Big Money: A Dream Writers Must Let Go Of

In addition to writing, I enjoy other interests. Key among them is working, although truth be told, if I were to happen upon the Lotto jackpot, I would retire from the time-sucking Day Job and write full time in a heartbeat. I also enjoy gourmet cooking, gardening; I paint, I sew, I make twisted things out of wire and gems. I play guitar and violin (badly).

I argue that anything one can do in life can be elevated to art. Even the time-sucking Day Job.

Even *gasp* menial tasks.

I think back to when I started writing “seriously” in 2007. I’m pretty sure making money was the furthest thing from my mind. I know for a fact that my seedling of a story had no outline and no intended ending. Getting it all down on paper was the goal, and it was a huge one. Once you’ve achieved the goal, the next step is editing. Re-writing. Polishing. Weaving subplots and intricacies into the story. Editing and polishing some more. And then of course, querying.

I’m constantly amazed by writers who think they can make money from the writing venture. I suppose there are some who can pump out volume after volume and sell – sell big time, even. They talk about platform, social media, marketing. It’s all necessary. Even the big houses aren’t paying for publicity anymore, so the author is expected to peddle – I mean, sell – their own work.

When you add up the time creating, fold in the time and expense of editing, and cap it off with the time marketing, most writers make about 2 cents an hour. If that.

Obviously, one cannot look at writing as a money-making venture.

I liken writing to my jewelry making venture: it’s something I do, and do well. It’s something I enjoy. I love creating art, whether it is visual, wearable, or readable. My output is unusual, quirky and, well… artistic. It appeals to some, but not to the masses. I have reconciled myself as a jewelry artist with any dreams I have of being able to live off my work. I can’t.

My son has a degree in piano performance from a prestigious music conservatory. He’s a fabulous pianist, truly an artist when it comes to playing the piano. But there are hundreds, no, thousands of fabulous pianists within a twenty-mile radius of his house. He’s great, and he can barely live off his work.

I belong to writing associations and go to conferences. Some think that book sales in the 2-3 thousand range is great. It’s not enough to live on, but it’s respectable. You might break even. If enough people love it, your agent might want you to produce more of the same, therefore ensuring continued success.

But are you kidding? There are literally thousands and thousands of great writers. I have a To-Read list that threatens to crush me. Some of the books were recommended; others were given to me to read for review. Many were self-published. Not everyone can do a decent job of writing a book, but believe me, there are plenty out there that do a kick-ass job – and they don’t have contracts with big houses.

As an artist, I recommend the following: let go of the Big Money dream. It’s nice to have for the occasional foray into pleasantville, but the reality is that even with self-pubbing and e-pubbing, the best you can do is small money and some recognition.

As an artist, I thoroughly recommend honing your craft. Study. Make use of information – there’s a ton of it out there. Make a few mistakes, and don’t be afraid of trying something new. Approach writing as a learning experience. Your artistic work is and should be your primary focus, not snagging an agent or getting a contract. God forbid, not hoping for the big pay-off.

After all, you have a better chance of hitting the Lotto.


2 Responses

  1. Depends on what you mean by a big payoff. If “big” is new house money, then your chances are slim. If “big” is new car money, that happens every day. Concentrate on the work first, and the marketing later.

  2. Plus, you make great jewelry, so shut up.

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