How do you earn a decent living as a novelist? How do you get started? Who pays you and when does it happen?
Brennan posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
You’ve probably already answered this question, but here it goes.
I’m in my second year of High School, and love writing fanfiction, so much so that I plan on making writing my career.
I’m wondering, how can I begin doing such a thing? Do I start as a freelancer and write blog posts and such, or write a series of short stories into one large collection, or move straight ahead onto the path of writing a novel (my big goal).
Also, while I’m in the process of writing this novel, how will I make income? I’m not entirely sure how all of this works; if a publisher will pay you as you’re writing, or if they only pay you when copies start selling, or what.
I know if you won’t be able to answer this, I understand.
Randy sez: These are good questions, Brennan, and plenty of older writers don’t think about them soon enough.
Your question came in while I was in New Zealand teaching at the delightful Romance Writers of New Zealand annual conference. My wife and I had a great time at the conference and also touring New Zealand both before and after the conference. I got to see Hobbiton! My wife conned me into taking a mud bath in the sulfur springs at a place called Hell’s Gate in Rotorua. We went sea-kayaking in Motoeka. We were out of the country for 15 days and it’s taken me almost that many days to get caught up on things.
Let me be blunt: Earning a living as a novelist is hard. I just sent out the September issue of my Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine this morning (only 9 days late!) and there I talked about the economics of fiction writing. A very few writers do stupendously well, earning millions of dollars per year. The top 1000 novelists make quite a good living at fiction writing. Everyone else struggles. They have a day job or a working spouse or an inheritance or they live in poverty.
There is no way to change that, because the market for fiction is a free market, and free markets reward only the top performers Xtremely well. There are fields where you can earn excellent money for mediocre performance. Fiction writing is not one of them.
All of that is the bad news. The good news is that fiction writing is immensely rewarding to you personally. If writing fiction is in your blood, then it’s in your blood and you won’t be able to stop yourself from writing. If writing fiction is not in your blood, then my comments above may steer you away from it into something safer and more lucrative, such as whipless lion taming or blindfolded skydiving.
OK, so let’s assume writing fiction is in your blood. What’s your career strategy? How do you break in? Who pays you and when?
Brennan, since you’re in high school, you’ve got plenty of time to develop the fundamentals. Fan fiction is not a bad place to start. It normally doesn’t take you anywhere moneywise (with rare exceptions like the Fifty Shades of Grey author). But you can get your feet wet using other people’s storyworlds and characters to learn how to write.
But fan fiction is not real fiction. If you’re going to write fiction, at some point you need to be an original. You can write short stories, but there isn’t a lot of money in them right now. (Short fiction may make a comeback with the rise of self-published e-books, but I’d say the jury is still out on how this is going to work out for short stories. Definitely novellas seem to be on the rise.)
So I’d say that eventually you’ll want to write a novel. A novel is a complex project and it takes a lifetime to master this art form. You won’t get paid until you sell your work to a traditional royalty-paying publisher or until you self-publish it. Either way, you MUST have a strong story before you’re going to get paid a dime. Let’s look at those two avenues for payment:
If you decide to publish with a trad publisher, then you’ll need an agent to help you sell your book. Your agent will expect that your story is strong, fully developed, and well-polished. Some agents have the patience to work with an author who is 90% of the way there, but most agents have hundreds of wannabes submitting stuff that is 90% of the way there. If you get an agent, he or she will try to sell your work to a trad publisher. There is no guarantee this will succeed. If it does, you’ll sign a contract that sets up a payment schedule. You normally get paid in stages: maybe 25% on signing, 25% on delivery of the manuscript, 25% on acceptance of a polished manuscript, and 25% on publication. Right now, publishers play all sorts of games to prolong the payment cycle, so don’t expect these terms. Your agent gets paid 15% of what your earnings, and he doesn’t get paid until you get paid. A trad publisher will pay all the costs of editing, cover art graphic design, marketing, sales, production, and distribution. They also take the lion’s share of the money. High risk, high reward for them. Low risk, low reward for you.
