The Business Rusch: A Career Versus Publication

 Business Rusch logo webI was a bit stunned at the response to last week’s blog, not because the response was negative—it wasn’t—but because so many of you said that you had no idea that writing was a career choice.

On a gut level, many of you knew that some of us had made careers as writers, but over the years—decades, maybe—the idea that a writer could not just make a living, but spend her life writing without financial support from some other job, had gotten lost.

The fact that so many of you had no idea writers could be in this profession for life while, at the same time, wanting to become professional writers helped me realize something that I hadn’t been able to understand before.

People make different choices when they’re looking at a career as opposed to the choices they make to achieve a single goal.

If all you want to do is be a published writer, then you will give up a lot to achieve that dream.

If you want to make a living as a writer for the rest of your life, if you want a writing career, then you will not (or should not) give up many of those things just to get one book published.

But if you don’t understand that these two things are different—the dream of being published versus the dream of a writing career—then you will bounce back and forth in decision-making, and will often make the wrong decision for both dreams.

Now, I’m going to run into terminology issues. I need to delineate the I-wannabe-published writer from the career writer, but I have no good term for the first kind of writer. Hobbyist writer isn’t quite right, because that term “hobbyist” often diminishes the amount of work such writers put into their books. The actual term should probably be “non-professional writer,” but again, many of those writers are very professional in their craft and demeanor.

So I’m going to call such writers “one-book writers” even though most of those writers will probably write more than one book. I choose the term only because it’s an inoffensive shorthand for what I’m trying to discuss.

The one-book writer wants to be published, to maybe have a book hit a bestseller list or win an award, to be legitimately called a writer who has credentials. The one-book writer believes that he will never make a living as a writer or at least, a living as good as the one he makes at his day job, so he doesn’t even try.

The writer wants to see his name in print, usually through a traditional publishing company, and everything that writer does goes to the goal of one (or two or three) books in print. Not at making a living, certainly not having a lifelong (or second) career as a writer.

The one-book writer wants to achieve a goal. It’s a bucket-list sort of thing. It may be that way because the writer has no idea that a career is possible or it may be because the writer has other interests and would rather focus on them.

So many writers who come into the publishing business are one-book writers. In fact, I would say that the majority of writers I have met over my thirty-plus years in the business have been one-book writers, with other jobs and other interests.

The career writer is in this for the long haul. She has dozens if not hundreds of books in her. She wants to make a living—a good living—from writing those books. Her goals are twofold: to have books in print, yes, but more than that. This writer wants to spend her life telling stories and/or sharing information.

She’s not in it for accolades or wealth, although those are nice side benefits. She’s not in it to get tenure or to show her literary bona fides. She needs to make the rent and do so while pursuing a non-traditional career. That takes planning and foresight, and an ability to roll with the punches.

Some of you have gotten angry at me in the comments section of this blog, or when I give you (requested) e-mail advice about contracts or working with a particular company, and that anger often comes from our differing perspectives.

I always come at things from the perspective of a career writer. I, quite frankly, have only a superficial understanding of the one-book writer. I’ve acquired that understanding by having friends who are one-book writers, being acquainted with a lot of other one-book writers, and watching a lot of one-book writers vanish after a few years inside publishing.

Almost all of the business advice for writers on the web is from the perspective of the one-book writer. Most agents write their blogs to the one-book writer—because the bulk of the writers that modern agents work with are one-book writers. Publishers and editors give advice in conferences to the one-book writer for three reasons.

First, most of the attendees at conferences are either wannabe writers or one-book writers. The career writers generally attend only if they are speakers and they get paid for their attendance. Most career writers don’t have time to attend conferences, any more than those of you with day jobs have the time to attend more than one or two events a year. And since most conferences are geared toward the one-book writer, career writers get little out of a conference. In the past, career writers could meet up with editors and sell book proposals at the conference. Those days are gone, which is why career writers rarely attend.

Second, most writers seeking advice are beginners.

Third, most of the writers that editors and publishers deal with in their careers are one-book (or two- or three-book) writers. These writers have a career trajectory, believe it or not.  They get one or two or three book contracts. The one-book writer never leaves their day job. Their books rarely rise above the midlist, so the writer has no opportunity to make a living without a lot of sacrifice. Those writers don’t make the sacrifice, and aren’t nimble enough to survive the difficulties that they will inevitably face. When those difficulties arise, the one-book writers stop publishing novels and maybe stop publishing altogether.

Ironically, the one-book writers who no longer publish still go to conferences. There, they can impress the unpublished with their publications, and they can give advice in how to be one-book writers. So, once again, you’ll get the one-book writer advice.

Most career writers don’t talk about the career in public. We write daily. We put in a lot of time. We write a lot of words. We publish under pen names and/or in a variety of seemingly unrelated genres. If you look at our bibliography—if we’re courageous enough (or organized enough) to have a full-length bibliography—you’ll see everything from short story and poetry sales to articles to essays to novels to nonfiction books to comic books to the occasional movie script and more.

I’ve been writing professionally since I was sixteen, getting my start in newspapers, then supplementing the cost of my own college education by writing for local magazines, and once I graduated, writing for business journals. None of that nonfiction work is in my bibliography. None of my radio work—I co-wrote entire newscasts for seven years—is in my bibliography. Nor are the radio plays I wrote and the educational writing that I did for the Annenberg Foundation (under a different name).

I’m not unique in this. Career writers gain experience by doing a lot of different writing, sometimes under salary, sometimes freelance. Eventually, the career writer finds her niche and tries to settle there, unless or until something goes wrong with that niche and then the career writer finds a new one.

The reason I write a business blog for writers is that business, not craft, destroys a writer’s career. Bad business decision after bad business decision after bad business decision can force a career writer to take a day job or change her name or to write things she knows she’ll get paid for (not things she enjoys) just to pay back debt.

Bad contracts, especially contracts being offered these days by traditional houses, can limit a career writer’s choices on how she can pursue her livelihood. If she gets (and takes) bad advice on signing those contracts, she might be unable to publish enough to make her bills.

These are the things career writers face, and the decisions a career writer must make.

What the one-book writer doesn’t understand, and what career writers often forget, is that we have an advantage in this profession. Our work makes us money years after we complete the work. My very first novel, sold in 1989, still earns me money. It’s in print in English, and has had many foreign editions. (I hope it’ll have many more down the road.) In theory, that novel could be licensed for a wide variety of gaming rights or comic book rights or even a television series. That those things haven’t happened yet for that novel means nothing. It could happen, if I hang onto the rights.

The one-book writer doesn’t really care about such things. Oh, sure, he’d like a movie made from his book and he’d like to sell overseas, but the important thing is to get that book into print. If the publisher ends up owning the movie rights, that’s okay, because the one-book writer’s book might get made into a movie.

