ICBA Blog

Independent Contractor Spotlight – Author

Author BJ Sheldon shares advice on staying motivated, finding her tribe, and avoiding procrastination

We checked in with YA author BJ Sheldon of Box Elder, South Dakota, on what it’s like to be a full-time writer. BJ is the author of two YA trilogies: “The Dusty Chronicles” and “The Gibborim Series.” Her work also appears in an anthology entitled The Peculiar Lives of Circus Freaks. With the pending release of book two of her second trilogy (her fifth novel), BJ finally made the leap from being a nine-to-fiver to being an independent contractor, and she’s got great advice for those looking to follow in her wake.

What made you decide to leave your job and become a full-time author?

BJ Sheldon: I had a full plate. Between my day job, writing, and trying to keep up with my husband’s and children’s schedules, it always felt like I couldn’t keep up with it all. And unfortunately, it was usually my writing and family that suffered. I had to prioritize my goals and my life, and ultimately my family and my love of words won out. One of the big reasons I quit was to set an example for my own children and the school-aged kids I speak to at school assemblies. How could I possibly tell them to be true to themselves, set goals, and do what you love if I wasn’t doing that myself?

What are the biggest challenges of being a full-time writer?

BJS: It can be difficult, at times, to stay motivated. There are those days where you just get stuck and the words won’t flow, and it’s during those times you can begin to doubt yourself. But I don’t think there’s an author alive (other than perhaps Stephen King) who doesn’t get stuck from time to time. So, it’s just a matter of getting over that hump and finding your inspiration again.

What’s a misconception people have of authors?

BJS: Some people have an illusion that we all live in large homes, drive expensive cars, and are making money off of our books hand over fist. In reality, most authors have day jobs and figure out how to juggle both careers. 

What advice do you have for other aspiring authors or those looking to do it full time?

BJS: I’m not going to lie: money is a huge factor in being able to quit your job. Don’t fall into that delusion that you will become a New York Times Best Selling Author within weeks after publishing and will never need to worry about money ever again, because I’m sorry to say that rarely happens. I’m lucky that my husband has a good job that can support us right now, but I’m also lucky that I have his full support in following my dream. That brings me to my last piece of advice: make sure you have a tribe to back you up. Find those people who believe in you, and it will make your life much easier.

What info about the book industry do you wish you’d known 10 years ago?

BJS: I went into it thinking I was completely alone, needing to figure things out on my own. In reality, most writers are very supportive of one another. I also wish I had realized how important networking could be in helping traverse the publishing world. I don’t mean making influential friends just for the sake of having an “in” somewhere but rather making real and personal connections which you can use as a support system later on in your career. I wasted years trying to figure it all out on my own. It wasn’t until I began reaching out to people I’d met over the years and respected in the industry, asking them questions, that I began to really get somewhere in my career and attain a small bit of success.

What have you learned about yourself as an independent worker?

BJS: I’ve learned that I enjoy the creativity that is found in the silence if you’re smart enough to listen. I’ve learned that procrastination is a real problem for me if I allow it to go unchecked. And I’ve learned that I have to put my cell phone in a whole different room to keep myself from being tempted to browse social media all day long. But mostly, I discovered I thrive on being an independent worker and enjoy not having to answer to anyone but my literary agent.