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IThinkICan29
07-04-2006, 07:37 AM
Hello everyone....I'm extremely new here and I think the one thing that has me paralyzed is that I'm deathly afraid, I'll end up living in my car and writing my book on old notebook paper. This has had a huge effect on my ability to write. I'm so afraid that I'll never finish the novel I've been working on, that I can't sit down to finish it. I guess I just want to know if it's possible to actually make a living at this? Does writing truly pay? If so when....when when when......:cry: Someone, please help me!:flag:

Gary
07-04-2006, 08:03 AM
I can't speak to making a living at it, but I just finished my first novel, so it can be done. I wasn't certain I could stay with it, so I didn't even tell my wife I was writing a novel. Last weekend, I printed it out and handed it to her. She read it and loved it, but then I realize she's biased.

I wrote nearly all of it in three very long days, while she was on a trip. I've been rewriting and cleaning it up for about 3 months, and now have two beta readers waiting for me to properly format it. With luck, I should be ready to begin testing the marketing waters in a couple of weeks.

citymouse
07-04-2006, 08:11 AM
Hello everyone....I'm extremely new here and I think the one thing that has me paralyzed is that I'm deathly afraid, I'll end up living in my car and writing my book on old notebook paper. This has had a huge effect on my ability to write. I'm so afraid that I'll never finish the novel I've been working on, that I can't sit down to finish it. I guess I just want to know if it's possible to actually make a living at this? Does writing truly pay? If so when....when when when......:cry: Someone, please help me!:flag:
ITIC, The answer is yes. However, there are conditions that have to be in place first. Here is what author Elizabeth George says on the subject.

"You will be published if you possess three qualities—talent, passion, and discipline.
You will probably be published if you possess two of the three qualities in either combination—either talent and discipline, or passion and discipline.
You will likely be published if you possess neither talent nor passion but still have discipline. Just go to the bookstore and pick up a few “notable” titles and you’ll see what I mean.
But if all you possess is talent or passion, if all you possess is talent and passion, you will not be published. The likelihood is you will never be published. And if by some miracle you are published, it will probably never happen again."

Good luck

Vomaxx
07-04-2006, 08:16 AM
Few people earn a living exclusively from writing non-fiction books, fewer still from writing novels. It can be done, but it is rare.

Beginning to write primarily because one wants money is like becoming a teacher because of the long vacations: people who do that don't last long in either profession.

But you can certainly complete a novel, and submit it. If you enjoy writing, by all means do it!

JennaGlatzer
07-04-2006, 08:30 AM
(Edited to add: Rats. I was writing this while Vomaxx posted. Sorry for the partial repetition.)

I don't want to be a downer, but here's the honest answer:

Probably not.

Do *some* people make a living writing novels? Yes. But even many writers whose books are on your shelves right now still have day jobs. It's one of the toughest ways there is to make a full-time living.

If you haven't finished your first novel yet, the "when" could be very far off, if it happens at all. Most people do not sell their first novels. For some, it takes three, four, or more manuscripts before they have written something publishable.

But even if you get that far, an editor will probably offer you less than $10,000 for your first advance. (I think mine was $2500-- and that was a nonfiction book, which is easier to sell.) There is no guarantee that you'll ever see anything beyond the advance money. If you count up all the hours it took you to write, edit, submit, proofread, publicize, etc., there's almost no way that first book can be financially worth it unless you break out right away to bestseller-like numbers (in which case, your royalties may be very good).

Keeping a day job (or having a really understanding spouse with a great job) is imperative until you can actually live off your book money.

It is easier-- though still not "easy" by any means-- to make a living as a nonfiction writer. I've done it for the past 9 years, writing mostly for magazines and books I was hired to write.

With fiction, I believe the question really has to become this:

"If I knew I'd never get paid for my writing, would I do it anyway?"

If so, you have nothing to worry about. Write because you love it, write because it's a challenge and a creative outlet and to share with people you love-- and if the money follows, it's a bonus.

If not, you may be setting yourself up for a world of frustration. There are about 6 bazillion easier ways to make money out there.

My vote? Finish the book. See how you feel about it. See if this is something you want to keep doing, to keep perfecting your craft and learning. See if you're willing to have a day job and write during your "free time" at night or in the early mornings and weekends. If so, be patient with your talent and see where it leads you.

Good luck!

Sassenach
07-04-2006, 08:35 AM
Oh Jenna::::

Did I miss an announcement vis-a-vis that little cradle?

JennaGlatzer
07-04-2006, 08:46 AM
http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=34218

:D

Lilybiz
07-04-2006, 09:55 AM
With fiction, I believe the question really has to become this:

"If I knew I'd never get paid for my writing, would I do it anyway?"

If so, you have nothing to worry about. Write because you love it, write because it's a challenge and a creative outlet and to share with people you love-- and if the money follows, it's a bonus.

Jenna knows way more about the writing business than I do, so listen to what she says. I'm singling out this part of Jenna's post because I learned to ask myself the same question about acting. Making a living in the arts is tough because your product is subjective and you can't predict what people will buy (at least not exactly).

So, like Jenna says: If you love it, do it. And yes, try to make a living at it. And while you're doing so, be open to other things as well. Those other things will one day combine with your writing skills into what becomes your career.

bsolah
07-04-2006, 10:03 AM
I've come to the conclusion that I won't make a living from writing (though, I secretely hold onto that dream). I'm looking for a job, something to earn me some money, whilst I write. I need a job to write because living like this is not a good way to be inspired.

Tracy
07-04-2006, 10:03 AM
Most authors don't make a living at it. But likewise they don't end up living in their cars. You're experiencing some very extreme thinking here! Understandable, but not helpful to you. If you're committed to this (as already said, if you'd do it without ever being paid because you love it so much), then you'll find the time to do it as well as the day job.

Good luck with it!

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 10:49 AM
Hello everyone....I'm extremely new here and I think the one thing that has me paralyzed is that I'm deathly afraid, I'll end up living in my car and writing my book on old notebook paper. This has had a huge effect on my ability to write. I'm so afraid that I'll never finish the novel I've been working on, that I can't sit down to finish it. I guess I just want to know if it's possible to actually make a living at this? Does writing truly pay? If so when....when when when......:cry: Someone, please help me!:flag:

Quite a few writers do earn a living from wriitng, and some few earn many millions of dollars each year. Whether or not you can depends on what you write, how much you write, and how much people like your work.

