So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Great Truths

his is the flip side of my 13 Harsh Truths post of 29 April.It’s a great life. I’m my own boss. I wear shorts and t-shirts to work, which is in my house. I sit at my desk with a great view of the TN River with a blank stare, drool running down the side of my mouth, and I’m working. Well, not really. Because no one’s paying me for my great thoughts. They’re paying for my writing.I’ve been doing it for over a quarter of a century and here are some Great Truths I’ve learned about making a living as a writer.You can. You constantly hear “No one makes a living writing novels.” I’ve heard it for decades. In 2012 I was at a conference where I gave a keynote, then was listening to another keynote speaker saying “Don’t quit your day job”. And it started to worry me, until I realized my day job was writing. So I didn’t quit.It’s the best time ever to be a writer. I’ve been doing it for over 25 years and have heard all sorts of gloom and doom, but I can honestly say, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time. That’s not to say it isn’t an extremely confusing time, but that’s why I’ve done other blog posts on that, including one about 99% of advice coming from 1% of authors.There is more information than ever before out there. Which could be bad too, but seriously, you can garner a wealth of information about the craft and business of writing without leaving home.Leave home. One of the greatest mistakes I made in my early writing career was not networking. Even in self/indie publishing, it’s key to network with people. I know you’re an introvert, but get out there and talk to people. It’s a people business. And network with a couple of other serious writers on your craft. I’m not a fan of large writers groups getting together and doing line by lines, but 2 or 3 serious writers working on story, like we do in Write on the River, is invaluable. Find better writers than you to work with.Publishing is full of great people. Yes, both in the trad and indie world. Everyone I’ve met is there because they love books and stories. You hear terrible stories about publishers, editors, agents, Amazon etc. but pretty much everyone I’ve met has been really nice. In fact, I’ve been very impressed with how nice the people at Apple, Amazon, Pubit, Kobo etc are, especially to authors.Writers support writers. Mostly. I always advise writers to join their local RWA chapter. It’s the most professional writing organization around and your local chapter has tons of expertise and friendly people and monthly workshops.It’s about story not the book. Change your frame of reference. I sell stories. In various modes: digital, audio and print. Wrap your brain around that concept. It’s about the content not the format! I market using . . .Slideshare, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. all from home. I used to not be a fan of book trailers, and while I don’t think they do much direct selling, they increase your digital footprint. And they’re cool.The framework of the story is evolving in the digital age. Since you can self-publish just about anything, you aren’t constrained creatively. I think self-pubbing is doing what the cable networks did to TV. HBO broke ground on new formats for series and characters. Sopranos, The Wire, and Deadwood. Other networks have picked it up. Have you seen Orange Is The New Black? And its precursor Weeds, which my wife and I are binging currently? Jenji Kohan does things with story that are crazy. And seriously, Weeds was Breaking Bad before there was a Breaking Bad. Definitely a different format there. I love studying story and then playing with it.You can study story in books, but also on Netflix and On-Demand. Watch everything twice. The first for enjoyment of the story and characters and to learn what happens. The second time is the key as a professional writer. Because you know what’s going to happen you can see how the writers crafted the story and characters now. The second time is eye-opening. If Marie hadn’t stolen that damn state spoon in Breaking Bad, Hank would still be alive and the story would have gone in a completely different direction. Get it? You didn’t the first time you saw it and probably forgot that little event. The second time, it looms large.Focus on craft; not marketing and promotion. You can’t promote crap. The best marketing is a good story; better marketing is more good stories.The gatekeepers are readers. While traditional publishing is still a viable path, they no longer control distribution. This is such a fundamental change in the business paradigm, I truly believe very few people grasp the implications. New York is hanging on to its antiquated business model instead of embracing change. As part of the transition in the Army from a focus on conventional forces to Special Operations, I saw how hard change is in a large organization. But evolve or . . .Bottom line: The only person who can stop your success is y

via So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Great Truths.

4 thoughts on “So You Want To Make A Living Writing? 13 Great Truths

  1. I think many/most of us aspire to make a full-time living from writing but the harsh reality is that most people who write don’t even get published at all. Of those of us who do get published, most of us are making tens or hundreds of pounds per year instead of thousands. Quite often I’ve had a good run in publishing, like when I made £1 500 in one year in the 1980s from magazine articles. Yet I can go whole years without getting anything published at all and at the moment I am writing for a charity, so my only revenue is royalties from books. I’ve been in discussion with a publisher about 2 projects but there were stumbling blocks that meant that it could not go ahead.

    I am firmly in the “don’t give up the day job” camp. That doesn’t mean I don’t admire those who have been able to give up their day jobs. I have often speculated that if I did give up the day job, I would spend a lot of time writing for different genres and doing magazine work. It would give me a kick up the backside to get on with writing and stop procrastinating. But the reality for me and most people is that we are dependent on maintaining our day job incomes to maintain our mortgage payments and we have others who depend on us.

    Indeed, I would recommend that before embarking on a career as a full-time writer, it is necessary to reduce your month-to-month living expenses to a bare minimum, such as paying off your mortgage.

    So congratulations to Judith and others for being able to give up the day job but, for anyone else contemplating a leap of faith, I would look at your projected income and expenditure before even thinking about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Philip, thanks you for your thoughtful and well argued reply. Perhaps you’re right in a lot you say; certainly in reducing living expenses. I’m lucky enough not to have a mortgage or debts of any kind. Giving up the day job was more a necessity than choice.for various reasons, Still I have good life writing all day. But you put forward a very reasonable and persuasive side to the discussion. many thanks


      • Speaking from a purely narcisstic point of view, my day job is in jeopardy but if I can hang on until I’m 66 and have my works pension, I could live on a smaller income than my current salary.

        Liked by 1 person

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