The only time the one-book writer will get upset is if the book does get made into a movie and if the movie gets released and if the movie is a hit. Then  the one-book writer will realize that the contract he signed will make everyone else money, and he will get bragging rights only. Because he’s only a one-book writer, he won’t even get the halo effect on his next novel.

But let’s be honest here: the chances of a one-book writer’s book getting made into a successful movie are between slim and none. Yes, it happens about once every five years or so, to a single one-book writer out of the tens of thousands of one-book writers who get books published every year. But most one-book writers never realized that that “great deal” they got is a great deal for the publisher, not for the one-book writer. Because most one-book writers never have big successes.

Still, for the one-book writer, just being published by a traditional publisher is a success. That book with his name on the cover, in bookstores (however briefly) and maybe available online for years to come, is the culmination of a long-term dream.

The one-book writers who kinda thought they could have a career and/or who thought their brilliant first novel never got the recognition it deserved become bitter. They’ll often go to writers conferences or blog about the fact that it’s “impossible” to make money as a writer. Or they’ll become champions of the no-money school of traditional publishing. It’s better to be published and validated, they say, than it is to demean yourself by making money at your art.

Career writers know differently. Career writers know that with careful tending of the business side of the career—and by being prolific—they can make money writing.  They don’t just  make money, they make a good middle class (or above) living at writing, year after year after  year.

Yes, the job is non-traditional. Yes, sometimes they scramble to find work. But they know how to do that, and they become very, very good at it.

So, let me give you some bullet points to illustrate the difference between business decisions made by one-book writers and those made by career writers. Even though I’ll put numbers on these, they’re in no particular order.

1. Craft. Both types of writers do the best they possibly can on their work. Both do what they can to improve their craft. But…

One-book writers often wait for the muse and/or spend years revising their single manuscript.

Career writers are prolific. They have to be or they don’t make a living.

2. Reputation. Both types of writer want a good reputation, but they each think of it differently.

•One-book writers want their book to get good reviews, win awards, maybe sell well. They want recognition for their book.

Career writers want readers who will buy the next book. They want editors to contact them for a story/article. They want recognition for their writing work. Not awards (although those are nice), but sales, repeat sales, from readers who love their work.

3. Book sales (part one). Both types of writer want to sell a book. But they go about it differently.

One-book writers can play that silly game of going into an agent’s slush pile, hoping that the agent will eventually read the book and “take it on,” and maybe market it to a book editor. Eventually, the one-book writer believes he will get published, and he has the time to wait for the “right” publisher who will “nurture” his work.

Career writers know that an agent must help with the career, selling many books per year or selling subsidiary rights, bringing other paying work to the table. If an agent brings nothing to the table except “expertise,” then the career writer gets rid of that agent.

Right now, in the current marketplace, very few agents bring anything to the table for a career writer. A career writer can hire a literary lawyer to negotiate a contract, and can handle everything else herself. This is why so many agents are scrambling to find a new niche in the marketplace.

Yeah, one-book writers still go to agents and some career writers are hanging on, but more and more, career writers are ditching their agents because the agents cannot add long-term value for their 15%—and they know it.

4. Book sales (part two). I almost wrote that both types of writers want to sell a book, but that’s not accurate. Both types of writers want to sell books isn’t accurate either. Then I tried both types of writers want to get published, but again, things have changed enough that even that statement is a bit suspect. Let’s just dive in, shall we?

•One-book writers, along with already-established big bestsellers, are most likely to know nothing about indie publishing. The already-established big bestsellers are doing very well in their careers and have no need to look at other ways to continue to publish.

One-book writers don’t see indie publishing as legitimate. Indie publishing won’t help their reputations (see above), at least in their opinions.

Plus, one-book writers are the ones who are most likely to say, both in person and online, that they just want to write.

To be an indie published writer, a writer needs to understand business. Granted, some one-book writers are going to try to self-publish their one book, but that will (guaranteed) end in disaster. So either the one-book writer will give up right there or the one-book writer will return to his traditional publishing dream.

In that dream, the one-book writer will do whatever it takes to get that book published—except learn the business. The one-book writer believes that the business doesn’t apply to them, and they might be right. If they just want a published book and some validation, does it matter how they get it? To many of them, it does not.

So, to recap, a one-book writer wants to publish at least one book from a reputable traditional publisher, with national bookstore distribution. The one-book writer wants what he considers to be the trappings of success—book signings, lecture tours, and seeing the book in brick-and-mortar bookstores.

•Career Writers want to sell books. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies. And not all of the same book, although that would be nice. Career writers think of selling books in two ways: first, the book must sell to a publisher (and/or be indie published); and second, the book must sell to readers.

Career writers know that books must get to readers to make an impact. All career book writers have had books that have never received proper distribution from traditional publishers. In other words, even though the book was traditionally published, it never made its way to bookstores, and therefore no readers found the book.

Without readers, there are no sales. Without sales, there are no careers.

This one factor is why so many midlist writers are embracing indie publishing. The midlist writers now know that their books [plural] will get to the readers [also plural] who want them.

5. Contracts. Both types of writers will end up signing contracts.

One-book writers really don’t care what’s in the contract past the amount for the advance and the due dates. The one-book writer will look at the contract, but trust his agent (and/or lawyer if he’s savvy enough to hire one) to take care of the “bad” provisions.

The one-book writer will rarely ask someone to explain what the terms mean, and will often see contract terms as promises. Let me give you an example of what I mean. If a contract states that the royalty rate for paper copies of the book is 6% for the first 50,000 paper copies, 8% for the next 100,000 paper copies, and 10% for anything above that, the one-book writer will believe that the clause is a promise that his book will ship 150,000 paper copies minimum.

Actually the 6/8/10 provision exists in the unlikely event that a book sells better than expected in paper. Most midlist novels in today’s market (especially in paperback) rarely sell above 30,000 paper copies.

Career writers understand that their career rests entirely on their contracts. Career writers know that a bad contract is the difference between getting an advance against royalties and actually making royalties over and above that advance.

Modern traditional contracts will also have things like non-compete clauses, which are death to the career writer. The one-book writer can wait three years between books. Most career writers can’t wait three months.

Career writers also know that being able to get out of a contract is as important if not more important than getting into one. It’s better to leave a publisher who doesn’t care about a book and/or writer than it is to stick with that publisher.

Career writers are savvy business people who will, at some point in their career, walk away from book deals because the contract is heinous, threaten to sue to get out of a contract, buy back a contract, and write a toss-off book to complete a contract. All career writers negotiate their contracts either on their own, through an agent, or through a lawyer.

Career writers learn to understand publishing contracts because failing to do so will kill a career faster than a bad book. In fact, one reader’s bad book is another’s favorite book. Bad books don’t kill careers. Bad business does.

