PDA

View Full Version : Is there a lot of competition?



DystopianGypsy
12-30-2009, 12:50 AM
Hi,

Just recently I've adopted writing as a hobby, and I'm considering pursuing a career in the writing profession.

Is there a lot of competition?

I would imagine so, but all the same I had to ask.

Thanks. :)

Shadow_Ferret
12-30-2009, 12:54 AM
Are we talking...? Non-fiction? Which would be newspaper articles, magazines articles, books, all the way down to online entities.

Or are we talking fiction? Short stories? Novels? Flash?

What?

jvc
12-30-2009, 12:54 AM
Yes. There is. A lot of competition.

If you are a great writer, great story teller, and have great balls of fire, then you'll maybe get published.

However, if you're a bad writer, can't tell a story, and have no idea what the 'Randall Principal' is, then you'll never make it as a writer.

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 12:59 AM
However, if you're a bad writer, can't tell a story, and have no idea what the 'Randall Principal' is, then you'll never make it as a writer.

Are you thinking of the Randall PrincipLE, by chance?

Shadow_Ferret
12-30-2009, 01:00 AM
...and have no idea what the 'Randall Principal' is....

uh-oh.

:eek:

I guess that explains my lack of success so far.

Chasing the Horizon
12-30-2009, 01:20 AM
have no idea what the 'Randall Principal' is, then you'll never make it as a writer.
Well, that explains why I'm not published. :D

DystopianGypsy
12-30-2009, 01:20 AM
Sorry. I should have specified.

I'm interested in fiction (ex: novels, short stories, etc.).

Also, is there a lot of competition in the freelancing part of the business?

Thanks again.

Shadow_Ferret
12-30-2009, 01:23 AM
In fiction, competition for novels is fierce. Consider that one agent gets about 500 queries a WEEK. Multiply that by the dozens (hundreds?) of agents, not to mention all the publishing houses that take unsolicited queries...

jvc
12-30-2009, 01:24 AM
I'm just wondering who has googled it yet :D

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 01:29 AM
The basic answer is: Write because you love your story, because the mere act of putting words down is a joy to you and fulfills you in some way.

If that is true, then it doesn't matter how much competition is out there and you'll always be happy because you're fulfilling yourself and your story.

If you're writing as a career and expect to pay the bills straight off the bat, go get a job at McDonald's and flip hamburgers instead. MickeyD's will do better for you, won't tear your ego to shreds (as fast) and might even get you health insurance.

ChaosTitan
12-30-2009, 01:30 AM
I'm just wondering who has googled it yet :D

I'm not googling it, because I don't trust you. ;)


To the OP:

I don't really like the word competition. This isn't a battle, nor is it American Idol. You aren't competing against other writers. You are writing to the best of your ability and taking the next steps to sell it. If you can write a coherent sentence, string those together into interesting paragraphs, and write a story that is both engaging and comprehensible, then you are well ahead of the majority of folks who set out to write fiction.

EclipsesMuse
12-30-2009, 02:30 AM
Are we supposed to google Randall Principal or Randall Principle?
I'm just wondering....

Maxinquaye
12-30-2009, 02:41 AM
I have no clue what the Randall PrincipLE is, so of course I googled. There's a lot of choices, for instance... Lisa Randall's relaxation principle which show that under conventional (but higher-dimensional) FRW evolution, a universe filled with equal NUMBERS of branes and antibranes will naturally come to be dominated by 3-branes and 7-branes.

I doubt that this is it. :)

entropic island
12-30-2009, 02:48 AM
Oh, never mind...read ChaosTitan's post...although it contradicts my earlier statement, I agree with her.

Rushie
12-30-2009, 03:20 AM
Randall's Catapult Hypothesis? Something to do with teaching kids grammar?

jvc
12-30-2009, 03:25 AM
Sorry guys, it was all a hoax. There is no Randall Principle, and no Randall Principal, other than the headteacher at my nursery school.

Yep, I'm that good :D

Maxinquaye
12-30-2009, 03:54 AM
Yes, there is a Randall Principle. I just told you what it was :)

cbenoi1
12-30-2009, 05:46 AM
> Just recently I've adopted writing as a hobby, and I'm considering
> pursuing a career in the writing profession.
>
> Is there a lot of competition?

If you are considering quitting your day job to become a writer, then that's the wrong question. A better question would be "what does it take to earn a living as a writer?"

The answer may shock you.

-cb

scarletpeaches
12-30-2009, 05:55 AM
Is there a lot of competition?No; everyone here's rubbish.

Matera the Mad
12-30-2009, 06:50 AM
I thought maybe Randall was the principal of a school that taught how to untangle writing knots.

litgirl
12-30-2009, 07:19 AM
Just be aware that writing as a career requires just as much work (for far less pay) than becoming a lawyer. It may not be measurable in university degrees, but it requires as much training and work as any other career. Miss Snark (google her, she is your friend) used to say that you shouldn't quit on a project until you've queried 100 agents. Are you ready to be told no 100 times? And some people write several books before they finally get an agent...and just because you have an agent is no guarantee that your book will sell.

Is there competition? You better believe it. A lot of the competition is people who can't string two words together. But a lot is due to the fact that there are only so many slots, and there are more excellent books out there than it is possible to publish in a year.

