Stage to Page is celebrating local writers all month long by publishing their perspectives on themes related to our production of Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason. #stagetopageptc

Elizabeth Martins is a writer and book publicist living in Philadelphia. She is the editor of Reasons to Smile: Celebrating People Living with Down Syndrome, an anthology of short stories that celebrate people with Down syndrome. Follow her on Twitter @EliMartinsBooks.


 Do we write because we believe it’s an escape from the mundane? Is this why we believe we stand a chance in that “1 million books a year” statistic? And if so, what keeps us going?

Why Write? Everyone Else Already Has

By Elizabeth Martins

According to Forbes, there are approximately 1 million books published a year in the U.S. alone. About two-thirds are self-published books. On average, these books sell less than 250 copies. Yet, as writers, we are not discouraged by these numbers. We throw our manuscripts at agents, editors, publishers, waiting for our big break. After months of waiting and despairing, we consider Amazon CreateSpace, Blurb, Lulu and then, finally, a glass of whiskey (or coffee—depending on the hour). And after this little boost, we realize we can make our own publishing company! Yes! Who needs a publishing house when we can keep the profits all to ourselves?! (Maniacal laughter ensues.) Yes, why didn’t we think of this before?! We can do it!

But can we? Can we really? Who is going to pay for marketing, distribution? And ISBNs are how much?

Are you a writer? Do you think this way? I know I do. As a wannabe novelist, these thoughts constantly run through my mind as I’m waiting for the clock to strike 5 p.m., hoping my boss doesn’t catch me slipping out five minutes early. If I can beat traffic, I can have a few moments alone to finish my chapter!

The play Sex with Strangers by Laura Eason, a modern-day love story that reflects on themes of publishing and writing, is a prime example of this struggle. To publish or self-publish? To write for money or the soul? In fact, when I was watching the play, I wondered if someone had pulled out the reels of my mind and given them to the characters on stage.

The play helped me further realize how common these feelings are. It made me think: Do we write because we believe it’s an escape from the mundane? Is this why we believe we stand a chance in that “1 million books a year” statistic? And if so, what keeps us going?

For the past several years, I’ve been a book publicist. My job is to support authors on their publishing journeys. I listen to their dreams, as I hold on to my own behind the scenes. I’ve seen their hopeful faces and heard their ambitious goals, which many times mirror my own. From the author who believes he will sell 500,000 books in the first couple months to the author who is frustrated that Oprah hasn’t invited her over for tea yet.

To my clients: I feel you. And I understand. I don’t know why Oprah isn’t calling any of us, and I don’t know why our books aren’t making us all millionaires.

But we can’t stop, won’t stop.

You know why we won’t stop? Because creativity is fun. It is life. When we confuse creativity with escaping, however, we set ourselves up for frustration. As a book publicist and also a writer, I would never advise anyone to stop dreaming or creating. That would be like telling someone to stop living. I would advise authors to set realistic expectations, to always be wondering how they might hone their craft — just in case Oprah doesn’t call.