Gail Anderson-Dargatz

Resources for Writers

On Making a Living as a Writer

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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! 

Resource Categories

Blogs on Craft

On the Building Blocks of Fiction

Tips on how to craft vivid scene that allows the reader to experience events right along with the characters.

On Finding Your Big Idea

Insights into the writing process and what a writer's day really looks like, as well as perspectives on research and writing from real life.

On Getting to Know Your Characters

Advice on the many ways you can make your characters come alive on the page for both you and your reader.

On Deciding on Point of View

What is the best perspective from which to tell your story? Writers discuss how they made choices on point of view and voice.

On Choosing Your Situation and Setting

Writers talk about how they use situation and setting to build story and convey emotion.

On Developing Conflict and Structure

From how to work in different genres to finding the real story, writers offer good advice on building conflict and structure.

On Revising

Tips on how to gain distance from your work and to how to re-imagine your next draft.

On Publishing

Writers offer practical advice on the business of writing and promotion, and on the importance of finding a writing community.

On Making a Living as a Writer

Writers offer words of wisdom on living on less.

On The Writer's Life

Writers talk about their life as a writer.

About Gail

Gail's novels have been national and international bestsellers and two have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, among other awards. She works with writers from around the world on her online teaching forums.