6. Copyright. Both writers license copyrights. Only one type of writer understands what that really means.

•One-book writers skim over the part of the contract that deals with licensing a copyright. The one-book writer has sold a book! Yay! It doesn’t matter that the traditional publisher will not pay an advance, and yet wants to publish the books in all languages and all formats.

By the way, too many one-book writers got caught in contracts like this in the past. Then called “all-rights” contracts, the one-book writers who got caught whined at conferences, and even beginners realized they shouldn’t sign those contracts with the phrase “all rights” in it.

Now, though, traditional companies—the Big 5—all have all-rights contracts without using the phrase “all-rights.” They are ebook only contracts (with the promise of a paper edition), at 50% of net, in all languages, and the right to license the book to everything from movies to games to audiobooks and more.

I’ve seen several contracts like that this summer from all of the Big 5 publishers, and every person who contacted me about those contracts ended up signing them. Which, honestly, makes my stomach turn.

But if you only want to be a published writer, then I guess it’s okay to sell every copyright in that book for 50% of net, with net being undefined. You’ll never see a dime—or if you do, you’ll only see a tiny fraction of what everyone else makes from that book, but  you will have a “legitimate” traditionally published book with your name on it, vetted by a “real” editor.

Sorry to engage in a mini-rant, but this pisses me off. The writer really doesn’t have to be screwed here, and the publisher is really taking advantage of someone’s dreams. I get it. Being published is a bucket-list thing. But does that mean a writer should volunteer to be hurt just to achieve a goal?

Unfortunately, because there will always be one-book writers, there will always be a version of the all-rights contract, and there will always be someone desperate enough to sign it.

Will an agent or lawyer protect the writer? No. Because no one can improve a contract based on no-advance and 50% of net in all languages. The basis of the book deal is flawed. Book deals work like this: a writer agrees to the outline of the deal before seeing the contract. So, the writer has already agreed to the worst terms of the deal before the contract crosses his deak.

The writer wants his one book published, and he will have that, no matter what. So many agents and lawyers will explain the problems, and most one-book writers will never listen to what could go wrong.

Career writers understand copyright. Period. They want to license as little of their copyright as possible in each property. They know that a book deal is a negotiation, but if the publisher gets all of the benefit of the copyright license, then the career writer will avoid that publisher or walk away from the deal.

No long-established career writer would ever sign a contract like the one listed above. The career writer understands that a contract like that will earn no money, no matter how many books get sold. A career writer needs to make a living, remember, and contracts like that make earning a living impossible.

Copyright is a difficult subject to master and it is ever-changing. If you’re longing to be a career writer or if you know you don’t know enough about copyright, buy a copy of Nolo Press’s The Copyright Handbook, and read through it slowly. Make understanding copyright something you do on a daily basis. If you see a weird copyright notice, figure out why it exists.

If you don’t understand why I say we license copyright instead of selling it, then you should buy the book. I could go on, but I won’t.

Okay…I’m done with my bullet points. I touched on only a few things about the differences in approach between a one-book writer and a career writer. They are very, very different animals.

Almost every decision you make as a writer will force you to choose between career and that getting-one-thing published daydream. It’s up to you to decide if you want a career or not.

But realize, when I’m talking about decisions in this blog, I do so from the point of view of someone who has had a thirty-year career and is hoping for at least thirty years more.

A writing career is not a sprint. It’s not a marathon. It’s not even an ultra marathon. It’s a way of life.

And that is the biggest difference of all.

One other realization I had last week was the number of words I write on this blog every year. The fact that I lose two novels to write this weekly column means that I need to earn two novel advances over the course of a year to make up for that. (Technically, thinking in modern career terms, I should earn more, but I’m going to leave my financial expectations at something reasonable, since I also get a lot of intangibles out of this blog.) I don’t need to make much per week, because the money adds up over time, but I do need to make a little something.

So, if you learned anything or got anything out of a past blog, please leave a tip on the way out.

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“The Business Rusch: “A Career Versus Publication” copyright © 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 




73 responses to “The Business Rusch: A Career Versus Publication”

  1. AD Starrling says:

    A wonderful post again! I’m so glad I discovered blogs like yours, Dean, Passive Guy/Voice, David Gaughran, and many more. Thank you very much for sharing your experiences and giving great advice to new and established authors.

    AD

  2. Jinni says:

    This schism exists in almost every writer community. Unfortunately it makes negotiation with publishers difficult because there are always one book authors ready to sign anything, in my experience. I do have to thank you for this article as it explains what I detest about conferences. You finally put in words what I could not about all those conferences.

  3. Iola says:

    I’m a book reviewer (unpaid), and I like this quote, particularly in light of the ongoing kerfuffles between authors and reviewers (the way these authors behave, it’s obvious they’re not career authors).

    “Bad books don’t kill careers. Bad business does.”

    Equally, a bad review doesn’t kill a career. But an author’s response to it might. Because being rude to customers is bad business.

  4. Lin Barrett says:

    Every time I read one of these posts, it’s as if you’ve pushed me off a cliff of realizations I’d been hiding from myself. Then you push, I fall, my mind whirs all the way to the bottom, and I land as an entirely different person.

  5. A good post. One of the things I find most amazing (and scary) is how few traditionally published authors actually know what is is in their contracts. When I rant about non-compete clauses they say, “I don’t have one of those.” On my prodding they actually pull the contract and read it then go, “Well I’ll be…look at that. I guess there is one after all.” Their response is “Oh well.” As if it really doesn’t matter. I know every line of my contracts and never will sign something that I consider a “career killer.” But as a career author I know that I sometimes have to swallow some bitter pills (25% net for ebooks) in order to get further my career. Signing something for strategic reasons is one thing…doing so because you are desperate for validation is another.

  6. I’m definitely a careerist at this point. I analyze almost everything I do and make almost every decision with an eye towards its affect on my long term brand and opportunities. It’s turned me into a bit of a workaholic.

    I’ve always wanted to be a writer. For me, that’s the goal; to do nothing BUT write. To be engaged in the process of writing, without the distraction of a day job. I was unemployed when I started self-publishing at the tail end of 2011, and by the middle of 2012 I was hitting 4 figures a month.

    It’s not much, but it’s enough to pay the rent, and I don’t need a day job. I’m writing and patiently waiting to hit that critical mass of released work to hit the next earning threshold, so I can maybe put away a little extra into savings at the end of the month, and maybe buy myself a new pair of shoes.

    But for me, writing is survival. It saved me from homelessness, and I have little doubt that if I keep at it it’ll pop me over the poverty line.

