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Johne

Don't Quit Your Day Job

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Stop me if you've heard this one before - if you're a writer, don't quit your day job.
https://whatever.scalzi.com/2019/01/07/author-incomes-not-great-now-or-then/
 

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Did his string of novels from Zanzibar to Shockwave solve his economic worries? As the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes, not really: “Unsurprisingly (with hindsight), though these novels received considerable critical attention, they in no way made Brunner’s fortune. He was always extremely open about his finances and his hopes for the future, and made no secret of the let-down he felt on discovering himself, after these culminating efforts, still in the position of being forced to produce commercially to survive. This naivete was humanly touching, but fatal to his career.”


Brunner’s tale here is anecdotal, and as with all anecdotes one should be careful not to make more of it than it is. But at the same time, as an anecdote, Brunner’s tale has more to tell us about middle-class author jobbing in the 20th Century than the tale of Ernest Hemingway or William Faulkner. And to bring it around to where we started with this piece, it does suggest that at all times, it’s a hard time to make a living — middle-class or otherwise — solely as an author.

 

 

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Hmm, which one is my day job?  I count myself eternally blessed to have three careers happening at the same time, Music teaching, writing, and now audiobook narration.  Between them, I might keep my head above water because I don't have little ones to feed and clothe or expensive habits to maintain.  

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   Actually, having a day job is nothing to be ashamed of; as long as you're not doing anything illegal.

   I worked for many years in a restaurant, in a department store; wishing that I could quit and be able to live on what I earned from my writing.  I also wished that I could sell the movie rights, and receive residual payments.  Those things never happened, though I haven't stopped hoping. 

    I am now retired; getting along on Social Security and EBT payments.  I'm thinking that there's nothing wrong with having helped who knows how many thousands of people, to have a good meal.  That may have been more beneficial to them, than anything they might have read, that was written by me.

     However, I'm still hoping to have a best seller; and receiving residual payments would be nice.                        

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Guest Steven Hutson

My career path in publishing has certainly been anything but straight. When I figured out that I would not make a living from my first book, I sought out jobs and gigs that would allow me to keep my hand in writing and/or publishing.

I did freelance editing.
I spoke for writers' conferences.
I wrote a weekly column about religion and politics.
I compared notes with others in my critique group.

All of these things allowed me to keep writing, build a portfolio, and build a mailing list of publishing folk. So that by the time that I put up my shingle as an agent, I was already known in the industry. Hence, when I began pitching my clients' works to publishers, they already knew who I was. Which is (almost) half the battle.

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51 minutes ago, Nicola said:

Between them, I might keep my head above water because I don't have little ones to feed and clothe or expensive habits to maintain.  

 

Those by themselves are expensive

44 minutes ago, William D'Andrea said:

  I am now retired; getting along on Social Security and EBT payments.  I'm thinking that there's nothing wrong with having helped who knows how many thousands of people, to have a good meal.  That may have been more beneficial to them, than anything they might have read, that was written by me.

     However, I'm still hoping to have a best seller; and receiving residual payments would be nice.

 

You're putting your fortune where it should be, and I'm sure you will be rewarded for it. But to see something you do go big would be a very nice indeed.

 

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Yeah, I never gave up my day job, but it was hard to tame my imagination when I first started. The self-pub math seemed too good to be true: 70% royalty on all eBooks! That was exciting math! All I needed to do was to sell a measly 25,000 books per year at $4.99 and I could easily become a full-time author!

 

😂😂  

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Guest Steven Hutson
1 hour ago, William D'Andrea said:

residual payments


Not familiar. What's a residual payment?  (I thought that was what actors get paid on their TV reruns.)

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6 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

Yeah, I never gave up my day job, but it was hard to tame my imagination when I first started.

 

I can relate to this.

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57 minutes ago, Steven Hutson said:


Not familiar. What's a residual payment?  (I thought that was what actors get paid on their TV reruns.)

I'm not too sure about the correct terminology either.  What I meant was that it might be nice to receivie a percentage of the gross income.  Nothing gross about that.

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23 minutes ago, William D'Andrea said:

I'm not too sure about the correct terminology either.

 

Are you referring to royalty payments?

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I sometimes wish my day job (teacher) didn't skew my time SO much towards it that I have so little time to write at times... sigh. Que sera sera!

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, suspensewriter said:

Well, first I'd have to have a day job to quit!  I'm retired.

Your writing progresses!  Are you into the Jesus Road again?  That is a fascinating story. 

Edited by Nicola
tense problems

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Yes, Nicola- I'm back to writing again, albeit slowly.  By the way, Allie told me about your mother passing, and I'm so sorry.  You have my heartfelt condolences.

