As much as we’d all like to carry the “New Year New Market” enthusiasm past January 1, the fact is the publishing market was the same on January 2nd as it was on December 31st. And we all know that means it’s anything but inspiring.
Because of that, there is a lot of talk about “how to earn,” and a lot of authors offering courses and coaching and mentoring. While I encourage you to keep learning, expanding your knowledge base and all that, keep in mind that there is no one “system” that will make you successful. While successful authors can tell you what they’ve done, that’s no guarantee it will have the same results for you. There are simply too many variables in this business.
Before you spend that chunk of change on someone’s system, make sure you’re realistic about what you’re getting for it. I’ve signed up for a year-long coaching program in a new genre, and I’m not expecting to become a bestseller or get rich. What I am hoping to do is get help building an audience from someone who’s already tied into that genre. That’s how you need to think. What can I really expect to get out of it and how much is that worth?
All of which brings me to today’s topic: How much is too much? How much are you willing to sacrifice to turn your passion into a profession? Because now more than ever it will be a sacrifice, and over and over again I’ve watched writers push their sacrifice too far. The call to follow your dreams is loud in this business, and there are people telling you they can help you do it (for a nice fee) everywhere you turn. There are a million techniques and strategies and approaches that you “should” be following, and then of course, there’s the actual writing of the books.
It’s overwhelming, and in our desperate rush to somehow make our dreams come true, we can push ourselves too far. So where is that line? Of course is will be different for every writer, but here are some basics you need to keep in mind:
1. If it’s damaging your physical and emotional health. Guess what? No dream is worth that. As much as I want you to succeed as a writer, I want you to be healthy more. If sitting at the laptop sixteen hours a day is giving you high blood pressure and you’ve gained forty pounds, or social media makes you anxious and writers’ forums put you into a depression every time you go online then it’s not worth it. Doesn’t mean you have to quit, just means you need to scale back until you can regain control of your personal well-being.
2. If it’s keeping you from being a good parent, son, daughter, partner, friend, spouse, etc. It’s easy to think you can take care of the people in your life later, but the fact is, no dream is worth destroying your relationships over. We all joke about leaving our spouses and children to live on carry-out while we’re on deadlines, and of course a week here or there isn’t going to kill anyone, but is it a few days? Or is it all night every night, both days on the weekend, all year long without pause? As the mother of four kids who are in their teens and twenties, and the daughter of parents who are nearly eighty, I can tell you no dream, no passion, no career is worth losing that time.
3. If it’s putting you into debt. Especially now, with the abundance of “I can teach you how to make money” opportunities that are saturating the industry, it’s far too easy to spend far too much on a career that will very likely never earn you much (and that’s not me being pessimistic, it’s just the statistics of author earnings). There is something to be said for spending smart money and taking well-calculated risks. It’s worked for more than one aspiring author, but if you’ve put your family into debt, or your business has never turned a profit, you need to stop and think about the choices you’re making. Illnesses happen, kids need things, spouses lose jobs. If you’ve taken away your family’s ability to weather those challenges because of spending on your dream, you’ve probably gone too far.
Finding balance is something every writer struggles with, and that tipping point is different for each of us. We all have different home environments, different finances, different personal proclivities and interests. But over and over again I’ve watched authors damage themselves and those around them with the drive to follow a dream. You won’t make it in this industry if you aren’t driven, but you also won’t make it if you’re sick, in debt, and lonely. Just like we tell parents they need to be healthy and happy to raise healthy happy kids, you need to be at your best if you’re going to make a go of publishing as a career.