I’ve posted before about writing milestones, those waypoint markers that writers use to gauge their legitimacy and success. Unlike many careers, there aren’t defined ranks, or pay grades to authors. It is all rather fuzzy and hard to define how well you are doing as there are several ways to define success in this business. Just finishing a book length manuscript is a milestone. Getting anything published is huge. Getting someone else to invest their money in publishing your work is even bigger. Getting good reviews , fan mail, foreign deals, a traditional deal with an advance, etc. To writers looking for their place in the misty void of the literary soup, these are signposts we anchor to. But in evaluating all of these, the biggest one for me, the dream achievement, the defining moment of all, came this Friday.
If you read the three-part Writer’s Wife posts (1, 2, 3,) you’ll know that my wife supported our family most of our married life. With the exception of our first year and the twelve years we ran our ad agency, it was her income that we lived off of. She’s worked continuously since she was fifteen and has done very well (earning six-figures for 15 years). Friday was her last day. It wasn’t her last day at her job, it was her last workday…ever (I hope).
I have a friend who was shopping his book around and it looked as if he was about to get published. His thoughts soon turned to life after publication, and how wonderful it would be for him and his wife to give up their day jobs. I had the regrettable task of informing him that most reasonably successful traditionally published writers only make around $10,000 a year (double that, if they have a few foreign deals.) And if he planned to continue living in the DC area, he might want to keep his day job--as I have learned most authors do.
I never expected to make much off my book sales, just a supplemental income that might pay for the odd bill, or a vacation, maybe an iPad. All that changed in October after the release of Wintertide. Sales rocketed, and continued to soar through the holidays and even after. I actually became a bestselling self-published author--I found this out recently through the new publisher catalog advertising the series as a trilogy. I might have passed it off as marketing hype, except that my income has jumped. Not just a little, but enough to make it so that not only am I making a living wage writing - but I can give Robin the break she deserves.
Doing so was always the dream. Like an immigrant to the New World, she paid my passage and my job was to be successful enough to bring her over. I never thought I could do it, and I felt awful on those cold, icy mornings when she had to march off to work and come home exhausted. She had no time for herself, no time to exercise, to eat right, to enjoy her life. And I felt guilty that I didn’t have a job, while she worked two--her day job and promoting me. This anchor dulled any pleasure I felt as a result of success. Unless I could free her, what good was it? Only half of me could ever be happy.
All that changed yesterday when I hit the one milestone I most wanted to achieve, the one I was convinced was way beyond all fantasies. I am now an author who can support his family.