Labor of love?
During the past few weeks after publishing the 3rd book in THE MCCONNELL CRIME SAGA series and then the omnibus of the series itself, I've been much busier taking care of the writing business. I have a good and fulfilling "day job," but through most of my teaching career, I've fallen into the self-deprecating rut of considering myself a teacher who writes as a hobby. In the past few years, though, I've changed that self-perception. I'm not a writer who teaches, nor a teacher who writes. When I'm in the school building, I'm a teacher, period. I show up earlier than most, stay later than many, and during my preparation periods, I'm (big shock...) preparing (grading papers, tweaking lesson plans, and other teaching duties in addition to my position as teachers' union representative in my school). I rarely bring work home. While at home, that's when I can squeeze in time to be here on my website, to work on book promotion, but more importantly, to write. I'm a writer and a teacher. However, I must admit that if I tried to rely solely on writing for my livelihood, the bank would own my house, and I'd be one of the characters I wrote about: a homeless veteran.
Why does a self-published writer write? In so many online writers' group chatrooms and on so many writers' blogs, I keep reading that sales don't matter, that writing is a labor of love, and that one should write for the love of writing. I agree that I should love writing or not do it (same as teaching), but if these self-published writers don't care about sales (which equal audience), why are their books on Amazon for a price? If they're writing just for themselves, then their stories should be in drawers (in the old days of typewriters) or on their computers' hard drives, never to be seen by anyone else.
I do write, like most of these other writers say, because I feel that I have to. It's as much a "calling" as is teaching. But if I had no students, would I be a teacher? A new twist on the tree falling in the forest with no one there to hear it. So of course, I enjoy my writing, but I hope that others do as well.
It's an interesting dilemma we self-published writers put ourselves into. We love the "babies" we made, but we thrust them into the world and hope others will feel the same love. However, few people will call an ugly baby ugly to the parents' faces, though many will say so online, especially if they have no personal connection with the parents. We writers leave ourselves vulnerable to the risk of rejection or indifference (as Oscar Wilde said, "The only thing worse than people talking about you is no one talking about you.").
So I'd be a liar to say sales don't matter to me. But I promise that if I sell zero, I will continue to write, and maybe somebody long after my death will gain a surprise, passive inheritance from my writing "estate."