Most people who try to earn a living from writing fail. Most people who try to earn a living at any creative enterprise fail. But, shoot, four out of five people who try to start their own business fail, as well.

The point is that some succeed, and succeed very, very well. The only way to know whether you're one of the few is to try, and to keep trying.

And what's wrong with living in a car and writing on old notebook paper? I know a very successful businessman who started just this way, except he was living in his car and drawing plans and outlining his dream business on old notebook paper.

But I know this. If you don't finish the novel you're working, failure is guaranteed.

maestrowork
07-04-2006, 10:53 AM
Do what JK Rowling did: work a paying job while you write. Finish the darn book and send it out. Things won't happen no matter how much you pray -- you've just gotta do it.

Plant your feet firmly on the ground while you try to reach for the stars. And make sure you eat.

As Michael Chabon put it, success as a novelist is based on three requirements: talent, luck, and discipline. Discipline is the only element that you can control, and so that is the one that you have to focus on controlling, and you just have to hope and trust in the other two.

Gillhoughly
07-04-2006, 06:57 PM
Always have a day job.

My best friend sells books in the high four to low five figure advance range but her day job pays the bills. She still manages to write 4-5 books a year.

I've been at this for dang near 20 years and still only get high four to low five figure advances. I have a day job to live on between book sales.

Day jobs have insurance, medical plans, and other percs.

A full time writer has to pay all that out of pocket plus self-employment & social security taxes. Publishers don't deduct that from the advance check.

Writers who get the million buck advances & movie deals allowing them to write full time are the equivalent to lottery winners. The rest of us have day jobs to support the habit.

There's maybe a hundred or so of big earners in publishing compared with the thousands of others who don't get the big bucks.

When I tell people I'm a writer, without fail they light up and say-- "Oh, you must be rich."

They get over that when I point out my car in the lot.

I don't live in that car, but have come close a few times in my life. That threat went away after I got a day job. I have a steady income, pay my bills, live within my means, and write.

emeraldcite
07-04-2006, 07:04 PM
Holly Lisle (http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Articles/quit.html) has a good article about this subject as well.

UrsulaV
07-04-2006, 07:49 PM
Writing is possibly the one creative field less lucrative than art, which is what I do for a living.*

I have never yet met an artist who did not work a day job for years on end, or have somebody else work a day job that they mooched off. Whenever I find my in-box filling with the nerve-wracking letters from young artists desperate to make a living in the field, I tell 'em the same thing--get a day job. A day job is not a sign of failure. Everybody gets one. It takes years before your art gets to the point where you're losing money by going to work in the morning, which is the ideal time to quit the day job. Art is hard enough without living in constant terror of the repo man.

So, assuming writing is like art in that regard, the answer is "Yes, you probably can really make a living at this--but not right out of the gate, and not what we'd consider a decent living for quite awhile." It takes time--years--before you'll be able to live off it. Those will be very, very work intensive years, because you'll go to your day job, come home, and paint (or write, or whatever.) It really works best if you'd be doing that anyway, because you have to write or paint, and have no choice in the matter. Otherwise it's quite a slog.

So don't quit your day job just yet, or you really will be living in a car writing on old notebook paper. Expect to keep your day job for quite awhile. But ultimately, yes, it is possible to make a living as a writer.



*Okay, okay, mime probably isn't that lucrative either...

IThinkICan29
07-04-2006, 07:58 PM
Thank you all so much! I am feeling very inspired. Who knows, maybe I'll be writing my novel living in my car but on NEW notebook paper. Thank goodness, I know that quitting my day is a no-no at this point...but I was just hoping that someone could offer some silver lining to my already puffy lilac clouds. Oh well, I'm crossing my fingers and diving back in. Again, thank you all very much for your advice and keep it coming....I'm sure they'll be days ahead that I'll need it.

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 08:05 PM
One thing to remember is that you don't have to earn a living exclusively from writing novels in order to earn living from a writing. I've never been able to earn a living from writing only novels, but I do earn a living by being willing and able to write pretty much anything and everything for anyone and everyone.

For me, writing is writing, and I enjoy almost all of it, whether I'm writing a novel, a short story, an article, an essay, or a recipe. For every writer who earns a living exclusively from writing fiction, there are dozens who earn a living the way I do.

In all honesty, I'm probably better off earning a living this way. I'm a lazy cuss by nature, and if I ever do write a novel that brings in millions, I might just buy a fishing pole, a little boat, and spend the rest of my life drowning worms.

BardSkye
07-04-2006, 08:12 PM
If it's any solace, starting out as a publisher means you have to keep your day job, too.

maestrowork
07-04-2006, 09:04 PM
One thing to remember is that you don't have to earn a living exclusively from writing novels in order to earn living from a writing. I've never been able to earn a living from writing only novels, but I do earn a living by being willing and able to write pretty much anything and everything for anyone and everyone.

I just read an interview with Michael Chabon. You would have thought that someone of that caliber and esteem would be making millions writing novels or selling movie options to his novels. But that's not true. He said he would love to make a living solely on writing novels, but that's really not the case. He IS making a living writing, but not from novels alone. He has to supplement his income by writing for TV and movies because he can get benefits/insurance etc. for his family (one wife, four kids) through WGA.

The key here is that you can have your head in the clouds, but you still live on Earth. Be realistic, but don't lose sight of your dreams. Someone like Chabon could have written something greater and more marketable than anything Dan Brown could have done, but he chooses to write what he loves and sticks with it, and 100 years from now people will still be reading a Michael Chabon classic. Meanwhile, he knows where the money is (TV and movies) that doesn't really give him the same satisfaction or name recognition -- but it's a nice day job that keeps him writing.

HoosierCowgirl
07-04-2006, 09:06 PM
I make a few bucks here and there from short items, as far as writing. I used to work for newspapers, which paid the bills and also provided a lot of chances to observe human nature at work in a lot of settings.

Right now I am writing but also farming with my husband and keeping my eyes open for a bill-paying job.

My parents are artists (not to brag, but they win awards and sell their work for tidy sums) but they always worked in town, too. It helps that my dad has ADHD and drinks about three pots of coffee a day, and Mom tries to keep up with him ;)

I guess I look at writing same as my poultry -- a money making hobby that involves a lot of satisfaction.

