Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Risky Business

I've lost count of the number of posts I've written on writers and fear. Because of that fear, many writers refuse to take risks and they want guarantees that they'll make money if they get into this industry. Just this weekend I had yet another conversation with a relatively new writer about taking some risks with their books.

You want to know something. I think this person will be just fine in a writing career because they're willing to take those risks.

Folks, any business where you work for yourself is risky. It's your time and your capital on the line. You succeed or fail on your merits, no one else's. There's no one you can blame if you didn't do your research.

Oh, there'll be writers who try to blame someone. The current favorite target is Amazon. But a lot of the new kids haven't bothered to learn their craft. Their dialogue is stilted and unnatural. Their alpha males are total dweebs. And their heroines are Too Stupid To Live.

Even worse, they overanalyze a current bestseller, thinking if they write a book exactly like Big Name Author, then they too will be rolling in the dough.

If a reader already read BNA's book, why would they want to read the exact same book with the serial numbers filed off?

"But, but, but..." I can hear you say. "What about Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey?"

Let me ask you this is return, what else has E.L. James written? First of all, I'm not slamming Ms. James. A lot of us started our writing life with fan fiction. And that's exactly what FSoG is--fan fiction. It was basically risk free. Has James taken a risk with her own ideas? No, because doing so does not guarantee her any money.

On the other hand, J.K. Rowling's name became synonymous with her creation, Harry Potter. She took a major risk by adopting what was a secret pseudonym in order to take on a new series in a new genre. Her alter ego Robert Galbraith did pretty damn well for a debut author. Or he did until "he" was outed as Rowling.

Rowling could have continued milking Harry Potter. In fact, she's been accused of exactly that with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, even though she only helped write the outline of the play. However, Rowling the writer has stretched her artistic muscles and delved into other characters on other genres when she could have given up and coasted.

If you want a career as a writer, ask yourself how much risk are you prepared to take on. If you aren't willing to take chances, get yourself a job and buy lottery tickets. Trust me it will be a lot easier than pounding out words for a living.


  1. Totally agree about Rowling. And I never heard how it turned out, but I hope that idiot lawyer who outed her to his girlfriend (who's the one who Tweeted about it) got whatever the British version of disbarred is. Because seriously? Yeah, that guy's an idiot and even if I lived in England, I'd never hire him. :/

    It really sucked that Rowling lost her chance to be a regular mystery writer, without the ghost of Harry Potter hanging over her head. She deserved that chance. Heck, I hope she's still writing under a third pseud, and building a new career with it. [crossed fingers]


    1. Last I heard, Rowling had fired the firm, and the lawyer in question had been fired by the firm. Even if he didn't get disbarred, his career is essentially over.

      I felt sorry for Rowling. People accused her of pulling a con, but as an artist, you need to know if the huge success of your first book was a fluke. And you're asking yourself, "Do I really have any talent? Do I deserve success?" Imposter Syndrome can be such an insidious little monster.

  2. I too was pretty mortified that she was outed. So many blood suckers out there.

    1. IKR?! The biggest complaint about Casual Vacancy was "It's not Harry Potter!"

      So she experiments only to have the experiment totally ruined by some drunk gossipy lawyer and his equally gossipy wife and BF.