Making it Big as an Author


At work today, my coworker made a jab about my lack of progress on any of my writing lately. Part of me needs to be jabbed on occasion.

Not with anything sharp or pointy though. Not the literal jabbing. Please.

We got to talking about how hard it was to really “make it big” as an author these days. The market is saturated with books, and unless you can land publication with a huge publishing house, the odds are definitely stacked against you.

(For the record, I am NOT bashing self-publishing by any means. So please don’t take it that way.) 

It is definitely possible to make it big in self-publishing. It’s just really, really hard. You have to do everything for yourself.

But for many, it’s our only option when it becomes obvious that the big publishing houses aren’t willing to take many chances on new authors.

The chances that your debut novel will make it big time are slim to none.

But then I got to thinking about Paula Hawkins (author of The Girl on the Train). I did a little digging and learned some super interesting things about her. For example:

  • Her agent got her a job writing what would be described as chick lit, under the name Amy Silver. She published 4 of those. But they never took off.
  • The Girl on the Train is technically a debut novel for her, under her real name.
  • She wrote The Girl on the Train in just SIX MONTHS.
    • “She was, she says, “starting to panic. I don’t have a partner so I take care of the mortgage by myself and I was thinking, ‘Oh God, I’m going to have to sell the house, or find a new career.’ I was not in a good place but it was a real spur to get The Girl on the Train right. I had to nail it and do it really well. It really concentrates the mind, that kind of thing. For the six months I was writing it, I didn’t really do anything else.” In order to survive, she’d had to borrow money from her father.”
  • In 4 months time, she’d already sold over 2 million copies in print and ebook.
  • DREAMWORKS has picked it up to make a major motion picture!
  • One year later, she is still sitting at #30 Paid in the Kindle Store.
  • There are almost 40,000 reviews of her book on Amazon.
  • Read more about her here: The Girl on the Train: how Paula Hawkins wrote ‘the new Gone Girl’

She did what we all want to do! She made it on a debut novel! And I can’t help myself but admire how she did it. Running low on money, she took 6 months off and exclusively wrote in this terrified, suspenseful time of her life. And that definitely worked its way into the tone of this novel (disclaimer : It’s on my TBR list, but I have not read it yet).

Putting the debut novel thing aside, making it big as an author these days is hard, period. But what I love about the community of writers is that we don’t let that hold us back from going for it anyway.

No, we tell ourselves that we’re going to be the exception to the rule. We brush people off who question our choice to write. We major in English even though there’s really not much to do with a BA in English anymore (really, there’s not. I got a PT library job that doesn’t completely pay my bills. I need a Master’s Degree for everything!). We keep writing and sending query letters no matter how many rejections we get.

Because we know that eventually, something good will come of this. We will touch somebody’s life in such a way that all the stress was worth it.

I truly wish I could take a 6 month hiatus from work to write full-time and actually try to make something happen. Unfortunately, I was not one of the winners of the $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot. My student loans have to get paid. So does my rent. Besides, I kind of like my job. I get to talk to people all day. I’m not necessarily an extrovert, but I don’t like being cooped up with myself all the time.

Maybe one day though. One day I’ll pick up an agent who loves my book, and they will be able to convince one of the Top 5 publishing houses that my book is worth taking on. And I’ll sell 2 million copies in 4 months. Dreamworks can pick up my book and make it a movie. I can be just a tad bit reckless with my money. I want to go to a tropical island! And I can tell my future child(ren?) about how I made my dreams come true.

Until then, I’ll keep working in my spare time (I really do have plenty) and keep trying to make the dream a reality.

I’m gonna make it big as an author one day, dangit!

29 thoughts on “Making it Big as an Author

  1. I think catering to the consumers is a huge factor. There are talented artists out there but some of need to get off their high horse and have a plan B. I’m glad you’re not one of those!

