For Love or Money
Posted by Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane Oct 19 2012, 12:01 am in writing life
I’m about to be totally crass and talk about money, but before I do allow me to butter you up with some FREE STUFF, if I may. My haunted Halloween romantic comedy The Ghost Exterminator: A Love Story is free, free, free for the next week. Ghosts playing pranks on your fancy schmancy new inn? Who ya gonna call? The Ghost Exterminator, baby. Free for KINDLE :: NOOK :: Direct from Samhain. Enjoy!
And now to the serious stuff…
At my first ever writing conference, during my first ever pitch session, Big New York Editor asked me what my goals were. I told her (with the undiluted confidence of ignorance) that I was going to make a living from my writing. Quit the day job. And she laughed. Not unkindly, but with a certain degree of indulgence for the optimistic newby who had yet to learn some harsh realities about the writing business. She said, “That’s the dream, isn’t it?”
It is the dream. But how many authors, even successful ones with multi-book deals and awards to their name really support themselves with their books? Not as many as we might think, or hope.
You sell your book (have a party!), it’s out there being bought, being read, and we should be euphoric, basking in our accomplishment, but if we aren’t making enough to pay the mortgage, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that we’re frauds when aspiring writers look up to us as success stories. Imposter syndrome.
But is money why we write? I’m guessing most of us answered a big ole No on that one. (Cuz let’s face it, as a get rich quick scheme, writing kinda sucks.) We do it because it’s a passion and an addiction. Because our stories won’t leave us alone. (And okay, yes, we may dream about this book being bigger than Twilight and Hunger Games combined, but we’re dreamers. It’s what we do.)
But at some point the dream of making a living becomes a job and we can get tangled up in worrying about the bottom line. That’s when it can be hard to remember that we started out doing this as a passion, not just a business. That we cared more about our name on the book than the number of zeroes on our checks. (Though I’m not knocking the zeroes, no sir.)
Sometimes we need the money as validation – and not always for us. A close friend of mine (multi-published and so talented) is in a tough situation because her husband wants her to get a “real” job if she can’t prove to him that her writing is financially lucrative – and prove it fast.
I’m lucky enough to make my living from my books (for now, knock on wood), so I’d like to say right up front that there’s no shame in writing for money. Part of the reason I took the epub path was because the accelerated release schedule of that model gave me a better opportunity (as an author who writes fast) to take that step toward supporting myself with my books. (Call it was quantity over quality if you want, it got me to my goal.) I also made the decision to go into genre fiction rather than literary because I wanted to live off my books (and, okay, yes, I LOVE and NEED the resolution of genre books – everyone dying in the end just makes me want to throw things).
But even with my mercenary “will this help me make a living” career approach, I think we each have to find our own balance between love and money. I have one series that is much more lucrative than my others, but the stories just don’t inspire me anymore, so I’ve made the choice to work on different projects and keep myself creatively happy (and hopefully the money will continue to be enough that I can afford to do that).
I know it’s vulgar to talk about dollars and cents, but this is a passion AND a business, so tell me your thoughts about making a living with your words.
Why do you write? What are your writing goals? Is money part of that equation? Does it impact how you feel about yourself as a writer? Does it effect what you choose to write? Will you only feel that you have really “made it” when you can quit the day job? How do you measure success?