Vaughn Hardacker here: Kate Flora’s blog of August 10th hit a note with me. I too had visions of becoming rich at this writing game; then I had my first novel published and my eyes were opened to the reality of the profession.
My first shock came when the five or six figure advance I expected was in reality in the low four figures. Unless you have a best seller or two under your belt, the day of the big advance has passed and publishers have become miserly. I suppose if I were a publisher with authors who don’t earn back my advance I’d get miserly too.
My second shock came after the novel was published and I scheduled a whirlwind book tour of Maine. First off, I must say that living in Stockholm and Aroostook County in general makes it tough. The nearest of the chain bookstores is Books A Million in Bangor. I decided to visit the major book stores personally. I met with managers at the BAM stores in Bangor, South Portland, and Auburn. The Assistant Manager in Auburn agreed to a date and the others said they’d get back to me. Result: Auburn called back and said they’d have to reschedule and coordinate with their corporate office and they’d get back to me when they had a date–I’m still awaiting that call. I got no response from Barnes & Noble in Augusta nor the BAM stores in Bangor and South Portland.
Shock number three: I arranged for an appearance at the Caribou Public Library. I thought that since Caribou was my home town I’d get a turn out. Four people showed (2 of whom were members of my writing group) and I sold one (1) book.
Lesson learned: People don’t go to libraries to buy books; they go to borrow them. In fairness, my best turnouts have been at the Jesup Library in Bar Harbor and the Freeport Community Library. Both venues treated me graciously.
I have already blogged about my terrific success at Caribou’s Thursday on Sweden and Maureen Milliken arranged for Lea Wait, her, and me to set up a table at the Maine Artisans Show in Belgrade Lakes. Where we attracted a goodly number of people and sold some books.
So, you ask at this point. If the industry is that tough why do you continue to write?
The answer lies in my history. I grew up in a family–well all I can say is when I watched Father Knows Best, Donna Reed, and Leave It To Beaver I’d look at my parents and ask myself, what’s different here? My parents lived by a simple creedo: Children should be seen and seldom seen. In fact, on those occasions where my younger brother and I were allowed to speak, they didn’t listen (I wonder if someone told them that they had to let us talk, but listening was optional?) In order for me to purge my anger at being stifled, I began writing short stories…on paper no one could tell me what to say–or to shut up.
To this day nothing drives me further up the wall than to be ignored. Heck, I don’t even ask people to agree with me, just listen to what I have to say before discarding it. I’m a writer and writers always have something to say, whether people agree or not.
So here’s the answer: Even if I had never published a single book or short story, I would have kept writing. Why? Because I have to–it’s an integral part of me.