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Author Merritt Tierce On The Struggle To Write And Make Money After Critical Success

Penguin Random House
Merritt Tierce quit her job at a non-profit two weeks before "Love Me Back" was released.

Merritt Tierce’s debut novel Love Me Back is the story of a single mother working as a waitress in Dallas. The book earned rave reviews when it was released two years ago, but that didn’t translate into sales.

Tierce just wrote an essay for Marie Claire called, “I Published My Debut Novel to Critical Acclaim – and Then I Promptly Went Broke.”

Interview Highlights: Merritt Tierce...

…On whether she was disappointed the good reviews for her novel didn’t result in more sales:

“I don’t understand the connection between reviews and book sales well enough to feel either disappointed or encouraged by it. I’ve been told by people in publishing that what’s really great for you is that you do have the almost universal acclaim on your first book so that when you have a second book and you want to sell it, that’s a good notch in the plus column for you.”

...On working for the U.S. Postal Service:

“I was on this horrible mental loop every day thinking, ‘I need to write something so I can sell it,’ and then thinking ‘yeah, but I need money now. I’m not going to be able to write until I pay the rent.’ Eventually, I just decided to try to lift some of the pressure off my creative self by getting an actual job.

…I actually loved delivering the mail. I wanted to do it because I thought this is a job that’s physical and you don’t have to talk to anyone and someone will give you money for walking around all day, not talking to people and putting letters in mailboxes. It sounded beautiful to me and it really was exactly what I expected.”   

…On advice she’d give to aspiring writers:

“This is going to sound so cliché but don’t quit your day job. When I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the director of the program called me. It was a really tactful question about what I thought I’d do after the program, and she made clear she was asking the question because she wanted me to understand that most people who get an MFA go back to whatever they were doing before they got an MFA. It’s not going to be a magical chute into some career.

I feel like I would tell [people] the same kind of thing. Be thinking about what your plan is for how to make money after this and know that this book is not going to deliver you into financial freedom.”  

Merritt Tierce is the author of “Love Me Back.”

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter is KERA's vice president of news. He oversees news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News has earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.