The Writer’s Battle with Obscurity

Battle with Obscurity

The battle with obscurity a writer faces is an amazing thing. I recently read an analogy where two writers are toiling. One is on an island, puts their work into a bottle, and tosses it to the sea. The other lives in a big city and sends their work into publishers, only to have it rejected time and time again. Both scenarios the writer can be seen as a hero. The man on the island knows that life is fleeting, so their process ends with romance. The man in the city fights against the odds of bureaucracy to try and find a kindred spirit.

Another way to think of this struggle is to break away from the idea of a celebrity and back to the shoes of a working man. If you are a fiction writer, and every word you wrote would sell, you would make 6 cents per word. If your production capacity is 150,000 words a year… you’ve made $9,000. Now imagine that money is invested, not ready to be spent. You’ve just invested $9,000 in the stock market with an average yield of 7%. You now make $630 a year or $52 a month. Now factor in production/promotion costs and you don’t see your first penny for two years.

Sounds bleak, no?

Let’s flip the picture: You’re a discovery writer. You get to learn about fascinating characters and have other people breath life into your work through their production efforts. (Cover design, narrators, etc) All you need to do is write 1 hr each morning. When you retire, that 1hr each morning has turned into your main income. Not only do you have social security, 401k, but you also have a massive back catalog (which earns about the same as the 401k). Plus, no matter how mind numbing your 9-5 job was, writing fulfilled your highest Masilow need: to express yourself.

Also, if each novel is 80k words, you have 90+ novels. If you went to Amazon, bought the most popular book shelf, and filled it with just your books… you would fill nearly the entire thing (16 books per row, 7 rows). Beyond that, if each book was narrated, that would be 680+ hours. That would take an avid audiobook listener probably about 1.5 – 2 years of daily listening.

Obscurity is scary. You may be forgotten shortly after your death. While you were alive, though, you got to live countless lives and touch those around you. Is that not a life well lived?