How Writers Make a Living

     My alarm clock goes off. It’s time to get up. I didn’t stay up to 1am to write, therefore, I am in a good position to go into this two-hour writing session with more energy before work as an Assistant Store Manager. I am free from distraction even skipping breakfast. I look at what isn’t crossed out on my to do list: work on memoir, work on blog, write journal and do writing assignment for workshop. I decide to write my blog. It has brewed the most in my head. I attempt to ask an important question, I would usually avoid. Can I make a living from writing?

It depends on what kind of writer you are. Dana Beth Weinberg’s The Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction (Part 3 of 3) shows writing income for four different types of writers:

  • Aspiring writers are those who haven’t published their manuscript
  • Self-published writers are those who independently published their manuscript
  • Traditionally published writers typically sell their manuscript to a publishing company
  • Hybrid writers are those whose manuscripts are self-published and traditionally published

Looking at the numbers from her survey, “aspiring writers made no income, while self-published authors in the sample earned a median income in the range of $1 to $4,999, while traditionally published authors had a median writing income of $5,000 to $9,999, and hybrid authors earned a median income of $15,000 to $19,999.” Before aspiring writers become authors do your homework about publishing. I wrote a previous post about where to go to publish. It may make sense to be a writer who has one foot in traditional publishing and the other in self-publishing to reach your fullest potential.

     Let’s face it. Writing is a courageous act for a writer because the road to success has no clear path. Despite working on the next great American novel and having the ability to chase writing gigs that pay; both may not produce a livable wage. It can be a cruel reality trying to find the right blend of writing and making a living. For a lot of writers, writing is the other job after a full day’s work. It could be teaching, or a list of jobs that have nothing to do with writing.

     Writing has to be one of the few passions where achieving the end result i.e. a book doesn’t necessarily change one’s living situation. Thinking it will could be problematic. But your book that took hard should be met with reasonable expectations. What readers, critics, agents or publishers think are valid. They all have the potential to enhance your book sales. But writing rigorously puts a writer in a better position to be successful.  I will go as far as to say having a purpose to write is more important than making a living from it.

As you prepare to make an income from writing here are 10 tips to make a living off writing:

  • Write with a purpose
  • Master your craft
  • Write great books
  • Create a marketing plan
  • Have a great book cover
  • Develop your brand
  • Follow the publishing industry
  • Have a network of writers, editors, readers, agents and publishers
  • Know your audience
  • Sell your work

     My alarm goes off again. It’s time to put my pen down. I mentally switch gears from Writer to Assistant Store Manager. As an Assistant Store Manger, I am responsible for motivating associates to do their best to help achieve profits. As a Writer, I am responsible for my own motivation to create compelling stories. One day a reader of my work wrote me an email saying I encouraged her to pursue her dream to write. She saw me taking steps in my life to write despite countless obstacles. The feeling of inspiring someone is empowering. If only I earned a living from it.

Rashaun J. Allen is the author of A Walk Through Brooklyn & In The Moment. He has been featured in several publications such as: The Chronicle, The Troy Record, Albany Student Press & UA Magazine.

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