Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author

Another wet blanket for the fire of being a published author: “The Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author” (from Salon.com premium — you need to be a subscriber or watch a short commercial).

Stories like this are always semi-depressing. Though this one seems even more so because the numbers the author is talking about for an adavance seem ridiculously high. At least to me.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the publishing industry is all about business. Recently I read Jason Epstein’s Book Business: Publishing Past, Present, and Future. It’s a poorly written book by a longtime editor and publishing bigshot, but it does give an overview of the publishing industry over the last 50 years and how hard it is to make a profit. It used to be the publishing industry existed to sustain the art of literature. Profits were secondary (sounds a bit too idealistic, I know). But then everything became a conglamerate and now publishers are only interested in best-sellers.

Yet writing still seems like such a glamorous career.

On Thursday I went to a reading of Jesus Sound Explosion by Mark Curtis Anderson. His nervousness was infectious. He couldn’t decide whether to stand or sit (it didn’t help that he had one of those stools that’s high enough that it requires an awkward jump to sit in), to drink coffee or water, to use a microphone or speak loudly, to start by introducing himself or just read. In a different situation his uncomfortableness would have driven me crazy (I get that sort of feeling watching the junior highers in youth group vying for attention), but for some reason I relished it. Call it sadistic, but I think I was envisioning myself giving the reading, and I thought I couldn’t do much worse.

Writing is anything but glamorous, yet that’s what everyone thinks. Last week I landed an average paying article assignment that will require interviewing pop-star Mandy Moore. Everyone’s really excited about this, but it’s really no big deal. I’ll probably be one of 20 interviewers Mandy talks to in the course of a press day, she’ll tell me the same canned line she’s told everyone else. By the time the article’s finished I’ll have spent too many hours and I’ll be making the equivalent of a fast food salary. But I got to speak to Mandy Moore.

(And half of you are asking, “Who’s Mandy Moore?”)

The Salon article ends with this:

I ran into Patty the day her ninth book became her first to hit the Times bestseller list. She grabbed me by the shoulders, looked deep into my eyes. “It doesn’t change anything,” she said grimly. “My mother still doesn’t approve of me. I still don’t have a boyfriend. I still can’t sleep at night. Don’t let this be what you’re waiting for.”

And yet I wait for my agent’s call, telling me there’s another chance that it could happen for me.

Writers are a sick bunch.

5 thoughts on “Confessions of a Semi-Successful Author”

  1. Dude, that’s an interesting look into the writer’s world that I never considered before. I suppose that since I don’t rely on my writing skills to make money, I’ve never really thought about it before. Well… maybe briefly in Mr. Moeller’s writing class. But not outside of that.

    Part of me says I’m not envious of that world. Then the other part of me realizes that I’m not envious of my business world either.

  2. Okay, what is the deal?! There are three previous comments and none of them have mentioned Mandy?? Granted I am probably one of the younger readers here but who doesn’t like cute, adorable Mandy?!

    So how did you land that gig anyway?

  3. I missed the reading. I almost bought the book at Bound to be Read, but saw the $29 price tag and decided I’d not…but I’m very interested in it. Anyone got a used copy?

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