I'm not trying to scare you off, just point out reality. Publishing time moves slower than glaciers. There is not a lot of money in it. But if you love writing, if you can't stop the stories from coming out, if you don't mind revising over and over and over and over and being told it still isn't right, and going back again and again until finally do find the spark and get it right--if you are willing to undergo criticism and hard work and the chance that no one but you may ever read it in the end--then yes, write.

blacbird
12-30-2009, 07:46 AM
Is there competition? You better believe it. A lot of the competition is people who can't string two words together..

Dog cat. There. I done it.

caw

Maxinquaye
12-30-2009, 09:01 AM
No; everyone here's rubbish.

I'm rubbish. I just ditched like 6000 words because it was utter drivel.

Then I outlined a novella instead.

So it sucks to be me.

kaitie
12-30-2009, 09:36 AM
Dog cat. There. I done it.

caw

Wow, blacbird! You got three in a row there. You're already ahead of 90% of the competition. ;)

scarletpeaches
12-30-2009, 02:45 PM
Serious answer? There's no such thing as competition. Publishing is not a zero-sum game. There's room for all of us.

Tedium
12-30-2009, 04:08 PM
If you are considering quitting your day job to become a writer, then that's the wrong question. A better question would be "what does it take to earn a living as a writer?"

The answer may shock you.

-cb

Wow, that is a better question.

swvaughn
12-30-2009, 05:36 PM
MickeyD's will do better for you, won't tear your ego to shreds (as fast) and might even get you health insurance.

You've never actually worked at McDonalds, have you? :D The ego-shredding is actually pretty fast... and health insurance... :roll:Just sayin', you'd be better off collecting shopping carts at Walmart.


No; everyone here's rubbish.

Why, thank you, Miss Scarlet. You say the sweetest things. :D

Momento Mori
12-30-2009, 05:37 PM
DystopianGypsy:
Just recently I've adopted writing as a hobby, and I'm considering pursuing a career in the writing profession.

Is there a lot of competition?

<SNIP>

I'm interested in fiction (ex: novels, short stories, etc.).

The problem in answering this is that wanting to be a writer isn't like applying for any 'normal' job. It's not a case that there's only one position and you're going against a load of other people based on objective criteria (like qualifications or industry experience).

Being a writer means producing something that someone wants to buy, regardless of whether that's novel length fiction or a short story and while there are certain basic things that will help you to make something more sellable (e.g. punctuation, grammar and an understanding that writing does not mean scribbling in pink crayon), there are a host of other things that you have to get right - telling a good story, having a coherent plot, using characters who are believable.*

Some people say that being a writer is down to luck - having the right manuscript in the right place at the right time. Others reckon that it's a question of churn - put enough product out there and something will stick.

What is for certain is that writing is one of the least lucrative professions out there and one of the ones that demand a lot of hard work. I've spent 2 years working on my current manuscript and assuming I can sell it, I'm looking at a likely advance of £5,000 (about $7,000). That's a terrible return for the work and even worse when you consider that the advance gets split into thirds so I'll be waiting for another 2 years to get it all.

Keep writing as a hobby and stick with your main job while you start to trying to sell your work. Don't give up your day job until you're making at least as much from your writing as you are from your normal work.

MM


* Although saying that, there are writers out there who get published without accomplishing any of these things ... *cough*Dan Brown*cough*

Hedgetrimmer
12-30-2009, 06:35 PM
I totally disagree with anyone who thinks writing isn't competitive. The word, for whatever reason, is often imbued with negative connotations. But let's be for real. This isn't pee-wee football in which the sole object is to go out and simply have fun. This is business. This is life.

Sure, we can support one another and even help one another, but the reality remains that agents only have room for so many clients, publishers have room for a limited number of slots on their list, readers have a cap on what they can spend on books. Perhaps it's not our own choosing, and in an ideal world we would all find success, but the real world is far from ideal. As the system currently stands, its structure is inherently competitive.

To think it's enough to write the best work we can is shortsighted. Our work has to be more than our best. It has to be better than what others are offering. We don't have to be nasty and backstabbing about it, but that's the nature of this business. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding himself.

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 06:41 PM
You've never actually worked at McDonalds, have you? :D The ego-shredding is actually pretty fast... and health insurance... :roll:Just sayin', you'd be better off collecting shopping carts at Walmart.

Actually, yes, I have though I do admit it was a LONG time ago. My sister has been working for them for the last 25 years. I'm well aware of the experience involved and that it varies from place to place, just like any job.

That said, "MickeyD's" is a good representative of a menial job, which was the point of the post.

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 06:45 PM
What is for certain is that writing is one of the least lucrative professions out there and one of the ones that demand a lot of hard work. I've spent 2 years working on my current manuscript and assuming I can sell it, I'm looking at a likely advance of £5,000 (about $7,000). That's a terrible return for the work and even worse when you consider that the advance gets split into thirds so I'll be waiting for another 2 years to get it all.

You forgot to take out the 15-20% off the top of each payment for your agent and whatever fees you agreed to pay. And any self-employed taxes, any social security requirements (for the US, at least), etc. that are required because it's earned income.

As I said, a menial job will pay better and be more reliable. Don't do this for the money.