Art that does not necessarily make a lot of money also benefits society by getting us to think

Good luck!
Ann

JanDarby
07-04-2006, 09:23 PM
It depends, too, on how you define "making a living." I know authors who are making well above $50K a year, but don't consider that a living wage, and therefore maintain a day job. Others might be able to live on half that and consider themselves living in luxury, as long as they can do the writing they love.

JD

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 09:29 PM
It depends, too, on how you define "making a living." I know authors who are making well above $50K a year, but don't consider that a living wage, and therefore maintain a day job. Others might be able to live on half that and consider themselves living in luxury, as long as they can do the writing they love.

JD

Very true. It does depend on what you call "making a living."

For that matter, I've known several writers who earned many times as much from writing as from their day jobs, but still work nine to five purely because they enjoy what they do. Not every writer wants to quit his day job or drop his career, no matter how much he earns from writing.

Lilybiz
07-04-2006, 09:36 PM
It also depends on how you define being paid for writing. A friend of mine has a day job writing PR for a municipality. She considers that being paid for her writing (I do, too). After work at the office, she's at home working on her novels and short stories. She's a full-time writer, making a living at what she loves to do.

KTC
07-04-2006, 09:38 PM
I don't plan on ever making a living writing novels. I wish I could pretend I had that kind of confidence in myself, but I don't. I'm a head-in-the-clouds realist. Yes, that is an impossible thing to be. That's why I also feel like a push-me-pull-ya...those two headed animals in Dr. Doolittle.

I make a great second income writing, but I have yet to make money on a novel. I have a couple finished and a couple in the works, but I've never submitted one before. I have the motivation of a gnat. (They are not very motivational. Or so I hear.)

You can always make a living doing something else while you're writing your novel. That's the beauty of novel writing...for me, anyway.

RG570
07-04-2006, 09:54 PM
I think it also depends on what you consider "a living". I've read comments from authors complaining they only make around 20k a year.

I could live like a king on that. There's all this talk about making more money, but very little on trimming down how much you need, which would be another way to make writing full time a reality.

Sassenach
07-04-2006, 10:10 PM
I've read comments from authors complaining they only make around 20k a year.

I could live like a king on that.


Where do you live??

SpookyWriter
07-04-2006, 10:27 PM
I came in late, but read most every comment. I too had wondered about earning a decent wage from writing novels, short stories, and the like. I submitted, wrote more stories, had a few rejections and then said "Blah" because it was too much like a full time job just trying to get my work out there for editors to accept or reject. Much the same as with agents and it is the sale your work part that keeps me pinned down to marginal expectations.

Jenna said "If I knew I'd never get paid for my writing, would I do it anyway?"

Well yes, and I've been doing it for twenty years now. I don't write with the expectation of earning a living from my work. I write a novel, put it aside, work on a few short stories and then start another novel. But I don't put a lot of effort into sales.

I've actually written short stories and spoof articles without any renumerication what-so-ever and had just as much fun. Maybe someday I'll have an attitude that differs from my current one, but until I get up the mojo to go through the agent minefield I'll probably stay the course.

Cheers and good writing,

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 10:42 PM
I think it also depends on what you consider "a living". I've read comments from authors complaining they only make around 20k a year.

I could live like a king on that. There's all this talk about making more money, but very little on trimming down how much you need, which would be another way to make writing full time a reality.


I need to move to wherever you live. I don't think I could live on twice 20K, and certainly not like a king.

Of course, how much you need does depend largely on who you are. A wife and kids mean you need quite a bit more, and putting them through college ain't cheap. My oldest went to a college that started at 25K per year, and was over 30K per year by the time he graduated. And you can't just wait until they turn college age to start socking away money.

And I need insurance, a roof over my head, enough money to pay bills, and for a trip now and then. Then you have to think about retirement, taxes, etc.

From my experience, you have to earn darned near twice as much as a self-employed person to maintain the same lifestyle you have when working for someone else.

Now, my middle son is single, and is making about 30K per year, along with benefits, and he's able to pay all his bills, but no one would say he's living like a king.

Where you live is also important. Where I now live in the midwest, you can buy a very nice house for well under 100K, we just sold a ready to move in two bedroom house for 45K, and the average apartment here is only $350 per month. If you shop around, you can find one that isn't too bad for $250.

But I've been to several places where 20K per year wouldn't even cover the rent on an average apartment.

There are certainly people here, even families, that live on a less than 20K per year, but none of them have an easy time of it.

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 10:48 PM
Jenna said "If I knew I'd never get paid for my writing, would I do it anyway?"



Cheers and good writing,

My answer to this would almost certainly be no, if I couldn't earn money from wriitng, I probably wouldn't write.

I sat down to write the first time strictly for money, and while I found I greatly enjoy the writing process, there are many otehr things in life I also enjoy, and I'm pretty sure I'd pick one of those that also paid me.

Maybe I'm going against the grain here, but I think it's a heck of a lot easier to earn money as a writer if one of your main goals is to earn money as a writer.

It isn't all about the money, but if earning money isn't part of the picture, then making money gets very, very tough.

SpookyWriter
07-04-2006, 10:52 PM
I think it also depends on what you consider "a living". I've read comments from authors complaining they only make around 20k a year.

I could live like a king on that. There's all this talk about making more money, but very little on trimming down how much you need, which would be another way to make writing full time a reality.Believe it or not, it is quite possible to live in Holland or other parts of Europe on 20k a year and have a decent lifestyle. I have a few friends (writes, editors, etc.) who retired to Ukraine or Russia and do live like kings on much less. I would consider it (am) once I reach my goal of parenthood and the last child is safely in college.

Matter of fact, my personal goal is returning to either Holland or another part of Europe and continue writing. I was so inspired while living in Europe. Guess it's all the artifacts and history (ghouls on every roof top) that is what a horror writer needs most.

SpookyWriter
07-04-2006, 10:57 PM
It isn't all about the money, but if earning money isn't part of the picture, then making money gets very, very tough.I hear you. But for what it is worth, to me, I don't write for the money because my day job pays much more than I could possibly earn as a full time writer. Unless I sold best sellers and the such. I haven't quit writing simply because I don't sell my work. I may at some future date decide to pursue the sale of my novels, short stories, and live off a very small pension. But the drive and discipline isn't always about the money. Although I will concede the necessity if it is a profession and not a passion.

