by Allison Maruska
When I was just a reader, meaning I didn’t create my own word babies, I didn’t have a clue what went into making books or how my being a reader mattered to anyone. Now that I’m on both sides of the fence, the picture is much clearer—and I try to be a “better” reader to my fellow authors as a result.
Before I dig into the list, I want to say I didn’t write this post to guilt anyone into doing anything. It’s simply a matter of we don’t know what we don’t know until someone tells us—like how much doctors love it when we come to appointments armed with all of our expert Google research (spoiler alert: they hate it. Turns out going to medical school is more involved than an afternoon of interwebbing).
So without further ado, behold as I dish out the super secretive authory secrets that we wish our readers knew.
1. We’re basically just like you.
As a reader, I imagined authors working all day crafting their brilliant prose and earning all the money to do it.
I wish that were true.
We have families and jobs and houses to take care of. The majority of us are in the “average” tax bracket. We get up in the middle of the night when our kids are sick, we forget to put our garbage cans on the curb, and we sometimes burn dinner. The primary difference between us and our readers is we spend our free time crafting the perfect sentences and scrutinizing if that one really needs a “was” there.
2. Hearing you love our work keeps us going.
I’m not just talking about positive reviews on Amazon or Goodreads here (though those are fun to read too). One of my favorite things is when I get a message on Facebook or a Tweet on Twitter from a reader saying how much they enjoyed reading something I wrote. Something that simple can get me out of a writing slump, motivate me to finally quit procrastinating, or just savor the moment that what I’m doing matters to someone. There are few things better than that.
3. One book = thousands of hours of blood, sweat, and tears.
I wondered if “thousands” was an exaggeration but I don’t think it is. It’s for sure several hundred hours. The point is there’s a lot of manpower behind your next read, even if it’s a “shorter” kids book or memoir or something. There’s a misconception that because everyone learned to write in school that writing isn’t that hard—that’s why so many would-be authors don’t get beyond the wish to write a book.
Drafting is the easy part. After that comes working with critique partners, revising, working with CPs again, revising, working with an editor, crying, revising, thinking it’s great, thinking it sucks, revising…
So we can’t approach book-writing lightly. It’s a life-altering experience.
4. We feel lucky that we get to write things people want to read.
Now, despite how much work it is, most of us go back and write another book. And another. And another. We do this because we get personal satisfaction from it but also because we can’t believe other people—strangers!—want to read what we wrote. My mom thinks I’m cool but knowing my work affects people outside my own little circle is a whole different ball game, because it means I get to do something I love and people want me to keep doing it. I never imagined I’d be in such a position.
5. Our livelihood depends on you.
This is only a slight exaggeration. If we had no readers, we couldn’t keep writing books. A traditional author getting another contract depends on how well their book does, and an indie author needs readers to help their book get noticed. Every time you tell a friend about our books, either by word of mouth or via a review, you’re saying what we do is worth spending time and money on.
Remember point one, about us being like you? We have bills to pay too, and when you support us with your dollars and your words, you’re quite literally supporting our families as well. The vast majority of us are not as well-off as Stephen King.
Allison Maruska is the author of mystery, suspense, YA, and middle-grade novels. She likes to post in line with her humor blog roots, but she also includes posts about teaching and writing specifically. Check out her website for more of her work.
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