Almost forty years ago, I received my first check for a piece of writing. The Peru Tribune paid me five bucks for a sweet little piece about my grandmother’s Indiana farm. It was hokey as hell. But they printed it. And they paid me.
That’s the big dream of a lot of writers–to be able to earn enough money pursuing the muse to be able to pursue the muse. Such a small proportion of writers actually hit that mark that–well, Han Solo was right. Never tell me the odds.
Since then I’ve had articles and fiction printed in publications small and large, national distribution, some of them. I’ve had two stories printed in Cup of Comfort books, and a multitude of short stories and articles, many of which I’ve been paid for. Not enough to give up my day job by a long shot.
Fellow writers are confused about my devotion to my blog and my Firefox news writing as they don’t come with a direct paycheck. (Well, the Firefox gig pays with a share of ad revenue, but only as a result of clicks on the Google ads on the page. If no one clicks, then…nada.) “Why waste your time publishing what doesn’t pay? You should concentrate on the works-in-progress that have monetary potential,” they say.
I put some thought into this when I created the blog. It was quickly apparent I couldn’t collect ad revenue at a WordPress-hosted site, so I put the ad on my homepage. Not exactly making money hand over fist. At Firefox too, I might earn pennies a day. But is that all that matters?
Writers write, so readers can read.
Oh, sure, there’s the “something flows from inside of me and I must put it down on paper, else I shall simply burst!” part. But none of that applies to a check, either. We write so others will read what we write. By this process, we share something special.
But at this point, my blog has had over 45,000 visitors. Of course, those aren’t all discrete readers–I hope at least some people stop more than once! I totalled up the Firefox hits the other day–since I started writing for that site, I’ve had over 67,000 separate hits on my stories. Those are much more likely not to be the same folks over and over, just because of their fanbase. So between the two, I’ve had someone read my words some 110,000 times over the last couple years.
For a long time that was all there was. Readers who’ve read what I’ve written, people from all over the country–maybe all over the world. These may not have “paid,” in the way so many of us would like to be. But maybe they have paid in a building of energy and publishing synergy that led to my most recent year of publishing, during which I have signed five novel contracts with small press publishers.
My writing friends are still puzzled that I haven’t held out for the “big time,” the agents, the Big Five, the way to hit the New York Times list. But you know what? I tried that route for many years. I could continue to send out hundreds of letters to people who often don’t even have the courtesy to reply. Or I could accept these contracts and engage with editors who are personable, friendly, treat me like a person, and respect my opinion. So now I have a series of urban fantasy novels through Dragonfly Publishing, The Clan Elves of the Bitterroot series, and a romantic suspense novel with The Wild Rose Press and a women’s fiction with romantic elements coming in 2002 from Zumaya Publishing. And I’m still writing new ones.
Am I rich and famous yet? Hardly. But I’ve got to believe that every one of these words written has paid off, in the way that has been true since the first storytellers began, in the connection of one person to another, an idea that sparks from one mind to the next, changing both people, even in some small way, forever.
Babs Mountjoy writes fantasy and science fiction under the name Lyndi Alexander, and romance as Alana Lorens. The second book in her urban fantasy series, The Elf Child, is now out, and her romantic suspense novel Secrets in the Sand will be released April 20. She will be teaching a workshop on Promotion for the Small Press Author at the St. David’s mini-writing conference in Sandy Lake April 16, 2011, and later this summer will teach a broader Pennwriters online class on the same topic.
She has been a published writer for over thirty years, including seven years as a reporter and editor at a newspaper in Homestead, Florida. Her list of publications is eclectic, from science fiction to romance to horror, from tech reporting to television reviews. Babs is married to an absent-minded computer geek. Together, they have a dozen computers, seven children and a full house in northwestern Pennsylvania.
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