Yes, Writing is a Real Job

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?” 

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft. 

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?”

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft.

I don’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into creating a book and marketing it to the public, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit. First, I’d like to bring up an article on Writer’s Digest called Is It a Hobby or a Job? by author Brian Klems. In it he discusses how writing is definitely work, but it’s not classified as a job until you make money off of it. He also goes on to say that the amount of work that goes into it writing can’t just be classified as a hobby either. I’m sure a lot of you are nodding about the latter point.

In this day and age, it’s hard to make a living as a writer because of the low pay, but that doesn’t make it any less of a job. It just means I have to work that much harder to keep my literary career alive, oh, and also work the other 40-hour job I do during the week at the same time to cover the rest of the cost. Most writers have to still work a 40-hour job, or part time, to make ends meet. Some take the plunge and quit their daytime work to write full time, and I applaud them for taking the initiative.

Unfortunately, that usually elicits the image of someone writing for a couple hours, binge watching Netflix the rest of the day, then complaining they have no money.

Let me kind of give you a view of what it’s like to live as a published indie author, and then tell me if you think that writing is still just a hobby. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for a year, so imagine what an author juggling several books goes through everyday.

  • I work from 8:30-5pm Monday-Friday (and some weekends for overtime).
  • I volunteer in the evening for literary organizations.
  • Starting around 8 or 9 pm until I go to bed, on weekends, or on my “day off,” I do at least one of these things:
    • Research information for my book.
    • World build or develop elements for my book
    • Write or edit my novel.
    • Discuss with my editors and proofreaders what needs to be changed and apply those edits.
    • Talk with my sensitivity readers about changes that need to be made.
    • Keep a presence on Amazon , Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Wattpad, Goodreads, Bookbub, Allauthor for marketing reasons.
    • Design banners, contests, graphics to post in all these locations about my book.
    • Reach out to bloggers to review my book or do a blog train.
    • Update my website with new author information and author interviews.
    • Build connections with fellow writers, editors, marketers, etc.
    • Set up signing events.
    • Attend signing events in different cities and states.
    • Post chapters on Patreon to help pay for my website.
    • Commission art of characters for stickers/swag.
    • Commission cover art.
    • Create other swag (bookmarks, necklaces, etc)
    • Run an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs.
    • Participate in online “takeover” events.
    • Query my books.
    • Participate in online book contests to either 1. get an award for my book. 2. find an agent/publisher for my other books.
    • Format my book through Scrivener and Adobe Acrobat.
    • Set up and publish my book through Ingramspark then order copies.
    • Contact libraries and bookstores to carry my book.
    • Set up ISBNs, sales tax permit, BIN.
    • Check inventory and order more supplies on books and all marketing materials.
    • Review finances.
    • Prepare a book launch with local venues.
    • Attend writing conventions to make connections and learn the latest marketing techniques.
    • Participate in author summits both as a listener as an author.

…and the list goes on.

Being an author is a multi-faceted job, and most of the time you have to do everything yourself. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, publishing houses are doing less to market the book and encouraging authors to do more of the work. Many of my author friends spend days at conventions and marketing to sell their books and pay for the table, gas, hotel, meals, and other bills.

But you may ask, “Erin, you charge $15 for your paper book. How do you not make money off of it?”

Because by the time you factor in the editing, proofreading, printing, marketing, and sales tax permit, I don’t see much profit. Every dollar helps and puts me closer to making a better income off of writing. But I have to market to make that happen. I’ve heard it takes until book 2 or 3 to actually see a return in money, which is why initially it may look like authors are so broke, even if they receive advances from publishing companies.

That doesn’t mean writing isn’t a job.

Honestly, for me, it would be my dream job to write full time and survive off of my books. While that might be a long time in coming, I’ll do what I can to keep working towards it. In the meantime, I hope this gives people a better understanding of how much work goes into being an author and that it’s more of a job than most realize.

Colors and Symbolism in Writing

Color and imagery play such important roles in all forms of media. They can enhance how we might view a character or act as a device for foreshadowing. Some colors can blatantly symbolize who’s good and who is evil, or denote where the character’s loyalty resides. While it’s easier to see on tv and in film, it’s just as important in books.