If you decide to self-publish, then you have some upfront costs. You have to pay an artist to design you a cover. You really need an editor. (Every novelist needs an editor. I pay a freelance editor to review my work.) You may need to pay somebody to create the e-book files. Then you just upload those to Amazon, B&N, and the other online retailers and start earning money. If you take this route, all the responsibility is on you. If you have a crappy cover, bad editing, lousy marketing, or anything else goes wrong, it’s your fault. It’s high risk, high reward for you.
One of your questions was how you get paid while you’re writing. The answer is that you don’t. This is one of the horrible truths of writing fiction. Income is backloaded. Nobody is going to pay you during the early years when you’re learning to write. The big rewards, if they ever come at all, will come to you after years and years of unpaid labor. There is no way to make this sound cool. It’s not cool. When everybody wants to be a rock star, it naturally makes it hard to become a rock star. This is one reason why it makes sense to start working hard now while you’re still in high school and still have free room and board.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the fact is that it’s hard to become a novelist. It’s even harder to get rich at it. You need talent–loads of it. You need training (people like me are here to provide that). You need persistence–this is the main ingredient. Keep persisting and in five or ten years, you’ll reach whatever your potential is as a novelist. If that’s good enough to get published by a trad publisher, then you’ll probably sell your work for an advance. If it’s good enough to reach your market, then you could also do pretty well as a self-publisher in the exploding e-book market.
But there are no guarantees. None. It’s quite possible to work for five or ten years and never earn a dime from your writing. I spent ten years writing fiction and in the tenth year, I finally sold a short story to a local magazine for $150. This worked out to $15 per year, or 3 cents per hour of effort. In the eleventh year, I sold my first nonfiction book and then my first novel, and I was launched. But I didn’t know that would happen when I began my eleventh year of writing. I was going on faith that someday I’d sell something.
What it all comes down to is how much you believe in yourself as a writer and whether that belief is well-founded. If you have talent and if you get the training you need, and if you believe in yourself enough to keep at it for years, then you can get published. Tens of thousands of writers have done that. Probably hundreds of thousands. But only a few of them ever become millionaires, so be careful of setting unrealistic expectations.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.
I think it depends of what you mean by “making a living”. Millionaire? Probably not.
Randy, what do you think are the chances of getting an okay income (like, middle-class, 40K a year maybe) from writing fiction and the associated work (like speaking, teaching, etc?)
Also, LOVING your For Dummies book. Really helping me out.
Richard Mabry says
Randy, Harsh words? Not really. More like reality. I’ve read numerous posts by professional agents that say, in essence, “don’t quit your day job.” The number of authors able to earn a living entirely from their writing is small–they exist, but there aren’t as many of them as you’d think. I strongly recommend your article in the latest Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine for details.
But, as Beverly Sills said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.” I think it’s true–writers write because they can’t not write. (The English teachers among you can now uncover your eyes.)
Randy, great to hear that you loved New Zealand! It’s a great place to live, as well as being a great place to visit.
And excellent post. People need to understand that writing generally doesn’t pay minimum wage, let alone a good middle-class income (unless you’re a journalist).
Jon Jackson says
“There is no way to change that, because the market for fiction is a free market, and free markets reward only the top performers Xtremely well. There are fields where you can earn excellent money for mediocre performance. Fiction writing is not one of them.”
Randy, not to quibble on this point, but I don’t think we’ve had a truly free market up to this point with traditional publishers. We are just beginning to see the effects of e-books on the book buying market, but indications are that this effect will be profound. When you combine this with targeted advertising from companies like Google, finding a niche market for your particular brand of fiction becomes a whole lot easier. Personally, I think people like Brennan and myself are getting in on the beginnings of what will be a real gold rush. But, like all gold rushes, the key to coming out on top is to keep your head and look for possibilities, not limitations.
Judith Robl says
Great question from a high school student. It reflects some of the entitlement society we’ve bred over the last few decades.
