Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

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Thread: Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

  1. #1

    Cool Does It Pay to Be a Writer?

    I think most of us here realistically know it doesn’t. We scratch and struggle to find a publisher and, unless we’re among the rich and famous who get Ungodly sums in advances, we go nowhere. Or, get sucked in by unscrupulous publishers who offer us entry into the world of being a published author. For a fee.
    In a recent call, Ms. Martin said that “the people who are able to practice the trade of authoring are people who have other sources of income,” adding that this creates barriers of entry and limits the types of stories that reach a wide audience. There is also, she added, a devaluation of writing in which it is often viewed as a hobby as opposed to a valuable vocation.
    Everyone thinks they can write, because everybody writes,” Ms. Rasenberger said, referring to the proliferation of casual texting, emailing and tweeting. But she distinguishes these from professional writers “who have been working on their craft and art of writing for years.”
    What a professional writer can convey in written word is far superior to what the rest of us can do,” Ms. Rasenberger said. “As a society we need that, because it’s a way to crystallize ideas, make us see things in a new way and create understanding of who we are as a people, where we are today and where we’re going.”

  2. #2
    I always feel it is a bit like music, loads of people write songs (I have written a few myself), a tiny percentage of them stand out and make money at it. Most of us will never get published, most of those published will have a very limited success.

    On the other hand I dislike the snotty attitude of your Ms Rasenberger and her 'Professional writers who have honed their craft for years'. They may be good for writing newspaper and magazine articles, but what really makes a book is when the author gets something of themselves into it, and that can happen with a complete novice. Sure practice helps, first novels and first published novels are not often the same thing, but it is not what gives a book that stand out quality that means real success; so don't give up!
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  3. #3
    Member NathanielleC's Avatar
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    When Neil Gaiman was working on the Neverwhere television series, they had next to no budget for music. But they asked Brian Eno to compose the score and Neil flat out told him that they couldn't pay him. I can't remember the exact quote because Neil talks about it in the commentary and I don't have the DVD on me. But Eno's reply was, "People who do what they love never get paid for it."

    From my personal observations, no author or artist of any kind ever made a direct living off of their actual work. The work they identify themselves with. They usually have to have multiple revenue streams, which means doing things they don't necessarily want to do. PN Elrod for example, reviews manuscripts for publication, which means reading a lot of dreck. The majority of Anne Rice's cash flow came from the tourism industry, which she helped to move by her presence in New Orleans, where much of the Vampire Chronicles took place. And Rice is a woman who was born in poverty. She and her sister had to get crawfish from the river to help her family make ends meet.

    I think even the most experienced of us can see a well known author who has had a few big breaks and forget that this is still a person who needs to put food on the table. Just because we know their name doesn't put them above us financially or artistically.
    I write because if I did anything else with the ideas in my head, I'd go to prison.

  4. #4
    WF Veteran Bloggsworth's Avatar
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    Hardly ever, almost never.
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  5. #5
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Does it pay to be a writer? That might depend on what kind of writer are we talking about.

    I once had the opportunity to go into journalism. I decided not to, and am glad I didn't, but it seems to me that a journalist can make a living at their craft. English professors, also, must meet some sort of expectation to be published in their specialty, whether it be fiction or poetry, in addition to the scholarly publication, so I think it's safe to say they make some financial gain from it--although how much, I wouldn't know. I've also looked a little into writing copy (I don't think it's my thing), but more recently I have also been looking into doing some freelance writing. Not the most profitable thing around, although I thought it might be fun (notice where I put the priority) and would give me some experience at writing for pay. (But then I woke up and realized I really do need the money, so now I'm going back to my regular career instead. Maybe I'll look into it again when I have more free time.)

    Regarding fiction, I followed John Gardner's advice: get a job. Go, live life. Write about it. If you get paid--great! If not, don't worry about the time he wrote, 30+ years ago, (if I remember right) his advice came with the idea that you could make a living in fiction, especially if you worked hard at it and had something worth saying. Today I would add that most people I've read about who do make it into fiction seem to share some common habits:

    They write a lot. (It's not just a daily half-hour hobby, they do this several hours a day, seven days a week, holidays included.)

    Even relatively famous writers seem to retain their day-jobs these days.

    They stay focused on their project.

    They produce.

    They produce a lot.

    They successfully self-market their works. (This means developing a platform, an internet presence, and employ a host of marketing skills I don't yet have.)

    I'm sure this list can be expanded upon.

    Personally, I approach it as art. Art can pay, but that's not why I write. I write because I love writing.
    "A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for."
    ~ John A. Shedd

  6. #6
    Perseverance certainly helps, I will only make anything by an extreme fluke, I can't be bothered to hassle agents or publishers and write for my own amusement when the mood takes me. People Like Stephen King and Terry Pratchett, when they were still in the regular job, did a day's work then came home and sat down to write a regular amount every night. Terry Pratchett used to write three hundred words a night every night, if he finished a story at two hundred and fifty words he wrote fifty words of the next one, that is two thousand one hundred words a week, every week. Stephen King had a shit job in a laundry, he came home and wrote every night and it just about brought his wages up to a living level, until his agent sold the film rights to 'Carrie'. Making a living is almost impossible at the lower end of the scale, and it is not even going to be an easy way of making a bit extra, you might do better buying a lawn mower or a set of ladders and touring the nearest 'Posh' area offering lawn mowing or window cleaning.

    One bit of advice I have read from a number of writers is to put in regular hours and then stop. As one put it, 'Sure you can stop up all night writing, but read it a day later and it is all rubbish and you can throw it away.'
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  7. #7
    Does it pay to be a writer?

    Yes, a thousandfold, but it isn't usually financial.
    Writing has helped me find my voice after decades of being silenced.

    That's worth more to me than a whole chest of gold.

  8. #8
    If I was doing this for the money, I would have quit a long time ago. Like Phil Istine, it's done my soul a world of good. The fact that I've been published is great, but it's not why I keep going. I can't help it.
    "Self-righteousness never straddles the political fence."


    "The bible says to love your neighbor. It's obvious that over the centuries it has been interpreted as the opposite."
    (sarcasm alert)


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  9. #9
    I've never tried most things you just need a bit of luck I reckon
    The only one who can heal you is you.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by escorial View Post
    I've never tried most things you just need a bit of luck I reckon
    Speaks the Scouser, "That John Lennon and Paul Maca were dead lucky, any scouser could have done it if they had had the luck."
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