I was at a writing conference last weekend and had a fabulous time. The workshops were inspiring, the food was delicious, the keynote speaker’s jokes made me laugh. He had a serious message, too, as all keynote speakers do. He’d been hearing the same question all day.
“How Can I Make Money From Writing?”
Seriously, there are so many ways. And once you actually write the book, (and it should be a well-written book with a subject people want to read about it, even if they don’t know it yet) and get it published, you will find the ways that suit you. We call that marketing.
I’ve been writing a long time, with 10 published books and number 11 on its way, and what I think about that big question new writers (or maybe some not so new writers) ask is probably the wrong question. It depends, really, on your goals in writing. What do you want out of this gig? If the first answer that pops into your head is fame and fortune, you need to move to New York or L.A. and you should also be young and beautiful and work in publishing or become a celebrity. Those people get book deals all the time.
But if you write because you love the process, and the way to tell if you love it is to ask yourself “would I still write if I never got paid?” Answer yes and I can tell you how you might find your way into a happy writing career. Obviously, you’re going to need a day job. At least for awhile. That’s fine. You’ll find the right day job that will help you write better books and even help you publish and sell them. Work for a university and their press may print your books. Self-publish a book for your creative writing class and your dean might make it required reading and sell it in the bookstore. I know because that’s how I published and sold my first book in 2008. It’s in second edition and remains my best-selling title.
It takes a lot of time, though, from dreamy poet to college professor. I not only had to acquire a couple of college degrees, I became a mother. Twice. Best writing decision I ever made. My first published essay in an anthology was about being a single mom. I later wrote a novel with the same theme. But that first story was a true one, and my boys were at the center of it.
What I’m really saying here is that the writing life–any life–is like a safe and you have to crack the code. You do that by listening like a safecracker with his ear to the combination, listening to the tumblers until you hear the click. Inspiration is a first click. Daily practice is another. Finding what brings you joy in life and going for it even if on the surface it seems to have nothing at all to do with writing is the final click that will open the door to the treasure inside. Or as the keynote speaker, Detroit poet ML Libeler, put it so well “Do what you love and the money will come.”