How to Make a Damn Good Living as a Writer

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

 

With a title like that you’d think I’d have an answer, right?

Well I do.

Just not one writers like to hear. So let’s get the nasty part out of the way now.

Here goes: Only a very small percentage (under 8%) of working writers are making a living strictly on their writing alone, and those that are have a backlist a mile long. Whether you buy into Digital Book World’s latest report that 85% of writers make less than $1,000 a year or not, the possibility alone is a stunning one.

At least to those not involved in the publishing industry.

We know better.

We have author friends who make little more than a college student during their internship at McDonalds. We just received a check from our publisher which was less than the stamp it cost to mail, and worse, our agent took 15%. We live in a world where daily checks of our sales, in order to determine whether or not we can afford to spurge on the whole wheat bread or just buy the white, mushy crap again, are a regular occurrence.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit. But for most of us, if we didn’t hold a day job or better yet, an understanding spouse/partner/sugar daddy we wouldn’t be able to support our writely habit. A habit, yes. Because, let’s face it, we aren’t in this business to become rich.

Which is what I said a few weeks ago during a presentation I was giving on social media for writers. One of the attendees disagreed. He was, in fact, writing to make money. He’d done the research, found a niche, and wrote a book, a book he admits isn’t the best, in order to make a living as a self-published author. And he was making some dough at it. Not enough to retire for good, or even make rent (but close).

Now my publishing/artist ego (the one who suffered over 10 years of rejections and strife to become a published author) immediately reacted. How dare he! We write because we can’t do anything else. We write to live, to breathe, to be titled, WRITER. Those who write for money are hacks!

And then I took a step back, let go of my emotional baggage, and thought about what I now want from my writing career, which is the ability to make a living as a writer. At one point in my life, I wanted nothing more than to be published. To hold the title of author. Now, a total of 12 books in, I want to make a living wage doing what I love.

Maybe he was on to something.

Now I don’t necessarily agree that your book shouldn’t be the best book you can write. If it’s in the world, it should be the best you can give. That being said, I do think we, at least I am guilty of this, I don’t take advantage of the cold-bloodied business side of publishing. I can research who my audience is, and then gear my work toward that audience and advertising. That makes complete sense. There is nothing wrong with writing what you love, and turning it into a revenue stream.

After all, doctors don’t just cut you open and start digging around until they find what ails you. They test, and retest, looking for what needs to be added or removed, and then they get to work. And then you get a huge bill in the mail. See, the system works.

All that being said, you do have other options for making a living as a writer. In fact, I’m currently exploring one of those opportunities.

Online dating.

Or better yet, trolling the internet for anyone will to support my writely habit.

I’m a catch!

So far I’m weighing my choices. It’s a toss-up between a Nigeria Prince and a guy selling Viagra online. Both are very interested in getting to know me better.

As long as I send $50 for a processing fee.

I’ll have to check my sales…

9 thoughts on “How to Make a Damn Good Living as a Writer

  1. Patricia Stoltey

    A good laugh first thing in the morning brightens my whole day. Thanks, Julie.

    I didn’t start taking my writing seriously until after I retired from real world work and could afford to indulge in this craziness called “writing and hoping to get published.” But during my working years, I practiced on bad short stories and really bad poetry, read books, took a few classes, read more, and attended a couple of mystery fan conventions. I was hooked, but not ready to give up the security of a full-time job. Trying to write full-time and make money at it would have been way too stressful for me.

    Reply
  2. Julie Kazimer Post author

    Hey Pat, can’t say I blame you. I can’t see ever being able to not work. It’s a nice dream, but hunger has a way of destroying the best dreams.

    Reply
  3. Adriana

    I was at that workshop. You handled yourself well, even if inside you were imploding! Interesting that it got you thinking in a different direction. Ah, this business! Nothing is for sure.

    Reply
    1. jakazimer

      Thanks for coming. Who knows what is the right path. I tend to think there isn’t one, just plain old good writing a luck, but it’s nice to think about how I could improve my business side.

      Reply
  4. Arlee Bird

    Me? I’m going to start cashing in all of my bank accounts. I don’t remember opening any of them, but apparently I have bank accounts all over the world.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

    Reply
  5. Rebecca Taylor

    I completely agree! I don’t think there is anything at all wrong with wanting to make some money off your writing–even if that means you have to tailor your writing to your audience. I would even bet that it sometimes only means tweaking what we already love to write just a wee bit in order to be more popular. Having seen the business end of the writing/publishing business first hand, I can promise you that it’s even more “business” than you might imagine.

    Reply
  6. Anita Diggs

    Nice ending! This was very real, and I loved it, Julie! There is nothing wrong with making money, and especially earning it by doing what you love! You might find creating a great press-kit helpful. Start with the pitch letter and the press release first, because those are the most important. The press release is what you are selling and the pitch letter is to let them know why their audience would be interested in hearing about it. It’s a way to start marketing yourself!

    Reply

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