The Cost

Each December, Yucatan’s Secretariat of Culture honors the writers of the state

Before I began writing, I would look at books in the shops and think: Why do they cost so much?

That question referred to the monetary cost I’d incur if I purchased the book… I had no idea that any other cost could possibly be involved. I certainly didn’t think about what it cost the writer to write the book in the first place. Now of course, I know about such things.

Books published by Yucatan’s Secretariat of Culture in 2011                                         

Maricarmen Perez works for the Secretariat of Culture; she has given much support to the English language writers in Yucatan

  • First, the writer must come up with a great idea – a good one won’t cut it… it has to far surpass that
  • The plot must be given structure, and this involves a whole set of mental gymnastics. While the characters flit from tension point to tension point, the underpinnings must be rock solid
  • The hours involved are astronomical. Each page requires a huge investment of time
  • Writers forego a lot of sleep
  • They must often decline social events and invitations
  • Writers must develop thick skins if they want to keep their  self esteem  intact through the critique of the early drafts
  • And they must have hyper patience and consistency – for the writing, and more so during the endless editing.
  • On not-so-rare occasions, the writer loses his mind! Look at some of the great ones: Lord Byron, Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemmingway – did writing drive them to madness?

The writing costs are also high for the family and friends of the writer.  Writing is such a solitary occupation – done behind a closed door – phone and internet disconnected. And this goes on every day… I know that my family and friends sometimes wish I’d never got it into my mind to become a writer.

When the publishing process starts. Then a whole new ballgame begins: agent queries, publisher searches, marketing strategies, building a platform, presentations. The costs continue to pile up and up…

Some of the English language writers living in Yucatan

Maybe I’m sliding down that slippery slope towards craziness? Because to me, writing is worth the cost. And it is for my colleagues. The writing process is exciting… and publishing is a thrill… but when people read our books, and let us know they enjoy them… that’s the best.



Filed under Writing

6 responses to “The Cost

  1. One thing I’m sure of, Joanna–you’re not going crazy. Maybe it’s time for another “Right to Retreat”?

    I sure do understand the need to write. For me it’s a matter of self-reflection. That’s different than the need to publish a finished book. There are probably, however, similar needs between us–so RETREAT?! You can do this, and even still write to us, depending upon your OWN needs.

    I’m learning that it does not come across as selfish to declare one’s needs, provided it’s done with a bit of diplomacy–a real strong suit of yours.

    Buen Suerte, Alinde

    • Thanks for your concern Alinde but I’m fine. I don’t need a retreat right now, I feel full of energy after the wedding. It is quite an interesting feeling… both children married. I have new projects you’ll hear about in the coming weeks… lots coming up!

  2. “Writing is easy. Just sit at your typewriter and bleed,” to quote Hemingway.

    If writers were paid by the hour, peonage would be a step up 🙂

    It’s worth the effort, but writing is only one step in getting a book into a reader’s hands. And, alas, all take money. For those planning to write a book, don’t overlook the publishers and editors and book designers and printers (or, for the e-publishers, coders), etc. who all need to eat and who often forgo sleep and social events and at times neglect their kids.

    AND, especially in Mexico, the cost of paper is always a factor… book prices here reflect the reality that we live in a country that’s half desert and doesn’t have the softwood trees needed to support paper mills.

    It’s unfortunate, but publishers have to say “no” to so many writers, not because their work was unappreciated or that the publisher doesn’t understand the sacrifices the author has made to produce a work, but that we simply don’t have the capital or time, or one of the many other craft-specialists along the path of book production doesn’t have the money or time, to give the author the attention they deserve.

    Or, as Joanna can tell (and has told) everyone, just finishing a manuscript may as painful a process as giving birth (though, being a guy, I can’t … um… conceive) but that’s only the beginning of a long, arduous, socially inhibiting and often financially frustrating journey.

    • I can’t comment much on what you say because you’ve tied it up with a bow… Thanks Richard (Richard is the Acquisitions Editor at Editorial Mazatlan, the publishers of my book “Magic Made in Mexico”)

  3. Tracy Coates

    Joanna I am so glad you took up writing. I loved your book and reading your blogs. I just moved here permanently Christmas day after a number of lovely visits here last year. Being 47 I need something to do and was joking with my Husband about writing a book about our cat, Yammi’s, adventures of moving down here. I thought something funny about a cat’s perspective would be fun. It would also note my adventures. You were my inspiration. Hopefully we will meet up in Merida. Tracy

    • Hello Tracy… your comment is just what I mean when I say the “best” part about having written a book is the feedback from readers. Definitely you should write about Yammi. Good for you. I’m sure we’ll meet soon… thanks for making my day.

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