When I was twenty-four years old I spent a summer travelling down the west coast of the US.
One of my final stops was Las Vegas.
I had never been to Vegas before. I wasn’t much of a gambler, but I had a few days to kill until my flight across to Boston and, having stretched my budget pretty well up until that point, decided to fritter away some money.
Slots was my game of choice. After countless hours, spread across two days, I found that I was slightly up. Not enough to retire, but I was content.
On my last night, I checked my budget. I reasoned that, it’s virtually impossible to leave Vegas financially better off than when you first arrive in the town.
I decided to take a risk, and asked myself the question:
How much am I willing to lose to still come out of this trip happy?
I was coming toward the end of my three-month trip, a trip where I had cut corners, skipping meals and sleeping in overnight trains to preserve my finite funds.
I figured $500 was a good round number. I could lose $500, leave Vegas and still say without a shred of doubt that I enjoyed my time there – the restaurants, the shows and the entertainment. It would match the overall budget I had projected for that point in the trip.
I went to the cash exchange point and exchanged 500 bucks for a single chip (I told the guy behind the counter I was only going to play one game). I figured the odds would be pretty good with roulette. I didn’t want to labour though, and figured a single spin was my best chance of making money. Win or Lose. Do or Die. Sink or Swim.
I went to the roulette table and placed my chip on Black.
The ball settled on Red. Shit!
In the space of thirty seconds I had spent a month’s rent back home.
Why do I tell this story?
I’m very new when it comes to my career as an author – a career which I hope is long and successful.
Some of my friends and family have recently questioned my decision when it comes to the financial investment I’ve made in creating books and getting them to market. They’ve baulked at the figure when I try to explain the processes that a self-published author employs to get exposure in a market which is saturated with cheap alternatives.
I could skip the professional editing. I could design my own covers instead of hiring an illustrator. I could release a book without spending more than $50.
I could do all those things. But I don’t.
In the last two years and coinciding with the launch of this blog, I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing. It’s awoken something inside me that had lain dormant since my teens.
Despite the large investment I’ve made, I LOVE what I do even if my books haven’t caught fire (yet). I also want my product to be as high quality as any book you’d see in any book store in any country. Something I can look back at when I’m old and wrinkled and say with pride to my grand-kids, ‘I made that‘.
I think striving to become a successful author, you need to step into the mindset of one. While the Lee Child‘s and Stephen King‘s of this world have a team of editors, beta readers and a fan base that will always wax lyrical about a future book – I’m super-conscious of the fact that for an unknown entity, I need to be polished and professional with my efforts – grow my tiny network and ideally find readers who fall in love with my story and characters as much as I have.
Poster boy for indie authors, Hugh Howey, only found success when he had published his eighth book. It’s a marathon not a sprint, and too many authors give up when the going gets tough, and anticipated sales aren’t what they hoped.
So, how much am I willing to lose?
Everything. Every spare dollar I can muster.
My dream made me quit a well paid job, emigrate to Colombia to work on my novels, focusing all my energies on making them the best they could be.
Some might say this is blind faith, but when you truly believe in something – a dream that is big, bold and a little bit scary – something that makes you restless as you try to sleep at night, and is your first waking thought in the morning, then I say go for it.
I feel blessed to have worked in sales, straight after university. I was a shy, sensitive little thing which finally grew a spine because of the constant rejection and abuse I received from prospects. That was an important lesson which I carry into my writing career. It’s helped me roll with the punches, maintain a positive outlook even when sales have been slow.
I could write a book about the number of unsuccessful avenues I’ve explored to build my author platform, dozens of hours I’ve spent which proved to be a waste of time and money. All lessons learned which will be rolled into the promotion of future books.
No one said it was easy, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to discover your passion, that’s half the battle won.
You can check out some of the books I’ve written as well as a FREE short story for subscribers by clicking on this link.
Further Reading – The Beauty of a Thick Skin, Marketing Tactics for a Debut Novel (Part of 1 of 2)
image attribution – David McElroy