Posted on 06/22/2016 at 12:00 AM by Jeffrey Bruner
Popular wisdom told Bethany Claire that one can’t make a living off being a writer.
So, when a successful romance novelist told her during a college writing workshop that her manuscript was ready for publication, Bethany just set it aside and kept working on her teaching degree.
“I was flattered and excited, but I still had a year of college left at that time, and the people-pleasing part of me told me to just stay the course and carry on with my ‘practical’ plans,” she says.
Her decision meant that the following summer, she found herself sitting in an education class, totally miserable. She couldn’t stop wondering why she was there, when she wanted to be a writer, not a teacher.
And one day, she stopped wondering and started acting.
“Right in the middle of the lecture, I just quietly got up and marched myself to the registrar’s office where I withdrew from the university on the spot,” she says.
Instead of studying education methods, Bethany threw herself into learning all about the publishing industry. She attended the Romance Writers of America conference and left with the belief that she could make a living as a writer — and with the knowledge of what she’d need.
On the plane ride back, she drew up her business plan. Upon her return home, she hired cover artists, editors, and accountants, and got to work writing: “One piece of advice that every single successful author said was ‘write a series,’ so the one book I had completed quickly became Book 1 of my Morna's Legacy Series.”
In May 2014, around a year after her big leap, Bethany landed on the USA Today best-seller list, and her momentum hasn’t stopped yet.
She currently has seven novels, two novellas, two box sets, and five audiobooks out, with plans for more next spring. Thanks to a six-figure yearly salary, she’s been able to hire her mother as her full-time assistant ...
... and this summer, she’s teaching at the West Texas Writer’s Academy, the same workshop that kicked off this incredible journey for her.
Bethany shares her story not to brag, but to inspire: “What I want people to take away from my story is that if you truly, absolutely believe in yourself and your dreams and leave no room for doubt and fear of failure, you can build the career you want,” she says.
“It requires hard, hard work — much more than the normal 40-hour workweek. It requires focus and drive and the refusal to fail but I can truly say that I love everything about my job and I know how fortunate I am to be able to say so.”
Here’s more of her story, in her own words.
SADYE: How did people close to you — and your teachers — react to your decision to withdraw from school?
BETHANY: I tend to be pretty quick with my decisions. I’ve always found that my immediate gut instinct feeling is usually the way I need to go, and when I feel that way, I go for it, so I don’t think any of my closest friends were very surprised by my decision. I’m sure they probably thought I’d lost my mind, but, thankfully, they never said anything like that to my face.
My family was very supportive. I was very lucky. I will admit that my dad nearly had a heart attack when I made the drive over to my parents’ house to tell them what I’d just done, but I think he could see how determined I was to make a go of it as an author and that, regardless of what he said, I was going to do it anyway. He got on board pretty quickly.
SADYE: During those months when you were attending the Romance Writers of America workshop, hiring accountants and designers, etc., what were the emotions going through your mind?
BETHANY: Excitement was probably the most prevalent emotion. I was so thrilled to no longer be working toward a job that I knew I didn’t want to have.
That being said, there were definitely a lot of times when the panic would set it in, and I would wonder if I’d made a huge mistake, but in the end, I could always talk myself down by thinking back on and remembering the way I felt when I withdrew from the university. It felt so right in that moment that I truly believed that I was doing what I was meant to do.
Even so, it’s definitely hard to spend money on prepping your products when you aren’t guaranteed to get a return on your investment, but I just kept telling myself that I was setting it all up like a business, and there is no startup business that doesn’t require you to invest some hard-earned money and time upfront.
SADYE: Was there a “moment” when you knew it was all going to work out OK?
BETHANY: Before I released the first three books in my Morna’s Legacy Series, I wrote down that my main goal was just to make what I would’ve made teaching elementary school. Not that that’s very much, but I felt that if I could at least make what I would’ve made teaching, my decision to leave college would be justified.
At the end of my first 30 days self-publishing, I’d more than doubled what my monthly salary would ever have been teaching. That’s when I knew it was all going to be OK.
SADYE: Besides actually following your dreams, what would you say has been the smartest or one of the smartest moves you’ve made as an author?
BETHANY: Honestly, I think my smartest move has to do with audiobook production. For a long time, I was really wary of diving into audiobook production out of fear that I wouldn’t make my investment back, but since doing so, I’ve found that audiobooks have been phenomenal for my business, and the process has been so much fun.
I loved listening to the auditions in the beginning, and working with the narrator I selected has been a dream. It’s just been so enjoyable hearing my characters come alive through someone else’s voice.
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Categories: Author Interview