I used to think of "paying your dues" as an expression that indicated that you've invested the appropriate amount of time in a craft and now you were ready for the rewards. I used to think that it meant that you had to make the right amount of connections, taking perhaps years instead of months.
I used to think this.
But I've realized that as I write this, paying your dues means so much more than that. Paying your dues isn't based on how many books that you did or did not sell. That's a very small equation of the process to say the least.
I believe that paying your dues is time invested, networks trusted and failed, friendships gained and lost in addition to the proverbial gauge of monies made.
I took a risk when I entered this industry many years ago. I had a manuscript that was picked up by a publisher who initially thought the world of me and my work. We talked endlessly about the plot shifts and changes; so much so that I came away feeling that I truly had a best seller on my hands. It ended with the the dissolution of our business relationship. But in our brief business dealings, I gained knowledge which fueled me to move forward and establish my own company to publish my own books. Initially, I thought that I would want to publish other authors, and while I may consider that option in the future, that isn't the avenue that I wish to pursue currently.
Everyday brings a different experience for me. Every week, there is something new to learn. Every month, I am meeting someone new who may add to my thought process in what direction to take my business and my work. That is the norm for me now, but it wasn't always the case.
Paying your dues isn't a destination, it's a journey. You learn your industry, hone your craft, build connections...but above all, you keep writing.
I've lost money. Some of my friendships have been permanently tainted. There are business relationships that I used to have that no longer exist. But through it all, I'm still learning because at the end of the day, this is what you are supposed to do. It is all part of the paying your dues process.
Branding yourself is also part of the process. Who are you? What do you want to be known for? Are you a publisher? If you aren't and you aspire to be one, why? Are you a writer? If so, what do you write and why? What do you hope to become in this industry? Besides money, what do you hope to gain? How do you want people to remember you? These are all questions that you need to be asking yourself. I asked myself those questions. And at least once a year, I still do. Goals and reasons change. Sometimes, you aren't even aware of when they do.
Keep learning, because in addition to the vast amounts of talent that saturate our industry, there is also a wealth of knowledge. I've found out that paying your dues, never really stops. It just changes from time to time with the knowledge and experience that you gain.
~ J.L. Whitehead
Quote: "I believe that paying your dues is time invested, networks trusted and
failed, friendships gained and lost in addition to the proverbial gauge
of monies made."