Startling Frank Confessions Pt. 2: Or How I Hope to Someday Make a Living as a Writer

I think that title was long enough – I’m done writing for now. Ha!

The purpose of this post is to answer a few questions that have been posed to me regarding pen names, writing erotica, and the big question all writers ask themselves: will I ever be able to make my living as a writer? Really? Especially if what we’re talking about is creative, or artistic writing.  This is opposed to writing ad copy, articles, press releases, technical writing and all other legitimate forms of non-creative writing. It’s not that people ( and I have been one of those people) writing ad copy or articles are not creative writers, but that they are generating written copy based on the needs of the venue; i.e. magazine, client, newspaper, website, etc. It’s not the same.

When you write a short story, novel, poem – you are creating something that did not exist before you as the artist made it come alive. When I quit public relations and writing for newspapers, it was because I wanted to focus my writing energies on creating as a writer. Carol Deminski (http://cdeminski.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/time-to-write-a-rant/) is a blogger/writer I follow, and the questions she posed to me in the comment section of my last blog, and the questions I have had from friends and writers, have inspired me to give you a brief history of my writing  journey up to this point.

After I began writing creatively again – which was post music business, post P.R. and post ghost writing someone else’s memoir – my writing was sporadic and shaky, at best. I fumbled around with the beginnings of some novels, and then put them aside. I began to focus on short stories, my own possible memoirs about the music business, and the occasional poem. There were snippets in there of light and possibility. There were also large chunks of garbage and drivel. I could probably do another entire post – or book – about the whys and wherefores, but the reality was that I was practicing. I was learning. I took some classes, went back to college for a bit, started a writing group; I was finding my voice as a writer.

In the middle of finding that voice, I discovered I was just as eclectic (or schizophrenic, take your choice) as a writer, as I was when I was in music. I love a lot of different genres, both as a reader and a writer. But because the realities of marketing yourself as a writer, and whatever book you are promoting, precludes mash-ups of genres, it’s better to be identified as a writer (at least the name you’ve attached to it) with a particular genre. So even though I read – and write – literary, memoir, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance and erotica – my one name can’t be all things to all people. Seriously – the Pulitzer people are not going to be awarding prizes to a writer that is known for kinky vampire romance sagas. At least maybe not this year.

Which brings me to the next point: can creative writers make a living anymore if they’re not with the Big Six, or one of the top chosen few that are bestsellers with film options and all of that? Carol commented that short story writers have a particularly difficult time, and she gave an example of someone who did win the Pulitzer, wondering if they were able to survive financially. I suppose we could get into another discussion regarding the differences between literary and commercial fiction – but I don’t want to get anymore off-kilter in this post than I already have. My opinion is that you are creatively writing in either mode, but the difference lies in the writing style and voice. Hence, why Wren Andre as kinky vamp writer and Wren Andre as literary short story writer might twist people’s brains too much.

But I believe we can make a living. I spoke briefly in my last post about how I was using a pen name to write erotica, and had made a few bucks by selling them on Amazon through Kindle self-publishing. The technical aspects of it alone were very uncreative and very non-writerly, almost putting the kibosh on the whole enterprise. But I persevered, and have had some startling (in my opinion) results.

The idea was that I would invent a persona for this type of writing, and she would have her own blog and twitter account. However, she has really no platform at all, and no one has ever heard of her, hence me not holding out hope for much more than that Starbuck’s latte in reward for my efforts. The first title went up the end of August, and I sold 9 copies in about 10 days. I think 2 of those were me and my hubby, and 1 was a friend I had confessed to. So 6 copies purchased by complete strangers from an unknown author. Most of those are being sold at a 70% royalty rate, and at $2.99 a copy, I end up with a clean $2.04 per copy. In 35% royalty territories (Kindle explains the breakdown), I get about a buck.