Richard, this old English teacher loved your reference to they “can’t not write.” It is a perfectly good construction, prohibition of the double negative not withstanding.
Brennan, I’ve been writing since before your parents were born, and I was first published at age 72. That’s right, 72. It’s not a typo.
I have ambitions for several novels with partial outlines, half-finished research, scenes and sequences randomly gathered. Writing is something you can do as long as you can think and type.
In the meantime, I’ve held jobs in several professions and raised a family along the way. If you have the dream of writing, the push of writing, the gut need to write, you will write, anti-un-dis-irregardless of anything else. (And no, that’s not a real word. It’s a family coinage for emphasis.)
My advice is to keep writing. Learn all you can about novel construction. Get a copy of Randy’s Snowflake and his “Dummies” book. Devour them and make them part of your DNA. You’ll be well on your way.
Keep us in the loop and let us know how it goes.
Can someone help me out? Please!
Tracy Campbell says
I so enjoy your posts.
And I’ll continue to write whether I make money or not.
One has to write because they love it.
I would say to Brennan there are more people making money from writing these days than ever before – with the popularity of web 2.0 properties such as Squidoo and Hubpages where you can create mini one page websites, and the ebook market on Amazon and elsewhere writers can now make decent supplemental income (if not full time income) by making use of their writing skills. Granted the web 2.0 sites aren’t an outlet for novel writers but it might act as a part time job while working on that big novel project.
That said writing is a tough gig to make good money at no matter what platform you are working on, but the opportunity is there like never before.
Cecelia Dowdy says
Those are all good points. This high-school kid really needs to learn that making a living as a novelist is extremely unrealistic – it’s possible, but, not probable.
What helped me to sell a book was attending writers conferences. However, those tend to get pricey!
Glad to hear you enjoyed New Zealand! I visited NZ several years ago and recall Rotorua!
Great, straight-forward advice. Writers’ conferences help if you can afford them. Over the years I’ve read 30 “how to write” books which helped me a lot. Writing is a craft and it takes time to learn it.
I don’t care how unrealistic making a living as a fiction writer is; I’m going to do it, and nothing you or anyone like you says is going to stop me.
Randy Ingermanson says
Telling you the truth about reality is not an attempt to “stop you.” It’s an attempt to prepare you for the real world so that you have an actual chance to make it.
VonEdward says, “I am willing to bet that I have the least amount of skill out of everyone on the page right now, but I say that I have the two greatest gifts a man can have that is faith and imagination.”
I’ll second that you have the least amount of skill among anyone who’s written here, and a great deal of delusion. Here are some tips to help you out on your burgeoning writing career (that is undoubtedly going to make you millions, just because you want it so much):
** Learn the difference between “your” and “you’re.”
** The writers that you refer to are J.K. Rowling and Stephen King.
** “Who ever” should be spelled together, at least in the way that you intended to use it.
** Paragraphing is a good skill to have. Improve yours.
The Truth Is Out There says
@Randy (in response to your response to “Joe”, who said you were ” Trying to stop him”), I know this is a little off topic but I just want to comment that the way Joe responded to your advice is something I see WAY TOO OFTEN with writers. So many of them have an aversion to “reality”, or anything that deals with or is even close to reality. A lot of them will see an article like this as an attack on them or that you’re ” trying to destroy their dreams”, just because you talked about reality. I see this reaction so often from writers like this “Joe” character, only they normal start name-calling, calling you every name in the book & especially a “destroyer of dreams” . It’s really irritating.
Good for you Joe, good for you 🙂
Who ever posted this is very negative and a dream killer. I will tell you why most of you are not millionaires, because your wasting your life believing in foolish things like limitations. Do you thing J.K Rolling believes in limitations or Steven King? You think like failures, act like failure and you wonder why your a failure. I am willing to bet that I have the least amount of skill out of everyone on the page right now, but I say that I have the two greatest gifts a man can have that is faith and imagination . If life is so hard for you Randy go into a room shut the door and pull the trigger, at least that way you don’t write a ten paragraph articular filled with you self doubt and have it list on the first page of google so millions of people looking for inspiration will be discourage by you foolish words.
