Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How do writers make ends meet?

This is me doing a workshop at the Woodford Festival.

I don't know what the figures are in the US or the UK, but in Australia, very fewwriters make a living out of writing fiction. There are a couple of people who have won the 'publishing lottery' and then there are the solid performers like the romance writers, who can turn in 3 books a year. Then there are the rest of us, who might have between 5 - 20 books under our belt but there's short fall between royalties and reality.

In Australia we have government bodies that administer grants at a state and national level. Authors, musicians, artists etc can apply for a grant to support them while they write, paint or create. But the grant pie is only so big and there are many more applications than there are slices of pie.

Many authors supplement their book writing income with part time work. Or they work full time and still manage to write.

Many authors make up the short fall by running workshops, doing manuscript appraisals, appearing on festival panels and teaching creative writing through academic institutions.

The wonderful artist, JC Leyendeck, did a painting of an artist painting a beautiful feast, while he shivered, wrapped in a blanket, cooking sausages.

How do you make ends meet?


John Lambshead said...

I know very few fiction writers who live off their earnings. One goes into journalism if one wants a living out of writing.

There is a strong resenblamnce to musicians. Most are part-timers or teachers.


Rowena Cory Daniells said...

So true, John.

Anyone who works in the creative arts, struggles to make ends meet.

Yet we pay someone who can drive a car in circles very fast, a great deal of money. Go figure.

John Lambshead said...

Resemblance - now say it slowly John.....

Kate said...

There is a reason the phrase "day job" is common in the writing world.

Right now, con-going and other fun things completely cancel out what I earn from writing. Later... who knows?

Until I hit the Pratchett dilemma, I'll be buried in software QA.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Kate, it is weird industry.

Like music or the movies, you can do all the ground work and know your craft, but a great deal depends on being int he right place at the right moment.

Look at JK Rowling. There are many wonderful writers of YA fantasy, but her name has become synonymous with this genre.

Look at Meyer and Twilight.

But, when you look at Pratchett, all you can do is acknowledge his brilliance.

Satima Flavell said...

Thank heaven I'm old enough to draw the age pension. It's heartbreaking to see writers trying to earn a living while their writing suffers, or living on the dole and having the added burden of having to chase work - which is itself a fulltime job!

Kate said...


Ah yes, the old dilemma. When there's time, there's no money to send out submissions. When there's money, there's not enough time.

Of course, me being me I tend to work more on the writing side and neglect the submitting side, alas. (Alas - a word that seems to find its way into most of my responses from publishers thus far. Right along with 'unfortunately'.) Such is life.

Dave Freer said...

It's a very awkward question - one I intend to discuss at more length. But here is a tricky question to answer it with. I cannot make a living as a writer - should I teaching others to write? My personal answer (and I REALLY think this is personal, and I am not trying to preach or suggest this applies to anyone else) is that I will not. I will help. I've been offered money to edit/mentor, and politely (as possible for me) turned it down. I'm not sure I am right on this, but that's my stance.

Ori Pomerantz said...

Do you think it's helpful to get paid for writing, even if it's not the same type of writing as stories?

It's hard to get somebody to pay for you to write what you think - why should anybody care? But it's a lot easier to get somebody to pay you to write something they consider useful, either non fiction, marketing, or political material.

My stories may not be that great, but I'm one of the ten best authors in the TAMeb genre. Of course, TAMeb is an obscure product, one that requires less than ten thousand experts world wide.

Do you think the writing habits you develop writing non fiction are useful, or counter productive?