Phaeal
12-30-2009, 07:26 PM
Writing for personal satisfaction, sure, why not? You have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

Writing for profit? If you can pursue any other profession with equal or greater passion, do it. Writing is tremendously hard work with no guarantee of publication, paid or unpaid. However, if writing IS your passion, prepare yourself for a day job that doesn't sap all your energy and time. Then go for it.

Do not neglect the day job. Sinking below genteel poverty is not good for the writing spirit. ;)

DeadlyAccurate
12-30-2009, 07:53 PM
Kristin Nelson's year in statistics post: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/12/year-in-statistics.html

A few of the numbers:

6
number of new clients (Kristin & Sara combined)

38,000
estimated number of queries read and responded to (and yes, that is up from last year)

55
full manuscripts requested (down from last year)

38,000 queries --> 55 full manuscript requests --> 6 clients.

Writing is not an easy way to make money, so you'd better enjoy doing it or you're going to be miserable.

Calla Lily
12-30-2009, 08:06 PM
Kristin Nelson's year in statistics post: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/12/year-in-statistics.html

A few of the numbers:


38,000 queries --> 55 full manuscript requests --> 6 clients.

Writing is not an easy way to make money, so you'd better enjoy doing it or you're going to be miserable.

:Jaw: Now I remember why I avoid statistics. :)

scarletpeaches
12-30-2009, 08:21 PM
Kristin Nelson's year in statistics post: http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2009/12/year-in-statistics.html

A few of the numbers:


38,000 queries --> 55 full manuscript requests --> 6 clients.

Writing is not an easy way to make money, so you'd better enjoy doing it or you're going to be miserable.Means very little.

How many of those subs were...well, not to put too fine a point on it...shite? How many were genres the agent does not represent?

It's often mentioned here that the slush pile is crud - and it is. I'd like to know the percentage of top notch queries this agent knocks back.

Richard White
12-30-2009, 08:38 PM
There is competition in writing.

However, it's not like a football game where I'm trying to stop you from publishing (scoring) so my team can publish. It doesn't work that way, not even in a limited-slot anthology. Because you're not directly competing against anyone . . . you're only competing against yourself.

Think of it like golf (or bowling, if you're so inclined).

You don't have your best day? You're going to get beat (not published).

You're on top of your game? You walk home with the green jacket (publishing contract).

Except unlike golf, you winning doesn't mean the guy golfing next to you can't win. If he's got a kick-ass story also, you both can take the jacket home.

The only person you have to really beat is yourself. Write better today than you did yesterday.

Renee Collins
12-30-2009, 08:46 PM
Means very little.

How many of those subs were...well, not to put too fine a point on it...shite? How many were genres the agent does not represent?

It's often mentioned here that the slush pile is crud - and it is. I'd like to know the percentage of top notch queries this agent knocks back.

True, but even if you look at just the clients taken on from fulls requested (and the Nelson agency, as a policy, always requests a partial first, then a full,) the odds are still pretty low.

Not even 10%, since the six clients were divided between two agents.

So, no matter how you slice it, the it's a very competitive business.

scarletpeaches
12-30-2009, 08:51 PM
Maybe most of those authors didn't carry the quality of a partial through to the end. Maybe the agents just didn't like the complete novel (well clearly, or they would have signed the authors).

I'm not being a Pollyanna here, but I don't think the sky is falling and I do think I have a chance.

Plus, my writing's fucking awesome, so I'll be all right.

Jamesaritchie
12-30-2009, 09:09 PM
and have no idea what the 'Randall Principal' is, then you'll never make it as a writer.

Damn, I have no idea what the Randall Principal, or the Randall Principle, is. Does that mean I have to give back all the money I've made from writing fiction?

Jamesaritchie
12-30-2009, 09:15 PM
Yes, there's a LOT of competition in writing. But it isn't like the lottery. The only real competition are those writers who are better than you. Or who have more discipline and work harder than you do.

As a friend of mine crudely puts it, Shit sinks, but roses float. This means that if you lack talent and discipline, you'll sink, but if you have talent and discipline, you'll float right to the top.

Libbie
12-30-2009, 09:38 PM
Yes and no. Lots and lots of agents and editors have said in their blogs that between 90% and 99% of what comes in through their slush piles is unpublishable crud. So if you don't write unpublishable crud, you don't have a lot of relative competition. That being said, it isn't a fast process, going from completed novel to representation (if you choose that route) to signing a contract with a publisher. And yes, part of that slow process is having professionals read your work and compare it to the competition.

So, yes. Also, no.

Write the best book you can write, get the hell critiqued out of it, revise it a few times, and then you should be in pretty good shape.

Libbie
12-30-2009, 09:49 PM
I totally disagree with anyone who thinks writing isn't competitive. The word, for whatever reason, is often imbued with negative connotations. But let's be for real. This isn't pee-wee football in which the sole object is to go out and simply have fun. This is business. This is life.

Hedgetrimmer is now my favorite poster on AW. I confess I do get a little annoyed with all the people who say, "Just write because you love to write! If you don't do that, you're doing it wrong."