VonEdward, I wanted to come back and tone down my aggression a bit from what I said earlier. I may have come off as rude but your attitude is head in the clouds and more than a little deluded. It sucks that it’s difficult and probably impossible for a person who is otherwise very talented not to make loads and loads of money. But it’s *reality*. If we go to a thousand parallel universes and in each one Stephen Kind and J.K. Rowling are as talented as they are in our universe, I wouldn’t be surprised if they failed to become millionaires or even published in almost all of the other. To become blisteringly successful requires not just talent but *luck*, too.
To be annoyed at people who are speaking with their feet grounded in reality shouldn’t upset you. At least they’re being honest. I’d rather have a person treat me with brutal honesty than to give me false hope. We’re not patients dying of a disease that might be given some peace of mind in our last days with false hope of a good prognosis. I’d be annoyed if someone told me all I’d need to make it is to give it my best. There’s a lot of crap writing out there but at the top, it’s very competitive. After that, you need to promote yourself. And then luck plays a big part, too. It’s not easy or likely to become a “millionaire.” If I gave it my all and then, after forty years got nowhere nearer my goal, I’d be very angry at people who sold me false hope.
But it’s not just that. If the fellow who wrote this article wants to be taken seriously, if he wants to keep a good reputation, it’s in his best interest to be as truthful as possible. If he comes out here speaking like someone in an infomercial — promising all sorts of rewards if only you follow the right pattern — then fewer and fewer people will trust him and his expertise when it obviously turns out not to be so rosy.
The Truth Is Out There says
@VonEdwards, no offense, but in my humble opinion, you’re doing yourself a disservice by bringing up Rowling & Stephen King, like they are somehow the gold standard for writers instead of outliers. Try researching what the AVERAGE writer earns & not what the top 1% earns.
I actually wonder why you even brought Rowling up in the first place? What does she have to do with you? You think you’re going to make a billion dollars from writing? Writers don’t make a billion dollars. Rowling was the only one. What are the chances of your being able to do that? If that’s your dream, then you are nearly delusional. I’m sorry to say it.
I’m not trying trying to “kill dreams”, just ” wake you up”. It’s okay to dream. But be reasonable too. Again, not killing dreams here. Also, frankly, I expect to hear an elementary or middle to high school student bring up Rowling & then start crying about people killing dreams like some kind child. You don’t sound like a grown adult. Crying about “killing dreams” is what I’d expect a young child to whine about, personally. I’m sorry to say.
Dan Wagstaffe says
I found the response from Randy and the comments below it highly entertaining.
I think there is too much emphasis spent on looking at writing from a commercial point of view and not enough time spent examining the craft as a lifestyle choice.
I’m a writer – I’ve had one novel published, it wasn’t well written, it earned me practically nothing in the way of money, but the experience has aided my development as a writer.
Surely, money and success (what is success?) should be irrelevant to a true writer. I don’t recall Kafka living in luxury, or HP Lovecraft dying in a sea of fifty pound notes, and even Bukowski wrote his early stuff as a struggling alcoholic.
I genuinely believe the worst thing that can happen to a writer is to become a multi-millionaire.
I’ll give you an example of a true writer. I have a friend called Shaun Stafford, he’s written countless books, but he’s too busy writing his next book to even care about sending his previous ones to a publisher or agent – and this guy is a class writer. Check out Putrid Underbellly, Peeling The Onion, or even the soon to be released Besotted… He just puts them on Amazon for e-kindle. I don’t think he even goes to writing workshops, he works in a minimum wage job and spends his days dreaming up stories and rushes home to write about them. I don’t think Shaun has once mentioned money.
