4 comments on “How not to be an author…

  1. So here’s the thing…

    I’m happy to admit that my experience may be atypical, but I don’t think yours is typical either. I’ve just quit my day job to write full time and I’ve done so for good, solid financial reasons. That is entirely based on e-publishing. I make quite enough money to treat this as a serious profession (or at least attempt to do so).

    Traditional publishers have no idea how to deal with this and would, I believe, like it to go away. They ignore it. I’ve stopped going to writing conferences because they tend to be based around the concept of traditional publishing. Ebooks are simply ignored at these events, probably because the sponsorship comes from traditional publishers.

    Economically, I make the majority of my money through sales on Amazon’s Kindle marketplace. I’ve tried making a paper version available, and an audiobook: jury is still out on the latter (and I’d love it to be viable), but at the moment neither of these seem economically viable. Production costs simply make the price of these, when compared to an ebook, ridiculously high for the consumer.

    Now, it’s my belief that I got lucky. I wrote a sci-fi book and I think the sci-fi market is not yet flooded with cheap, knock-off material (all those Twilight clones have really swamped fantasy). My book was different, it sold and got into Amazon’s top 100 list for sci-fi. That means more people looking for sci-fi see it, and there are more sales. I call that luck rather than anything special I did, though my writing is apparently good enough to attract continued support, so my experience may be atypical.

    I think it’s possible that we are sitting on a very transitory period in publishing where an individual can become a self-published author through e-publishing, with a little luck and some skill. I don’t think it’ll last long, to be honest, but here we are. I don’t think you can write off e-publishing like that. I do agree with you that setting out with this as a purpose is not a good idea. I didn’t decide on this career change until I was already in a position of making money this way. But giving up hope of living that dream is also wrong.

  2. I agree with everything you say, AJ, bar one: to reduce one’s writing to the level of a hobby. I work in a shitty job, squeeze by on a variety of tiny benefits, am raising a child alone in ghastly central London – but NOTHING will make me reduce my writing to that of a hobby. For me, writing is the thing that keeps me sane. I keeps me out of the small white room where I’m banging my head against the wall to make the pain go away. For me, everything is secondary to my writing, including the shitty part time job. I’ve made tremendous sacrifices in order to fit writing into my life as a large part (i.e. every morning, not the occasional evening) – I haven’t much money, thus have no social life, thus have no friends. I’m isolated, disassociated and have poor career prospects in the Real World. I no longer dream of writing for money because unless you get phenomenally lucky (like the person in the reply above), there is no career in writing. I write to keep that white wall away. I tell myself this has to be enough because I don’t see prospects for writers improving any time soon. Even trad pub authors only get 40p on a full priced book. There are times when I truly hate being a writer, that it’s a curse, because of all the arts, it’s the hardest and the least lucrative and most easily dismissed……..but while you can’t live on it, neither can it be a hobby. It’s the saving grace that doesn’t pay.

  3. Pingback: How not to be an author… | Writing from Alter Space

  4. Hi there,

    I am speculative author from Italy, and here is pretty much the same. Possibly worse. On the whole I agree with you but it all depends what we mean when we say ‘it defines you’. Franz Kafka (or Lvecraft etc) never earned a penny from his writing, but hell did writing defined him. In the end he ‘had to write’, no matter what, to stay sane. I guess what he ought to do is to detach from the idea of earning money trough writing. Which is a very healthy thing to do. It’s just very hard to write in this conditions, but then again, who said everyone could? It’s the ‘have to’ that counts. If you must, you write. If you just can, it will depend on conditions. Then, yes, it becomes a hobby.

    Giovanni

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