  7. .
    Thanks for the clarification. Now I get where my internal frustration comes from when friends, interested in publishing their own story, want me to tell them all about the “one-book” path and not about the one I’m on. Now I’ll be able to better discuss their intent with them.
    .
    .

  8. Fantastic post, Kris. I knew that one-book writers existed, but I didn’t understand the perspective, and I certainly didn’t realize there were so many of them. In fact, I still don’t understand the perspective, but now I understand the perspective of the advice given to one-book writers better. And I think knowing that most advice is being offered to one-book writers will help me keep from getting angry at the advice I see on the internet that seems to me to be bad advice!

  9. Sue Trowbridge says:

    Wow — I happened to read this blog entry earlier this morning, and a few hours later, I came across (via Twitter) a New York Times article about J.K. Rowling’s “The Cuckoo’s Calling” titled, “‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ Reveals Long Odds for New Authors.” Reading it, it was so clear that the writer simply ASSUMED that every writer is a one-book writer. As i believe you have pointed out in the past, “Cuckoo’s” was actually quite successful for a first novel in hardcover, and “Galbraith” would no doubt have continued to build a career over the course of multiple books (though, of course, that presumes that publishers will allow a writer, even a pseudonymous megastar, to continue a series that isn’t selling better by leaps & bounds with every book).

  10. Great article, Kris! True true all true. Good to see Laura here too. I wonder when more people will realize that “literary agent” is one of the less-promising careers out there these days.

  11. James F. Brown says:

    This blog reminds me of an interview with Mickey Spillane I read years ago in Writers Digest. Spillane was asked what it meant to be an author, and he took umbrage with that term.

    He said he was a writer. That’s what he did — write. Margaret Mitchell was an author; she wrote one book and that was it. He wasn’t an author; he was a writer!

  12. Pati Nagle says:

    Great post, Kris!

    I hadn’t thought about the differences between committed writers and dabblers in quite this way before. Makes all kinds of sense, and this will help me shift how I talk to writers about their expectations. Thanks for making it clear!

  13. Liz says:

    How about “prestige” writers versus “career” writers?

    • Daniela says:

      I like that one.

      And there are also writers around who are hybrids between the two, who want the prestige and have the vague hope that with the prestige comes enough money to live from it. Or that they should be able to live from it.

  14. Laura Ware says:

    I’m a wanna-be career writer who is still working at it. I appreciate your last point – a writing career is a way of life. I need to act like that more.

    Thanks for another great post, Kris!

  15. Don Darkes says:

    Hi Kathryn. I have been following your blog because your surname (Rusch) is the name I should be using -both to write and toidentify myself in everyday life. You see I was adopted and labelled with a name that my wife loves but which is impossible to pronounce and difficult to remember. Its too long to fit on a book cover. Instead I adopted a pseudonym which is the cryptic name that was given to the subject of a biography I am writing. He was renamed in order to hide his true identity. The irony tickled my fancy – and Google and Internet searches were spectaculalry clear of other authors or persons with the same name! Ah, I intend to be a career writer,and am woring on books three to seven simultaneously. As for getting sales on the first two – hmm… that is another story!

  16. JJBrannon says:

    In between reading the first few paragraphs of this column — the logical split at the end of one-book writers and the beginning of your career writing — I hopped off for some food and realized I hadn’t checked my mail since yesterday, which diverted me to Baen’s Bar and Chaos Manor.

    This led me to a juxtaposition of a few thoughts springboarding from your earlier post about Michael Pietsch. My cousin RBS met Pietsch at a lecture by the latter in Philadelphia and submitted his novel to him. Pietsch returned it saying that he enjoyed it but didn’t find it suitable for any of his publishing slots.

    Why I raise this is because in my email today was a forward from RBS from Ken Kolb, the author of Getting Straight and Couch Trip as well as numerous Wild, Wild West scripts, with whom RBS struck up a friendly correspondence over the past 25 years.

    Mr. Kolb sent RBS his latest residual check from a major studio, with the comment, “The money just keeps rolling in.” The check was for less than a dollar, a keepsake that my cousin treasures far more than its face value.

    Meanwhile on Baen’s Bar a newcomer posted a link to his recent independently-published ebook and someone asked why he hadn’t submitted to The Bar’s Slushpile.

    In response I wrote: “You know, á la Larry Corriea, EL James, John Scalzi, and Tom Clancy, sometimes the independent publishing route is the modern turbo-charged way to slush-pile/over-transom submission.”

    The crazy thing is my cousin is determined to go the traditional publishing route even though he’s 1] run his own successful homeschooling curricula publishing company; 2] written commercial radio and TV ad-copy for the local market; 3] written a weekly live-performance, soap opera as a night club gig; and 4] written scholarly journal articles.

    The schism you describe, Kris, in this post and the last, is so sharp that even a functional career writer will upend that career in pursuit of that one-book milestone.

    The cultural brainwashing is that complete.

    JJB

    • Alan Spade says:

      Cultural brainwashing, indeed.

      • JJBrannon says:

        My cousin is functionally my sibling as I was largely raised in his parents’ home from the time I was twelve after my father died when I was seven.

        So I shared with him, as I frequently do, Kris’ column and my most recent comment.

        RBS’ response was good-humoredly two- fold: “This was one of our best years selling through Amazon” and “It’s true. I want that brass ring.”

        JJB

  17. Daria says:

    Kris said: “Career Writers want to sell books. Thousands if not hundreds of thousands if not millions of copies. And not all of the same book, although that would be nice.”

    My sentiments exactly. Thanks for such a clearheaded post, Kris.

  18. Sally says:

    If I’m doing my math correctly (and I’m probably not), that contract mentioned (6% of 30,000 books, MMPB, not hardcover or trade) is going to come out at about the same hourly rate as minimum wage in the US! Maybe a little higher, and with a lot less asking “Do you want fries with that?”

    Typing about your imaginary friends is way more fun than grilling burgers, and I guess if you only do one book, it’s a labor of love (we don’t count up penny and dollar value on our children after all), but wow.

    And that’s IF you sell 30K copies, and who does that nowadays? Rowling’s “Galbraith” book sold a tenth that many (hardback, but still) and was regarded as a success for a “first-time” writer.

  19. Miramon says:

    Would it be worthwhile to note that an unpublished wannabe pro may also partake of one-book writer qualities? The various “prestige” factors that may appeal to the one-book writer will be résumé points for the wannabe pro.

    So for example, maybe the unpublished hopeful doesn’t care so much about this particular contract for a first book, so long as it’s with a name publisher, because that will make it easier to sell subsequent books.

    Does that make sense? Or would you say the wannabe pro with first novel in hand is so unlikely to actually become a pro that they might as well be considered a one-booker?

  20. Chuck Dixon says:

    Words of iron. You’ve perfectly articulated the philospophy that’s kept me writing professionally for thirty years now.