First, what do the colors mean? Taking a look at Judy Scott-Kemmis’ website Empowered by Color, she outlines the different emotions created by color.

  • Red: Generally this is the color associated with passion, sex, energy, and ambition. But it’s also the color of anger (which is generally why people might have heightened emotions when sitting in a red room).
  • Orange: Social communication and optimism. It can also be a more negative sign of pessimism.
  • Yellow: Color of the mind and intellect but it can also suggest impatience and cowardice. (Maybe this is why the mind stone in Avengers is yellow).
  • Green: This is the color of balance and growth. Though it can also be a sign of jealousy/envy.
  • Blue: Tranquility, trust, and peace. Some rooms are painted this color to help people feel calm.
  • Purple: Imagination (both creative or impractical)
  • Pink: Unconditional love as well as immature and girlish
  • Brown: Down-to-earth, protection, and comfort
  • White: Purity, innocence, completion
  • Gray: Compromise
  • Black: Mystery, secrecy

Keep in mind, this is one person’s view of color, but it seems pretty universal in other studies (though with some minor differences).

How do these colors come to play in stories?

Good vs Evil

Let’s start with Star Wars. Generally the Jedi Knights wear white/beige clothing while the Sith are dressed all in black. As a character slips to the dark side, their clothing color seems to change (ie Anakin Skywalker). Of course, it can be argued that Luke was wearing black at the beginning of Return of the Jedi, so was that meant to throw us off or hint that perhaps Luke could still slip to the dark side?

Their lightsabers, as well, seem to play a part in good vs evil. Jedi wield green (growth) and blue (peace) lightsabers while the Sith use red (anger).

When we’re told stories, it’s not uncommon for the good character to wear white clothing to represent purity while the villain is cloaked in black/darkness. Obviously this has led to discussions about how this just reinforces racism (white = good, black = bad). So some writers have tried to move away from this trope. Or, so-called bad characters are starting to have redeeming stories told about them (ie. the film Maleficent).

Color and World Building

Color also plays a big part in world building, as some societies are built directly around color. Let’s address Avatar: The Last Airbender. Each of the nations (earth, fire, water, air) have different colors to denote their different kingdoms. Earth Kingdom wears brown, yellow, and green. Water Tribe wears blue, purple, and white. Air Nomads wear orange and yellow. The Fire Nation wears primarily red, brown, and black. They each have their own distinct color, and it works well with what we’ve learned about what the colors mean. Green/growth and brown/down-to-earth seems very fitting for the Earth Kingdom. Blue/peace, purple/imagination, and white/purity works well for the Water Tribe, while red/anger and black/mystery embodies the Fire Nation.

The world of Harry Potter does this with the houses as well. Gryffindor is red and gold. Ravenclaw is blue and bronze. Slytherin is green and silver. And Hufflepuff is yellow and black.

Star Trek also plays around with colors. Now, each ship or generation kind of varies their uniforms, but in general blue = sciences, yellow = command, red = you have a death wish. But in all seriousness, if you look at articles about Star Trek like “The Take” you’ll find that every person wore a specific uniform designated to their station. Unfortunately, the red shirts just often went down to the planet and never came back.

Foreshadowing 

Colors can also be used to foreshadow events, or show a character’s progression or regression mentally. The big example I’m going to use is from Season 8 of Game of Thrones. You can skip ahead if you haven’t seen the season yet and don’t want spoilers.

***Begin GOT Spoiler****

In the case of Daenerys Targaryen, her color scheme changes drastically along with her mentality. In Episode 1, she wears pure white clothing. She is in the north, with her lover, ready to fight a battle to save the people. She still has her best friend, her mentor, and her two dragons. Her intentions are pure. Between episodes 2-4, her white clothing takes on red lines. They just fought a battle and she watched someone she cared for deeply die before her eyes. Not only that, she starts to realize she doesn’t have the support of the people like Jon Snow. Then she loses her best friend and another one of her dragons. Episodes 5 and 6, her clothing shifts to red and black during the burning of King’s Landing and her ascension to the throne. In previous seasons, she had mostly worn white, blue, and browns (purity, peace, down-to-earth), and in the end, she goes mad while wearing red (anger) and black (mystery). It was a beautiful, though tragic event, of what was to come.