Best,

Jamesaritchie
07-04-2006, 11:41 PM
Believe it or not, it is quite possible to live in Holland or other parts of Europe on 20k a year and have a decent lifestyle. I have a few friends (writes, editors, etc.) who retired to Ukraine or Russia and do live like kings on much less. I would consider it (am) once I reach my goal of parenthood and the last child is safely in college.

Matter of fact, my personal goal is returning to either Holland or another part of Europe and continue writing. I was so inspired while living in Europe. Guess it's all the artifacts and history (ghouls on every roof top) that is what a horror writer needs most.

Guess it depends on what you call "a decent lifestyle." I wouldn't begin to try living on 20K a year in the parts of Europe I've seen. You can certainly live pretty darned well on 20K a year in Mexico or Russia, but even in these places I would not want to try growing old on 20K per year.

Young and single, yep, I could find ways of getting by nicely on 20K per year. But with a family, not a chance. And never for growing old.

But it does depend on what you want, what you like to do, and what you expect from the years after you body starts to go a little.

RG570
07-04-2006, 11:50 PM
I live in Canada, so I don't have to worry about health insurance, Though, I'd like to get some cavities fixed...

But it's not because of where I live that I don't need a lot to live. I'm cheap. I don't have any consumerist tendencies. I don't buy anything, really. And I'm quite happy living like that. I also will never have children (the government even pays for my vasectomy!), which will lighten the load a lot compared to the average person.

There are tons of little tricks to live a cheap life. There are a few good books about it.

I'd love to take off to the Czech Republic or something and live even cheaper though.

I think many people think "making a living" from writing means striking it rich. I don't see it that way at all. I might end up making minimum wage or less from writing if I'm lucky, but the freedom and time is worth more than money ever could.9-5 jobs just kill me. I hate them so much.

Old Hack
07-04-2006, 11:59 PM
I have pulled the following statistics out from a report which was commissioned by the UK-based Society of Authors in 2000. As you read through this remember that last year then average house price here was about £120,000 (not sure what the exchange rate is but think it's about £1/$1.80, meaning that's around $216,000), with rental house prices correspondingly high AND difficult to find.


Sales of more than 50,000 paperbacks a year should yield an income of about
£20,000.

For most authors, average UK sales per title are in the region of 3,000 to
8,000 in paperback and 1,000 in hardback, which equates to an income of
between £2,500 and £5,000 per book.

75% of authors earned under £20,000 in 1999. The average annual income was £16,000, while 5% (82) of authors polled earned more than £75,000. Only 3% (51) earned over £100,000.

Although the national average wage was £20,919 when the report was compiled, 61% of the writers polled earned under £10,000. 46% earned under £5,000, of whom 123 said that writing was their main source of income, while 14 had no other source of income at all.

One author who earned between £20,000 and £30,000 commented, "Although I earn a living wage, I have published more than 60 books, half of which are
in print, some of which have sold more than 200,000 copies worldwide. I am
considered highly successful. But I don't think my earnings reflect this."

The Society of Authors estimates that the number of full-time writers
supporting families by their writing is very small—probably nearer 1,000
than 2,000.

The level of advances is dropping. The majority of advances are under
£5,000. Only 51% of writers said that more than half their works earned out
their advances.

Of those who had given up salaried employment to write, only 32% were better off.

cwfgal
07-05-2006, 12:22 AM
One thing to remember is that you don't have to earn a living exclusively from writing novels in order to earn living from a writing. I've never been able to earn a living from writing only novels, but I do earn a living by being willing and able to write pretty much anything and everything for anyone and everyone.

For me, writing is writing, and I enjoy almost all of it, whether I'm writing a novel, a short story, an article, an essay, or a recipe. For every writer who earns a living exclusively from writing fiction, there are dozens who earn a living the way I do.


Dang it. I wrote a lengthy response to this and for some reason it wouldn't post. And I lost it. So let me try again.

While I earned a living from my writing for a number of years, it required doing a lot of freelance nonfiction stuff to augment my novel income. I made between $40 and $45K on each of my three pubbed novels, but it was spread out over such a long period of time and came in in such unpredictable dribs and drabs that it made it impossible to live off it alone. For a more detailed explanation of the novel income, and how much came in when, see my previous post here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16207).

I found that the amount of piece work I had to do, the constant deadlines, the bookeeping, and the altered style of writing required for the freelance stuff left me with little time for my fiction. And that writing felt like work (kind of like homework did when I was in school) and it robbed me of much of the joy of writing. So I let the freelance stuff go, returned to a day job I love that pays me well and allows me plenty of time for writing, and went back to writing fiction alone. I haven't regretted it and, while I may occasionally miss the scheduling flexibility of working from home, I don't miss any of the rest of it, like the lack of benefits, the feeling of always being at work, the constant deadlines, and the isolation.

I think each person has to decide what works best for them and balance that with reality. The reality with writing fiction is that very, very few will be able to make a living off it alone.

Beth

Jamesaritchie
07-05-2006, 06:05 AM
Dang it. I wrote a lengthy response to this and for some reason it wouldn't post. And I lost it. So let me try again.

While I earned a living from my writing for a number of years, it required doing a lot of freelance nonfiction stuff to augment my novel income. I made between $40 and $45K on each of my three pubbed novels, but it was spread out over such a long period of time and came in in such unpredictable dribs and drabs that it made it impossible to live off it alone. For a more detailed explanation of the novel income, and how much came in when, see my previous post here (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=16207).

I found that the amount of piece work I had to do, the constant deadlines, the bookeeping, and the altered style of writing required for the freelance stuff left me with little time for my fiction. And that writing felt like work (kind of like homework did when I was in school) and it robbed me of much of the joy of writing. So I let the freelance stuff go, returned to a day job I love that pays me well and allows me plenty of time for writing, and went back to writing fiction alone. I haven't regretted it and, while I may occasionally miss the scheduling flexibility of working from home, I don't miss any of the rest of it, like the lack of benefits, the feeling of always being at work, the constant deadlines, and the isolation.

I think each person has to decide what works best for them and balance that with reality. The reality with writing fiction is that very, very few will be able to make a living off it alone.

Beth

I think you have to enjoy the freelancing as much as the fiction in order to make it work. I do. For me, it's a nine to five job that feels like work. Any nine to five job. I do think of writing as work, as my job, but none of it ever feels like work. There just isn't enough money out there to make me work a nine to five job.

