Making a Living as a Writer

By Amy Collins for New Shelves on July 12, 2021
By Amy Collins for New Shelves on July 12, 2021

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • “I wrote this book so that I could make a living as a writer.”
  • “My goal is to quit my day job.”
  • “I plan on retiring on my book income.”

If any of those sentiments have crossed your mind or your lips, this article is for you. (You are not going to like it… but keep reading.)

When doing everything “right” still isn’t enough

I recently met with a Chicago-area author for a chat who was concerned that she was doing something wrong. This author had written a terrific book, designed the cover properly, promoted the book heavily, placed ads on Amazon, got reviews and consistently worked to sell her book to stores, libraries, online and to organizations.

So what was the problem?

The book was not selling enough. All of those activities–and her book was still limping along in sales.

When, she asked, HOW were her sales going to allow her to make a living?

Well, I had to tell her that her book sales would never allow her to make a living. If history and reality were any indication, one non-fiction book (no matter how well written and powerful) is not enough to support an author.

What is the answer then?

Why do some authors get to make a living as writers and what separates them from the rest of the authors who do not?

They diversify and create numerous avenues of writing income.

This author was leaning way too heavily on her one book when her income could have been augmented and her fame and sales as an author could have increased if she had also:

  • Created a workshop based on her book
  • Pitched her advice and writing to a magazine as a freelance article for pay
  • Developed a podcast and promoted it to subscribers
  • Created and sold journals and auxiliary materials connected with the book
  • Written another book

Writing and promoting your book is just a piece of the puzzle

To truly succeed as a writer and as an author, you need more than one piece to successfully get that puzzle together. Fiction and nonfiction authors who make a living as writers do not do so on one book alone.

Rather than writing a second book (which she has no interest in doing) this author is choosing other paths towards her dream of quitting her day job. She is turning everything around and creating a marketing and business plan that promotes her message and herself as an expert. Speeches, workshops, consulting sessions…. Already she is making a great deal more based on her book.

And guess what? Her book sales have gone through the roof.

Talent only takes you so far

Talented authors all over the world are writing terrific books and promoting them properly and they are not selling. It is not the fault of the author or a problem with the book. It is just how reality works.

I have heard a lot of talented singers in my day at local festivals. I have watched some terribly talented golfers consistently play fantastic games of golf. I have dozens of friends who paint beautiful pictures. None of them expect to make a living with their talent.

Those talented folks would be THRILLED to quit their day jobs and make a living with their talent, but very few of them are surprised when it does not happen. They are not shocked. Why are authors so consistently shocked when their first book does not generate an independent income?

Putting in the work

It’s time to focus on putting in the work to use our talent and writing to make that full-time living we are all dreaming of.

  • WRITE that next book.
  • BOOK that speech.
  • CREATE that podcast.
  • GENERATE that advertising income.
  • SELL that story line.
  • PITCH that freelance writing job…

Let’s keep going!

Previously published at www.thebookdesigner.com

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