business of writing,  Publishing,  the writing life

Honest Encouragement

It’s my belief there are two types of encouragement in the world.

The first is unconditional. No matter how unrealistic or idealistic one’s goals are, unconditional encouragement is where you tell someone they can do whatever they want no matter what. My mom gave me a  lot of unconditional encouragement when I was growing up by telling me I could move mountains with my mind if only I believed I could. I suppose you could say my mom is a magician in her own right.  Attitude is everything with her. Admittedly – that mind set has really contributed to my success over the years (along with my stubbornness and inability to give up).

My father, on the other hand, gave me honest encouragement. That’s where you tell someone to go for something, but point out all the problems with the plan so they’re not going into it blind. I remember the first time I went into his office to discuss college with him, and told him I wanted to be a writer. I remember telling him that I was good at it, that I loved it, and that I wanted to major in writing.

He nodded, smiled and said, “I think that’s great, and if that’s what you want I’ll support you, but you should know off the bat that writers don’t make a lot of money, and you will probably need a different career so you can make money to live on. It’s also a lot more work than you think.”

I didn’t believe him in the beginning. After all, if you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, right?  And just like the millions of other writers out there, I just knew that I would be the exception, and that I would be able to write and publish like my favorite authors.

The first realization that my father was right came to me while I was still in college. No matter how much you love to write, it’s still actual work.  Writing is a process. There’s editing, revision, and a lot a manuscript has to go through before it’s actually ready to be submitted to a publisher. There’s formatting and writer’s guidelines and a great deal of waiting and rejection involved in the beginning. Of course nowadays you can skip all the submission nonsense and go straight to self publishing, but that doesn’t make it any less work. Actually it’s MORE work to self-publish.

The second realization came after I’d finally sold some of my work. There’s really NO money in writing. Most mid-list writers can hope to make between $4K to $12K a year from writing alone.

The third realization came after I’d hit the bestseller lists. There are still parts of my job I dislike even though I do what I love for a living. I dread social media. I dislike marketing. I hate formatting eBooks. But I do it because I have to.

I am thankful I took my father’s advice and actually kept a day job that earned a living wage. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I sacrificed a  social life and having fun to make it work, and yes I still have to do parts of the job that I don’t like, but for me it has been worth it. It took me YEARS of working and training with virtually no compensation before I finally started making money writing, but I did it. However – I know A LOT of people who DON’T make it. I know my story inspires them to try. It gives them unconditional encouragement to go for their dreams, but I find myself wanting to give honest encouragement.

In the past week alone, I’ve had eight people (eight!!!) tell me they planned on writing books about magick and/or Daemonolatry because they want to lead the same kind of life I lead.

I think when people look at me they see someone whose time is her own. Someone who makes good money. Someone who pulls her success out of thin air. This concerns me. I want to encourage other writers, but my fear is if I give them unconditional encouragement they’ll be living under a bridge and may, at some point, resent or be angry at me for telling them that they can do anything, and that they can be successful just like me.

The reality is not everyone can or will be. It does take a certain kind of mind-set, skill set, and know-how to first – write books that sell well, and second – make a living as a writer.

I’m often asked for the secret to my success. Is it Daemons? Did I just do a spell and poof – instant career?  No.

So here are the secrets to my success for the hundreds of would-be writers who have contacted me seeking advice for success.

