Friday, February 18, 2011

“How Do You Make a Living at Writing?” (Part 6 of 6)

(By Chip MacGregor, President, MacGregor Literary, Inc.)

Many novelists take eight months to write a book. But at that rate, even a healthy $16,000 advance (which is pretty good for any novelist these days) means you're getting by on $2,000 a month. If you take that part-time job to make ends meet, you now find you have less time to work on your novel, so it takes you a year to complete. You don't want to hurry it, because you won't write as good of a story, and writing a lousy book is sure to kill your career.

This is why I always remind authors how tough it is to make a living at writing. You need to have books that are already out there earning you money, so that you know you have income from projects you are no longer working on.

You also need to have signed contracts that will earn you more money. And that money is easy to track, because you know when and how much you'll be paid. And you need a plan for how you'll move forward.

Let's be honest: The first rule of writing is "Don't quit your day job." Stop acting as if writing full time is some sort of God-given right. If you had chosen painting or sculpture or singing or dancing or any other art, you'd probably be facing even longer odds at making a living at your craft. The fact is, most artists struggle financially. That's why most writers have other sources of income. Either they work full or part time, or they have a job related to the industry (editor, reporter, or book salesperson), or they're married to somebody who has a real job that pays the bills. Don't lose sight of the fact that it takes most people years to get to the place where they are writing full time—if they ever get there.

It's easy to hang out at a writing conference and assume that "Everybody else in writing is making a living at this except me." But it’s not true. Many of these folks are doing something to pay the bills. I'm not trying to dissuade you, but trying to help you gain a realistic picture of what it takes to make a living in this business.

1 comment:

  1. Cec and Chip,
    Thank you immensely for sharing practical steps to a publishing career. Facing these truths head-on, separates the dreamers from the doers. Much gratitude and blessings to you both, Bobbe and John


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