    • I prefer a lot of certainty in life. At the very least, that all my bills are paid. We’re not at the point yet where Brad can supplement my income. So I’m keeping my job for now. Who knows though 🙂

  2. Because of an illness, I left my job as an English teacher. I’m much better now, but I’ve decided to focus on my writing for awhile before deciding how to return to the workforce. I don’t think I’ll ever take another full-time job at this point, as I want to write more than I want a new car! And I think that is part of it all, what do you need to be happy? If I can read books, be loved, eat, and be warm … I’m not worried about the rest of it. Dedicating yourself to writing is possible, it just means there will be tradeoffs in other aspects of your life. Or at least, that’s what I think! Peace!

    • That is a very good point.
      I think I’ll have an easier time once we’ve moved and my fiancé starts making more money. We couldn’t make it on just his income right now.
      But thanks for the insight!

  3. I have a BA in English and another in Spanish, but right now I’m working part-time as a lunch lady, and I really like my job — mostly because it’s only 2.5 hours per day, and I still get to be here in the mornings with my husband and our youngest, and I get to be home in time to be here when the other three get home.
    I write every day, and I’d rather earn more money with my writing than by working full-time. We’ll see. 😉 So far, I’ve been getting ideas for my writing projects while working at my job. One of them is “The Secret Life of a Lunch Lady.” It might come to nothing, but it’s a lot of fun to think about and work on.

  4. Very interesting post. I don’t think anything will ever stop all the would-be authors having a go though. I have three non-fiction books inside me, and I’ll finish them one day, despite pessimism about finding a publisher etc. I’ve read Girl On A Train, It’s ok. Not mind blowing. It’s amazing how people’s perceptions are often swayed by hype, advertising, etc. I think luck has a lot to do with how successful a book will be.

    • I in a way agree about luck being a factor. If your book somehow manages to go viral, it manages to do so hard! But to get that to happen, I think that’s completely out of our hands as writers. Write a decent book, step one. Step two, cross your fingers lol

  5. I know exactly how you feel about writing. I keep telling myself that getting the story from my head (and heart) is a success in its own right. And yes a Bachelor Degree today is what the High School Degree used to be. Everyone wants a Master Degree, right?

      • Me either. I was an Enrollment Specialist at a major university and I retired a few years back. I know the loans are difficult but it is only 30 more credit hours for a master. Check grants. In the end it is worth the cost where salaries are concerned. I have two sons and both went to graduate school so I know how challenging it can be. Just hang in there and pray about what you should do and KEEP WRITING. God bless.

      • As a thirty-year professor and advisor, let me pass along something many don’t know: If your academic record is strong, you apply for graduate school and assistantships at the same time. Usually, the deal is halftime taking classes and halftime teaching undergrads (or research or whatever else the department needs) with full tuition remission and a dinky salary. But notice: school is paid for. Cast around until you find the deal you need–harder, admittedly, when you are a couple. I did both my Master’s and Ph.D. this way, and my students have done the same in recent years.

  6. I want you to know, I read this post this morning and I’ve been reflecting on it all day. My job is not optional for my family (me, my husband, and the dogs) – if it was, I would love to focus on my writing as my full time job, but that’s just not my reality, so instead I’m trying to work on the discipline of writing (or editing!) every day. I must admit, some days that’s going better than others. So I guess I reflected on this all day only to basically say – I feel your pain.

    • Yeah that’s where I’m at. Some days are more difficult than others. I think eventually it will be possible for me to do, but then again, the extra income is always nice. Tough choices to make!

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  8. Keep the hope alive lol
    Writing is so fun, I think that’s why we keep doing it despite multiple rejections and no idea of when you’ll get picked up. Very encouraging post!

    • True that! Even though we don’t know WHEN we’ll make it big, if writing is truly a passion and something you love doing, that should be enough to carry you on for the most part. 🙂

  9. Pingback: Blogger Recognition Award & One Lovely Blog | Olive These Words

  10. Great post. Necessity is a great motivator isn’t it? I think few who write appreciate just how long the journey to success is and, as you put it, how elusive it can be.

    Signing up to follow, as you talk a lot of sense. (A rarity in the blogosphere! 😛 )

  11. Pingback: ReBlog – Making it Big as an Author | The Caffeinated Writer | Brickley Jules Writes

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