Or at least, not until I became one, anyway. These are just some casual observations.
1. You pretty much kiss goodbye to your social life. You have deadlines and you need to hit them. Doesn’t matter how long it took you to write the first book, you have a contract to fulfill, which means not as much going out as you used to. Getting a deal isn’t for those who don’t have the time.
2. Some people hate young writers. I was talking about this with someone recently. Yup, there are a few folk out there who hate the fact that a dude in their twenties gets a publication deal. Why? There are a lot of people who want to be writers out there, and to see someone relatively young succeed can piss them off. I was vaguely saddened by this realization, but hey, that’s life. (Don’t get me wrong, there are some people who think it’s cool too.)
3. Being a writer with the majors can send you into the industry’s inner sanctum. It’s not some boy’s club. It’s not the Free Masons. But getting the book out meant that others spent more time talking to me then they might have otherwise. People with prestige took a little notice. No surprise really, I guess; isn’t that how a lot of the world works?
4. You get sympathy for other writers’ bad reviews. A writer can spend a year or more on a project. It gets read, reworked, read by an editor, reworked. Teams of people are involved; effort and money goes into this. (Another blog post is needed on just who works behind the scenes, and what they do to make a book succeed.) Emotions are heavily invested. Being a writer, I know this now, and to see someone else’s book get pulled apart in a review that’s taken some wit half an hour of their life isn’t easy, no matter if you’re a fan of that writer’s prose or not. You understand the pain. But remember that…
5. There is no such thing as a bad review. Or to paraphrase a much better writer, you don’t read your press, you measure it. The best thing someone can do if they hate your book is not to mention it at all. No conversation kills a book. Just develop a thick skin and deal with what is said, because not everyone will like your work, and especially not everyone will like you. Just remember, you put yourself out there in front of people; you have to deal with it.
6. Science fiction and fantasy readers are the best readers. Why? They talk about books. They shout about them. Every one of them online thinks their opinion is right, and they’ll argue their point endlessly. They’re loyal readers; they’ll buy books year in, year out. When the rest of the publishing industry suffers, SFF is as stable as ever. These are the people you want reading your books.
7. Most people are absolutely fascinated when you mention you’re a writer. They want to know everything. Then they tell you that they fancy giving it a go themselves. “I’d love to be a writer too.” To which you say “Great, what have you written so far?” The reply is more often than not “Well, I’ve not actually done anything…” Do something. Write it down. If you want to be a writer, write!
8. Following the debate on forums and blogs only makes you tired. Of course you want to monitor what people are saying; doesn’t mean you should. Scott Lynch’s summon author spell seems to work for the most part, thanks to Google alerts, but it’s hard to know when to stop.
9. Luck matters just as much as talent. Kind of speaks for itself, really.
10. I knew this anyway, but getting a writing contract doesn’t mean you can give up your day job. Not that I’d want to, since mine is fun, but the money (for 99% of new writers) isn’t enough when you sign a deal. The initial advance is broken into smaller payments, for signature, manuscript delivery, publication in hardcover, paperback etc. Then you need to earn that advance before you get royalties, which takes time to accrue.