Friday, July 19, 2019

Writing: Annuity, Hobby, or Occupation?

My agent (yes, I still have one, despite now self-publishing) tells me that I'm doing very well publishing my own books. For those keeping score, I've self-published (actually, agent-assisted published) six novellas and two full-length novels. I've also had my work published by traditional publishers (ten novels). So I guess I'm able to comment on both types of publication. Which is better? And the answer, of course, is "it depends."

One of the better posts about income from writing is this one, although it's almost ten years old. That one cites the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but qualifies their figure by saying that novelists' income varies widely. The post has a fairly thorough discussion of  indie-writing, and I highly recommend it. They pretty much get it right.

In a nutshell, here are the positives and negatives of each type of writing, as I've observed them.

Traditional published: First, it's hard (and getting harder) to land a publishing contract. Publishing is a for-profit industry, and a publisher has lots of costs that aren't obvious to the writer. For instance, they have to project how many copies of the book they'll sell, look at their expenses, consult their editorial board about whether this writer will be a success, offer an advance, and cross their fingers. Sometimes they win, but at times they lose. I signed a three-book contract with a major publisher, who paid a nice advance but decided to pass on further books. Those novels earned out the advance, and I still get royalties from them. But the figures weren't good enough to keep me. It's a business decision.

Indie published: I learned early on the importance of using a professional editor, as well as having my cover design done by a good designer--all at my expense. Whereas I was used to getting a box of free books, and thought nothing of asking my publisher to send a book to various sites and sources, I could do that myself but had to buy the books to do it. Admittedly, they were at a discounted price, but they weren't free. As for doing blog posts and interviews, it was up to me to line them up, as well as providing the books for a give-away. The person who made the decisions was me--which was both good and bad.

Do you get rich from writing? Not unless you're one of those authors who do it full-time. Honestly, I am retired from the practice of medicine, and (Jim Bell, cover your ears) some day I don't write at all. Is it satisfying as "second profession?" For me, it is. Would it be for you? I'd be glad to hear.


Priscilla Bettis said...

It would be satisfying as a second profession if I had few days like today: stuck one the same scene, writing in circles, rewriting . . . I suspect I'll get it done after a few more hours, but goodness gracious!

Richard Mabry said...

As the song says, "Some days are diamonds. Some days are stones." If you enjoy it, keep it up, There will be good days and bad, but I guess that's true of all activities.

Patricia Bradley said...

From the time I was 35, writing full time was my dream. When I retired from working under grants in the abstinence program, I wrote full time, was blessed to get a contract with a great publisher. I exchanged retirement for writing. lol And somedays I question my sanity. But other days writing gives me a high no drug can touch. A feeling of satisfaction, that I'm using the talent God gave me. And now back to work.

But I don't write every day unless a deadline is closing in. lol Since 2013, I've written ten books, two sweet romances, and three novellas.

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, it has its highs and lows, no doubt about it. But I haven't found a writer who doesn't express satisfaction with it--at least some of the time.