On Writing

I don’t have it all figured out. Far from it. I’ve been on the sending end of about a zillion queries that were carefully thought out and written. Of the handful of responses I’ve received back, only a fraction of those turn into real money so I’m no expert on how to make a living with your writing. I’m only making it because I’ve got a partner that has a steady income from a real job. My handful of articles, interviews and book essays don’t exactly pay the rent. But once you do start making money, how do you be smart about your business?

I occasionally get asked how a person can get published and really my only advice is quantity. i.e. the more queries you send out, the more chances there are that someone will pick up your idea and want you to run with it. And following directions. That is a big one. If they ask for three writing samples, send three, not two. If they want a resume in Word, send it in Word, not something else they can’t open and read.

Joe sent me this article which you may have already read, but just in case, I’m linking it here. Unasked-For Advice to New Writers About Money covers everything I could think of to tell someone starting out. Scalzi is decidedly on the high end of what a writer makes at over $160K last year but having paid his dues for many years before raking in the dough makes him someone with advice you should be listening to. Section 4, Your income is half of what you think it is, covers what might be the best information in the post along with sections 5 and 6 relating to credit cards and debt.

Just remember that credit cards are not your friends; their entire purpose, from the point of view of the bank that gives them to you, is to make you a consistent and eternal source of income, forever and ever, amen. If you want to be in economic thrall to a bank until the very moment you die, that’s your business, but it’s a pretty dumb way to go about things. Especially if you’re a writer, who doesn’t necessarily have a solid month-to-month income anyway.

I recommend that all writers read this post at least once. Then print out the good parts and write them on cards around the house. Like “You are likely to be surprised at how many things it turns out you don’t really need if you have to wait to get them, and can actually see the mass o’ cash you’re laying out for ‘em. And that’s all to the good for you.” and “Be willing and ready to write anything — but make sure that you’re making the attempt to make more than three cents a word off it. Because I will tell you this: If you only value your work to that amount, that’s the amount you’re going to find yourself getting paid. Over and over again.

7 Responses

  1. so true, especially the part about the credit cards. Mine have a nasty way of creeping up on me. In my mind the balance is always a manageable $200 or so — then the bill comes and surprise! I was just one zero short.

  2. I was picking a freelancer’s brain the other day about the how’s and money, etc. Personally, I could never do freelance for a living because I’m anal retentive about money. I like getting paid regularly and having some security. Obviously I could get fired in 25 minutes but it’s not like writing where if I don’t send out a good enough query or enough queries in general, then I’m completely screwed. Basically, I’m completely chicken about the entire thing and think freelancing is good for some people. A lot of people even, just not me.

  3. Great post. i too am often asked advice by aspiring writers and the one piece I can give is get published anywhere you can; college alumni bulletin, local paper, even community newspaper. It all helps generate awareness of you and credibility for your work.

  4. I’ll add my .02 to say that when you do get paid (this would be true of ANY freelance gig) you take a percentage and put it in savings.

    It seems that it is either feast or famine in the freelance world, so your income has to cover the famine times… and the only way to do that is to Plan for it…

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