Recently my daughter told me that during class they were discussing authors. The teacher asked, “Why do authors write books?” My daughter responded that her mom wrote a book because she wanted little girls to know there is more to life than being a princess. Writers write because they want to send a message, or help change things, she suggested. Another student raised her hand and when called on offered “Do they write for money?” To this the teacher responded “Yes”, that’s why writers write, for money and wrote that on the chalkboard.
As a newly published author I can’t tell you how much this in classroom exchange bothered me. I’ve written many stories, only one of which has been published. All were written because my kids did something that inspired me. A word they uttered, a behavior I observed, set off a flare in my head and a story instantly emerged. My stories completely formulate in my head long before I have the opportunity to write them down. But, I feel compelled by an overwhelming urge to record them.
I Am NOT a Princess! is a little different. I knew when I thought of it that I wanted to send a message. I was sick and tired of watching my daughter prance around in poorly made princess dresses and plastic high heels. I realized that she was, and children are, human sponges. She was absorbing all of these ideas about how she should dress and who she should be from the culture she was surrounded by. Cultural brainwashing. I realized that being a princess was not likely in her future, and that many of the princess characteristics mass culture was promoting, were not things I wanted her to value. A shallow focus on the exterior, treating little girls like dolls instead of fully dimensional human beings, was pretty much the exact opposite of what I wanted for my daughter. Writing I Am NOT a Princess! was my way of dealing with the discomfort I felt at the time. I also hoped the book might help other parents and young girls by gently sending a message that there is much more to life than being a princess.
Back to what the teacher wrote on the chalkboard... I never thought any of my stories would be published, let alone aspired to make money from them. Now that I Am NOT a Princess! has been published I’m discovering what most new authors do. That it takes tons of time and hard work to promote a book. Plus, all of that time you devote to promoting the book is unpaid, and often entails spending money. Days spent emailing and calling stores to get readings & signings. When you do schedule a signing, that is time away from your paid work, and money you are spending on gas, food and hotels. The minuscule royalties you make from sales won’t cover much. Truly being a published author is not an easy path to great riches. In fact, most first time authors lose money, not make it.
That being said, I am proud to be a published author. I think my book I Am NOT a Princess! has a very positive and powerful message for young girls. I will do everything I can to spread the word about the book because it is a message worth relaying.
I can’t speak for all authors, but based on my experience, I highly doubt most write for money. Writing is a precious gift where you feel motivated to record bits of what’s in your soul and possibly, bravely, share that with others. It’s truly a courageous act, and not for the meek, as it leaves you openly exposed and people are quick to judge harshly. I believe most writers feel that same need to share a piece of themselves and that is their true motivation for embracing the craft.