Thank you for saying this. I agree. I’m interested in writing and I know I’ll never make money writing novels. I know it will never make up a big portion of my income. I think particularly with novels, they’re such enormous projects – they mean so much to us – that we’re not dumb or naive to think they should bring us some monetary rewards. It makes sense, at least sentimentally, it that’s any sense at all! But it would be nice if we took the emphasis off of the money side of it – because for most of us it will never exist. And does it need to? Would life really be that interesting anyway if we spent all our time sitting in front of a computer, stuck in our heads trying to figure out a plot? (I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification of what it means to write) Maybe it’s for the best that we have to find secondary ways to make a living. I think what we really want, more than money, is to share our writing. That’s at least true for me, anyway. What shatters my optimism to make space in my life for writing whether as hobby or career, is the idea that nobody else will read it or enjoy it besides myself. If I went decades of my life writing novels and they made no money that’d be fine…but if nobody read them – not my family, not my friends, not even strangers online – THEN you’d see me down and out and all sad about my writing. THEN you’d see me saying “I wasted my life on this stupid, unrealistic, juvenile writing idea”. It doesn’t bug me that I’ll have to work a day job or have a side hustle to make any money from my writing, whether I write novels or blog posts, or whatever the heck – that’s just how it’s gonna be and that’s okay! If I can one-sidedly assail a good friend with my plot ideas once in a while, that’s enough for me. Writing like I’ve seen some other people on here say is an art, not a job. I’ve never thought about writing in terms of the money, it’s always been for my enjoyment. Isn’t that true for most writers? If you make money from it – any money at all – that’s great, but it’s not the point. It’s not the goal.
Writing is not about money. It is an art. If you love to write, then write. I could care less about making money as long as I can still write in my spare time. This article was extremely discouraging and probably disheartening to this student. Maybe you could have told him the ways he can make money writing while working on his novel. I know three people that make a living writing full time.They are not rich, but they get by.
I agree with Randy that making a living as a fiction writer is a difficult task. However I also believe that these difficulties are represented by those who have attempted to write fiction for a living and have failed. There are several possible reasons why they may have been unsuccessful but chiefly among them would probably be a lack of persistence.
My point is that earning a living as a fiction writer takes hard work and endurance and in fact more of it than the average person is willing to give. By very definition of the term, the “average person” is exactly who Randy’s audience is so I don’t feel like his advice is that far off the mark.
That being said, you don’t have to be the average person. If you know that hard work and persistence are required tools for success as a fiction writer, then those are the two traits that you should embody as you take your first steps on this endeavor. A previous comment by VonEdward mentioned JK Rowling and Stephen King, clearly two extremely successful fiction writers. I am willing to bet that both of them absolutely busted their ass to get where they are even with all of their natural writing prowess.
Good luck to all of you.
That is some of the best advice I have ever read in regards to making a living writing fiction. It is 100 percent accurate in terms of what you can expect as a writer.
I had one professor who had two books on the shelf in Barnes and Noble, and was finishing up a third. She had a nice house in a beach town, but confessed that she needed the income from teaching. She had originally thought that she’d get one novel published and live off of the royalties; not so. I had a film professor who had written a couple of made for t.v. movies and was a staff writer for several famous shows, however, he still needed to teach to keep up his lifestyle.
We’ve got extremely high odds against us, but maybe that’s what makes it all the more rewarding.
I think that this entire debate is more than eye-opening for me, and I am intrigued to see so many going through a similar struggle with the fear of “not making it”.
My take on this boils down to intrinsic value. If you don’t enjoy writing for the essence of writing, you are in the wrong profession. Writing gives you the ultimate chance to create something out of nothing. It’s a beautiful escape.
Ages and ages ago (before this thing called capitalism), people told stories without necessarily knowing it would grant them fame and money. They wrote epic stories to teach lessons of love and hate, good and evil. Stories give us a chance to transcend reality but at the same time take a deep look at who we are. Money, fame, and all that stuff comes second. The novel, whether published or not, is timeless. It is the thing that outlives us all.
