The vast majority of new authors who finish their first manuscript see the world through rose-colored glasses. They imagine massive advances, international book tours and signings, people stopping them at the airport to ask for an autograph, the title of NY Times Bestselling Author printed on book jackets, and a whole lot of money pouring in. The truth is, the odds of any author making it big with their very first book are astronomically against. Most authors never make any money at all. Some make enough to pay a few of their bills, but not much more than that. A few even sell enough copies to survive on royalties alone, and all of them struggle daily to get there, and stay there.

If you want a get-rich scheme, or expect to quit your day job and live happily ever after as a full-time writer right off the bat, this career is not for you. The book market is so volatile you can make $10,000 one month, and then $500 for the entire rest of that year. It’s not a stable income you can depend on. If you expect daily praise and accolades, this career is not for you. Critics and reviewers will rip you a new one on a regular basis, deservedly or not. You will never be able to please everyone, and you’ll need to grow some pretty thick skin to weather the sometimes brutal criticism.

Writing may be art, but publishing is a business. As soon as you sign a book contract, or self-publish a book, you essentially become a small business owner. That is a huge responsibility that goes far beyond just wanting to write. You’ll need to know how to do this and not go broke. You’ll need to budget your time and money to keep yourself afloat. If you have a day job, hold onto it. Not only is it a financial safety net, it provides you with things writing will not (at least not initially): health insurance, vacation time, a ready network of people who might actually be interested in reading your book and spreading the word farther. It will get you out of the house and among people, and that’s as good a base as any.

Writing can be a lot like high school. Sometimes you’ll feel lonely and isolated, other times you’ll find a like-minded group of writers and make friends for life, and sometimes all you’ll see is melodrama, crises, hurt feelings, and potential disasters. Navigating this world can be confusing and exhausting. My advice: Don’t burn any bridges. Make friends, rather than enemies. As big as the community is, it’s also very much a small village, and the smallest action or the softest word can have a huge impact on you and the people around you.