Wednesday, August 08, 2007

How much money do writers earn?

Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware posted Sunday on several emails she exchanged with a wannabe writer. The writer's email, and his response to her advice, reminded me a lot of encounters I have had with similarly delusional writers. However, there are a few things Strauss has to say that I don't quite agree with.

Basically, an aspiring writer emailed Strauss for advice. The section of his email that she quoted stated that he wanted to earn a living from his writing. Strauss then goes on to explain that most novelists cannot live off of their royalties, referencing statistics to back up her point.

However, his response to her advice exposed him as a nutter. In a very condescending tone, he berated her for trying to discourage him, and then suggested that her lack of writing skill is the reason why she's found it so hard to succeed.

The tone of his response reminded me of how several writers responded to my advice about 8 months ago. After my article ran in WritersWeekly.com, I had a flood of emails from aspiring writers, asking for advice. Several of them seemed to think they could go from being a nobody to a bestselling author faster than the McLaren goes from zero to 60 (which, by the by, takes about three seconds). When I told them otherwise, and suggested that they start small before trying to break into the big bucks, I got very high-minded emails in response. If you want a few laughs, you can read all about it here.

For the record, though, I don't necessarily agree with Victoria Strauss when she indicates that trying to earn a living off of your writing is overly ambitious. I have been able to earn what I need to get by, and I know many other writers who do even better for themselves. I think it all comes down to how you go about it. For instance, if you put all your eggs in the "novelist" basket, you will probably have a much harder time achieving financial independence. (Heck, even Stephen King took a long time to get where he is.)

The key to being financially successful as a writer is being willing to go where the money goes. Even if your dream is to be a bestselling author, to pay the bills you will most likely need to broaden your horizons. Web content, copywriting, newspaper articles, and magazine features all provide ways to earn a decent living while pursuing your other writing dreams. You may not be remotely wealthy doing it, but it is possible to earn a living by selling your writing.


Roselyn said...

Excellent post. I'd add that to make money writing, you have to be willing to jump in and learn as you go.

Katharine Swan said...

Very true, Roselyn -- making money freelancing isn't something most people get right off the bat. There are all kinds of things that you have to more or less learn as you go -- things like how long various types of projects will take you, how much to charge, etc.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


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