I was an anthropology student before I became a writer. What did I learn from that. Sometimes we have to step out of what surrounds us and look at things for what they are. Money and fame are enticing for sure… But it is only a fraction of our story.
Stacy Short says
I’ve enjoyed reading the entertainment here, which brings me to the point. Most of these posts focus on the reality of writing as a career. While being a writer does take a creative imagination, a good deal of focus, clarity on occasion, and writing experience, what most are overlooking is the thing we are all doing with this post: reading.
Yes, I’m an English teacher of twenty plus years, but with all that wisdom, I will say that before we can become good writers, we must learn to be good readers. We must read widely, voraciously and passionately. We must understand the heroes of our profession and why they are the “chosen ones” when it comes to authoritative voices for our reading pleasure.
When we can eventually mimic, model and craft our own writing in a similar fashion, then it’s time to be original and break the mold. Historically, the truly gifted writers are the ones that forged new ideology, new styles, new voices through their writing. That’s what a writer needs to do today in order to be truly great. Everything else is just fluff.
Alec Baker says
I just had begun to read Napoleon Hill – Think and Grow Rich – and you’re saying exactly what he taught in your last paragraphs, about persistence and faith. Thank you for writing this article. I wish you great success.
Jack Ryan says
“There are fields where you can earn excellent money for mediocre performance. Fiction writing is not one of them.”
So what are these other fields? I’m always interested in excellent money.
What I’ve had to learn the hard way is that you shouldn’t do something (or not do something) because of the income potential. If money is your objective then you are already doomed to fail. It has been my observation that the most successful and wealthy people (in general) were not overly motivated by money. They had a passion for whatever field they were in and pursued it relentlessly. Money comes and goes but it is your passion that will keep you going when it seems that the whole world is against you and you are on the brink of failure. Having said that, it is good to understand economic realities.
This is not advice, this is plainly saying “don’t be a writer, you won’t succeed”. I think that anyone that writes a good book (not even a great one) and finds a right publisher, is going to make a living with it. Let’s be honest, if it has a good rating, more people will be interested in reading it. It’s not about writing a novel, it’s about writing a good novel. Maybe you didn’t publish anything for 10 years, because you didn’t write anything good for 10 years. Or gave up. Remember, J.K.Rowling was rejected 8 times.
If it didn’t make money, there wouldn’t be any writers.
I respectfully disagree. Do you think J.K. Rowling was sitting there going “Damn, it’s a shame I know absolutely nothing else because I really need to make a living off books.”? Not at all, she was likely motiviated by her passion for writing. It depends on how you define success. If you define success as being the next Stephen King, then you’ll get nowhere, however, I define success as the happiness felt when accomplishing something. If you will only be happy once you’re the next Stephen King, chances are you’ll be less happy than those willing to accept their limitations.
Christian Bannard says
I’ve been highly entertained by this article and found it very informative.
I think the underlying gist of it is really that there’s no “magic bullet” that’s going to make someone successful in any industry and it is really comes down to part luck (a.k.a. where opportunity meets preparation), part hard work, part network/contact building and part being good at what you do to increase your chances of success.
All people that are good at what they do, enjoy it and put in the effort get where they want to be at the end of the day, even if they want more.
My English teacher told me that fantasy writing was rubbish and gave me continual D’s for it because it wasn’t Literature in her opinion, no matter how good the stories were.
Then novels such as Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Deathgate Cycle, Mistborn, etc. came out and prompted movies and such, which eclipsed their respective markets for their day in the spotlight.
King even tried his hand at medieval fantasy with “Eyes of the Dragon” and “The Talisman” and whilst not his best work (probably a bit better than mediocre, though nothing flash in my opinion), it was something he had to get out of his head (like “Gunslinger” which sat shelved for over 20 years whilst he thought about it).
At the end of the day, my advice is to do what YOU want and not what others tell you will get you there; that way, if you fail you only have yourself to blame and no-one else. It’s your decision at the end of the day and anyone embarking on that journey needs to have the intestinal fortitude to actually see it through and roll with the punches along the way. Being able to do that is the essence of writing and of success.