September saw me add another title, and my sales were a little over a copy a day. At least 75% are at the 70% royalty rate. I added 2  more titles in October, one as an experiment – a shorter story for only .99 cents – and I broke over a 100 copies total a few days ago. With the 4 titles, my sales are now averaging 3 to 4 a day. Not bad for someone who has never existed before August of this year. I am giving these stats not to brag, but to shout out to all my fellow authors out there – ANYONE can do this. Be warned though: sex sells, so other self-pubbed efforts will likely not take off as well initially. Like all the gurus say, you still have to market yourself and do all the work – including making sure there are proper edits, appealing cover, blablabla.

But it is possible with the right effort. Staying on course in all that you do will definitely pay off in the long run. I saw a graph recently from Amazon that showed the striking rise of e-book sales in just the last 3 years – it was astonishing. There is no longer any doubt that e-publishing is a viable and exciting new way for authors to be seen. Check out this link from one of my favorite romance blogs: Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/index.php/weblog/comments/what-ever-happened-to-shanna-swendson/#com It revolves around what ever happened to a romance author whose final book in her series was turned down by the publisher. Yet, she had plenty of readers and fans who were dying to read it. So why not self-publish? Read the comments section – of particular interest are the responses from the author herself and other  traditionally published authors, particularly P.N. Elrod. What an eye-opener. I am more excited than ever to take my writing destiny in my own hands, and while I will still send out stuff to traditional sources, I no longer feel held prisoner by them.

As a final comment on the erotica, I was first introduced to the concept of a “real” writer seriously handling that genre through Anne Rice’s Erotic Adventures of Sleeping Beauty, which she wrote under the pen name of A.N. Roquelaure. That lead to my discovery of Anais Nin and other women writers who had written quality erotica that some considered literary. So, even though I may be a smut peddler, I am taking it seriously to the extent that I care about the quality of the writing. Special side benefit:I am getting an amazing amount of writing done, and it is helping my craft! Yay! Since I am taking it seriously as a story writer ( not just throwing in gratuitous sex scenes) I am giving myself continuous exercises in character development, story arc, plot points and creativity.

Keep on keeping on to all the writers out there – we are no longer just limited to waiting for that stamp of approval from the Big Six, or a handful of literary presses and boutique presses. Let your readers decide.

 

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4 comments on “Startling Frank Confessions Pt. 2: Or How I Hope to Someday Make a Living as a Writer

  1. I love this post for so many reasons Wren, but most especially because it gives me a lot of insight into how complex you are as a person and a writer. Thank you for saying I helped provide the inspiration for this post, but honestly, it’s all you babe. Your work ethic is phenomenal, and I’m the one who is inspired by what you are doing.

    I’d by lying if I said I wouldn’t like to be writing full time, but I’ll easily admit that the financial uncertainties of such a situation terrify me. I’m going to think on what you’ve said here though. There is definitely more than something to it.

    Thank you girlfriend. Keep on keeping on.

  2. I really enjoyed these posts, Wren. I’ve been thinking about putting out some things under a pen name. Not erotica, but very personal stuff. Glad to hear that taking the plunge of self-publishing is looking up for you. The traditional side of the industry is trying really hard to hide just how much things have changed, but more and more independent writers are making huge strides to show just how much people have been missing out on by allowing others to make their choices for them. With all of the great indie writers I’ve found, I’m beginning to believe that for every two writers who were turned down by a traditional publisher for good reason, there has probably been at least one that was a remarkable writer with a remarkable story that the editor just happened to dislike or was afraid to take a chance on. Figures, I had meant this to be a short reply, but as usual my fingers are way ahead of me.

    Btw, now my curiosity is piqued as to just who this alter-ego of yours is… Hmm… 🙂

    • I’ll never tell…teehee.

      Thanks for stopping by Robert – I know this is a road you’re currently on (self-publshing) with the Empire of Blood series. I’d be curious to hear what you had to say about your journey. It is definitely a hot topic right now – especially with the Kindle Fire announcement. I feel that all of us poor indies will get our chance to rise to the top if we play our proverbial cards right! 😉

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