Many are happy with nine to five jobs, and I know writers who make more money than I ever will who love their nine to five gigs, and wouldn't dream of giving them up no matter what.

I gave up my day job som long ago it isn't funny, but I still remember how much I hated being told what to do, how to do it, what time to be at work, what time to eat lunch, etc. So I learned how to make writing work for me. But it all took some learning. I learned I needed to build a money cushion. Then ten percent had to go in the bank against the future, and then benefits had to be paid for. After that, whatever is left, however small or large, gets divided into fifty-two parts, and is spent accordingly.

Money management is the tough part. If you're flush one month, and then broke the next, it just isn't going to work out very well.

It would be nice to pull in enough money from a novel or two to set myself up for life, but I'm not counting on that happening anytime soon. But I like writing, no matter what it is I'm writing, and for me, anything on earth is better than a nine to five job. That's just not something I'm ever going to do again, whatever it takes.

It is true that relatively few earn a living from fiction, but numbers don't impress me much. I don't care how few manage it, as long as I'm one of them.

And when you get right down to it, most people with nine to five jobs don't earn much of a living, either. The median income in this country is only about 33K. That's not very much money, not much of a living. And millions earn much less than this from nine to five jobs. And many who do earn more never have enough time away from work to matter. Two weeks a year, if they're lucky.

And for millions of people, a nine to five job means work they hate, minimum wage or a bit above, and lousy or no benefits. It seems to me the percentage of people who earn a really good living from a nine to five job isn't a heck of a lot higher than the percentage of published writers who earn a good living. I think this is largely why so many want to earn a living as a writer. They're unlikley to earn a good living any other way. I know so many people who work two, sometimes three jobs, just to make ends meet that it's scary.

Those who can find a nine to five job they love, that pays very well, and that offers good benefits are probably just about as lucky as those published writers who can earn a full-time living from writing.

Lilybiz
07-05-2006, 06:27 AM
Ditto JamesARitchie. Bravo. Very well put.

I haven't got any proof of this, but as far as I know I only get to live once. I decided at a young age that I was going to spend my life in a profession I loved.

It's hard work to freelance. VERY hard. I probably worked much longer hours than nine to five, because sometimes I had to work a day-job to support my own chosen work, so in effect I was working two full-time jobs for a while. But it was all in service of my goals. It took a long time and for years my ends barely met. It was worth it. Now I'm a full-time freelancer (writing, and other artistic endeavors). I still work longer hours than my friends in regular jobs, but they're MY hours.

If one were to embark on a career in the arts because it looks fun or easy, I'd offer a warning: "success not likely." But if you're willing to work hard and persist, as per the famous Calvin Coolidge quote, then your chances of doing well increase.

Why suffer a job you hate, just for security? For a few years, yes, pay your bills while you build your artistic career. But these days, in the US at least, job security no longer exists. Might as well do work you love. You may work harder than your cohorts who stay in the trenches, but you'll be happier.

jayxwolf
07-05-2006, 06:37 AM
Guess it depends on what you call "a decent lifestyle." I wouldn't begin to try living on 20K a year in the parts of Europe I've seen. You can certainly live pretty darned well on 20K a year in Mexico or Russia, but even in these places I would not want to try growing old on 20K per year.

Young and single, yep, I could find ways of getting by nicely on 20K per year. But with a family, not a chance. And never for growing old.

But it does depend on what you want, what you like to do, and what you expect from the years after you body starts to go a little.

I was planning to chime in on the 20k-a-year commentary but you pretty much said what I'd have to say about it.

I will add that I could live very well on 20k a year (and do, generally) even though I live in a place widely considered to be more expensive than most, but then I'm 22 and single, so my definition of living well is probably different than some, lol.


~j

PeeDee
07-05-2006, 07:03 AM
Is it horrible and strange that I find the thought of living in my car, holing myself up, and just writing my novel on old notebook paper a terribly romantic idea?

I think I would not have minded before I were married. Now, I get a job.

Will I be making a living at this some day? You bet your life I will. How? No idea, and it doesn't matter. The most important thing is to put one word in front of antoher until your work is done. Then sell it. Then do it again. Some day, you just might look up and find that the repitition of it has suddenly gotten rid of the need for you to have a job.

....and while you'll be happy about it, ultimately, you're still just sitting there putting one word in front of another, which you were happy about anyway. So relax, and just have fun with the writing. Honest, that's the good part anyway. :)

Lilybiz
07-05-2006, 07:09 AM
Is it horrible and strange that I find the thought of living in my car, holing myself up, and just writing my novel on old notebook paper a terribly romantic idea?

I think I would not have minded before I were married. Now, I get a job.
:)

Not horrible or strange, although I like the idea of retiring to write in Europe better.

I married a writer. :)

PeeDee
07-05-2006, 07:11 AM
Not horrible or strange, although I like the idea of retiring to write in Europe better.

I married a writer. :)

I married a sane, sensible woman with a startlingly off-kilter imagination and sense of humor that very few people see. Mostly, she seems normal. I know better. She's as abstract as I am.

....I could happily retire to Europe and live in a big house by the sea.

expatbrat
07-05-2006, 07:20 AM
I got bored writing full time. I don’t have to work, my “wife allowance” is higher than an international schools teachers salary and more than twice the average ESL teachers income. And I live in Thailand where everything is cheap. I could sit right here and write all day if I wanted.

But I can’t. The lack of people contact drives me insane.

I tried working near people. In restaurants tourists always came up and want to talk. I tried typing in Starbucks but men kept trying to pick me up. I tried writing in the park but the bugs drive me crazy and twice men have grabbed my boobs (arrrrrrhhhh, you should have seen the age of one of them, he must have been 70!). So I write in my office, on the veranda or by the pool. But I get bored. I can only do about 3 hours a day and that’s it. That’s as long as I can stay still in one place and focus on one project.

Writing a book is such a huge project, it is so long from beginning to end. And while you get little rewards seeing the word counts go up and the story coming together, I need the big rewards (like getting people off insulin, the old guy who can now carry in 2 shopping bags at once, the women who beams in excitement explaining peoples reaction to her new look).

So I have gone back to work. And where I was only writing about an hour a day before and fooling around the rest of the time, now I write 2 or 3 hours most days, I’m much more organized with my errands etc, and, I feel a lot happier.