***End GOT Spoiler***

Another element of foreshadowing comes, again, from Star Wars. When Anakin first starts his training, he’s in the traditional white or brown Jedi garb. But as the story progresses, and he starts to slip towards the dark side, his clothing changes to black. The last time we see him whole, he’s fighting in black attire against Obi-Wan in white. After that, he’s left in his Darth Vader suit just so he can survive. We watched through color as he slipped away from the light to darkness.

These are just a few reasons why you might consider using colors in your story. For lack of better words, you paint a broader and more beautiful picture of your world when you add in these elements. From color meanings, to symbolism and foreshadowing, there’s so much you can play with.

 

Self-Care for Writers

It seems fitting that I’m writing about self care after having to take time off of work due to a migraine. This is also why my post is coming out on a Wednesday. Normally I would have fought through it, kept working, and made it worse. The fact that I was going to write this post made me rethink my decision because, truthfully, if I’m going to tell you how to take care of yourselves, I need to listen to my own advice.

I’ve covered some of this in other posts, but I wanted to create a comprehensive list for anyone who feels burnt out or needs some support in regards to taking care of themselves. Many writers don’t know what kind of self care they should do when they feel low or if they need self care at all. Here are a few warning signs to start off.

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Lack of desire to write or writer’s block
  • Irritability
  • Self-doubt or feeling hopeless
  • Overwhelmed

Some are you going to say, “Well, Erin, I feel this all the time!” I understand. I feel a lot of this as well, but when it’s starting to affect your everyday life, you need to step back and take care of yourselves so you can stay healthy. A healthy mind and body will lead to better writing.

  • Take a break/ Do something you love: If you’re feeling low and the depression is creeping in, try to take a break and do something you love. Even if you think it’s just “wasting time,” it’s not if it makes you happy. Play video games. Read a book. Go to a pet store and play with some critters. Host a movie night. Watch youtube videos. Or sleep! Basically do anything except write if writing itself is causing so much stress. Contrary to what others say, you don’t have to write everyday.
  • Sleep: Writers are pretty bad about getting enough sleep. Either we stay up too late or get up too early trying to get those words out. Consider adjusting your sleeping schedule so you’re getting more rest both for your brain and body. You’ll find you’ll become more productive and feel better.
  • Get off social media: If you’re struggling with self-doubt or comparing yourself to others, get off Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, etc. Shut technology down for a day and focus on you. Studies say that people often become more depressed after seeing all the accomplishments or exciting adventures their peers talk about on facebook. I know when I’m feeling overwhelmed, shutting down technology is my best route to recovery. It’ll still be there when you log on the next day.
  • Shower/Take a bath: If you’re stuck with writing, take a shower. Some of my best ideas come out there. And if you just want to get away from ideas and relax, take a shower or a bath for your body’s sake. I love how the water pounds across my ears and silences the world. For a moment, I just feel safe and like the world doesn’t need me. I’m doing this for me.
  • Take time for yourself: Make sure you’re taking enough time to rest and relax. If all you’re doing is overworking yourself to get that book done or meet social media standards, you’re going to burn out very quickly. Take time, again, to do something you love, or take care of yourself. Even setting aside a half hour a day to watch a favorite show or sit under happy lights is a great way to decompress.
  • Chores: This may seem like a strange thing to add in here if you’re stressed, but sometimes getting chores done helps me unwind. Cleaning, paying pills, making medical appointments, going shopping, etc.. Sure, it might be boring or frustrating at the time, but by the end of the day, you’ll have accomplished so much. Last Sunday I managed to get a bunch of chores done and that cleared my mind up to write for a little while.
  • Therapy: If you’re struggling with crippling self-doubt, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, consider talking with a therapist. I see one regularly to help me keep my head on straight. People will say, “Oh, others have it worse” but whatever you’re going through is valid. If something is making you upset or hurting your quality of life, then it’s important to get that treated. Seeking out therapy is not a weakness. It shows strength.
  • Listen to your body: If you’re getting sick a lot, or you just don’t feel well, listen to your body. It may be telling you that it’s time to slow down. We only have one body and one brain. If either goes out on us, we’re in trouble. So take care of yourselves. If you’d tell someone else to go to a doctor, take off of work, or rest if they feel like you do, then please take your own advice.
  • Support team: Build a support team so that, when you’re struggling, you know who you can turn to. Maybe you just need someone to listen to you as you struggle through your writing ideas. Maybe you need a hug or a reminder that you’re enough. Either way, reach out when you need support. You don’t have to go this alone. That’s what’s both so important and wonderful about having a writing community.
  • Write your feelings: We may all get writer’s block, but I guarantee we can all write about how we’re feeling. No one else has to see it or know that you’re writing it. Create angry poetry, construct short stories, write a blog post…do whatever feels right to help you acknowledge your emotions and work through them.
  • Hydrate: When we get wrapped up in writing, it’s easy to forget some basic needs like drinking water. And sometimes we can forget that tea is a diuretic. So make sure you’re hydrating your body (even if it does mean a lot of pee breaks away from your computer).

