I am not a day job holder, and I haven't been for a couple of years now. My decision to leave corporate America was, in part, due to dissatisfaction with a 15-year career that did not, in any way, feed my soul. Sounds like artsy bullshit, I know, but deciding to take time with my dying grandfather was made much easier by that fact.
I've always been one who would rather be happy with less, than paid well to be miserable.
Being indie sometimes means being happy with less. Two years later, I'm not out of that phase. I earn some cash and I have a growing fan base of readers, but more than that, I have an expanding backlist and have found my writing legs. I've honed my voice and my method to something that works for me. I went from a book in 18 months, to a better book in 9, to possibly an even better one that reached 30,000 words in just a couple of months. I'm on-track to finish Reassigned by the fall, which means I can now write two books a year without burning myself out.
You think when you quit your day job that you're going to be the most prolific writer, ever, and traditionally, I'm not sure the benefit of running yourself into the ground because there were no guarantees your work would get published. If it did, it wasn't going to be in any timely fashion. My textbook took TWO YEARS. Some of the information was nearly outdated by the time it hit print.
Trends. Oh, don't get me started. I wrote the Strandville series because zombies played very nicely with the viral outbreak theme and the desperation for a "Cure". The Walking Dead was gaining popularity at the time that I started writing the first book so I figured, great, a built-in audience (me, and a million others). Readers are over, or getting over, zombies. I didn't write it because of the trend, and I'm sad to say that the books get overlooked by some who admittedly are just taking a break from zombies, even if mine is not your usual z-fare. Eh, those are the breaks. Zombies will come back. Vampires, too. Writing is cyclical, but you might be writing for a dying trend and your genius in that genre might go unnoticed for years. It's a hard truth. Don't write trendy fiction, unless you're prepared for the trend to pass.
What they don't tell you about dusting the day job is that working from home is hard. Your support system leans more on you because you're home. There's cleaning, cooking, doctor's appointments for the kids, vet appointments, grocery shopping, and the illustrious 'writer's block' that some days either has you staring at a black screen for hours, or, if you're smart, walking away entirely. It took me over a year to get a routine because of things in my personal life. Now, I only have my writing to think of. So, what do I think about that?
A lot's changed in two years of independent authoring. Sales and marketing tactics are constantly shifting from what works to white noise. FREE! Oh, yeah, free used to be the 'big thing', and I enjoyed my fair share of residual sales after a good KDP Select day, but now, everyone, myself included, gives things away just for the recognition. You're writing to get noticed. You need to compete. If you can gain a reader with one book, they'll come back for more. Write your sacrificial lamb, indies, and make it damn good.
Marketing sucks, but is a necessary evil. You can choose not to learn this end of things, to ignore social media, and hope that your work gets found under the electronic pile of tens of thousands of novels, both independent and traditionally published, OR you can accept the fact that people cannot buy what they don't know exists. Write a great book, slap a nice cover on it, come up with a catchy blurb, and be willing to talk to anyone and everyone who will listen about your work. Talking takes time. You're going to have to put it in or you wrote your book for nothing.
The allure of traditional publishing used to be, at least partially, the glow of expensive marketing. If you were lucky, and I mean won-the-damn-lottery-lucky, you'd get front table placement in the big book stores and copies would fly off the shelves. Well, publishing has taken a financial hit. Indies can afford to undercut costs because our overhead is just so much lower and traditional publishing has to compete. They've had to cut back and, even if they have the cash, they don't spend it on brand new authors. That's Stephen King's table, folks, and Stephanie Myer's, and Nora Roberts'. It's not your table because chances of you even earning out your advance are statistically slim to none. Oh, and how many bookstores are left? Even if it is your spot, and we all know better, but say it is, you're now competing in a market where some people PREFER e-reading (*raises hand). Your print book is heavy, bulky, expensive, and it's only one book, not a thousand, like can be carried on a convenient, lightweight e-reader.
Proof of concept. I hear the term a lot on Shark Tank, and it applies to authors, too. Prove there is a market for your work and those looking to make money will come knocking. Funny, right? Indie publishing has taken some of the 'gamble' out of traditional publishing. Some of the best traditional publishing deals are those born of successful indie ones. Amanda Hocking and Hugh Howey come to mind.You want to be a big time author? This might just be the best way to do it. Put your work out there, get a million readers, and wait for the checks to roll in.
Quality is important to me. I plot hard, write hard, and am a ruthless editor. I strive to write each book faster and better than the last, and I'm experimental because indie allows me to be. One of my first thoughts when I decided to self-publish was, "What kind of writer am I?" I'm a horror writer, sometimes, a mystery writer, and there's a thriller scratching at the surface. I'm a writer who writes the story wanting to be told, with little care of 'mainstream', though I'll tell you that goes away a bit when you make the practical decision to write for a living. You start thinking, "Which of the stories wanting to be told has the largest audience?" Reassigned is my first foray into mainstream mystery.
If you're committed to writing the best story that you have in you, in the most concise and professional way, and with reckless abandon, you MIGHT be the next big thing. Sure, some authors have proven themselves and have a large enough built-in audience that every book they write will sell tons of copies, but they've put in the work, the same as you'll have to put in the work--and I'll have to put in the work. The flash in the pan hits, those that blow up to 50 Shades stardom, come from indie world as often as traditional, if not more often. Go ahead, list the most recent success stories. Where did they start? They started right here, with people brave enough to forge their own way, to write the stories inside of them, and to take the gamble.