by Tamela Hancock Murray
What if you developed a great hobby you really loved? Say, baking cakes. You bake a creative cake for your child’s birthday party, and everyone oohs and ahhs. Then you bake another fabulous cake for your husband’s birthday. More oohing and ahhing. And so on. Until a party guest says, “Hey, you could make real money doing this. I’ll be your first customer.”
You agree. You bake the cake and buy a new pair of shoes with the proceeds. Turns out, this isn’t a fluke. Soon your talents are well known You print business cards. Your shoe collection doubles.
But then comes a Tuesday when Isabella breaks up with her boyfriend, Max is kicked off the soccer team, you forget Lily’s appointment with the pediatrician, the dryer goes kaput, and Fido throws up all over the white sofa. The latest cake, due to be delivered tomorrow, isn’t cooperating. You phone for pizza and you’re about ready to bite Hubby’s head off when he walks in the door from work. And he’s about ready to yell, too. Even he’s getting tired of Chinese takeout and pizza. He wants his wife back.
What began as a labor of love and a fulfilling hobby has ballooned into a job with many deadlines and obligations. And quality is a must. Before, if a cake fell, your family could laugh it off. A paying client won’t.
You ask yourself, “What, oh what, have I done?”
I’ve seen this happen to many writers, though I used the cake illustration to show how moving from a hobby to a job can be an exercise in frustration regardless of your chosen profession. If you have been fiddling with the idea of taking your writing to the next level, I suggest you may want to consider:
1.) Do I want to write as my full-time job, or do I want writing to be only part of a larger picture for me? With either answer, it’s still a great idea to contract with a literary agent. We are accustomed to working with a wide variety of authors with differing schedules, expectations, and needs. One of the many things an agent can do is help you strategize so you can reach a level of commitment that is comfortable for you and your family.
2.) If I want writing to be my secondary income, will I be able to handle the responsibilities of my day job and writing books? See #1. And I also suggest using a calendar to mark a typical week or month for yourself. Be honest about the hours you put in at work. Then show the time you need for your family and to manage life. How many hours are left? Are you willing to devote those to writing? Whether you decide to give up television or to rise at 4 AM to write before the day begins, be sure to stick to that routine to be successful.
3.) Am I willing to put my career in the hands of my agent, publisher, and editor? Traditionally published authors are accountable to agents, editors, and publishers, and of course, to their readers. It’s one thing to know this in the abstract and quite another to live the reality. All of these partners are on your side, wanting nothing more than the huge success of your book. But it does mean give and take on all sides.
4.) Am I offended if I am asked to change my story because that feels like demanding that I dye my newborn’s hair neon green? Even the most successful authors I know are asked to make changes. Sometimes those changes are tweaks that take moments. But even bestselling authors might be asked to rewrite manuscripts. Then revise the rewrites. Then revisit the rewrites. A career author needs to be ready to hit the edits hard when need be, and get them in on time to keep to the publisher’s production schedule.
5.) Do I mind putting in some time on social media? Once in awhile I run across an aspiring writer who doesn’t even have a Facebook account. Whether you hope to be published with a legacy publisher or you just want to put up books on Amazon yourself, you still need to use social media to build up a readership. Like it or not, reclusive authors have gone the way of the VHS tape.
6.) Why am I writing? If you are writing to entertain yourself and your friends, that’s great. Have fun, and know that lots of excellent, life-affirming writing is never published in any form. But if you want to see significant income from writing, be prepared to get serious.
Are you on the cusp of going pro? What are your specific concerns?
What advice would you give a hobbyist ready to break in to the market?
Did I leave out any questions?