  21. Sharon says:

    Hey Kris;
    I think there is a tipping point for the wanna be/one book writer as she continues to learn more about the business and craft of writing. At least for me, there was. Four years ago, when I started writing full-time, all I cared about was getting an agent. Then, when I learned more about publishers, all I wanted was to sell my book to an editor or publisher. This year, everything changed, but only because I’ve finally gotten educated in how the business works (something I keep learning every day), and found a path through all the myths and hyperbole. I am responsible for my own career as a writer. This is my chosen profession and I want to make a living at it. As soon as I learned it was possible to do without winning the lottery, I stopped praying for a genie from traditional publishing to like me. Now I write and I publish. My goal is to write the best book I can and finish it. And the next one. And the next… The more I learn about writing and the business of writing, the more I wish I’d started sooner.

  22. Peter Dudley says:

    I think “inoffensive shorthand” in categorizing people is an oxymoron.

    Gotta admit I lost interest about two thirds through when I thought your disdain for what you were calling “one book writers” began to overshadow your interesting points explaining the demands of being a career writer. By categorizing it into an “us against them” rather than a “let me tell you how it is on this side of the fence,” I think you did your topic and yourself a disservice. I have tremendous respect for people who make a career of only writing. It’s a hard slog, and you do make big sacrifices. But i object to lumping everyone else into the caricature you painted.

  23. L. E. Falcone says:

    Timely. I needed to read this as I’ve feeling a bit discouraged about everything lately.

  24. You are so right about the majority of the advice out there being for one-book writers. I remember back in 2009, when I was first considering indie publishing. All of the people on forums would be like, “Well, if you don’t sell X number of copies, a publisher will never look at that book. It’ll be dead forever.” And I was like, “Okay, but that’s just ONE book. I have lots more.” (By that time, I had written eight and was pretty sick of the query-go-round.)

    Indie publishing has never been easy, and it took me two years of throwing stuff out there before anything stuck, but twenty-two books later, I DO make a living writing, and it’s the most awesome thing ever.

    Oddly, I never really thought about whether or not my approach to writing was different than anyone else’s, but after reading this, I realize that a lot of the confusing conversations I’ve had with other writers boils down to the difference between being a “career” writer or a “one-book” writer. Fascinating!

  25. becca says:

    I’m a one book writer, maybe two books, but indy published – didn’t even try to submit my work to an agent or publisher. I’m a hobby writer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I didn’t think there was much of a market for gentle fairy tales, and my Amazon sales reflect that truth – but I’m still thrilled ever time someone I don’t know buys a copy of my book or writes a review.

    By day, I’m a professional technical writer, a profession I love. What psychic and physical energy isn’t taken up with writing is used to continually market myself as a technical writer. I just don’t have the extra time or energy to market my fairy stories as a career writer of fiction would need to do.

  26. I think I may be an example of what Steven Davis says:
    “I think there is a third category, closer to a career writer, where writing is a serious part of a career, but not its entirety.”

    50 years ago, I started as a one-book writer. I had something to say about my career in computers. I had no thought of writing as a career. But over the years, I’ve published close to a hundred books, five hundred articles, some poetry and short stores, and ten novels. I gradually morphed into a career writer as I built up a backlog of books in print–some for almost 40 years now.

    As a number of people mentioned, the success of books varies, which makes SAVING and INVESTING an essential part of a career writer’s business. Part of my investing is my investment in that backlog of books, which provide a rather steady income even if I don’t publish a winner in a particular year. And part of my ability to survive with writing as my career is the decision I made when I sold my first book.

    Way back in 1960, I had a full-time job, so I didn’t really need the $1,000 dollar advance I received. I decided that the advance was “found money,” so instead of spending it, I put in in savings. I’ve done that ever since, with every advance and every royalty I received. Given the historical rate of return on stock investments, that $1,000 is worth more than $100,000 today, so you can imagine why I can say I’m “rich” today.

    I’m so rich that I can afford now to write whatever I want without worrying about whether or not it makes money, but I still measure my success as a (career) writer by my annual royalties. So, I don’t know if I’m a career writer, but I could easily be mistaken for one.

  27. J.A. Marlow says:

    We were talking about this post over in Forward Motion Writers chat. It sparked a lot of great discussion. Something one of the others said clicked with what Kris said at the beginning of the post…

    The reason we hear so many voices screaming about the book-as-event and promote-promote is that there are so many of these writers out there. Kris says they are most of the writers she meets and gets emails from. No wonder they are so loud. There are so MANY of them.

    And out of those yells and screams come the old pros like Kris, Dean, Bob, and others. Harder to hear with all the other noise, but what a nice thing to know that there are still voices from the career writers out there to balance out the yells from the other side. To give advice to those who want the careers.

    Even so, it’s sometimes hard to ignore the screams and yells. Just because they are everywhere.

    So, thanks for being one of those other voices in the midst of this cacophony. We need the balance. At least, I know I do.

  28. Lyn Perry says:

    I think the difference is not between one-book writers and career writers but between people who want to have a career income with one book vs people who know they need to write many books over the long term to make a career income.

  29. Sally says:

    I think the Author vs. Writer distinction is how a lot of people see it. Or they want to Have Written more than To Write.

    Some people it’s a career, some people it’s a second job, some people it’s nifty-keen fun.

    Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and fanfiction was printed on paper, I always submitted to the zines I really wanted to buy. Since we got “paid” in copies, it was either shell out $X for that zine when it came out, or get it free by cranking out some prose. That’s saving money, if not making it.

    And if you got in the more popular zines, then people asked if you could write a little something for the Next Big Thing, and maybe some egoboo and an award now and again and more free zines.

  30. Shephard says:

    I thought of another simile… it’s like there is a difference between someone who is artistic, and someone who is an artist. Both contributing to the world creatively, but the focus is different. There are many ways to be both artistic and an artist. But there’s still a difference.

    Enjoyed this.
    ~Shephard

  31. Virginia Baker says:

    Wish I’d known all this so many years ago, Kris. It’s always been the dream, but like so many dreams, it seemed utterly too unattainable to consider realistically. For careers like you, the very idea of that helplessness must be baffling. But to newbies, achieving the dream of being part of an industry you really don’t have any way to even begin to comprehend…well, it’s like looking at an egg and wondering how the hell you’re supposed to get into the center of the yolk without breaking the shell. It took me years to realize why this seemed so much more like a dream than a possible, concrete reality: Because it’s like going to Oz, and there was no clear path to take to get there–unless you get taken up by a tornado and survive it long enough to walk the yellow brick road, there seems no way to make it happen. And back then, it all seemed every bit as capricious and unlikely as that tornado. Worse, if the tornado didn’t come, all you could do was yearn for what seemed like a completely different dimension, it seemed that completely unattainable.