I write because I want to have a career as a writer. Yes, I enjoy writing, but I want the world to see me as a badass. I want my stories to outlive me by at least a few generations. I want to make people think about the things I said. I want to come up with some cool turns of phrase that stick in readers' heads for years and years, the way other writers have done to me. I don't just do it because it's fun and fluffy and it makes me feel good. I do it because I want recognition for it. And I refuse to believe that it's wrong to see writing as a competitive business -- one that I can succeed in (wildly) if I am vigilant about building my chops and improving my game.

It's not pee-wee football. And I'm not here just to have fun. I'm here to kick ass and leave my mark on society.

And it is a business, and it is work, and it is life. If you view it as a fun hobby, that's fine for you. But there are people out there like me who see it as a serious business, and the idea of competition motivates people like me. It makes people like me work harder, write more, and take more risks. And often, people who work harder, write more, and take more risks are "luckier" with opportunities.

Hedgetrimmer, I am sending you awesome b.j. vibes right now.



Sure, we can support one another and even help one another, but the reality remains that agents only have room for so many clients, publishers have room for a limited number of slots on their list, readers have a cap on what they can spend on books. Perhaps it's not our own choosing, and in an ideal world we would all find success, but the real world is far from ideal. As the system currently stands, its structure is inherently competitive.

Right.


To think it's enough to write the best work we can is shortsighted. Our work has to be more than our best. It has to be better than what others are offering. We don't have to be nasty and backstabbing about it, but that's the nature of this business. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding himself.

Double right.

The good news is that I truly believe anybody who's developmentally normal can achieve success. With the proper attitude.

Libbie
12-30-2009, 09:50 PM
Plus, my writing's fucking awesome, so I'll be all right.

Word.

But only because you've worked your ass off at it.

DeadlyAccurate
12-30-2009, 10:01 PM
Means very little.

How many of those subs were...well, not to put too fine a point on it...shite? How many were genres the agent does not represent?

It's often mentioned here that the slush pile is crud - and it is. I'd like to know the percentage of top notch queries this agent knocks back.

I actually had a longer post discussing how about 90% of those are likely bad, etc. etc. and how 37,000 of those aren't competition at all, but I decided it wasn't as relevant to the OP.

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 10:03 PM
And it is a business, and it is work, and it is life. If you view it as a fun hobby, that's fine for you. But there are people out there like me who see it as a serious business, and the idea of competition motivates people like me. It makes people like me work harder, write more, and take more risks. And often, people who work harder, write more, and take more risks are "luckier" with opportunities.

No argument with any of this--however it's totally irresponsible to think that you're going to make enough to pay the bills straight out of the gate. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No. If it were then it wouldn't be news when it did happen.

I received my first rejection letter in 1975. I'd been serious about writing prior to that date and set upon it as my career and held my money job as a "tide over" until I made it as a published writer. It's only been in the last few years that I've realized that doing it just for the career has gotten me nowhere, that I've done it all because there is something in me that needs to put words into writing and tell stories. I realized that if I've been doing this for 30 years without substantial financial compensation, it's not just about the money, fame and career. Maybe that's just ego-saving rationalization, but facts are facts. Attitude, desire and determination is great, but too often it doesn't gain you want you want.

I do see, and always have seen, getting published as a competition, albeit a friendly one. I speak from experience when I say that you need to do something that will feed, house and clothe you (and yours) while you're pursuing this career in writing, that it's not a guarantee no matter what your attitude or dedication. Telling people anything other than that is a great disservice and a grave misrepresentation of the facts.

scarletpeaches
12-30-2009, 10:04 PM
If I did any job for 30 years with no great reward, I'd quit and find something that paid the bills.

Libbie
12-30-2009, 10:19 PM
No argument with any of this--however it's totally irresponsible to think that you're going to make enough to pay the bills straight out of the gate. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No. If it were then it wouldn't be news when it did happen.

.

I'm not thinking that. There is a reason why I'm currently working seven days a week at two vastly different jobs. Diversifying my options for day jobs.

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 10:20 PM
If I did any job for 30 years with no great reward, I'd quit and find something that paid the bills.

I've had jobs to pay the bills for 30 years. There's this nasty food addiction I haven't been able to shake yet that's demanded it. ;)

NeuroFizz
12-30-2009, 10:24 PM
I see this as a business in which the effort to excel can pay off. But even then, one could write a spotless manuscript that just doesn't catch the attention of a single agent or editor. So the necessity is to keep producing new projects, all with that drive for excellence. Good stories usually find a publishing home, and the only way to bend the odds in one's favor is to get a pipeline of projects going and to commit to constant improvement in storytelling, in the more mechanical aspects of the craft, and in developing one's personal creativity. Keep in mind there will be a significant number of writers who are doing this very same thing with the same quality control (even if they make up only a small percentage of the total number of people who query agents), and y'all may be going for a limited number of acceptances. That makes it competitive even though it may not be a traditional type of competition.

Richard White
12-30-2009, 10:39 PM
As I stated, I see it more as personal competition than group competition.

I mean, if I'm competing against all of you . . . why am I working with Writer Beware? Why does our friendly squirrel spend so much time in the "Share your Work" area helping with queries? Why do we even have this forum?

I mean, if I'm in competition with YOU (the collective you), then it would be in my self-interests to say "Screw you all" and let people get sucked into PA, and scam agents and submit horrible queries.

Just makes it easier for me . . . right?

