever form the hater takes, they are annoying, but take solace in the knowledge that whatever their grudge, they’d rarely – if ever – say those things to your face. Furthermore, the Internet may give them a platform, but it will never bring them the happiness that you have as an accomplished author.

My advice is to simply ignore haters as much as you can. Hatred often comes from jealousy and not everyone will be happy for your success. That says a lot about them, so just keep on being your beautiful self, and don’t let anyone ever dim your sparkle!

Until next time,

Michelle x

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