Jamesaritchie
07-05-2006, 07:26 AM
I got bored writing full time. I don’t have to work, my “wife allowance” is higher than an international schools teachers salary and more than twice the average ESL teachers income. And I live in Thailand where everything is cheap. I could sit right here and write all day if I wanted.

But I can’t. The lack of people contact drives me insane.

I tried working near people. In restaurants tourists always came up and want to talk. I tried typing in Starbucks but men kept trying to pick me up. I tried writing in the park but the bugs drive me crazy and twice men have grabbed my boobs (arrrrrrhhhh, you should have seen the age of one of them, he must have been 70!). So I write in my office, on the veranda or by the pool. But I get bored. I can only do about 3 hours a day and that’s it. That’s as long as I can stay still in one place and focus on one project.

Writing a book is such a huge project, it is so long from beginning to end. And while you get little rewards seeing the word counts go up and the story coming together, I need the big rewards (like getting people off insulin, the old guy who can now carry in 2 shopping bags at once, the women who beams in excitement explaining peoples reaction to her new look).

So I have gone back to work. And where I was only writing about an hour a day before and fooling around the rest of the time, now I write 2 or 3 hours most days, I’m much more organized with my errands etc, and, I feel a lot happier.


If I ever found writing boring, I wouldn't do it at all. I think maybe this is the key. If writing is boring, you definitely need some other job.

I can write fifteen hours a day, day in and day out, without being bored. On the other hand, if I spend fifteen minutes in a crowd, and I'm bored to death. I can sure go five or six hours per day without seeing other people. I'd go insane if I had to be around people all the time.

Writing is an awfully tough profession for someone who needs to be around people, or who can't sit and concentrate in isolation for long periods.

SpookyWriter
07-05-2006, 07:35 AM
If I ever found writing boring, I wouldn't do it at all. I think maybe this is the key. If writing is boring, you definitely need some other job.

I can write fifteen hours a day, day in and day out, without being bored. On the other hand, if I spend fifteen minutes in a crowd, and I'm bored to death. I can sure go five or six hours per day without seeing other people. I'd go insane if I had to be around people all the time.

Writing is an awfully tough profession for someone who needs to be around people, or who can't sit and concentrate in isolation for long periods.My admirations,

blackbird
07-05-2006, 11:04 AM
I think this is exactly why so many writers end up becoming academians--teachers, English professors, etc. If you can't make a living writing, what better alternative is there than to get paid for talking about the books that you love and the techniques of the writers you admire? This is exactly what inspired me to want to teach, and although like any job it has its ups and downs and frustrations, I know deep down that short of becoming a wildly succesful novelist--which is a pipe dream at best--there is nothing else I'd rather do. I feel very fortunate when I can spend my nine-to-five life surrounded by literature and talking literature, then go home to create my own. Some people will say it's no substitute for "the real world" but frankly I've had my time in "the real world"--more than 20 years' worth--and I know I've made the right choice for me. I feel like I get the best of both worlds, and even though I don't have the luxury of being able to write full time, I'm definitely happier and more fulfulled than if I had to do something I hated for a living.

aruna
07-05-2006, 11:42 AM
It's a very precarious life.

Between 1998 and 2004, I earned a huge amount of money from writing.

My first novel (acquired 1998) earned me an advance of 50000.00 british pounds (don't have the pound sign on this keyboard)
I then got a two-book contract for 90000.00. pounds.

Total advances for British rights: 140000.00 pounds

A big German publisher bought my first two books for roughly the same amount each: 100000.00 pounds.

Those advances (British and German) never earned out and I was dropped by both publishers.

I sold to three other European publishers, all for small (four figure) advances. Those advances all earned out and I got royalties; in the case of France, the first two books became bestsellers and I was getting about 50000.00 (pounds) a year for two years, after that diminishing drastically. This year French royalties totalled about 10000.00 pounds.

This is before tax and before agents commissions, so take it all with a grain of salt.
As my husband had his own steady income I decided to use my money for private English schools for my kids; the German school system is terribly rigid and both were failing here. That eventually involved moving to England myself, and maintaining double households.

England is horribly expensive. When I first moved there the cost of living was three times what it was in Germany, roughly. We had to have a home, and house prices are through the roof in England, especially where we live, which is a dignified seaside resort. I suppose I should have chosen schools in a cheaper place, but once that was done it was done and I couldn't displace the children one more time. Anyway, I bought a house in England, but the mortgage is huge and now that I am no longer eraning advances or French royalties hard to keep up.

I also have a mother in Guyana who has no other children or relatives and no pension to speak of; she lives from the rent from two rooms in her home, and needs my help. If any emergency happens there (she is 86) we are in BIG trouble. LUckily, she is very robust physically and mentally and I hope she can stay that way for a while.

Add to that the fact that my husband is now ill with Parkinson's and has just gone into retirement; he has to pay his ex-wife almost a third of his pension, which is half of his last salary. We are selling our house in Germany, but the bank gets most of it and Germany is weird inthat property prices actually go DOWN over the years. Compared to what we paid for it we have lost a lot on it. The same house - quite big and in a wonderful location - would be worth about three times as much in England. An American friend from Caluifornia told me that in CA it would be a million-dollar home.

So we are back at square one now. Luckily, both the kids are out of that expensive school and though they wil go to college they'll get student loans and maintenance form the governement. But they are still on our hands.

Anyway, to make a long story short, it could have gone differently; I could have saved that money and we could have lived well for years on it, so I'm not comlaining. I made some risky decisions and we just have to see how it will work out. IN spite of everything I don't regret taking the decisions I did.

If it were me alone it would be quite different. I would not live in Europe at all, but in India or some place like that, where 20000 a year is indeed a small fortune. I don't require much to live.

aruna
07-05-2006, 11:56 AM
And for millions of people, a nine to five job means work they hate, minimum wage or a bit above, and lousy or no benefits. It seems to me the percentage of people who earn a really good living from a nine to five job isn't a heck of a lot higher than the percentage of published writers who earn a good living. I think this is largely why so many want to earn a living as a writer. They're unlikley to earn a good living any other way. I know so many people who work two, sometimes three jobs, just to make ends meet that it's scary.

.