Jamesaritchie
12-30-2009, 11:21 PM
No argument with any of this--however it's totally irresponsible to think that you're going to make enough to pay the bills straight out of the gate. Could it happen? Sure. Is it likely? No. If it were then it wouldn't be news when it did happen.

I received my first rejection letter in 1975. I'd been serious about writing prior to that date and set upon it as my career and held my money job as a "tide over" until I made it as a published writer. It's only been in the last few years that I've realized that doing it just for the career has gotten me nowhere, that I've done it all because there is something in me that needs to put words into writing and tell stories. I realized that if I've been doing this for 30 years without substantial financial compensation, it's not just about the money, fame and career. Maybe that's just ego-saving rationalization, but facts are facts. Attitude, desire and determination is great, but too often it doesn't gain you want you want.

I do see, and always have seen, getting published as a competition, albeit a friendly one. I speak from experience when I say that you need to do something that will feed, house and clothe you (and yours) while you're pursuing this career in writing, that it's not a guarantee no matter what your attitude or dedication. Telling people anything other than that is a great disservice and a grave misrepresentation of the facts.


Welllllll, maybe. But I started earning enough to support myself and my family right from the very beginning, and I have no doubt at all that part of the reason this happened was because I quit my day job the day after I received my first check made from writing.

It wasn't a huge check, but almost as much as my cruddy day job paid in a month. For me, that was enough to warrant taking a chance.

I also remembered Marion Zimmer Bradley's statement that anyone who could sell one short story to a national magazine should be able to earn a living as a writer, if they worked hard enough.

I knew there was no way in hell I could work hard enough at writing to pay the bills while I still held that cruddy full-time job, so I quit. Then I had to work hard enough, or go back to a job I hated.

I think it all depends on who you are, where you are, and what you are. I was still in my twenties, and while I had a wife and a baby on the way, I knew we could, one way or another, last for a few months without additional income, and I knew I could always find another job as good, or as lousy, as the one I quit.

I also knew that I then had all day, every day to write, and that if I could sell that one short story to a national magazine, and if I produced as much material as I should during all those hours now open in each day, I darned sure ought to be able to make enough money to keep our heads above water, and I did.

I've known a lot of writers who simply quit their jobs to pursue writing full-time, and who made it work. It's pretty common, and only makes news if the writer lands a million dollar deal. It isn't news at all when the writer simply earns a decent living.

Attitude, dedication, hard work, and talent will get you there, and usually does so pretty fast.

I don't think going full-time is ever a bad thing, if just a little common sense is applied. I do think the writer should have some reason to believe the talent is there, which, to me, means at least one good sale to a national market. I also think teh writer needs to know himself well enough to be certain he will work as hard as this decision calls for, and this means treating writing like the job/business it is. If your boss at a day job wouldn't let you miss work for a given reason, you can't miss writing because of it, either.

But if you 1. Have solid reason to believe you can sell your writing at the national level. 2. Really do have a solid work ethic. 3. Can last financially for a few months. 4. Have reason to believe you can get another job if writing doesn't work out. Then why not take the chance?

It si not easy writing either well enough, or quantitatively enough, when you have a full-time job that uses most of your time and energy. Common sense does need to be applied, but not many people succeed by playing it safe.

Calla Lily
12-30-2009, 11:39 PM
My very first advance check is for a decent amount, but the one thing writing full-time doesn't have is health insurance. Since hubs runs his own small business out of the house, yours truly has the steady job with the insurance.

When I decided in 2005 that I would seriously make a go at getting a book pubbed, I also realized that my primary responsibility was to my family. So keeping the Day Job is important to me, esp. now that one kid's in college and the other kid's heading there in 4 years.

I keep at writing like I keep at my day job, and should the day come when my books take off to the point that I can feed/clothe/educate the family on it--then my letter of resignation will be on my boss' desk in a New York minute.

But till then--I write better knowing I'm not worrying if we'll be able to pay the mortgage and buy groceries this month. Yep. I'm anal-retentive, practical, and all those boring things.

And I have a book hitting the shelves in 2011. :snoopy:

DeleyanLee
12-30-2009, 11:40 PM
I've known a lot of writers who simply quit their jobs to pursue writing full-time, and who made it work.

Whereas many of writers I've known and worked with were published for many years before having the financial ability to become a full-time writer. The majority usually haven't because the family needed health insurance that writing didn't provide. I've also had a notable number of friends whose writing careers crash and burn after a few years and were unable/unwilling to go back into the work force. The only friends I've had who quit immediately and made it work have spouses that paid the bills while they pulled their careers together.

One person's experience is not always the rule, but it can often be used as food for thought.

Momento Mori
12-30-2009, 11:46 PM
DeleyanLee:
You forgot to take out the 15-20% off the top of each payment for your agent and whatever fees you agreed to pay. And any self-employed taxes, any social security requirements (for the US, at least), etc. that are required because it's earned income.


I didn't forget. I was going to let the crappy pay levels sink in and then hit the OP with the taxes and lack of pension. ;)

Does anyone know if it's true that writers don't have to pay taxes in Ireland? Because if so, then I'm definitely moving.

MM

LOG
12-31-2009, 12:34 AM
No; everyone here's rubbish.
Pffft. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read that.

