Originally, when I started writing, I just hoped to get published before my mom passed away. My dad was dying of colon cancer when she was diagnosed with middle-stage dementia. I had to find a safe place to move both of them, while he, as he put it, "Commenced with dying," while under hospice care. Mom lived for another three years. During that time, I was still working two jobs, and at least 2 of our 4 kids still lived at home. I desperately needed to think about other things, and happy endings in my life! So I started to write down some of the ideas that had been swirling around in my head.
See, I've always had characters talking in my head, and entire plot lines. I thought everyone walked around hearing voices, when they weren't actively talking. Imagine my surprise to learn that wasn't true! I like being an author, because it gives me an excuse to have voices in my head, that don't require a padded room! LOL! So that is reward number one.
Number two is that once I wrote "The end" in my first manuscript, those characters stopped talking. I got a temporary reprieve until the next group started. It's really odd that once their story is told, those voices are quiet. But while I'm writing their story, they yell at me when I'm not doing enough writing, and they pout when I ignore them. But the quiet, however short it was, was a welcome respite.
Reward number three is more nuanced. I do enjoy being able to tell people I'm a published author. But invariably, when I tell them that I write romance novels, the listener's eyes will glaze over, and their face changes to look like they just stepped in something smelly. And they'll mutter things like, "Oh? Who reads that stuff?" or, "I don't read stuff like that." The one I really like is when they try to question my intelligence, for writing something they disapprove of. I casually toss out that I'm a Mensa member. So there!
As to the cost, over the 9 years since my first book was published, I've spent way more than I've ever earned. Small publishers do eBooks, but offer you the option of paperbacks if you pay them...or if you buy a certain number of books. I did that for a few of my books, since back then, none of my friends had e-readers, and no one read things on their phones. And I've paid for ads in romance magazines, for book tours, for promotional reviews, etc. None of which came even close to earning back what I spent on them.
I've gotten the rights back to two of my books, but I don't have the money or the time to self-publish. Husband says it will be at least another 4-5 years until we can retire. So until then, all I can do is write whenever I can steal away...usually in the summer, when I only work one job. And I dream of a time in the future, when I'll be able to devote all the time I want to writing, and promoting my stories. Until then, I feel like an author in name only. But at least there's that!