I write full-time. When I state that fact in my appearances before writers, I receive the full gamut of looks: skepticism, surprise, awe. One woman in her late twenties approached me after one event and exclaimed, “Honey, you’re living the dream!”
Earning a living as a writer has become somewhat of a mythical dream, as if it takes finding a magical lamp, translating a code, or unearthing the talisman that opens a portal. My journey has not been lined with sugarplums and flowers, but I can give you a dose or two of reality and some serious direction on the options to becoming a full-time writer.
First. . . it’s darn hard work. Nothing in the writing world happens quickly. Even if you write four books in a year and self-publish them, you’ll wonder why nobody is buying. Self-publishing (indie, if you prefer) flooded the world with everyone shouting, “Buy my book!” Your job is to keep fighting, because others will give up. When you think all is for naught, still sit your butt in the chair and report to work.
Second. . . writing requires daily diligence. A gentleman once took issue with my mantra that a writer writes daily. He said he currently worked a job and published part-time, selling two dozen books over the years. I argued he could have done better. There had to be a reason he was still working the day job.
So, therein lies the reality. Now let’s talk pointers. And rather than pontificate, I’ll give you an advice list because you’re eager to know how to get started.
- Create a website, a newsletter or blog, and at least one social media outlet. In this day and time, readers expect to connect. And they expect these online presences to represent the quality of your book, when that ever happens. If you cheapen any of the three, you tell the world that you shortcut . . . period. Editors, agents, readers, and potential advertisers or reviewers will Google your name. Don’t make them decline your book because of your online presence. Competition is fierce.
- Be consistent. Update all the above with clockwork consistency. Make the reader feel it was worth their time to visit. If you choose every-other Friday for your newsletter, then by all means keep that contract with your readers. The world is starving for credibility and customer service. If you skip deadlines, you’ve told the reader it’s all about you, not them.
- Be seen in person. Pick and choose where you wish to be seen. Speak to libraries, schools, book clubs, or service organizations. Home parties. Book stores. Clubs. Community colleges. Dare to charge. While it’s painful to ask for compensation (we hate tooting our own horn), we are respected more in our profession if we charge. People like to think they hired a celebrity or expert, not filled in a slot with someone easy or desperate.
- Be seen online. If you are too shy to speak, then double-down on the online appearances. Comment online daily somewhere. Guest blog often, but also comment on the blogs where you’d like to post, putting insightful remarks instead of “Thanks” or “I liked this.” And it doesn’t hurt to list your website in the post. Set a goal of guest blogging at least once a week if not four or five times, especially when leading to a book release. This not only greases your writing wheels, but also improves your Google ranking.
- More people will read a magazine/online article in one weekend than will read your book in a year. Find publications that marry with your book’s topic, your profession, your hobbies, your opinions. Pitch features and columns at least once a week. These pieces are rarely over 1,500 words, which ought to be simple for someone professing to be able to write novel-length works. Your byline can mention your book and your profession as an author . . . your website. You’ll also put money in your pocket. This is how I funded the first half of my career.
- Write the next book. Readers will finish one book then want to know when the next one is coming out, and you better have a time frame to tell them.
- Affiliates and advertising. Don’t be afraid to sponsor affiliate products, books, and services on your website, blog or in your newsletter. However, do not sponsor any you do not believe in. And do not overwhelm your site or newsletter with them to the point they shout louder than you do for your own work. Even your passive income like this ought to speak to your desire for quality and integrity.
- Manage your income. I have a spreadsheet that lists my income each month since 2003. I study it for trends, see when my income is lagging, make new decisions on deal offers, or ponder when to back off the book to increase my freelance income so that I can “buy” time to focus on the book later. If income is your main concern right now, then your income-earning tasks take priority.
- Give up something. If you want to write more, then something that takes up a lot of your time must be sacrificed. Rarely can someone say their days and nights are not full, which means you must cast aside whatever consumes your writing hours. The cutting hurts, trust me, but the new habit you gain in doing so will be worth that sacrifice.
While we would all love to make a living with our dream projects, the fact is earning a living off books is extremely difficult, often taking six, seven, or more decent-selling books to call your writing full-time. However, every piece of writing you do, whether freelance, copywriting, or fiction, improves your craft. And every piece of writing you do aids your platform. Platform is what generates income.
People appreciate your writing, in any form, and therefore, appreciate you as a professional. Use every connection you have, writing or otherwise. While we hate to think of the work entailed with building platform, that’s the main tool that enables you to earn the time to write your dream book. Daily diligence succeeds. What seems impossible today becomes the light at the end of the tunnel downstream. You just have to remain on track.
C. Hope Clark is editor of FundsforWriters.com and author of the August 5 release Echoes of Edisto (book three in the Edisto Island Mysteries). www.chopeclark.com