DeleyanLee
12-31-2009, 12:34 AM
Does anyone know if it's true that writers don't have to pay taxes in Ireland? Because if so, then I'm definitely moving.

My understanding is that Irish citizens with creative careers (writing, music, art) pay no individual income tax, but all other taxes apply. And it's not that easy to become an Irish citizen since they changed the laws about 10 years ago or so.

LuckyH
12-31-2009, 12:38 AM
Maybe most of those authors didn't carry the quality of a partial through to the end. Maybe the agents just didn't like the complete novel (well clearly, or they would have signed the authors).

I'm not being a Pollyanna here, but I don't think the sky is falling and I do think I have a chance.

Plus, my writing's fucking awesome, so I'll be all right.

The last sentence says it all. Your writing needs to be more than awesome, it needs to be fucking awesome, it needs to be totally fucking brilliant to lift you out of the polished mediocrity all around.

I earn 75P per book sold at around £7.95. Iíve managed to produce one every three years or so. I canít make a living from it, because I would need to sell 40,000 copies every year to earn the average wage and I havenít come anywhere near it. When I realised that, years ago, I kept on the day job.

But next year, the day after tomorrow, Iím going to write a bestseller. Iím going to write words that astound with their brilliance, full of perfect sentences, with a story that will rattle the world.

And I would advise every writer to do the same and aim for the top. Whatís the point in finding a one-man-band agent in some small town in the mid-west, or some retired hack agent operating from a croft in wind-swept Sutherland, to place your precious manuscript with some small press that might print a few hundred copies to sell to your friends and family?

When youíre ready, submit to Curtis Brown, and only sign for Random House, or Hodder.

Eddyz Aquila
12-31-2009, 01:37 AM
Honestly, I'm gonna get shot for this, but I wanna put some of the blame on the agents as well. Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

Can't we have original authors, who actually have a good idea in their head and manage to give us at least enjoyable reading? We don't need guys like Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas appearing every year, we just need good books. And I fail to see how those good books don't appear on the market, COMPARED to the massive number of books published and sold.

I'll just stick to the old ones.

geardrops
12-31-2009, 01:47 AM
Honestly, I'm gonna get shot for this, but I wanna put some of the blame on the agents as well. Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

Can't we have original authors, who actually have a good idea in their head and manage to give us at least enjoyable reading? We don't need guys like Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas appearing every year, we just need good books. And I fail to see how those good books don't appear on the market, COMPARED to the massive number of books published and sold.

I'll just stick to the old ones.

Technically... that's publishers putting those books on shelves, not agents.

And they're on those shelves because people buy them.

:Shrug:

gothicangel
12-31-2009, 01:50 AM
They do appear, you just need to look a bit harder. Word of mouth is a marvellous thing and much more reliable than publicity!

I don't see how we can blame agents or publishers for that matter. They are just signing books they THINK will sell based on market knowledge.

Lesson learned the hard way: When I was subbing my [appalling] first novel back in 2004I made the horrific mistake of writing a rant to a magazine in the UK. Guess what? It got published. Five years later I realise my mistake was ranting at agents instead of looking at myself and investing energies into improving.

We can't control agents, publishers or booksellers - even the book buyers. We can control how good we are. What good is it to be negative, when we could be investing positive energy into our work?

Jamesaritchie
12-31-2009, 02:04 AM
We needed health insurance, too. That's why the first thing we did was buy health insurance.

It's true that many writer go years and years and years before becoming financially able to go full-time, but part if this is because they are waiting to become financially stable. It's a vicious circle, and getting out of it almost always means making the choice to do so now, not waiting until there's no choice to make. Anyone can go full-time when they're making more money from writing than from a day job.

And one book every three years? Of course it's going to take forever at that rate. But a book every four or five months, along with a world of screenplays, short stories, articles, and all sorts of other things to write, makes a huge difference. There is no way to be anywhere near as productive when working a nine to five job.

Expectations do play a part. Average earnings here are roughly 35K, but that really isn't very much money, though a lot of folks live on much less.

Yes, you have to take out the agent's fifteen percent, and SS taxes, and federal taxes, but last time I checked, every job gives tribute to the government. It just isn't always as noticable when someone else is taking it out for you.

Pick your cliche, but those who succeed are most often those who, as Ray Bradbury put it, jump off the cliff and learn how to build wings on the way down.

Going full-time early may be best for young people who have nothing to lose and everything to gain, though the way the economy is now, taking big chances is probably more important than ever, no matter what your age.

For every person who fails because of lack of talent, I suspect three fail from lack of courage. Or self-confidence. Or faith in their own ability. However you want to phrase it.

It does take talent, dedication, and a strong work ethic, but good God, making the effort beats working a nine to five job for twenty or thirty years with someone else telling you what to do, all the while wanting to be a full-time writer. Maybe it's just me, but I would have taken any chance to avoid that.

Jamesaritchie
12-31-2009, 02:07 AM
Honestly, I'm gonna get shot for this, but I wanna put some of the blame on the agents as well. Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

Can't we have original authors, who actually have a good idea in their head and manage to give us at least enjoyable reading? We don't need guys like Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas appearing every year, we just need good books. And I fail to see how those good books don't appear on the market, COMPARED to the massive number of books published and sold.

