By Cassie Selleck
Double nickels. Fifty-five. That’s the age I was when I quit my full-time job marketing for a bridge access equipment company, and enrolled in Goddard College’s low-residency undergraduate program. It’s also the age I was when I could, for the first time in the more than half a century I have been alive, list my profession as “Writer” on legal forms. And speaking of nickels, if I had one of those coins for every time I was told I should not go into writing if I expected to make a living at it…well, let’s just say I’d have more nickels than that particular advice was worth.
I’m a writer, the author of a book that is barely a novel, but that has created a passive income more than twice what I’ve made in any of my other careers. If you ask my eighty-year-old mother, she’d say, “It’s about damn time.” She’s like that: blunt, sassy, irreverent. The persimmon didn’t fall far from that tree.
Some people say my success is a fluke. Who self-publishes and makes a living at it? Others have actually said, “Don’t be disappointed if you don’t have the same results with your next novel.” Okay, I won’t. I had no expectations for The Pecan Man, so it would have been hard to be disappointed. I was surprised by its success, in fact, and I continue to be delighted by sales that grow exponentially, but my question is this: Was it a fluke, or was it just an opportunity not wasted?
But this blog is not about me. It’s about you. Yes, you. I want to tell you a secret that some people don’t want you to know. Ready?
It. Is. Possible.
Oh, wait, here’s another one:
It isn’t too late.
I’m on a roll.
It doesn’t cost a fortune, and you don’t have to settle for royalties that net you less than 15% of your list price while other folks make three times that much on your work.
There has never been a better time, nor a more legitimate opportunity to earn a living as a writer. There are many affordable, some virtually free, self-publishing services that offer user-friendly tools to independently publish digital books, or print-on-demand services for paperback books. Are you guaranteed to make big bucks? Nope. But guess how much you’ll make on your novel, your memoir, your poetry if they are naught but files in your computer’s ever-expanding belly?
I had just two items on my bucket list a few years back. Who had time for a bucket list when I had been raising children since 1976 and had just sent my youngest off to college? I barely had time to breathe, much less dream about things I wanted to do before I kicked the proverbial bucket. So, when my husband and I talked about what we would do if we ever won the lottery he plays faithfully every week, my answer would always be:
1. Finish my college degree.
2. Publish a novel.
I’d been working on both for over ten years. I know, I’m a little slow. Slow like the tortoise who beat the hare.
I published The Pecan Man in January of 2012. And by March 2014, #2 had made #1 possible. I cannot imagine being where I am today without the success of my self-published novel. I am well on my way to completing Goddard’s BFA in Creative Writing program – the only low-residency program of its kind in the U.S., I am a co-editor of fiction for Goddard’s outstanding online literary journal DUENDE, and I get up each day and walk to my desk to write. I have an agent who found me, not the other way around. I have speaking engagements on my calendar, and have met astounding people I might never have come across if not for a shared love of reading and writing. I am living a writer’s life, something I dreamed of since I was a child.
I wish this success on all artists and writers. I hope we all make it. I hope we stop telling each other we must starve for our art. It’s not true; we must work for it. We must make it available in one or more of the many ways possible in today’s market. With countless online outlets and the rapid popularity of social media, consumers have grown incredibly savvy and have the skills necessary to find the material they want to read. If you take the time to write, edit and publish good poetry and prose, there is an audience out there waiting to find you.
Is self-publishing the only way? No. Is it the best way? Not always. Does it spell doom for local bookstores? I don’t think so. But it is one way of getting your foot in the door, of finding an audience, of having a large pool of beta-readers, of attracting an agent if you want one. It can even increase your chance of becoming traditionally published if that’s what your heart has always desired. For me, it wasn’t about having a big name on the spine of my book. It was about writing a story that bound hearts, and discovering a world where my voice was welcome and appreciated.
So, what are you waiting for? Go find your audience.
You can purchase Cassie's book, The Pecan Man, here.