I follow a group on Facebook called The Writer’s Circle. Recently they posted this lovely graphic.
It’s a good start at what it is to be a writer, but it’s not all-encompassing.
This week, my primary contributions to my writing career have included: blogging, networking, reviewing a contract, offering critique on a voice file, and reaching out to my cover designer with a couple of new projects. Writing did occur, of course – without that, the rest of the stuff becomes moot, after all – but most of my energy, proportionally, was on all of the things needed to make a finished story more accessible to readers. In other words, the stuff that makes money.
My experience as a writer is different from the experience of a traditionally published author, but not by much. The things a traditionally published author doesn’t have to worry about include: commissioning audiobooks, commissioning cover art, and other similar outsourcing. The things a traditionally published author does have to worry about includes all of those iceberg items, as well as marketing, working with a publisher’s demands, reviewing contracts, critiquing products such as covers (depending on how much creative license they are allowed by their contracts), querying….you get the picture. There is a lot going on behind the scenes of a book, and it isn’t just the hours and hours of writing the thing, or the hours and hours of editing it. It’s formatting, primping, marketing, and all of the other things that go into creating a salable product.
Unfortunately, this kind of work takes away from writing time, and a writer doesn’t really get paid for it. What I mean by that is, writers don’t get paid by the hour. They get paid by what they can produce and how quickly they can manage that production. The other stuff that it takes to get that produced work on the table of someone else is dead time between creating more works. But it’s necessary dead time – you cannot sell a book without a cover, that’s for sure.
Greater authors than I have written on this subject, but it’s something that I think gets talked about too little. No matter which path you choose, self-publishing or traditional publishing, you are going to be spending time on the housekeeping side of writing. Even if you have an amazing agent and amazing editor managing some of the moving parts, a lot of the work still falls on you. There are definitely trade-offs between pathways in terms of the amounts of work and kinds of work you undertake, but you’re still going to have to work on things that aren’t writing.
If you’re not writing full-time, but instead juggling a day job on top of your writing career, this slows new releases considerably – something that can be really detrimental to your writing career in the long-term. I’ve always been jealous of those folks who have the income or ability to leave their dayjob and write full-time. My productivity in writing a first draft with a dayjob versus without is seriously limited. It takes me a third of the time to write a new book when not juggling other obligations that it does to write a new book with those obligations.
In closing, writing is an iceberg, and an unpredictable one. The next time you are reading a book, please spare a kind thought for all of the unseen work of the writer.