I'll just stick to the old ones.



Agents don't decide what's in bookstores, readers do.

I think good books do appear on the market. They're everywhere.

Eddyz Aquila
12-31-2009, 02:28 AM
Technically... that's publishers putting those books on shelves, not agents.

Yes, but if it wasn't for the agents submitting them, publishers wouldn't buy them. But, alas, money dictates the books supplied. Simple economics.



I think good books do appear on the market. They're everywhere.

Yes, they do, and lately I read one which was brilliant (A Thousand Splendid Suns - 2007 I think, but still relatively new)

But my point was - compared to the number of books publisher each year, the list of good books is not too big.
Good books are a matter of perspective in the end. What's good or bad for me does not suit everyone's tastes.

But anyways, back to the original question of the OP, if you write a publishable manuscript, with good spelling, grammar and a believable and somewhat enjoyable plot (the bare minimum), would you pass the 90% of the slush pile?

EclipsesMuse
12-31-2009, 02:31 AM
But my point was - compared to the number of books publisher each year, the list of good books is not too big.



That's a matter of perspective. What is crap to you may be brilliant to someone else.

Eddyz Aquila
12-31-2009, 02:45 AM
That's a matter of perspective. What is crap to you may be brilliant to someone else.

Perfectly valid point.

jvc
12-31-2009, 02:46 AM
But my point was - compared to the number of books publisher each year, the list of good books is not too big.

It's all subjective. What's good for you is crap for me and vice versa.

geardrops
12-31-2009, 04:19 AM
Yes, but if it wasn't for the agents submitting them, publishers wouldn't buy them. But, alas, money dictates the books supplied. Simple economics.

And if publishers didn't trust agents to sift through slush and find the books that wind up selling, they wouldn't accept books from agents. Simple economics.


Also, mind your quote-code. I didn't say what your quoting indicates I said :)

ChaosTitan
12-31-2009, 04:28 AM
It's all subjective. What's good for you is crap for me and vice versa.

Ding ding ding! Give Jed a cookie. :D

Quite frankly, the whole "everything being published right now is crap" argument is getting old and very, very tired. Quit looking at the New Books table at B&N. Look online. Hell, look at ebooks and epublishers if you aren't finding the stuff you want to read.

Good books are published EVERY DAMNED DAY. Books I think are terrible wind up on someone else's Best of 2009 list. Who cares? There's something for everyone!

And if millions of people are spending money on the Dan Brown/Twilight knockoffs, why should publishers stop printing them? Those guaranteed millions pay the checks of the new authors who haven't yet proven themselves.

Calla Lily
12-31-2009, 06:52 AM
And if millions of people are spending money on the Dan Brown/Twilight knockoffs, why should publishers stop printing them? Those guaranteed millions pay the checks of the new authors who haven't yet proven themselves.

Amen, Chaos!

scarletpeaches
12-31-2009, 10:04 AM
Whereas many of writers I've known and worked with were published for many years before having the financial ability to become a full-time writer. The majority usually haven't because the family needed health insurance that writing didn't provide. I've also had a notable number of friends whose writing careers crash and burn after a few years and were unable/unwilling to go back into the work force. The only friends I've had who quit immediately and made it work have spouses that paid the bills while they pulled their careers together.

One person's experience is not always the rule, but it can often be used as food for thought.Who knows how far they would have gone if they'd had a "jump and the net will appear" attitude.

Fully commit. Or don't.
Pffft. Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read that.One aims to please. :D

The last sentence says it all. Your writing needs to be more than awesome, it needs to be fucking awesome, it needs to be totally fucking brilliant to lift you out of the polished mediocrity all around...When youíre ready, submit to Curtis Brown, and only sign for Random House, or Hodder.I have a dream publisher in mind...fingers crossed...
Honestly, I'm gonna get shot for this, but I wanna put some of the blame on the agents as well. Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

Can't we have original authors, who actually have a good idea in their head and manage to give us at least enjoyable reading? We don't need guys like Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas appearing every year, we just need good books. And I fail to see how those good books don't appear on the market, COMPARED to the massive number of books published and sold.

I'll just stick to the old ones.If there's a book you want to read but can't find in the shops - WRITE IT YOURSELF.

Eddyz Aquila
12-31-2009, 03:09 PM
If there's a book you want to read but can't find in the shops - WRITE IT YOURSELF.

Aye, finally someone said it. :D
I feel relaxed now that everyone disagreed.



And if millions of people are spending money on the Dan Brown/Twilight knockoffs, why should publishers stop printing them? Those guaranteed millions pay the checks of the new authors who haven't yet proven themselves.


Indeed, but my hard-head cannot comprehend why the demand for conspiracy theory books/novels is still so high after 2-3 years of constant supply.

Momento Mori
12-31-2009, 03:47 PM
Eddyz Aquila:
Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

It's not just the fault of the publishers. Bookstores need to take a chunk of the blame too (by which I mean the chains and supermarkets, rather than indies). All too often the book buyers at the big stores say "We're looking for x, y, z because a, b and c were our biggest sellers this year so that's the type of thing our customers like". Because the large bookstores have such disproportionate market power, the publishers need to play ball.

