Sad But Probably True For Most Writers

David Trammel's picture

Worth the sobering read if you write.

A dirty secret: you can only be a writer if you can afford it

Not sure if I agree, but I do think you have to really, really, really think of writing as a job, and not as a hobby to succeed.

That's no secret, but a truism. Professional writers have to work just like other folks, eight hours a day or more, meeting deadlines, providing a product the public wants to buy. Georgette Heyer who invented the category of Regency Romance was able to pay her family's bills but she came to loathe her readership's taste and longed to make money with her historical novels of other eras and with murder mysteries. But the public wanted the light-hearted Regency fluff so that was what she had to produce. The same thing is true of acting and making music. The grind of touring to perform music is well known, and how many actors have been waitsstaff in restaurants is beyond calculation.

The best deal in life is to love your work. But if you want to write, the second best deal is to find a job that doesn't drain you of vital energy. Wallace Stevens, a famous and very good poet used to hand his poems to his secretary to type--he worked for an insurance company.

If Lynn Steger Strong (the author of the Guardian piece) wants to make money, she needs to quit writing one literary novel every four or five years and embrace genre fiction.

I was the Alien's Love Slave genre pays pretty well! Look at Ruby Dixon's numbers at Amazon. Oh wait, Ruby Dixon doesn't get any respect for her Ice Planet Barbarian series.

I read the article and not one word is new or a surprise.
What also wasn't a surprise was she didn't say one word about cutting expenses so the monthly nut is smaller, thus allowing more time and freedom and the ability to get by with less money.

None of polemics (and I've read plenty) ever mention serious thrift yet serious thrift is what lets *us* do what we do.

Sure, writing is a crapshoot, but so is acting or painting or anything that isn't a salaried job. People with salaried jobs end up in bankruptcy court, sometimes because of bad luck and sometimes because they just had to buy that bigger, better RV and the beach house and the main home.

As for the numbers she cites: no one really knows. I do know this:
Amazon doesn't release sales figures.
According to 20booksto50K Facebook group for writers, LOADS of writers make serious money but they write genre fiction as indies and they keep close eyes on what's happening right now in the market.

Are dark bully/reverse harem novels hot? That's what they write.

And they write *A LOT*.

They're indie so they take all the risks, do all the work, and get all the rewards.
They do NOT sign on with traditional publishers.

David Trammel's picture

You raise a great point, what defines whether you can afford to write? Is it if you are trying to live a conventional middle class lifestyle, or have you downsized to a frugal one. In the first, you'll never have enough time to pursue writing because you'll be spending it all on making money. In the second you decrease your need for money, and so decrease the time you need to get the amount you need to live on.