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3 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

By the way, Allie told me about your mother passing, and I'm so sorry.  You have my heartfelt condolences.

Praying for you, Nicola!

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Thanks for sharing this. For sure, there are easier ways to earn a living than writing!

 

Those who are managing to do so either:

 

a) Struck gold/caught lightning with a best-seller; or

b) Write a large volume of books which sell a moderate amount.

 

It's indeed foolhardy to count on getting a stratospheric hit like The Hunger Games, Twilight, or Harry Potter. Creating a large, high-quality backlist and marketing it well is a tremendous amount of work, but that's a far more realistic goal to shoot for, while still keeping the day job until it happens.

 

Above all is the need to treat writing as a business. I highly recommend Adam Croft's recently-published book, The Indie Author Mindset. He's achieved the sort of commercial success that most writers only dream about, and he talks about how he needed to change his attitude towards his writing. He is, incidentally, one of those who wrote a global best-seller, but his principles are applicable to the rest of us mortals who aspire to make a more modest income.

 

I'm blessed that my husband supports our family, bringing in 80-90% of what we need. While I'm home-schooling our children, my part-time freelancing income covers the rest, and I have the freedom to play around with various projects.

 

I hope that I'll eventually bring in enough as an indy author to replace what I'm currently doing, but I know it's not guaranteed and it will probably not happen soon.

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10 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

You have my heartfelt condolences.

 

10 hours ago, HK1 said:

Praying for you, Nicola!

Thank you!  I'm trying to relate to my mother as a redeemed being, free from the influence and consequences of sin.  This is a part of "we do not grieve as those without hope" (1 Thes. 4:13) that I never realised before. 

 

10 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Yes, Nicola- I'm back to writing again, albeit slowly.

Every word you write is more valuable than the last.  I praise God for bringing you back and arranging your circumstances so you could write.  The world is a better place already!

 

2 hours ago, EBraten said:

I highly recommend Adam Croft's recently-published book,

Thank you for the resource!  I'll look him up.  

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12 hours ago, PenName said:

sometimes wish my day job (teacher) didn't skew my time

I taught for 30 years in public school and another bunch in GED. I understand the frustration of not having time to write, but what you are doing in your day job is important. You are affecting lives every day. Don't minimize the impact you are having on the world in this way.

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1 minute ago, carolinamtne said:

You are affecting lives every day. Don't minimize the impact you are having on the world in this way.

This is true!  Would you like to write one book that touches a thousand souls, or would you like to train a thousand writers?  You are very likely touching the lives of tens of thousands of readers  which is even more valuable!  

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Posted (edited)

Funny side note. Since I'm following this topic, email notifications are sent with each new reply. I'm sitting at work and my phone occasionally chimes with email headers that simply read: "From ChristianWriters - Don't Quit Your Day Job."  

 

Thanks for the reminders. 😄

Edited by Accord64
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16 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Well, first I'd have to have a day job to quit!  I'm retired.

Never had a day job so can I actually be actually? Not that I didn't work - spent years working in my husband's photo studio - photographer, bookkeeper, photo editor, but I didn't get paid. When we closed the studio, the plan was that I would chase that ancient dream of being a writer - that would be my source of income if anything happened to my husband. So far the earnings have been in the negative column.

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21 minutes ago, Sibermom65 said:

Never had a day job so can I actually be actually? Not that I didn't work - spent years working in my husband's photo studio - photographer, bookkeeper, photo editor, but I didn't get paid.


If it was the work you were doing, it was your day job. Presumably he was getting paid and you were helping him. It's the same idea.

I see a lot of people making money AROUND writing - HOWTO books and seminars and courses and the like. Most actual working authors, some very well known, who earn their living solely from selling books, are struggling. I'm not that well known. I make a pretty good living as a Technical Writer but when people think of writing that's not what they think of.

If making money is what you need, I strongly advise to take an unsentimental look at writing for income and decide what's more important. Writing is not a great source of income for most people. I'd pray for wisdom about what you can do to create avenues for income if that's your need. The creative writing I do is a hobby - if I do become good enough to earn money from it in the future, great. If not, I'm not hanging my hat on that. 

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A few years ago a dear friend suggested that I write a book, I didn't quite my day job, but I did retire. I've have spent the last two years researching, writing drafts, seeking advice, and attempting to develop writing skills worthy being read. I have worked harder at this endeavor than my previous profession, I now question if I'm really retired.  

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Guest Steven Hutson

Nah. You just changed jobs.

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