Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Writing 101: Do You Really Want Writing to Be Your Job?

Various studies and focus groups and research (and by research, I mean Twitter) show that many authors and would-be authors hope to one day write books full-time to earn 100 percent of their income. And maybe that's a flawed plan...because most novels don't make that much money. 


Dead...and Hating It

I don't want to get too gothic, or anything, but there's a long list of authors you've heard of who died penniless. Poe, Oscar Wilde,  Herman Melville (author of Moby Dick)...I could go on. Writing novels isn't likely to net you a lot of money, unless you write a lot of them or you write at least a few of them that hit really, really, really big. 

If you sell 1 million copies of anything, you're a huge success. But you're probably not ready for retirement. In order to be a best-selling, full-time novelist, you're going to have to sell in the neighborhood of 100 million copies...of more than one book. That's the reality, because you don't make much money per book whether you self-publish or walk the traditional publishing path. In fact, in traditional publishing you're likely to make much less so you must sell much more. 

Nor will writing gain you love. Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, Jonathon Swift and John Keats wrote with romantic, poetic language that touched the soul. All died single. 

Give yourself a quick reality check before you think about writing as a full-time job. Go look at how many books are on Amazon. Now make a list of all the rich and famous authors you know. The ratio is going to be something close to 100,000,000 to 1, and I'm being really generous.

Making a full-time living from writing novels is very difficult. It takes a great deal of hard work and lots of luck. You have to write and market and write and market, and if you have a whole lot of support and people working with you then it's possible...for a rare few. 

But making a full-time living from writing...now, this is much more possible. 

The Everyday Writer

Traditional mediums like newspaper and print magazines are difficult to break into, and they're becoming a dying breed so it's harder than ever. But the Internet offers lots of wide-open opportunities for writers. There are many jobs out there for creative writers, bloggers, freelancers, copywriters and technical writers. You have to work a lot to make money. You have to establish good contacts. And you have to look for new jobs all the time. But writing full-time is possible, and while you're at it you can supplement your income and build your fan base with novels you scratch out on the side. 

But you have to ask yourself if you really want writing to be your job. No matter which road you try to take, you have to work hard. You will probably have to work 7 days a week, holidays as well. You must spend lots of time on non-writing tasks, like social media, and sometimes that can feel like a pain. You will be building a persona and putting yourself out there, and when you put yourself out there you open yourself up to all the criticism the Internet has to offer (and it's an infinite wellspring). 

It's lonely to write, and it can be hurtful. It requires a lot of hard work and you're going to take a lot of ribbing from friends and family who think you have it easy, somehow. You're going to get fired from jobs. You're going to have to fight to get your money, sometimes. You're going to read comments that hurt and you're going to suffer disappointments. But you're also going to be writing full-time, and for some that totally balances the scales. Now you have to figure out if that's enough balance for you.

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