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The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary


The Literary Rat Race

I've been working on new book proposals in recent months, which gets me thinking about how much I want to be writing in any given year. How many books do I want to sell, versus how much of a sane life I want to have. How outwardly successful do I want to be, and does that have any bearing at all on my happiness? From a survival standpoint, selling more is always better than selling less, but from a sanity standpoint, we all need to have a life that doesn't involve sitting in front of a computer 24/7.

If you write outside the romance genre, you probably will not experience the same push to be prolific that romance authors get. It's one of the few genres where writing 3 or more books a year is considered normal, even desirable, and if you're one of those super-prolific authors who can write fast enough and generate enough publisher interest to write 4-6 books per year, you'll probably find yourself with lots of happy fans who can't get enough of your work. Plus you'll be earning a decent living.

I hear my writer friends discussing this issue pretty often, and it seems nearly impossible to strike a balance. Either you write less and accept that your career might not be as stellar as it could be, or you write more and accept that your life might not be as sane as it could be.

What are your goals as a writer? How do you measure your success? In monitary terms, in terms of accolades and professional respect, or by standards you set for yourself?


At 5:18 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

My goal is to accomplish my dream, which is to publish a book with a major print publisher, namely HQ. At the moment I'm not at all interested in money, accolades, or achieving the career status of Nora. I'm doing this because there is a big part of me that needs to do it, period. The happiness I'll feel upon getting that call is about that and nothing else. Ideally, I'd have 2-3 books a year on the shelves. More than that would likely be sacrificing too much family time.

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Melissa! You sound so balanced, so sane, so...not like a writer. Heh. Just kidding...

Your goals remind me a lot of how I felt before I'd sold my first book. It reminds me how easy it is to keep trying to merge into a faster lane of the rat race, the more success you acheive.

Once you've made your first sale, then you have to be pretty amazingly balanced not to look at the next bigger goal and chase after it.

One way to help ourselves realize that the bigger goal isn't always any better, is to talk to some authors who've already been there and done that, the ones who have ten or twenty years in the business and are on the New York Times list and are where most authors would like to be.

They are struggling with the exact same issues we are, only the stakes are higher, the implications scarier, the stress more intense. It was a big eye-opener to me to realize that if I don't choose to be happy with my career now, there's not any point in the future when it will be any easier to be.

This isn't a lecture directed at you, Melissa. More like it's me reminding myself of what I should already know.

At 7:18 PM, Anonymous melissa said...

So what is the next big thing after selling? Is it selling a second? Getting a certain amount in royalties? Making some bestseller list? Tell us, Jamie, in what order you merged into faster lanes. :-) And what are you looking for now?

And don't worry, I am definitely NOT sane. I just look that way in print. lol

At 8:17 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Oh gosh Melissa, that question is a whole blog entry in itself. Maybe my next one...hmmm... But to give you the Reader's Digest version, after selling I think most writers look to start selling steadily. Yes, the second sale is maybe a bigger accomplisment than the first, but that quickly gives way to the desire to not be a one or two hit wonder. And it takes quite a while to start feeling like one is selling steadily or earning a steady living.

What am I looking for now? I wish I knew! Part of me wants to sell a single title, and part of me wonders if I'm really ready to take on that additional challenge (on top of a category writing career, because I don't want to stop writing category romances) at this point in my life. Then part of me feels like I should try to write four books a year instead of three, while part of me feels like instead of taking advantage of writing faster now that my kids are more self-reliant, I should just take a breather and use that bit of extra time to have more of a life and less of a writing frenzy.

So my long answer to a short question is that I don't know what I want next. Really, every new contract is a huge accomplishment to me still so my current goal is to just get another contract.

At 8:31 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

I can't see writing more than 2 singles titles at the most in one year and having any kind of life outside of writing. I'm just not a fast writer. And, in fact, I can't conceive right now of actually writing two single titles a year. Two categories, I could manage, but I'm no longer targeting category, so the point is moot. That's why I'd love to break into Kensington Brava. I figure I could write my one single title a year and then fill the gap with novellas.

Of course, not having been bought by a major house yet, I'm not feeling the production pressure I've seen others succumb to. I feel pressure, but it's pressure I put on myself. Two of my three cps ("career partner" or critique partner, depending on our relationship), their outpout increased drastically once they sold, and, yep, one of those was Jamie.


At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Cindy Procter-King said...

Not that you asked me, Jamie, but I think 3 categories a year with young kids is a marvelous accomplishment--and, like you say, considering how fast you can write when you need to, it still allows you a life outside of writing.

That said, I don't think any of us still striving for that first big house contract can truly understand the pressure to *continue* getting contracts.


At 10:12 PM, Blogger Tim said...

My goals as a writer? They're modest ones (I think): 1) To finish my first novel and then write enough to garner my first novel sale (a novel idea that!); 2) to write the perfect story (whatever THAT is!); and 3) always, ALWAYS ALWAYS WRITE THE STORY! As has been written in books On Writing, the story's the boss. (And yes, it is in that book by Stephen King attributed to someone else {memory escapes at the moment} which got me into reading romance in the FIRST place! :-D!)

At 4:02 AM, Anonymous bethany said...

See, what you need is a hobby. My hobby is writing. When I get really sick of reading poems by 7th graders about dogs and odes by 7th graders to their dogs and a memoir by a 7th grader about cheese, then I go and write something for fun.

Since I don't have a dog, I just write a book. Then I send out query letters for FUN while I read more poems about dogs. (Why do people think when I write Excellent on ode to Patches, that I am being sarcastic?) Patches is a cat. I found that out when I asked student, can you describe how it feels when your dog patches rubs his head against you (as mentioned in line 3 of your poem). Apparently patches is neither a he, nor a dog. I know a lot about patches now.

So I write for fun. I finished my last manuscript in 6 weeks. Mostly because I was trying to avoid doing things I didn't want to do.

If the writing is what you are avoiding with your other stuff, then you are screwed. (Unless what you are doing to avoid writing is. . . well whether you are screwed or not, you aren't getting any writing done.

Did you know that it is possible to write an entire poem about how growdy your dog smells? I love my 7th graders and am NOT being sarcastic about that (but I don't love their dogs).

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Jamie said...

Bethany, it's an interesting trick of the mind to try to convince oneself that the writing is the thing to do while avoiding everything else. Let me try it today and see how it goes...

Well, first I have to try having complete thoughts or remembering anything for longer than two minutes while being interrupted every couple of minutes all day long by a 3-year-old.


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