by Melodie Campbell
I'm guilty of this one. I'll say it right up front.
Janice Law and O'Neil De Noux got me thinking serious thoughts, which is always risky for a comedy writer.
make a living as an author. But not a particularly good one.
Probably, I could make the same working full time at Starbucks. As
authors in these times, we don't expect to make a good living from our
fiction. It's a noble goal, but not a realistic one for the average
well-publisher author with a large traditional publisher.
This isn't a new observation. F. Scott Fitzgerald said something similar about his time: The book publishing industry makes horse racing seem like a sure thing.
So if we can't expect big bucks from all this angst of writing fiction, what do we expect?
When The Goddaughter
came out, there was quite a fanfare. I was with a large publisher that
agreed to pay for refreshments. Eighty-five people overflowed the
place for the launch. Local newspaper and television brought cameras.
This doesn't happen in mega-city Toronto. But in Hamilton, a city of
500,000 where my book was set, I got some splashy coverage.
eighty-five people included some of my closest friends and cousins. I
was delighted to see them support me. We sold out of books quickly.
had another twelve books published since then. I've won ten awards. I
am still fortunate to get people to my launches. But the mix has
changed. The people who come to my launches now are fans, not relatives
and friends. With a few exceptions (and those are friends I treasure.)
when I first started writing - when big shoulders were a really cool
thing - I expected my friends and extended family to be my biggest
supporters. I've been fortunate. My immediate family has been
But expecting your friends and extended family to celebrate your success in continual ways is a road to disappointment.
come to realize this: if you work, say, in a bank and get a massive,
very difficult project done, there are no parades. Your friends and
family don't have a party for you. They don't insist on reading the
report. Your paycheck is your award.
Yet as an
author, I have expected that sort of response from my non-writer
friends. I expect them to buy my books. (First mistake: all your
friends will expect to be given your books for free. For them, it's a
test of friendship.) I expect them to show up to support me at my big
events if I am in their town. Maybe not every time. Is once a year too
It's been a lesson. I have people in my circle who
have never been to a single one of my author readings or launches.
I've given my books to relatives who are absolutely delighted to receive
a signed copy - but they never actually read the book.
- I've done the most masochistic thing an author can do. I've casually
searched friends' bookshelves for my books. Not there. (Note to new
authors: NEVER ask someone if they have read your book. You are bound
to be disappointed. This is because, if they read it and liked it, they
will tell you without prompting. If they read it and didn't like it,
you don't want to know. If they didn't read it...ditto.)
along this perilous, exhilarating and sometimes heartbreaking journey,
I've made a discovery. Your closest friends may let you down. I no
longer see my closest friend from ten years ago. I write crime
and fantasy. She let me know that she thought that unworthy.
People like her will find excuses not to go to your events. I don't know why. It could be a form of envy.
the best thing? Some people you least suspect will be become your best
supporters. This came as a complete surprise to me. A few friends -
maybe not the ones you were closest to - will rise to the occasion and
support you in every way they can. I treasure them.
wrap: Most authors need approval. We're doing creative work that
involves a lot of risk to the ego. There is no greater gift you can
give an author-friend than full support for their books. Be with us at
our events. Talk enthusiastically about our books to other people. We
will never forget it, and you.
Do we expect too much from those around us? Is it because we don't usually get a constant paycheck? What do you think?