When my kids tell their friends that their mom is a writer, their friends consistently say, “Oh, wow, you guys must be rich!” Not. So not. There are some writers like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King who make big bucks writing. But even though my books have been national and international bestsellers, I, like most writers, make only a modest living, and most of my earnings comes through teaching, editing, hosting writers retreats and presenting master classes.
As this link points out, making a living as a writer is hard, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I get to be my own boss, take days off whenever I want, have opportunities to travel and do events and meet cool people. But most of all I love the process of writing: researching and interviewing, getting lost in the flow of writing, putting together that magic jigsaw puzzle and, yes, even revising (I love revising! Seriously!). But, you know, you’ve got to make a living, so how do you go about doing that as a writer?
Sadly, most fiction writers simply don’t. It’s something we do part time or as a hobby. In self-publishing, you get a much larger portion of an individual book’s sale, but you must do all the work of all the many people who work in a publishing house. And because you don’t have a marketing team behind you, you likely won’t get the sales either.
Have I depressed you yet?
On the other hand, it's also true that occasionally a writer hits the jackpot and finds big success with either a self-published book or a traditionally published book. That happened for me with my first novel The Cure for Death by Lightning, which became an international bestseller. But here’s the thing: it seemed like I made big bucks with that book for a year or two, but it took me seven years to write. Seven years! So, when I did the math, and evened out those big bucks over the time it took me to write and edit the project, I only ended up with a modest yearly wage.
The take home message: if you’re writing fiction to make money, you may want to consider another occupation, like plumbing. But if you love books and getting lost in the process of writing, then there’s nothing quite like it. Being an author also introduces you to the writing community at large and opportunities like travel. And, who knows? Maybe, with one book, you might win the lottery!