“I have to do more now,” he said finally. A hush went over the audience as Hickman continued to describe the conditions under which authors are laboring under today. One can write 12,000 words and sell it for 4.95, he said. At that price point, his 120,000 novel would have be $49.50, which would be impossible to market.
“I’m fighting for my life as an author,” he admitted frankly, his voice solemn.
He then said that his audience of 6 million no longer find him because the book store is dying. A booksigning in older days would have fans lining around blocks just to have his signature, but a booksigning now might only get six people. “I have a 6 million following,” he said quietly, “and they don’t remember me.”
Now, he works 12-14 hours a day writing four times the books he’s comfortable writing because he makes a fourth of what he used to.
Joe Konrath had some choice words for Hickman at a Newbie's Guide to Publishing (where I first read about this, and Konrath got it via The Passive Voice)
I really don't know what to think. Is the "Old Guard" of writers passing away in the wake of self-publishing? Sorry you feel like you're becoming irrelevent, Hickman? Why are you even considering selling a novel for almost $50?
At this point, I would love to be an author at a science fiction convention (heck, any convention) speaking to fans. But I'm also fighting for my life as an author--trying to perfect my craft, trying to tell decent stories, trying to find my audience.
Every author is fighting for their lives, Hickman. Every author. From the newbie to the bestseller.
You've had 30+ years. You changed the RPG industry (some say you've ruined it).
Many of your books with Margaret Weis have entertained me over the years--including the Dragonlance Chroncles and Legends, but after the seven-volume Death Gate Cycle it was time for me to move on to other authors.
And you know what? Sometimes I wish I hadn't read your books.
Because every novel I tried to write back in high school and early college started with some adventuring party trying to save the world. Oh, but first I had to develop a detailed setting.
Its why I preach to any gamer, any writer--especially beginning writers--to stay away from fiction books based on D&D. Read the material that inspired the game to begin with. Read genre's outside of fantasy/sci-fiction. Read the classics. Read history. Read philosophy. Read how to write a screenplay. Read Aristotle's Poetics.
Step away from the gaming table, turn off your computer(s)--including your damn smartphone (and even those books I just told you to read)--and go experience life.
Give yourself time to absolutely suck at writing (and DMing for that matter). Don't feel pressured to develop entire world/campaign setting just because TSR/WotC/Games Workshop/Paizo/Monte Cook/GRR Martin did (and says you should buy it).
Do you know why Tolkien developed Middle Earth? To practice his skills as a philologist (sure, he might have been coping with his experiences in World War I, be denied it in the Forward to the Lord of the Rings.) This leads to me to my final point:
You have to love what you do, whether its being an author or being a Dungeon Master. You're in the entertainment business--and the entertainment business while probably never have as much respect as, say, doctors and lawyers and people working in the sciences. I think Plato's Republic might have had something to do with this. We're a luxury, not a necessity on Maslow's hierarchy of human needs. Always remember that.
Stephen King writes because if he doesn't, he can't sleep at night (On Writing), or to keep the sadness away (Night Shift).
Stephen Pressfield writes to fight Resistance (The War of Art).
I write, because if I don't--as the last 15 years of not writing have taught me--I will get depressed, and I will feel sorry for myself, and I will give up my dignity and self-respect and go on a downward spiral.
Oh yeah, and also like to see people respond to what I write. I love the attention--but I also want to put out quality material. For me, that keeps the sadness away.
So Hickman, go back your "why" and think about the money later. Maybe its time to re-invent yourself. Good luck.
The same goes for everybody else pursuing their "calling" in life.