PDA

View Full Version : Can you make a successful career out it writing novels?


comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 03:03 PM
well my question is pretty much in the title!

can you successfully make a career for yourself writing novels?
i currently work in an office creating HTML content for a webbased company!
and i can honestly it doesn't really fulfill my creative side!

Is it possible for me to actually make a life out of writing books?
as i would love to use my huge creative side to earn a living!

:)

Willowmound
01-22-2008, 03:43 PM
It's possible. In the same way it's possible to support yourself as an actor, or a painter. With difficulty. But people do it. Though never do they do it for the love of money.

There isn't any in it.

KTC
01-22-2008, 03:45 PM
First...welcome to AW...I think I just spoke to you in the sad/happy ending thread, but I didn't realize you were new to the boards. Hope you enjoy it here.

Some can make a living. I'm sure you know this by seeing the same people on the bestseller list time and again. I would have to say it's rare, though. Besides having enough talent to keep having your work published, I think you'd have to have an ability to stay on task, a business sense, etc, etc. It's not all about talent...I just can't imagine dedicating myself to such a huge task. But, yes...it's been done by many, many people. I wouldn't count on it. I'm guessing it is something writers fall into. They write and write and write and one day they find themselves being sustained by their novels. I'm just talking out my *ss though...being that I am unpublished. I'm sure there are many here who could answer the question from personal experience.

Willowmound
01-22-2008, 03:46 PM
And to clarify: Don't quit your day job until you already are, and have been for a while, making money off your writing.

JJ Cooper
01-22-2008, 03:53 PM
If you work hard at it, you can achieve just about anything you want in life. There is an element of luck along the way as well. And like Willowmound mentioned - don't give up your day job just yet.

JJ

comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 04:03 PM
well i'd just love it if i could just make enough money to live you know not even the money as such! i'd love to dedicate my life to writing! thanks for the advice.

Oh and KTC thanks for the welcome!

juneafternoon
01-22-2008, 04:06 PM
I heard the stats are like 1% of writers make a living off it? Quite a staggering percentage, eh? If I were to quit a job to write full-time, I'd make sure I have at least three years' worth of money in the bank, in case I get thrown overboard. This provided that I've been published before, of course. :)

comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 04:11 PM
Well im not actually going to do it, well not yet anyway! :) (wait until ive got at least 3 best sellers! ;) hehe) But i was simply wondereing if it was possible really. :)

Garpy
01-22-2008, 05:08 PM
I did the irresponsible thing and jacked in my job not long after getting the publishing deal. What I did have, was about 3-4 years worth of funds to live off (having sold a house and started renting).

Year 1, I was munching through my savings at a depressing rate, whilst waiting for my 1st book to come out.

Year 2, the book was out, and I'd recieved 50% of a 'decent' advance on a 1-book deal (which belieive me is a very modest income)....spent the year waiting and hoping that the sales would exceed the advance and I might recieve some additional royalties. Signed additional 2 book deal (again 'decent' but not laughing-all-the-way-to-the-bank advance)

Year 3, 1st book out in paperback, cleared advance and recieved a reasonably pleasant royalty check, 2nd book out in hardback, another 50% of advance for 2nd book.

I'm now entering year 4 and if sales continue to go as projected, I would say I'd just about be earning enough not to need tap my savings any longer. But that's not me living expensively either.

I might also add that I am exceptionally lucky to be at this point. I should also add, that there's absolutely no guarantee that my books will continue to sell, nor that my publisher will pick up another 3 book deal with me. It's looking good....but it's not something I'd take for granted.

Hope that helps.

allenparker
01-22-2008, 05:22 PM
I think the question of making a living from the sales of a book and being successful as a novelist are two separate and different questions.

I am not a financially successful writer. I write in a small close-knit niche where good sales of a book will reach 750 to 1000 books. Some do better. This market will not support a writer in the normal sense of the word. But one can be successful with their novels in that you can reach your target market, be known for good fiction and satisfy your readers. To me, that is successful.

Writing as a source of income can be done, but is not necessarily tied to a satisfying career. I could write about other things that would be in a larger market with better opportunities for money flowing to me. That would make me richer, but not necessarily happier.

Choose the route that best suits you. If it is a profitable one, great. If it only allows you to express yourself emotionally, feel lucky you found your niche in life and trudge away at the salt mine.

just a thought...

comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 05:23 PM
Helps alot mate :)

Bufty
01-22-2008, 05:47 PM
Comrade, any chance of correcting Sir Winston's surname - please. Thankyou.

comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 06:12 PM
Thanks for pointing thast out bufty

comradesinarms
01-22-2008, 06:13 PM
:)

Takvah
01-22-2008, 06:20 PM
You could aspire to write one GREAT book, that made you a little cash and got you some attention... and then you could cash in on suckers like us looking for the magic formula to literary success by offering writing seminars and the like. *snickers* I am such a cynical bastard... I admit it.

DWSTXS
01-22-2008, 06:37 PM
I think Garpy is right (write).........make sure you have enough to live on before you go full time...........

on the other hand.........that's sort of like the old joke: ' want to know how to make a small fortune in Vegas?........... Go there with a big one'

johnzakour
01-22-2008, 06:41 PM
The other thing really helps is having a spouse / significant other that has a real job.