These are just a few tips to keep in mind when things feel rough. I’m sure you all have your own self-care methods, so feel free to share them below!

Just remember, you matter, what you feel is valid, and you are worthy of self care.

Marketing 101

After months of writing blog posts, I’ve come to realize that many authors agree on one thing; they hate marketing their books. I can understand why. Marketing isn’t an easy job. You spend all of your time and energy writing an amazing book, and still there’s so much work to do after that to ensure that your baby makes it into the world.

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to marketing, but I’ve learned a few tricks through my own experiences and also reading articles/blogs from experts in the field. I would definitely suggest looking into Jenn DePaula of Mixtus Media. She’s actually running a sale on her Book Marketing Foundations class. Also, check out Alexa Bigwarfe from Write. Publish, Sell who also provides valuable information and courses in marketing.

  • Build a Community: Whether this is through social media, readings and signings, conventions, or gushing over a book, make connections with writers and readers in your genre. Building connections helps open you to other opportunities in the literary world, like signings you never heard about. It’s also just nice to make new friends. Try to focus on those in your genre because they will be the people you sell to later. It’s better to have a smaller group of interested people than a large group of followers who won’t take a second look at your book.
  • Social Media: As much as some people hate it, social media is important. It’s how your readers get to know you. You can share information about your story or your everyday life. Keep in mind, you don’t have to do all social venues. Pick the ones that work well for you. Maybe update a blog every week, or keep a twitter account active. Don’t try to do everything, otherwise you might become overwhelmed. Just make sure people have a place to find you, buy your book, and learn more about you. Readers want to feel connected with the author.
  • Author Website: Going along with social media, you want to be able to market your book through an author website. You can get one for free through WordPress, or you can spend a little money on it through sites like squarespace. Here’s mine for example.  Make it unique. Make it you. The best thing about this is you can store all of your social media links, your appearances, your purchase links, etc in one location. And if working on a lot of social media platforms is too daunting, this is a good place to focus your attention.
  • Author Signings: As much as we would like to stay behind the computer screen, it’s important to participate in author signings. An author named Alexandra Penn says she sells most of her books through in-person signings. To prepare for it, have your elevator pitch ready. Know how to explain your book in 30 seconds or two sentences so you can keep the people engaged. Decorate your table to make it eye catching. Also, consider holding raffles or special sales at in-person signings. It might attract more attention.
  • Swag: Seriously, people love swag. Bookmarks especially tend to go over well with people because they have a dual use. Character stickers, postcards, small journals, key chains, etc. All of these things can be used to promote your book. You can either make the items yourself or enlist others to help you like Sarah Cunningham who made a lot of my swag. Below is a mix of items I have available to promote my book.

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Give away

  • Press Releases: When your book is about to come out (or even if it is out), it doesn’t  hurt to write a press release and send it in to your local newspaper, radio show, or tv station. Contact your local newspaper company (or go on their website) to find out where to send a press release.
  • Interviews: Look for authors or bloggers who are hosting interviews of other authors. This is your chance to talk about your book and introduce yourself to your readers. If you have a book coming out, make sure you get some interviews out around that same time. I host author interviews on my own website here.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. If you have any marketing tips, please feel free to post them down below!

Cheers!

Erin