In my case, there's another consideration: I never was skilled at anything except for writing. I remember when I was supposed ot think of a craeer and NOTHING occured to me which I might actually be able to do. I am not good with my hands - very clumsy, in fact - and terrible at anything to do with figures. I don't speak well and though I would call myself a people person, I am very shy and wouldn't do well in any job that required a lot of social interactiion. I did try to change this; I actually trained as a social worker in Germany, but while doing that job for six yeras I discovered that I not only hated it, I was no good at it. I am far too "nice" to deal with the difficult people I had to deal with.

Plus, I am still UK based and the social work system is completely different from the German one, so I can't do it, and at my age, who's going to retrain me? (I'm 55) I am basically an unskilled worker. Guess I could flip hamburgers if I had to. But nope; I want to write full ltime again, make a living form it. It's what I'm meant to do.

jbal
07-06-2006, 02:57 AM
I found while surfing a blog for a best selling author named Brian Keene. His blog has an interesting set of instructions detailing how he makes a living writing full time. beware of foul language if you're very sensitive to this sort of thing. It appears maybe a quarter of the way down the page.
http://www.worlddomination101.blogspot.com/

Unimportant
07-06-2006, 03:28 AM
Just chiming in with a reminder that while there are a lot of countries with lower costs of living than the USA, and where the US dollar gets you more than one local dollar, an American writer can't necessarily just waltz into one of those countries, buy a house, and settle down.

Presumably everyone here comprehends 'immigration' but since I've recently had to disillusion my mother on this front, it might bear repeating. She was seriously shocked when I told her that she couldn't just move to New Zealand no matter how pretty it looks there because, well, why the heck would they want a 70-something woman with no job skills, no business investment, and nothing to offer? Why would they let her use their hospitals and social services and superannuation? ('But -- but -- I'm AMERICAN!' was her reply. 'Of COURSE they'd want me!')

Inkdaub
07-06-2006, 04:55 PM
I think the wildest dream of the writers life that I have is to earn enough to have writing be my day job. That's far more rare than many non-writers think but it's doable. I'm not talking a huge house at Martha's Vineyard and thousand dollar restaurant bills every night either. A small apartment where I'm comfortable and some spare scratch for books and music and movies...I'm cool. I do want to live in NYC which does raise the bar significantly. To accomplish this dream I am writing on this message board instead of on my WIP.

ViatMortege
07-06-2006, 10:56 PM
Sorry to disappoint you all; but the chances of making a living writing is so remote; you'd be better off trying to learn madrin-binary, if you know what I mean.

But hey; let it flow; with how many of us there are; one of us has to make it big, right?

Dollywagon
07-06-2006, 11:13 PM
You lot haven't filled me with much hope.


And PeeDee, in the winter and spring the car is full of condensation in the mornings. The droplets make you ink run.

"Romantisicm is essentially a spectator sport" - John McCrone.

Sassenach
07-07-2006, 12:37 AM
Sorry to disappoint you all; but the chances of making a living writing is so remote; you'd be better off trying to learn madrin-binary, if you know what I mean.

But hey; let it flow; with how many of us there are; one of us has to make it big, right?

You seem to know the answer to everything.

I've been making a living writing [non-fiction] for 10+ years. I include teaching as part of that, since I teach writing. I'm also a generalist, and do lots of different types of writing.

It's tougher to make a living with fiction, unless you're willing to work a day job and devote your free time to writing. But I don't think it's impossible.

brianm
07-07-2006, 12:49 AM
You have to be very honest with yourself when you enter any of the arts.

My mother was a great opera singer. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and was blessed with a beautiful baritone voice. However, I realized I did not have the stamina to sustain three hour performances. I was good for the short run and then my voice gave out. I hated to quit, but I also knew I would never be happy teaching or singing on an amateur level. I made the decision to put myself in a comfortable financial position by age 50 and pursue my other great love... writing. I made that goal by age 49 and now spend my days writing.

There are no age limitations in writing, unlike so many of the other art forms. So, if you are young, consider your options. Don't write yourself into a miserable, dark corner. Practice hard at your craft but be realistic. A bohemian lifestyle is no longer fun and exciting after age thirty. By age forty it will be frought with regret. Trust me, I have a number of friends who are miserable because now they feel they wasted their lives. Yet, still they wait and hope for that one big break that will never come. Because they have no other option but to keep hoping and waiting...

It's very sad but also very common in all of the arts.

davids
07-07-2006, 01:19 AM
If that is your only consideration-don't bother

MidnightMuse
07-07-2006, 01:28 AM
I find it annoying that so many people in the 'outside' world assume that if you write books that get published, you're rolling in the cash. My Mother and Stepfather are one of the worst - they assume any author is a millionaire. I have no idea where they get that, but they're not alone, I'm sure.

I never gave it any thought. I write because I love it - my day job pays all the bills, leaves me very comfortable, and provides health insurance and other ammenities.

My writing provides me with a creative outlet, one that I'm bound and determined to share by being published come hell or high water, but I never once believed or expected to earn a living doing it and nothing else.

It's the gravy on life's roast beast :)

UrsulaV
07-07-2006, 01:34 AM
Trust me, I have a number of friends who are miserable because now they feel they wasted their lives.

It's very sad but also very common in all of the arts.

*grin* Ironically, I've known plenty of people who are miserable and feel they wasted their lives because they DIDN'T go into the art they loved. So my advice to young artists usually involves "If you think this is what you want to do with your life, do it now, because it's a helluva lot harder to start when you're forty and miserable and have two kids and a mortgage, than when you're young and can live on ramen and four hours of sleep a night."

Possibly the lesson here is "No matter what you do, there is an excellent chance you'll be miserable." Which is not encouraging to anybody, although it may contain some truth, more's the pity. Happiness is a talent, some of us have it, some of us haven't got the knack yet.

I suppose it basically comes down to whether you'll be more unhappy as an artist who hasn't made it big, or as an accountant who wishes they were an artist, who also hasn't made it big.

My opinion has always been that life is too short to spend doing something you don't love. But in fairness, I feel I've been reasonably successful at what I do, so that's easy for me to say.

james1611
07-07-2006, 01:40 AM
(Edited to add: Rats. I was writing this while Vomaxx posted. Sorry for the partial repetition.)

I don't want to be a downer, but here's the honest answer:

Probably not.