Sometimes your family and friends are your harshest critics at the end of the day and will make you feel like a flake because you’re not doing what they deem to be the “right thing for them”.
If you make money from writing then all well and good, though it’s not something you should “expect”, much the same as many artists and fashion designers. Some make it big, some don’t. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
If I was a crappy golfer I wouldn’t deserve to be playing against Adam Scott, would I? Likewise with writers that can’t string two sentences together.
I’m sure Rowlings would have appreciated some words of encouragement when she was sitting in that cafe wondering how to afford a cup of coffee as well; it just happened that she was onto a good thing and didn’t give up when life had her just about down and out (it doesn’t get much more down and out than not being able to afford a cup of coffee from your local cafe).
Joan Hall Hovey says
Thanks for an excellent answer to Brennan’s question, Randy. I always find your advice right on the money and pass it on to my students. Speaking of money: I’m in my eighth decade, wrote seven suspense novels, working on a new one. My first two books were publisher with a NY publisher. They turned down the third one. I’m now with a Canadian publisher, whose main focus is ebooks, although my books are also in print. Things have changed with ebooks, no question, and opened up other options for writers.
While it’s true I’ve made a ‘good life’ writing fiction, I’ve not made a good living. 🙂 But I love to write, and entertain myself with my own stories and other peoples’ as well. And make a little money. That’s not so bad.
This was an awesome article. Thank you for this!
Very interesting article and as an independent author I can only agree with what has been said in regards to earning a living as an author. I have self-published a few books and despite a lot of work the financial returns have been sparse. Due to independent publishing it is now a hugely competitive field and more and more difficult to get noticed and established. It is very important to give aspiring authors a realistic assessment of future earnings, when this is called into question, so that they can realistically plan their lives and make provisions for some kind of income. This by necessity from other sources even as they continue to write. The lucky few – yes like in everything else luck is an ingredient – can make large incomes but the chances of this are very low. Aspire, dream and write but don’t become bitter if financial rewards are never fully realised. This is the nature of the game.
I feel stupid for my overconfidence now. Here I am jumping into this entire new world, and the first thing I try to do? I try to write a novel. I think I’ma try fanfiction first like the questioner and slowly hone my skills in college once I get there. My personal goal is to get approved by Disney one day so that I could work on Star Wars installments. Outrageous goal, probably never gonna happen, I know, that’s why I set that as my goal.
Chris Pascale says
Would be cool to hear where Brennan is now.
I’m 34 and my first book of poetry is being released later this year (or so I’m told as I work on the final proof).
I started writing when I was 9, started writing a novel when I was 16, then self-published through an extremely over-priced press when I was 23.
It’s taken 15 years and roughly 1,000 rejections – plenty of stamps and envelopes for sure. At one point in 2013/2014 I had just gotten another round of rejections for a non-fiction book I wrote, and was tired. I thought, ‘maybe I won’t try again.’ I was in a competitive Science & Technology program, and was also getting an MBA at another school.
I let that thought sit for a day, then thought, ‘well, then what am I going to do with my life; just work?’
Needless to say, that idea was invited to go f-ck itself.
This life is meant to be lived. Whatever that means to you, you gotta do it.
