Sunday, June 7, 2009

Want to write full time?

I just finished doing a full day workshop for the Centex chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers at Round Rock, Texas, outside of Austin. Even though it had some general topics which changed by the hour it was a Q & A format so the content was pretty much controlled by the questions of the participants.

The topic that seemed to command the most interest was how to be a full time writer. Many, many writers aspire to simply stay home and write. I don’t have the actual figure at hand, but I believe something less than 5% of those actively writing and publishing are able to make a living simply from writing books. Most of those who are writing full time do so by a variety of writing efforts and I’m no exception.

I make money from books, but not a living. I make money as a literary agent but it’d be a sparce living as well and that income is certainly not a steady stream. I do also write articles and short stories, I just finished ghostwriting a book for a publisher and I’m adapting a Christian screenplay to be a companion novel to the movie. I do a lot of conferences and workshops and sell books and materials online. None of these activities or others are a living but together it works nicely to allow me to do it full time.

Others also do editing and work as book doctors. They write greeting cards, online content and custom blogs for companies that want changing content. They write copy and do press releases. There are a number of ways to find out about some of these freelance gigs but one is where you can subscribe to a daily newsletter of opportunities delivered right to your inbox. Once you do a certain amount of this work you find editors contacting you to do work for them.

There are other good reasons to add short work to your mix if you are just trying to write books. The average time from starting a first book to seeing the published copy in your hands is six years. Once the first one is out the time gets shorter with each success, but getting that first one out can be daunting if not outright discouraging. Writing and selling short work can be a great ego boost by giving you interim success. It can help build writing credentials to bolster your credentials, it can get you feedback from editors that will help your writing, teach you to be more economical with words, and you may be surprised to find out that a successful freelance writer will just make more money than the average book length author.

Being a professional writer is a business, and diversifying your product mix has always been a successful business strategy. Want to write full time? Do it with a mix of writing products and focus your primary effort in the avenue that is producing results at the time. During different times of the year or different times in your writing life that direction may and probably should change but the result can provide a comfortable living.

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