Do *some* people make a living writing novels? Yes. But even many writers whose books are on your shelves right now still have day jobs. It's one of the toughest ways there is to make a full-time living.

If you haven't finished your first novel yet, the "when" could be very far off, if it happens at all. Most people do not sell their first novels. For some, it takes three, four, or more manuscripts before they have written something publishable.

But even if you get that far, an editor will probably offer you less than $10,000 for your first advance. (I think mine was $2500-- and that was a nonfiction book, which is easier to sell.) There is no guarantee that you'll ever see anything beyond the advance money. If you count up all the hours it took you to write, edit, submit, proofread, publicize, etc., there's almost no way that first book can be financially worth it unless you break out right away to bestseller-like numbers (in which case, your royalties may be very good).

Keeping a day job (or having a really understanding spouse with a great job) is imperative until you can actually live off your book money.

It is easier-- though still not "easy" by any means-- to make a living as a nonfiction writer. I've done it for the past 9 years, writing mostly for magazines and books I was hired to write.

With fiction, I believe the question really has to become this:

"If I knew I'd never get paid for my writing, would I do it anyway?"

If so, you have nothing to worry about. Write because you love it, write because it's a challenge and a creative outlet and to share with people you love-- and if the money follows, it's a bonus.

If not, you may be setting yourself up for a world of frustration. There are about 6 bazillion easier ways to make money out there.

My vote? Finish the book. See how you feel about it. See if this is something you want to keep doing, to keep perfecting your craft and learning. See if you're willing to have a day job and write during your "free time" at night or in the early mornings and weekends. If so, be patient with your talent and see where it leads you.

Good luck!


Bravo Jenna and congrats on your expected bundle-o-joy!!

I have been writing my first novel for about three years now, in my spare time while going full time to college, working in a hospital in surgery full time, serving in the ministry, and with a family...so it can be done.

The book is to be published by a small publisher in November and I'm already approaching the halfway mark for the sequel book, and while I've left college to further pursue ministry, the pressure hasn't abated, but I've only become busier working regular overtime and now serving as the Assistant Pastor in our church--and still there is time to write and seek publication.

But I wouldn't depend on it for a living. As Jenna pointed out, "could you do it, if you knew you would never get paid?"

I know I love to write as a creative outlet. It actually helps me get away and reduce stress. I was still writing hardcore with term papers and essays due every week, along with all the testing and so forth, but writing gave me an escape and it is relaxing in a way. The pressure and anxiety actually didn't come until I tried to submit it for publication.

So I would mirror Jenna's advice, write because you love to do it and if you find it published and doing well, then that's just icing on the cake!!

--James

brianm
07-07-2006, 12:10 PM
UrsulaV, I'm afraid I respectfully disagree. What will those young writers being doing at forty when they are still waiting to be published and not making any money writing? It's a great deal more difficult to start a new career at age forty then it is when you are young. Don't stop writing, I'm not saying that. Quite the opposite. Just make sure you have a way to support yourself in your later years. Use all those young hormones to work during the day putting a roof over your head and food on the table and then write into the wee hours of the morning.

Unlike acting, singing and dancing... a publisher isn't going to turn you away because you are to old for the "part".

Just MHO

UrsulaV
07-07-2006, 06:49 PM
UrsulaV, I'm afraid I respectfully disagree. What will those young writers being doing at forty when they are still waiting to be published and not making any money writing? It's a great deal more difficult to start a new career at age forty then it is when you are young. Don't stop writing, I'm not saying that. Quite the opposite. Just make sure you have a way to support yourself in your later years. Use all those young hormones to work during the day putting a roof over your head and food on the table and then write into the wee hours of the morning.

Unlike acting, singing and dancing... a publisher isn't going to turn you away because you are to old for the "part".

Just MHO

I think we're actually agreeing on the main point--it's a great deal more difficult to start a new career at forty then it is when you're young!

My argument then is that you should go for the career you WANT when you're young, because it's a lot harder to do at forty--plus, and rather more importantly, you'll have avoided twenty years spent doing something you can't stand. Time is something you never do get back.

Yes, there's a lot of financial uncertainty. If financial uncertainty kills you, you probably don't want to do art for a living! It's a perfectly respectable hobby, and no shame is attached to that. But there are a fair number of people who can't stand the notion of doing anything BUT art, who are completely unequipped to go back to a cubicle farm, and for them--start NOW! What are you waiting for?

Perhaps it's difference for writers from all the other arts. All I can go by is the people I've known trying to break into art in their forties and fifties and saying, like a refrain, "Why didn't I do this ten or twenty years ago? Why did I wait so long? Why did no one tell me, when I was young, that this was here?"

The last words of Michelangelo on his deathbed, spoken to his apprentice, were "Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time." I have that tacked on the wall in my studio.

AKillerCanCan
07-07-2006, 08:53 PM
Don't ever rely solely on writing to make a living at first. Get a good paying job, and write on the side. When the writing starts to bring in more money than your job, then you can quit your job. But make sure you always have a fallback, so you don't end up living in your car writing on old notebook paper.

brianm
07-07-2006, 09:35 PM
Writing and painting are unlike the other art forms... they don't have age restrictions. However, if you want to be an actor, singer or dancer you MUST start young. People who regret they didn't go after their acting dream or their singing dream at age forty probably would never have made it anyway. They lacked the ego, self-confidence and drive at an early age that is required in those fields.

Now, if we had the Medici family or other wealthy patrons willing to house and feed aspiring artisits until they could do it on their own, then that would be different. Michelangelo's time period was unique. It was the dawn of awaking and all of the art forms flourished under rich, powerful patrons.

I don't want to step on dreams. I'm just being realistic about the world we live in where art sits sadly neglected in the very back of the bus of life.

Anyway, I think I flogged this horse enough.

Just my opinion and I respect your views and thoughts, UrsulaV!

zeprosnepsid
07-08-2006, 02:02 AM
Do what JK Rowling did: work a paying job while you write. Finish the darn book and send it out. Things won't happen no matter how much you pray -- you've just gotta do it.

I thought what Rowling did was have a kid, get divorced and live off welfare while she was writing...

Wikipedia agrees with me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J_K_Rowling
"Unemployed and living on state benefits,"

HConn
07-08-2006, 03:20 AM
I encourage all writers to engage in rent-seeking behavior on a regular basis.

Even better if said behavior doesn't make you miserable and provides fodder for your writing.