Ironically, it's the small presses that LuckyH dislikes that are more likely to find original fiction because they're more incentivised to take a punt on it. There are a couple of small presses in the UK for example that are well-represented come the awards season. The frustrating thing for them is that once their writers get recognition, they have to then go to the bigger players to make the money they need to continue writing.

MM

kaitie
12-31-2009, 03:54 PM
Indeed, but my hard-head cannot comprehend why the demand for conspiracy theory books/novels is still so high after 2-3 years of constant supply.

Hey, mine's a conspiracy theory book. :/ It's even sorta cliche and has spies and biological weapons and secret assassins working for the government. I'd like to think there's room out there for it. Have they really been that huge lately? Keep in mind I don't live in America, so I haven't been in a real bookstore for years.

Eddyz Aquila
12-31-2009, 05:51 PM
Hey, mine's a conspiracy theory book. :/ It's even sorta cliche and has spies and biological weapons and secret assassins working for the government. I'd like to think there's room out there for it. Have they really been that huge lately? Keep in mind I don't live in America, so I haven't been in a real bookstore for years.

Ouch. Hope you weren't offended by my comment.

I live in two countries and both have a seemingly insatiable appetite for such books but as long as the idea is original I have nothing against it. :)

ChaosTitan
12-31-2009, 06:32 PM
Indeed, but my hard-head cannot comprehend why the demand for conspiracy theory books/novels is still so high after 2-3 years of constant supply.

Because people still like to read them?

It's really as simple as that. It's the same reason why Urban fantasy continues to grow as a genre, years after it exploded in a big way. People still want those stories.

Some genres fizzle out after a while, like chick lit did a few years ago. Others remain strong constantly. Conspiracy theory books tend to fall in the thriller genre, which has always been a strong seller and will likely continue to be. Readers will always be the bottom line.

And don't forget that much of what's currently releasing was purchased by an editor eighteen to twenty-four months ago. Two years from now, there may not be a conspiracy release.

DeadlyAccurate
12-31-2009, 06:35 PM
"Crap" books have been published every year since someone figured out how to put pen to paper. It's just that they don't tend to stick around, so you don't see them on the bookstore shelves. The penny dreadfuls of the nineteenth century aren't going to outlast Dickens or Dumas or Twain any more than [authors I'm not going to name] are going to outlast Harper Lee or Truman Capote.

gothicangel
12-31-2009, 06:41 PM
I think it will be interesting in 40 years to see what writers who published in 2010 are still on the bookshop shelves.

Libbie
12-31-2009, 08:02 PM
It wasn't a huge check, but almost as much as my cruddy day job paid in a month. For me, that was enough to warrant taking a chance.

Right. I've already figured out what advance I'll need to support myself for thirteen months, which should be enough time to research, write and polish at least two more good novels. If I am lucky enough to sell my first book for this relatively modest amount, I'll quit my jobs in a second, as much as I love zoo keeping. I've always wanted to be a writer.



I also remembered Marion Zimmer Bradley's statement that anyone who could sell one short story to a national magazine should be able to earn a living as a writer, if they worked hard enough.

Well, that makes me feel good. Hard work I can (and do) do. And I've already sold a few short stories, though not to big-time magazines. I feel very confident about my future as a writer, even considering the competition and the long process of getting published. I don't think there's anything wrong with feeling justified in one's confidence. (Not that you're saying there is, James...sounds like you and I basically think alike.)


I knew there was no way in hell I could work hard enough at writing to pay the bills while I still held that cruddy full-time job, so I quit. Then I had to work hard enough, or go back to a job I hated.

Word up, man. Once you're in the water, you'd better swim.



Attitude, dedication, hard work, and talent will get you there, and usually does so pretty fast.

You and Hedgetrimmer. You're my bros.

I'm still going to pursue my day job as aggressively as ever, until I get that magic sum of money that will allow me to quit for at least thirteen months.

Libbie
12-31-2009, 08:06 PM
Honestly, I'm gonna get shot for this, but I wanna put some of the blame on the agents as well. Can we please not have our bookstores OVERFLOWING with bad copies with different themes of Dan Brown's books, or dozens of other vampire stories just because Twilight has been such a massive hit? Commercial paperbacks can provide very good entertainment, but please diversify the market a bit, make it interesting and let's go away perhaps from conspiracy theories and other themes which attack the Church just because we can milk money from it?

YOU diversify the market!

I work in a book store (one of my two jobs.) The commercial crud SELLS, and it SELLS BIG. And it's not because there aren't other options. We have all the good stuff available along with all the crap. The customers are spending money where they want to spend money.

Agents and editors and all the rest are trying to support their families and pay their bills, just like the rest of us. Do they love the sparkly vampires and the ghost-written cookie-cutter thrillers? Hell no! But they SELL, SELL, SELL. Would you get rid of an income stream that was reliable and copious just because it was also goofy? Hell no, you wouldn't.

Don't blame the agents.

If you want to see more good stuff on the shelves, write it and sell it. Don't be shocked, though, when it doesn't sell as well as James Patterson. There are more people in the world who like predictable sameness than who like art.

DeleyanLee
12-31-2009, 08:17 PM
Two adages come to mind as I catch up with this thread:

1. Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crap.

2. People always want the same, but different. (Yeah, I'm still trying to figure out what that means too.)