Sudip lamichhane vega says
Yeah if writing is there in blood,then money doesn’t exist there!!Write,write and write.The main thing is when u start to write ,you know how to struggle,you know how to enjoy yrself in a cup of tea inside the hut…most writers doesn’t search for luxuries and complexity,its there passion and just go on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Lady Anon says
Not strictly relevant, but what does irritate me, and make me think,’oh here we again,’ is when you read about a celebrity who is ‘famous for being famous,’ and very little else, announcing they’ve got a children’s book coming out, at say, Christmas, when the chances are they’ve only come up with the idea, in say June, they’ll do a half-baked job of writing the book, get a professional ghost-writer to do the majority of it and put their name to it in order to boost their already over-inflated ego. What’s more annoying than that, are the celebs who think they’re nutritionists, and write books telling the general public what to eat. Whereas ‘ordinary’ writers who aren’t famous, and have been working on their craft for years, don’t even get a look-in, thus end up feeling frustrated. Seems unfair. Another thing, because people have been rejected by mainstream publishers, many have made the mistake by turning to ‘Vanity publishers,’ who are nothing but scammers. I unknowingly sent away my completed manuscript, the first in a series of four children’s books to a publisher called Austin Macauley, anyone heard of them? To cut a long story short they said they’d get back to me within the 6 weeks, instead, they only took three. Why? Because they wanted a fee ranging from £1900-£4400, to publish my book, depending on which route of publication I wanted to take. Needless to say, they won’t be getting a single penny from me! As for comments about Stephen King and J K Rowling, even Shades of Grey writer E L James, yes they just started out like the rest of us ‘mere mortals,’ Rowling was poor and would write in a cafe for hours on end, but people like them are an absolute rarity, that’s why they make the news, it’s not to say us ‘ordinary folk,’ shouldn’t have a go at writing stories, not just in the hope of being published, even just for the experience, or for purely entertaining people, e.g. writing and reading aloud to children. Anyway good luck to everyone, and Happy New Year.
Jacob George says
Sure, I remember Jerry Seinfeld’s wife “wrote” a cookbook about hiding veggies in baked goods. A TV show host “co-wrote” a book of inspiration stories – other people’s.
As for the latter, I have to say that if the opp to write about some inspirational stories came my way, I’d write it, and would be thrilled to finally get paid some real money to write.
The problem with writing is that there are few people who consume what is written. If books can be compared to goods meant to be consumed, then they are goods which needs intelligence for one to be able to consume them. This restricts the number of people who are able to buy and “consume” books. This is unlike things like soccer which can be consumed by less intelligent people thus making those who have a talent in soccer to have high pay because of producing goods that are highly consumed.
Thea Ramsay says
Hi, folks. I’m 52, totally blind, in a wheelchair and I don’t have family and friends for support. I’ve been led down the garden path by websites selling the Voice-over dream. I’ve done MLM’s. I started my life out in the charismatic realm as a tiny child, because my mom could not accept the facts: that I was blind and that was that.
As a tiny child, I was told that God would make me see if only I believed. Who has more faith than a tiny child? Ask anyone, and particularly anyone with a real disability or illness that isn’t going to go away, and they will tell you, regardless of what it is you’re trying to do, wishing hard, and even working hard, aren’t a guarantee that you’ll get there.
In my 20’s, I went out into the work force with my skills, talents, and positive attitude about blindness, and what I could accomplish, just as I learned at the school for the blind. The one thing they forgot to tell me about is the person across from me. The person across from me who has the power to hire or not, doesn’t have my positive attitudes, and no matter what I say, or how well my resume looks, the door is firmly locked.
As to writing, I’m lucky and blessed that I can write. I’m in the process of self-publishing a fantasy novel. And I must say that after fifty years of being disabled, trying to get somewhere in a world whose doors are firmly locked, all my fantasy ideas are inside my book. Aging and hard knocks will introduce you to reality. Why not come back to this article in, say, ten years or fifteen, and see if you feel the poster is being negative. You may have a different point of view.
The first time I self-published in my 30’s, I had high hopes. Now, 20 years later, my health has deteriorated, and I write because that’s what I was put here to do, whether I entertain a few friends, or a few million.
Post a link and I’ll have my library order a copy, and I’ll write a review.
Jim Harper says
I am a 68 year businessperson who hopes to write I.e. finish a novel I began years ago. Will I be successful? Probably not. But will I continue to write? Yes, absolutely! As I build and weave my plots I get on a roll and it is just damned good fun as the pages and hours of effort roll by and everything falls into place. It’s fun to write but don’t take yourself too seriously. Bless you all!