I could have never quit my web job to write full time if my wife didn't have a good job with benefits and such!

RedScylla
01-22-2008, 06:43 PM
Cynical or not, many of the published authors I know don't make their real living from the sales of their books. They make a living off their reputations as writers of books that have received some critical acclaim--as creative writing instructors at MFA programs.

preyer
01-22-2008, 07:47 PM
if anyone has a job that doesn't have some drawbacks to it, i'd like to know what that is!

writing novels is a long-term set of issues. to offset some of the financial hardship which may come down the pike, i know some novelists write articles, too. some will adopt a pseudonym and write in better paying genres. gotta keep the lights on, after all, and if what that takes is an occasional romance, what harm is there in that? some will do just the 'hot' market. some make a living off of writing series (which would be death to me, personally).

being a novelist just doesn't mean that's all you write. if you can get a short story published, you can get a novel published.

visit some of the writers' websites here and you won't have to go far to find some offering editing/critique services.

obviously, you're better off with an agent. try to find a good one. duh. me preyer. offer generic advice.

the writer's guild has a health plan if you don't have one. i'm not sure how good it is, but they've got one.

i can't think of a novelist (excluding obvious exceptions) who doesn't have to continually write. not out of some weird psychosis, but (imo) out of some amount of paranoia that if they stopped writing then their financial situation would crumble. and they're probably right, i guess. royalties may come when you least expect them and most need them, but you never know how long those royalties are going to last. and you can't afford not to produce, and you can't afford not to produce sellable material. how much of a writing whore do you want to be? do you want to eke a living out? not me! were i to seek being published, you betcha i'd want to live well above poverty wages. i could sit on my ass and play 'star wars: battlefront' all day and make that much, then do writing as a hobby for extra cash. so, for someone who's got a good job, i can't say go long on novel writing. pay your bills. have good insurance. live comfortably. feed your writing monkey on the side.

good advice, imo: wait until you're secure with your writing before giving up your steady means of support. and remember, you don't just have to write novels. (if you want the money, scripts are where it's at. good luck on that! lol. you can, however, sell your story to a production company. there's always that outside chance.)

ORION
01-22-2008, 09:44 PM
This is really good advice. I write because I have to. I must. It didn't occur to me that it might support me. Even my 6 figure advance would only be enough for 2-3 years max. The pressure of having to produce is staggering if you have to support yourself. I know authors in that position- There was a thread a bit ago about authors you stopped reading? Well if you have to support a huge machine and houses etc. you may end up publishing pretty much anything you write whether it's good or not- I guess my point is that those who want to support themselves by writing may have to do other things to make that happen- teach in MFA programs- be a journalist - etc.

mscelina
01-22-2008, 09:50 PM
I am just teetering on the edge of actually seeing some financial returns from my writing. Okay...almost thinking about teetering perhaps. I write anywhere from 8 to 15 hours a day 5 to 7 days a week, squeezing in a couple of bartending shifts and maintaining an antiques business just so that I have the luxury of writing that many hours per week. Can you make a living writing? Yes. Is it luxurious? No.

The question you need to ask yourself is actually more along the lines of "Can you live with that?"

stutteredtruth
01-22-2008, 10:13 PM
Writing is a talent and you should not limit yourself, nor your gift by saying can I make a living through writing books. Ask yourself this question instead; Can I make a living as a writer? The answer is yes, I'm doing it now myself. The allure of writing a book for a professional writer is the freedom. Nevertheless, it is not the only way to use your talent or gift to make money. There is millions of opportunities in the world for someone who has a talent for writing. Don't limit yourself by saying all I can do with it is write a book.

willietheshakes
01-22-2008, 10:18 PM
I watched a biography on Mavis Gallant last week, and Atwood (shudder) was talking about how, as a writer, you have to be comfortable with the idea (and the reality) of living in poverty (this came up when she was talking about Gallant's early years in Paris, before her writing took off). Now, Dame Peggy Atwood is hardly an expert on poverty these days, but she does have a point: if you can live cheap, you can make a living as a writer (or anything else) fairly easily. If you can't, it'll be harder. Plain and simple.

L M Ashton
01-23-2008, 06:02 AM
Living in a third world country helps. That six figure advance that would last a couple or three years in the west would be enough to live on here for, oh, 30 years. :)

Straka
01-23-2008, 06:55 AM
I did some simulations if my first book sold and how much time I put into it. I think it ended up coming out that I had made $8.25 an hour for my time. And that was a few years ago. Doh!

But I never started writing for money.

James D. Macdonald
01-23-2008, 11:48 AM
Can you make a successful career out it writing novels?

Yes. But you've got a better chance of making a career out of playing professional sports.

Enzo
01-23-2008, 11:49 AM
I resigned from a well-paying job early last year because I realized I would never be able to finish writing a book during the limited free hours I had then.
Right now, I'm near finishing my first draft. I'll see how that goes and if a couple of months down the road, I can't see any promising news, I'll look out for a job again, while continuing on my next novel.
I am living off my savings, but I must also add that, like others here, I have a spouse who is working fulltime. I won't be begging her for money, though.