  • I am self-motivated. I don’t have a cheerleader or anyone telling me I have to get up and work. I am my own cheerleader. You have to be a self-starter and self-motivated to have a career like this.
  • I treat my writing like a job, because it is.
  • I have a rejection collection with over 1000 rejection letters in it.
  • It took me 15 years of trying and failing before I finally sold a novel.  I wrote five novels, and started about 10 that were never finished,  before I actually sold one. So no, my first novels didn’t sell. I know why now.
  • It took me 6 years and over 25 short stories to finally make a semi-professional short story sale. 
  • It took me over 10 years of writing about Daemonolatry and hanging out in the online occult community before anyone in the occult world knew who I was. It took over thirty years of experience before anyone trusted me enough to pay me to teach them, read for them, make magickal items for them, and/or work magick for them. Experience really does matter here. I should also point out here that initially, NO OTHER AUTHORS helped me get where I am. I didn’t ride the coat tails of someone more famous/infamous/popular than me.  As a matter of fact, in the NF arena, there were some authors who tried to destroy my credibility (and still do). That isn’t to say I don’t have author friends in this field, I do, but the professional jealousy in the magick arena can be brutal. I built my audience on merit alone. That’s really how you have to do it in the occult world. In the fiction arena — I didn’t get on the bestseller lists by giving books away for free. I charged for my books and still made the bestseller lists. I did it the hard way. That isn’t to cut down anyone who did get on the bestseller lists with a free first book. I have a lot of wonderful friends who did this who are great writers and who deserve to be on those bestseller lists, too.
  • I don’t take criticism and/or professional jealousy to heart and I don’t let it get me down. If you can’t handle criticism, a career in the arts isn’t for you.
  • It took me over 20 years of hardcore study and practice in Daemonolatry before I was actually able to write a GOOD book about Daemonolatry. Don’t believe me? Compare Modern Daemonolatry to Keys of Ocat. You’ll see my growth as a writer (and magician).
  • I do not have “free-time”. I live and breathe magick and writing 24/7. I have very little social life. I’m lucky to have a relationship. I’ve sacrificed a social life for my art. After all – one needs TIME (and lots of it) to write books for a living.
  • I still keep a part-time day job because writers don’t get a health plan, and paychecks vary from month to month. Also, depending on the distributor/publisher — writers only get paid quarterly (and on occasion once a month).
  • I have mad-accounting and business skills. As a writer you need this. I have these skills because the actual money making profession I used to support my writing career for a lot of years was accounting.
  • I am willing to do the work I don’t like to be able to do the work I do like. Not all parts of this career are fun. Some of them are downright frustrating.
  • I know how to budget my money.  Every creative person needs this skill in order to make their finances work on their way to (hopefully) eventual success. Why? Because paydays are so sporadic and vary.
  • I have learned (through 16 years of trial and error) how to market myself because I know my audience WELL. 
  • I don’t take no for an answer.
  • If I don’t know how to do something – I learn. I’m not afraid to learn. I spend at least 2 hours a week learning new career related things.
  • Critics actually fuel my desire to write and succeed. I love it when someone tells me I can’t do something. At that point it becomes a challenge.
  • If I fail, I just go back to the drawing board and start again. I don’t know how to give-up. It’s not in my nature.
  • I LOVE to write. I have since I was a child.
  • I love to write because I LOVE to read. I read a minimum of a book a week. I have been a voracious reader since I was four and I read at a college level by the time I was eleven.
  • I spend at least 8-10 hours a week marketing.
  • I belong to a critique group – still. Even after hitting the bestseller list.
  • I routinely attend seminars to help hone my skills. (Both business and writing.)
  • I write something every day. Whether it’s 100 words or 6,000.
  • I am ALWAYS working/writing. If I’m not thinking about writing, I’m thinking about marketing or business. Even when I’m out to dinner with my husband or hanging out with friends. Even on Holidays. Basically – I’m a workaholic. Most successful people are.
  • I always try to write the best book I can, but I also realize I am not perfect and can’t please everyone. Nor do I try.
  • I don’t take my success for granted or try to pretend it was easy getting here. I realize that most people who try to make a career of writing will fail and realize that even in my success, I could end up back at the day job full-time at any time.
  • I have failed far more times than I have succeeded, and I continue to both fail and succeed and it doesn’t deter me.

So there you have it. I may have missed a point or two, but that’s the gist of it. I want to encourage every writer I meet and tell them that they, too, can do anything they put their mind to. But I also know realistically not everyone will make it. As a matter of fact, only a small percentage likely will.

So my intent in sharing all of this is to provide honest encouragement. Know that you aren’t going to make a ton of money, it’s not easy, and you are in for a life of rejection, failure, criticism, and hard work — most of that long before you begin having successes. It’s the nature of the beast.

If you can handle it and you have the right attitude – you really can do this. Just be smart about it, keep a day job until you start making enough money to sustain yourself and your family, and please don’t end up living under a bridge.

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 2 + 12 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)