Don’t laugh; I’d been asking myself that question since September 2015, when A Division of Souls first went up for sale online in e-book form.
Can I call myself a real professional writer at this point? Well. Depends on who I ask. And I’ll get positive answers, indifferent answers, negative answers, ‘you’re not there yet’ answers, ‘oh bless your heart’ answers, pedantic answers, and everything in between.
I’ll be honest — I haven’t asked anyone that, and I don’t plan to.
Sure, I’ll ask people for their opinion on works in progress. That’s what beta readers are for. I’ll ask for creative advice if it’s needed and/or warranted, because I want the end result to be done right the first time. I’ll definitely ask for advice about self-promotion, because it’s one of my weaknesses. I’m doing all the homework expected of me to make sure I’m doing it all correctly when it comes to the legalese and financial stuff.
But I decided pretty early on that asking someone else about my professional status is kind of self-defeating.
Again, I came to this conclusion by comparing my own writing career to that of a musician’s. I understand that particular field reasonably well because of my lifelong obsession with music and my willingness to read all kinds of music bios and academic texts (and meet the musicians if possible!) to learn even more about it. I find that putting my writing life into this kind of perspective has made my choices so much easier and less painful.
But my point being: Sure, why the hell not call myself a pro now?
- I’ve got three completed novels out, released through well-known, respected independent avenues.
- I’m already working on my fourth, with future books at pre-planning stages.
- All parts of the production have been done by my own hand — editing, cover art, formatting — mainly because I wanted to do it that way. I want to learn the business.
- I’m still learning the fine art of promotion, but I’ve already done a lot of homework on it and am now acting on it.
- Same with the legalese and the economics side of it. Both are definitely daunting, but I’m willing to learn so I can do it right.
- I’m now attending conventions not just as a fan, but also as a panelist.
- I set myself some high standards from the beginning, so as to not make my work look like I’d thrown it together at the last minute.
- Importantly: I know I’m not a commercial writer. I tried writing that way, and it didn’t pan out. I’m fine being a college radio author instead of a Top 40 radio author. In fact, I kind of prefer it that way.
- Most importantly: This is a life-long career goal of mine. I’m duty bound not to do it half-assed.
Sure, it’s all DIY, but it’s a professional-level DIY. This is me being inspired by the American punk bands of the early 80s putting out their music on their own, passing out cassettes or starting labels like SST and Taang and Alternative Tentacles and Ace of Hearts. They were never going to hit the charts during their heyday, and they usually had a small following…but they had a STRONG and loyal following. They also all had a very strong bond with each other, like an extended family.
Once I realized the writing field works in almost exactly the same way, I knew I could do succeed as a professional author.
An indie author, but a professional one.
And I’m fine with that.