Horsetales
01-23-2008, 12:47 PM
I was a gardener with the hobby of photography; everyone told me I could never make a living at it. I moved to London, worked my butt off going to everyone that I could think of saying I'm good use me. I ended up having a 15-year career as a West End theatre photographer. People told me that at 44 I was too old to learn to ride. I did that too and now own two horses that mean the world to me. What ever you want, given you want it enough and are sure in your heart of your ability, just go out and take it.

comradesinarms
01-23-2008, 01:49 PM
I was a gardener with the hobby of photography; everyone told me I could never make a living at it. I moved to London, worked my butt off going to everyone that I could think of saying I'm good use me. I ended up having a 15-year career as a West End theatre photographer. People told me that at 44 I was too old to learn to ride. I did that too and now own two horses that mean the world to me. What ever you want, given you want it enough and are sure in your heart of your ability, just go out and take it.

Good advice mate! Inspiring!

Willowmound
01-23-2008, 02:41 PM
What ever you want, given you want it enough and are sure in your heart of your ability, just go out and take it.

Actually having ability probably helps as well...

KTC
01-23-2008, 02:51 PM
and are sure in your heart of your ability,

Yes...this part of what you posted is key. And the ability has to be there for real, too...not just perceived by the one taking that chance.

Horsetales
01-23-2008, 03:09 PM
Actually having ability probably helps as well...

Mind you, I've seen the odd thing on the bookshop shelves of late that makes me think I should have said : 'providing you can can convince an agent or publisher of your ability, actual or imagined!'

Willowmound
01-23-2008, 03:37 PM
Hah! Good point :)

EelKat
01-23-2008, 09:37 PM
I think the question of making a living from the sales of a book and being successful as a novelist are two separate and different questions.

I am not a financially successful writer. I write in a small close-knit niche where good sales of a book will reach 750 to 1000 books. Some do better. This market will not support a writer in the normal sense of the word. But one can be successful with their novels in that you can reach your target market, be known for good fiction and satisfy your readers. To me, that is successful.

Writing as a source of income can be done, but is not necessarily tied to a satisfying career. I could write about other things that would be in a larger market with better opportunities for money flowing to me. That would make me richer, but not necessarily happier.

Choose the route that best suits you. If it is a profitable one, great. If it only allows you to express yourself emotionally, feel lucky you found your niche in life and trudge away at the salt mine.

just a thought...


I'd have to agree here. With a couple of novels, and more than 30 short stories, and over 200 non-fiction articles, I'd say I'm a pretty successful writer, in that my stuff is selling and I have a small fan following, and with that I'm quite happy. However, I sell to a very small niche' market, which, though I love writing for it, I really can not live on the tiny income it brings in, and therefor also work a "regular" day job besides.

First and formost, write because you love to write. Write because it's the thing that makes you happy. If you make money at it, great; if not, who cares, right? That's the attitude you have to have when you take on a writing career.

C.bronco
01-23-2008, 09:52 PM
I hope to make some money from my writing. Afterwards, I'll really cash in with marketing tie-ins, happy meal toys, calendars, legos, oh yeah, and the film options of course. I love product!

Charlie Horse
01-23-2008, 10:17 PM
One thing for sure. You will never make a living as a writer if you get discouraged because your writing "career" isn't taking off fast enough. No successful writer (financially or otherwise) ever acheived that goal by worrying about whether or not they were going to make a living writing. The only path to success at writing is to write...persistently, steadily, and obsessively.

EelKat
01-23-2008, 10:43 PM
I hope to make some money from my writing. Afterwards, I'll really cash in with marketing tie-ins, happy meal toys, calendars, legos, oh yeah, and the film options of course. I love product!


LOL! I think things like this too... I've actually picked out all the actors I want for the movie :hooray:... and don't forget action figures and Barbie's. I so want a Barbie version of my MCs.

and a video game... I so want a video game of my book. I already made all my MCs useing Soul Calibur III, and me and my brothers get to act out fight scenes on screen with them.

comradesinarms
01-24-2008, 12:19 PM
Ive also imagined the movie! thought of all the actors! not so much the toy thing :) I think no matter what thats a thing you cant help but think about, i mean the thought of YOUR OWN book becomming a film is well. . . Really exciting! I'd just love people to read my book! I'm trying to write an almighty book, one that hopefully over time is really successful!

ORION
01-24-2008, 10:37 PM
What you find out when your book is published is that all those grand fantasies are put to rest for good... and the real satisfaction comes from getting emails and letters from readers who say your book really touched them.

And like horsetales I don't let age define what I can do - My book wasn't published until I turned 54. Perseverance is the key- as far as making a living at it? I never gave that a thought. Whatever I was doing at the time - I wrote -

C.bronco
01-24-2008, 10:54 PM
;) I'm taking cues from Gene Simmons. I'm glad that you've been able to experience the satisfaction of having touched the lives of others. I wish you the best in your continued success (and have your book on my list of books to buy)!