    Writing for corporate, there was never any question as to how to get there. The company was there, the need was there, you’re hired and there you go–you’re off on a brilliant career. Except that it’s not quite so brilliant when you realize it’s not the career you really wanted to have…you just didn’t know HOW to make the career you really wanted to happen.

    Which is why your influence, and Dean’s, has been so important to me (and many others, I know). You show us that there IS a way to get there. You crack the shell. You reveal how to walk the yellow-brick road without waiting for the tornado.

    The last thing I want to be is a one-book writer. It was never enough for me to just get published…but after I published that one book, when my agent told me that I had to write at least 2-3 books a year to succeed at this business, my heart sank. I knew at that moment that I had failed even as that book was being launched, because unless the book became a mega bestseller, I was not in any position to transition from my freelance career to a career in fiction. And of course, though it sold well, that book did not earn enough to make the leap. In a very real way, the momentum of its launch was wasted because I STILL had no idea how the industry worked, what would be expected of me in that industry, or how to make a career HAPPEN there. The moment of that realization was one of the worst of my life. I cannot tell you how much I wish I’d had the insights you’ve given me 10 years ago, before I published that one book and, in doing so, put myself onto a career path I had neither the skills nor the knowledge to navigate with any success at all.

    With your help, I’m finally able to learn the ropes and it doesn’t look like an egg anymore, it looks like a business plan, a realistic way to approach fiction writing AS a career, and I can’t thank you both enough for showing me how to get there. I’m not there yet…but now I finally at least have the damned map, which is a LOT more than I had when I got published! The longest journey may indeed begin with a single step, but until you know where to put your feet, all the walking in the world isn’t going to help you. Thanks for showing us the path.

    • I, too, got published without much knowledge or understanding about how traditional publishing *really* works. Of course, I found it out quickly enough. 😉

      But even if I’d had a better understanding, I STILL would have had no control over the bad cover, so-so marketing, and book market crash of October 2008 – all of which tanked my sales and brought my contract to a quick close. So don’t beat yourself up about what you didn’t know, because in that world, it still might have made no difference at all.

      Best of luck as you move forward! 🙂

  32. froderic says:

    Sigh, trying to be diplomatic, but it irks me when “one book writers” put on heirs of being *real* writers as opposed to wanna be “hacks” like me who confess to wanting to write and publish prolifically for life.

    Making repetition of the process into a way of life is more “real”, in my opinion, than tinkering for years at a one shot lottery ticket while dreaming about talk show appearances.

    • Synova says:

      Heh, you used the word I was thinking of… hack.

      Horrible, terrible, very bad connotations that word has. And so unfairly. But what it referred to, as far as I can tell, is a person who wrote for a pay-check and didn’t take on the airs of an artiste. So… pretty much all of the genre writers. The ones churning out a gun slinging Western every few months, or writing a swashbuckling serial, or our Golden Age SF heroes, or the hard bitten detectives and who-done-its, or romance writers and their “formulas.”

      I wonder how much of the “one book model” has to do with wanting to sit at the Big People’s Table of literary respect and not be called a “hack” anymore. And so writers encouraged each other to create artwork and worship the muse and take on trappings that separated them from those who truly were professional, career writers of fiction.

      I also wonder how much of the rehabilitation of the mere concept of treating writing as a business and books as a product, attention to craft instead of quite the same level of going-on about the glories of inspiration – I wonder how much of the rehabilitation of that is simply time. We have our Golden Age heroes in science fiction, now. We gush over the brilliance of Rex Stout and Georgette Heyer and Elmore Leonard. People aren’t embarrassed to say they love Louis L’Amour.

      I think that perhaps the difference is simply time. Those “working writer’s” novels have proved they’ve got staying power, that there was something special there that wasn’t dashed off hackery tainted by mercenary concerns and thus “not art.”

  33. froderic says:

    I’m a beginner. And,oddly enough, I have had the same lack of understanding concerning the real goals of some of my fellow neophytes.

    Your post is excellent, and it will help me to stop being a pain in the ass to aspiring “one book writers” by making the assumption that they are aspiring career writers like myself.

  34. KNZ says:

    How about “terminal writer” for those who don’t treat it as a lifelong career – ie they terminate their career (the idea came from sheepbreeding and the notion of a terminal sire – the bloodline stops and ceases developing).

  35. Kris wrote: “Yeah, one-book writers still go to agents and some career writers are hanging on, but more and more, career writers are ditching their agents because the agents cannot add long-term value for their 15%—and they know it.”

    This has become a noticeable phenomenon. When I decided a little over 6 years ago (after surviving years of consistently frustrating, costly, career-stalling, unprofessional experiences with multiple well-known literary agents) to quit the author-agent business model, it felt like stepping off a cliff. I know hundreds of career writers, but I didn’t seem to know -any- who worked without an agent, and everyone who knew me seemed to think it was, at best, a weird anomaly, or (much more often) an alarming and career-killing decision for me to work without an agent.

    That was early 2007. Now, in summer 2013–what a sea change! I know a LOT of career writers who are now working without an agent. (No, not JUST in the “indie” sector, as “indie” writers keep assuming. I know lots of writers licensing their work to traditional publishers and, indeed, to major houses who are working without an agent.)

    In some cases, their agents dumped them, in other cases the writers’ fired an agent who wasn’t doing his/her job, and then the writer couldn’t get another agent (in many cases, couldn’t even get agents to respond to their queries)… And since the writers needed to keep working so they could keep paying their bills, they kept working on their own, since they couldn’t replace the agent… and soon discovered this was fine, they were still working, they were (certainly in my own case) getting MORE offers, BETTER offers, QUICKER RESPONSES, and BETTER contracts without an agent than they’d gotten with agents.

    Subsequently, more writers who got dumped by their agents or wound up having to fire their agents knew writers in the above situation and realized, well, maybe I don’t need an agent, either–it’s working fine for my unagented friends who are career writers, after all.

    Meanwhile, the whole indy market started booming, and lots of people (including many brand new entries into the market) were releasing book after book, earning a living, and building loyal readerships without an agent (and without a publisher), in a business structure where there’s no role for an agent. Then successful indies started getting approached by publishers, opening up foreign markets, making subrights deals, etc… further evincing that these are all perfectly possible without a traditional literary agent (though some indies employ agents for this).

