How to Get Your Family On Board With Your Author Career
by Daniel Parsons
Launching an author-entrepreneur business is difficult, particularly in the early stages of your career when you’re still battling the initial learning curves associated with craft and marketing. On these fronts, everyone struggles occasionally. The mental strain is harder, though, when you don’t have someone to talk to about it in your personal life.
Many writers lack a support network. Their family and friends don’t understand their challenges, nor do they care. While their parents roll their eyes at their aspirations, friends belittle their efforts and their partner wonders why they’re even bothering. After all, there’s no money in writing, right? Why not just focus on their career?
We know these reactions are well-intended and often stem from ignorance or the critics’ own limiting beliefs, but they still hurt. They scar writers with insecurities and render them unable to talk confidently about their projects and goals. At its worst, this behaviour even leads authors to hide their pen names and discuss their work only with other writers.
And while this approach might be wise in some cases, it is possible to get your loved ones on board with your author career. You aren’t guaranteed to win over everyone, but there are actionable steps you can take to build your support network, enrich your writing career and even elevate it beyond the status of a hobby. Here are a few steps you can follow to get started.
First, looking at the situation from everyone’s perspective will serve you well because it helps you to consider whether your intended conversation will actually improve anything. After all, not everyone will react well to being included in your writing life. Your boss, for example, probably won’t welcome the prospect that you’re building a business and might one day leave the company. If you feel that’s the case, you should probably save this discussion for a friend outside the profession. As a rule of thumb, if you can only see the outcome being negative, you’re probably better off keeping your writing private. Not everyone needs to know about your books.
If you want to talk about your writing and believe the conversation will go well with someone, however, then you should also consider how you might frame it. That’s because tailoring your approach on a person-by-person basis can enhance the odds of getting your desired response. With loved ones who value happiness over money, for example, you might want to talk about the story and focus on the joy you get from pursuing your art. In contrast, faced with a parent or spouse who is more concerned that you’re going to run into financial trouble by pursuing writing, you could focus on your books’ earning potential. Remember to stay true to your values but also to be realistic about what element of your work is most likely to get someone onboard.
SCALE UP SLOWLY
Change can be scary for some people, particularly if they don’t understand what drives it. You might know about publishing, love the learning process and be excited by the new, impressive people you’re meeting, but not everyone will share your enthusiasm. Anticipating this reality, you might want to open up slowly about your writing life, particularly to those who depend on you to pay the bills.
Your spouse, child or roommate will want you to be happy but you can imagine their concern on hearing that you want to quit your stable job to write full time, especially if that announcement has come from nowhere. Remember, they don’t know what you know. They haven’t spent months in Facebook groups and discovered that indie publishing can provide a stable, lucrative income. From the outside, your online company seems like a fluke that could run dry overnight. If you declare you’re a writer then immediately quit your job, it seems reckless.
A better approach would be to scale up slowly, both in terms of how much you tell people about your business and how much you change your life. Work hard with a good writing income in tandem with your day job for at least a few months, all while being transparent with your close friends and family. That way, if you do decide to phase out your day job, you will have gotten everyone used to the idea, tipped off loved ones that your decision is coming and shown them that you have a dependable sales history to settle their nerves.
Similar to gold mining or being a YouTube creator, writing is one of those professions that absorbs people. At first, it seems highly dependent on luck, and while that plays a part, there is a lot you can control in this profession. It just requires education and hard work. That’s why including those you love in your author business can sometimes be the best way to get them invested in its success. It means that you’re not absorbed alone.
Popular authors have actually made this phenomenon a trend in recent years, retiring their spouses from nine-to-five jobs they hate by bringing them into the business. Their work has included operational tasks, marketing and sometimes editing. Similarly, other authors have offered their children informal publishing internships, training them to understand everything from production schedules to Amazon ads. Teaching a family member or friend to help you, if only for a few hours a week, gives you the opportunity to correct their misconceptions and show them your business model.
When you catch the writing bug, it’s common to find yourself becoming a little obsessive. You write early in the morning, you mull over plot holes at lunch, you listen to podcasts at the gym and you strategize your next marketing push while in line at the supermarket. And that’s fine. Everybody loves passion, in theory. What people don’t like is when someone they know only ever talks about one topic. You’ve probably seen examples yourself: a football fan who constantly talks their favourite team, even when those around them have grown bored; a bitter worker who hates their job and manages to squeeze their moaning into every conversation, no matter how tenuous the link.
It’s easy to become this person. A near-obsessive drive is sometimes necessary to launch a profitable business, but maintaining this personality won’t help you win the support of family members. In fact, never talking about anything other than your writing can actually cause them to wince at the mere mention of your books. Therefore, if you want them to welcome news about your author business and get behind it completely, your best approach may be to share only the highlights of your progress – the screenshots when you top a chart or the troubles of a particularly harsh page of editor’s notes. You can think about your work as much as you like, obviously, but by limiting shop-talk around your family to the odd conversation, you won’t overwhelm them with updates. Plus, this practice will train you to switch off and enjoy life when you’re not wearing your author hat, which is an added benefit.
SHOW, DON’T TELL
Some people you care about will never support your dream of becoming an author. That’s a fact. Humans are complex beings, often too focused on their own lives to realise how much a simple word of encouragement means to someone they love. Other times they refuse to dish out kindness for a selfish agenda. Perhaps they worry you might “outgrow” your current social circle and leave them behind if they become too successful. Or maybe they met a writer once who was an arrogant diva and are afraid you will become that person if you hit it big. The reason doesn’t matter. All you should know is that you can’t please everyone.
Accepting that some people are a lost cause is sometimes your best course of action. You don’t necessarily need to cut them out of your life – just adopt the familiar writing mantra, “show, don’t tell.” It’s a simple idea but it works. Just like in fiction, you stop telling them and start demonstrating your world with action. You crush it every day until your career excels and you continue to be a nice person, confident that you’re making the best decision for you. In some cases, living by example is enough to win over those you failed to conquer with words. But even if it doesn’t work, fighting an impossible fight is pointless. Keep growing your dream because, ultimately, your success and happiness will enrich your life and those of the people you love.
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