Former literary agent Nathan Bransford recently posted a question to writers on his blog: “What is your greatest fear as a writer?”
I’m going to be blunt here. My greatest fear as a writer is never getting published, or more specifically never selling a story or a book.
These can be very different things these days. I could sell the rights of a short story to a magazine or anthology for a decent, professional rate. A book, I’d sell the rights to a publisher for an advance I could live off of for a couple of months. Or I could post the story on my blog and put a tip jar through paypal on it. The book I could sell as an ebook, copy by copy, on Amazon.
I recognize the difference between selling the thing itself and the rights for someone else to publish it. They certainly aren’t the same thing to me.
A few years ago I created a business plan for my writing career and it’s always involved something like: write something, revise it and sell the rights to it. I’ve invested a lot of time and money into writing. That’s how I want my career to go on a regular basis.
It’s not totally about the income. To me, not selling my work means I’ve failed as a writer. Simply having friends and family read a story isn’t enough for me. They are practically in the same sphere of influences I’m in myself. If someone pays to read a story, that means they wanted to and it means something to them. If an agent or editor buys rights to a story it means they know it will mean something to a lot of other people and they are willing to sell it to them for me.
Selling and buying are actions…and actions speak louder than the honey coated words of those close to you. I need to see these actions to know if I've succeeded.