    And writers in the traditional industry are self-publishing their backlists, making their own subrights contacts, self-publishing frontlist, making direct contact with new, small, and mid-size presses, producing their own audiobooks, running their own Kickstarter projects, etc… And increasingly saying that their current agent will be the last one they ever hire, because they have less and less need for one; saying that although they appreciate their current agent, they’re thinking of terminating the association, because they don’t really need an agent anymore; saying that the agent isn’t doing a good job at the FEW THINGS for which they still need representation (contract negotiations and business/fiscal problems with publishers), so it’s time to start thinking about replacing the agent with an attorney; saying that their agents are stuck in old ways of thinking and IMPEDING their career growth by sticking strictly to old business models old business channels, so maybe it’s time to fire the agent; and/or saying that their own business model has changed so much that they have established (or now need to establish) new parameters with the agent about which aspects of the author’s the career the agent is or is not involved in, and for which aspects of the writer’s career the agent can or cannot expect to be paid a commission (whereas the traditional expectations was that agent got a commission on all books and all subrights deals).

    In 2013, it is still the norm for a career writer to have an agent, but it’s no longer uncommon for a career writer NOT to have an agent… Whereas not having one 4-5-6 years ago made me a weird anomaly who often heard “oh, shut up, Resnick” in discussions about agents because my positive experiences as an UNagented carer writer and my advocating that working without an agent should be perceived as a valid business model for career writers made me too much of an outlier for my views to be considered relevant by most career writers I knew.

    So it’s WONDERFUL to see a much more realistic, businesslike view of the “agent” business model and its validity/problems blossoming in our profession. And to see so many writers embracing a different business model that works better for them in an era when rapidly-changing distribution, production, and networking channels make the old agent-author business model increasingly arcane.

  36. Vera Soroka says:

    I have made the choice to be a career writer who has made the choice to go the indie route. Plus given my age I don’t have the time to wait around for someone to decide if I’m good enough to sale. Self pub seems to suit me. I also choose to hang onto all my rights.
    But given that I write erotic for both straight and gay I don’t think any of those “Traditional” people will seek me out. I also love all kinds of fantasy and would like to explore all aspects of that genre. In Indie I can write anything in that genre I want. That excites me. I do just want to write and I hope in the indie world I can carve out a career doing this art.

  37. Joanna Penn says:

    Hi Kris – this post makes me want to leap up and shout ‘I’m a career writer!’ That’s my goal – and you and Dean are the best role models. Thank you again for sharing your experience. Every time I falter and worry about various issues, I look back at your business posts and hold onto your recommendations. I’ve added this post to my one year re-reading list, to kick my butt again next year and see how much closer I am … Thanks, Joanna

  38. Linda Jordan says:

    Thanks Kris for clarifying all this. I’ve felt so sad and angry at all the writers I know who are still hunting for agents. I’ve wanted to shake them and tell them to get a lawyer instead. But you’re right, most of them are probably one book writers and I should just let it go and mind my own business.
    Thanks for all the education you’re giving us. Wish I’d known some of it thirty years ago! Making up for lost time now though.

  39. Steven Davis says:

    I think there is a third category, closer to a career writer, where writing is a serious part of a career, but not its entirety.

    This may only be a specialist category of non-fiction writers, however for subject matter experts.

    Well said, and good insight.

  40. Mercy Loomis says:

    So true. I always wanted to be a midlist writer. I wanted to have 10 or 20 or 30 moderately successful books. But everything I read and studied advocated the one-book model. I spent over a decade on my “baby.” I sent out agent query after agent query, usually never even getting a response. I hoped that “someday” I’d be able to write full time, but I knew that most writers had day jobs so it never occurred to me not to have a day job. (I can’t find the quote for the life of me, but I saw a Piers Anthony quote once where someone had asked him what was the most important thing for a writer to have, and he said “a working spouse.”)

    I’m kind of grateful for that period of my life, because I can appreciate indie publishing all the more. Plus, I’m not screwed by some horrible contract I would have probably signed, blindly trusting whatever agent deigned to take me on.

    Now I have one novel, three novellas, a whole bunch of short stories (I lost count. Something around 30), several 5-story anthologies, a 10-story anthology, and a book of poetry and essays, plus a non-fiction book under another name (small press). And I’ve been in over a dozen traditionally published anthologies. And maybe best of all, I got to publish the novel I wanted, the one I wrote (horror), without having someone “force” me into making it a paranormal romance.

  41. 1 L Loyd says:

    Wow. It looks so clear after you explain it. Although I would say one wants to be an author (or Author) an the other a writer (Writer?).

  42. Hey Kris,

    These blog posts under “The Business Rusch” are GOLD for writers, beginner or seasoned.

    I would like to see the “best of” assembled into one (multiple?) physically published books (not just Kindle). I would buy them instantly.

  43. Alan Spade says:

    Kris, do you think J.K. Rowling could be a one-book writer who would have morphed in a career writer with success ?
    Could it be possible for other writers ?

    According to your criterias, I think I must be a one-book writer. Yes, I lived eight years as a freelancer jornalist and I’m an indie author who wouldn’t sell his rights except under exceptional conditions (a contract like the one Hugh Howey signed). But I’m not a prolific author and since 2006, I have a daytime job (half-time).

    What feels strange is how the situation reversed since I began to write in 2001. The published writers who sign un-professional contracts now don’t seem professionnal to me. In fact, the self-published who used to be despised seem more professional than those writers.

  44. Oh! I didn’t realize “one-book” writers were in the majority. And, somehow, I didn’t realize that all my writing for game companies (RPG modules) was part of my writing career. Shaking my head at how clueless I can be sometimes! 😀 I thought of myself as new to the writing game, because I didn’t start a novel until 2007.

    I started it with the idea of “starting” a writing career and with considerable doubt that such an endeavor would pan out. It seemed unlikely to me that it would. But the writing part I could control: I could do it. The publishing part…I would just have to let go of. So I wrote. And indie publishing arrived while I wrote. My take-away lesson: on the things that really matter to me, do the parts under my control. And then see what opportunities I can find for the parts not under my control. At any rate, over the course of writing that novel, I discovered that I was so much happier writing than I was not writing that I simply had to go on. And since I need to earn money (not independently wealthy!), indie publishing seemed the best career path for me.

    In the wake of your blog post above, I’m realizing that I already had a writing career. What I did was shift it into a different kind of writing. Interesting.

    • Nancy Beck says:

      J.M.,

      I was at the same point – I’m a personal control freak, but if I wanted to get published, I’d have to let someone else do that. Then indie publishing happened, and the whole “do everything yourself” suits me just fine. 🙂

      • Yes, I’m loving the DIY aspect. Some of it I’m good at (covers). Some of it I’m improving on (blurbs). Some of it is pure fun (web site). But I’m learning, honing my skills, and building for a long-term future.

  45. Nancy W. says:

    There’s another kind of writer, too. I don’t have dozens or hundreds of books in me – I have one book at a time, and each one takes 2-3-4 years. By this slow method, though, I am about to publish my 9th book in 20 years.

