It’s almost impossible to be a professional writer. That’s right, I said it. I’ve been a published author of multiple books for two years now. And I’m not close at all to making enough money to quit my day job.
And let’s be clear, some of this is just out of my control. The economy sucks, people don’t have the money to spend on books. It’s nearly impossible to get people to see an indie book, let alone decide to buy it. And then there’s the competition! There are so many books out there, that it’s impossible to get found in this crowd.
And yet, authors do it every day. Plenty of writers are making money writing, enough to live off. I’m not there yet, but I know I will be. I’ve only been at this for two years.
It’s easy to say that it’ll never happen, for all the reasons I’ve listed above. It’s hard to be a professional writer, no one’s going to argue that it’s not. But it doesn’t do any good to focus on what we can’t control. We can only focus on what we can control with our writing. The good news is, that’s a lot.
You can make your writing as good as it can possibly be. And that’s a lifelong pursuit all by itself. You can take classes, do exercises, practice every day. You can make yourself a better and better writer with every book. You can edit your work until it shines and send your best material into the world.
There are a thousand ways to get a bad reputation online. Put out bad books, badmouth people on social media, get too confrontational, get into a fight with someone in the comments section on Reddit.
Avoid all of that. If you want to be a writer, be nice to people online. Ignore haters who want to pick fights. If you have a website or blog, make it as professional as you can. Publishers and agents look at these things, and a professional look online does carry weight with them.
Cards on the table, it’s just easier to live off your writing money if you don’t spend a lot.
Now, to be fair, living is expensive. And I’m not saying anyone who’s already living paycheck to paycheck is being reckless with their money. So, if you’re already stretching pennies, disregard this.
But many of us are just plain bad with money. So, get on that. Start with the Dave Ramsey baby steps. Find out about low-risk investments and other ways to make your money make money. Learn ways to be smarter about how what and where you’re spending. How much fat can you trim? How much passive income can you earn so you can quit working and write full time?
Your work ethic
Let me give you a list of things I do in a week for my writing career.
- At least an hour on my wip six out of seven days.
- Social media work, usually an hour total.
- Working on side projects like short stories or novellas, usually anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. Whatever I can spare.
- Emailing people about different blog swaps and other promotional work. Usually a few hours a week.
- Writing blogs and newsletters.
- Listening to podcasts about the business, to stay in the know. Three to five hours a week.
- Promotion work and advertising
This is just what I do weekly. That doesn’t include all the things that only have to be done occasionally. Like planning launches, building e-books, attending webinars, and a thousand other little things.
I work at writing stuff more than I work at my full-time day job. I write in the morning before I go to work when I get home, and on my days off. And this is what it takes to succeed. Long, hard hours, usually after you’ve put long hard hours working for someone else. I don’t have a lot of free time. But then, I’m spending my time doing the thing I want to do more than anything. That helps.
Over the past two years, I’ve published three novels, three novellas, and a handful of short stories. I’ve made some money, but not more than would buy me a cup of coffee. I literally made less than two dollars in January.
But I’ll keep on going. I’ll keep on writing, and keep on publishing. I’ll just keep going. And eventually, I’ll get there.
Being a professional writer is almost impossible. But it isn’t totally impossible.
Having said all of that, I have an announcement. I’ve just finished publishing a book, writing two rough drafts from September to January, and I’m currently finishing the final drafts of a novel that will be going out later this week to some new agents and publishers. After that, I’m putting the final touches on something I think you’ll all be happy to see in April.
I’m exhausted. I haven’t been crocheting. I have a pile of things that need to be done around my house and I could use a spa day. So I’m going to be taking the next week and a half off from PBW. I’ve literally never taken that much time away. In fact, I haven’t even taken a week off in a couple of years.
I will have at least one author interview to share with you while I’m gone. I might do more, it depends on who I hear back from in the next week or so. In the meantime, I do sincerely want to thank you all for reading. I’m learning to rest, not quit, and I will be back on March 18th with a brand new post.
Deciding To Start contains some of the best blog posts from the first two years of Paper Beats World, updated with new information and new insights. It covers such topics as inspiration to start writing, advice on the tools you need to get started, how to be a writer while also being a full time human being, and inspiration to keep going.