I know, I’m not a famous writer type and probably not the best qualified to write this. Nevertheless, I’m alarmed by some posts I’ve seen recently on writers’ forums about quitting the day job to “write full time.” Especially from those who don’t already have an agent, a track record, or even a contract in hand.
Of course this doesn’t apply to those of you with second homes in Bimini and Maddoff-proof portfolios. But if you’re the average bear, like me, please think things through.
There are only a few spots and a few authors who openly discuss their earnings from writing, especially at small presses. I was struck this past month by my royalty checks. I don’t write “hot stuff” and I’m not particularly a great seller, but I was able to make my final car payment and pay the phone and internet bill with my royalties. Oh, and bought groceries. That is with a new release, several books out, and I’ll admit, minimal promotion. And as I said, many, many authors do much better than I do.
Still–ask yourself these questions before you decide you must quit your job to write:
1. Do you have several months’ funds in the bank to fall back on if you must reenter the workforce during this terrible economic downturn?
2. Do you understand that it could take months, even years before you turn a profit (you’ll be spending money on prizes, organizations, advertising…)?
3. Do you know that if you are lucky enough to land that “big NY contract” it will be ages before the full royalties come your way. You’ll get your advance (hey, if it’s $200K, go for it), but how long will that last you?
4. Do you think you need to write full time to be a writer? Do you know that most writers have day jobs (including those who are caregivers for their own children)? That most writers write an hour here and an hour there? Some fairly well known ones?
5. Are you the sort of person who has the discipline to write all day long? Would you be better in a more social environment for at least part of the day?
6. Do you have an alternate source of health benefits, 401K contributions from an employer, life insurance, etc?
I don’t mean to be a downer, honestly. And sure, it’s none of my business. But the “I made a sale of my novella to small epub! squee! time to quit the day job!” makes my heart sink. Please, can you add anything for or against my warnings here? Have you made it work? How long did it take? Have you tried writing full time and failed? Succeeded? Please share your experiences.