    Sometimes my books win prizes; sometimes they make the bestseller list. Some years I make a living; some I don’t.

    By the time I’m done with my writing life, however, I expect to have published 20 books.

    Am I a professional? Oh yes. But can I have a career and a career plan that is shaped by writing dozens or hundreds of books? No. Absolutely not.

  46. I think (and hope) you’ll see the rise of newish writers with career writer habits even if they’ve only released one or two books. The major difference between these newish writers and true career writers is the time available to write.

    I have promised my wife that I will never let the writing take my time or energy away from our small children or put my day job employment at risk ( we just cannot afford to lose the health insurance and David Farland is a great example of the stupid traps you can get into with the current way health insurance is implemented in this country). So my writing output is ~80,000 words/year. Efforts to up that have not worked.

    It makes it very tempting to ‘buy a lottery ticket’ and be a one-book writer. I’m resisting that temptation. I think there will be more writers like me over the next few years.

  47. Nancy Beck says:

    I don’t know where I first heard it, but I continued to hear for the longest that you could make money (have a career) writing non fiction, but you could not make money writing fiction.

    I held that belief for a long time. It wasn’t until I read one of Dean’s Killing the Sacred Cows posts that I finally realized what a crock that was. That, and the fact that Dean himself proved that was a myth.

    You and he both have shattered a lot of myths, for which I’ll always be grateful. 🙂

    I used to think I was a one-book only writer, but it turns out that I’ve got a lot more stories in me than I ever thought I had. Once that “can’t make money writing fiction” myth bit the dust, which happened the same time the indie stuff took off, I think my creative mind heaved a sigh of relief and unleashed a lot of ideas.

    And the ideas are still coming along. Now if I could just find some more time to get them all written. 🙂

    • TXRed says:

      Nancy, I plan on using my fiction to support my non-fiction habit, at least until I earn a good enough reputation as a historian that I can start indie publishing the non-fiction.

      • Nancy Beck says:

        Sounds like you’ve got a great plan there! 🙂 For me, while I like reading a lot of non fiction, I loathe writing it, so why bother trying if I don’t like it?

        I hope you do great in both arenas, TXRed!

  48. Ilsa says:

    Fantastic as usual, Kris. I think the only thing I’d add is that moving along writing as a career path, especially when you’re coming at already from another successful (or not) career, is that the steps are incremental. Speaking for myself . . . you don’t *really* realize that you’re moving down the path until you actually start getting published (the traditional route, I’m saying; moving along a career path in these days of indie publishing is a whole other beast). You’re focused on “a” story, then “more” stories, then “a” book, then “another” book. It’s only when you’re into this for awhile–and have moved away from a successful career and realize that you get upset when there’s no space on a kid’s school form for “writer”–that you truly understand you’re into it as a career. By then, you’re playing catch-up. That’s okay, but that’s what you’re doing.

    Again, only speaking for myself.

    Some folks might do well to check out what Linda Ronstadt had to say about being a singer versus a song-writer. She’s got Parkinson’s, and just recently come out with an autobiography. The reason she did it, though, is because singers don’t make the money: writers do. She said herself that her savings are tight, and she needs the cash. Her royalties are a pittance at this point. She’s not a one-hit wonder, but she came at her craft from a very different perspective, not realizing that her singing was making the *writers* money, and not the other way around.

    In some ways–maybe in many–it’s the same for the writer who writes the book that ends up as a film or series–or goes the traditional route, making money for everyone else.

    Just an interesting tidbit.

  49. Sarah Wynde says:

    I personally don’t mind the term hobbyist writer, but you might find AmPro works. (Defined by wikipedia as amateur work conducted to professional standards.)

    That said, for me, your strict delineation misses the way that indie publishing has opened up distribution for writers who don’t aspire to make a career out of it.
    I used to earn my living as a “career” writer. Lots of articles, some marketing copy, a book, etc, while I also worked on fiction. It made me hate writing. I changed careers. It took me ten years to start writing again, to remember how fun it is to see your characters develop, to have the story pieces start to fall into place, to turn a really good phrase or find the perfect metaphor. I regret losing that joy for so long and I’m glad that indie publishing makes it possible for me to share my work without having to be a career writer again.

    An apt comparison might be to indie musicians who don’t want to spend their lives touring and playing clubs and going through the grind that’s the real business of music, but still practice regularly and play local gigs. Or artists who sell their work at craft shows and local galleries, but never earn more than a few hundred or thousand dollars a year. They get paid, therefore they’re professionals, but they’re not fighting to get to the top or willing to do whatever it takes to get there. In the old days, maybe the choice was career or one-book, but indie publishing makes room in the industry for non-career writers–people who write for pleasure and earn a living in other ways–to write as much as we like and share it as we will.

    • I really like the AmPro term… that’s where a lot of us are now that indie publishing has opened things up. I’m happy with my other jobs – I’m a part-time consultant in the field I studied in graduate school, and I make money from several other profitable hobbies. I like that. I like that I don’t HAVE to publish to pay my bills. But like a professional, I take my writing seriously. I develop craft, I think about my career long-term, and I’m more concerned with finding my audience then getting a pat on the back from a publisher. I have lots of books in me that I want to write.

      One of the great things about indie publishing is that we CAN exist somewhere in the middle, perhaps moving slowly from a pure hobbyist to a more professional writer position without having that terrifying quit-the-day-job-before-you-can-really-pay-the-bills leap of faith. Approach it professionally, even if you’re not paying the bills with it yet, and you can eventually reach the writing career stage. But I think the professional attitude has to come first.

    • Guy Allen says:

      Sarah
      I agree. Working as a stringer and writing krap about Companies and topics in which I had no interest drove me away from writing. I want writing to be fun and cranking out the occasional fiction piece is fun.
      Guy

  50. Linda Adams says:

    Just the other day my writing group was discussing a local conference. I hadn’t been before, but it sounded like another one where all the workshops were for rank beginners. Even a lot of the writing courses I’ve seen have been for the one book authors who just want to get published once, and it creeps into most of the advice I’ve read (books and internet). I’ve been taking the Ideas class and have been amazed that no one else teaches this stuff. Everyone’s so busy trying to get everyone to do the first book!

    I’d always wanted to write full time since I was 18, but the people around me always said “You can’t make money writing full time as a fiction writer.” Now I’m looking at some of these posts, and it’s time. I want it. I want out of my day job, and I want to support myself writing. I want it more than anything, and I’ve been working on the tools to be able to make that happen.

    • Phil says:

      Go for it Linda. You will regret it if you don’t do it. It’s scary not having the regular pay check but it makes you work harder 😉

    • Ramon says:

      What Phil said. And you will work harder because you love it. And because you love it, you won’t work hard ever again. 🙂

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