Archive for February 18th, 2016|Daily archive page

The Ten Commandments of Writing #7: Thou Shalt Not Write for Fame and Fortune

(Cross-posted on the WriteClub blog)

There’s this misconception out there that writing is a glamorous life, and that writers just rattle off a novel and sit back and let the money roll in. This misconception is enhanced by the media, which focuses on writers like J.K. Rowlings, E.L. James and Neil Gaiman, and how much money they’ve made.

It’s true that all of these people have made a good living from writing, but sadly they are the exception, rather than the rule. The BBC published an article in 2014 stating that the average full-time writer was now earning £11,000 a year, which was well down on the last survey done nearly ten years earlier. Significantly, the same article also points out that the number of UK writers working full-time had also dropped quite dramatically – from 40% to 11.5%. Every time I get a royalty statement, I get depressed. If I were to add up all the royalties I’ve received since my first novel got published six years ago, it still equates to a sum that’s less than what I earn in a month in the day job.

I know a lot of writers for whom writing is their full-time job. Most of them have a supplementary income, whether it be their partner’s income, running writing courses, or something else like an inheritance, investments or rental income. Not many of them would describe themselves as ‘well off’. Most are just about managing to get by.

Whatever your reasons are for writing, you shouldn’t be doing it for the money. By all means fantasise about being a full time writer, and maybe you might be able to make it work, but don’t go handing in your letter of resignation to the boss as soon as you get that first novel contract.

So there’s the myth busted about the fortune. What about the fame? There’s a famous quote out there – and I don’t know who it originated with – that says that it takes twenty years to become an overnight success. There are a lot of writers out there, competing with a limited reading public. I have a fantasy that I’ll meet someone at a party one day and upon hearing my name they’ll say, “oh yes, I know you. I’ve read one of your books.” It hasn’t happened yet. Maybe, if I keep on churning out the novels, I might get to that point by 2030. By which point I’ll be almost ready to start drawing my pension!

Write because you want to, write because you need to. But if you want fame and fortune, marry a footballer or a supermodel instead. It’ll be far less painful in the long run.