Welcome to whatever is on my mind!

Some people use the term "nonsense" but I prefer to use the phrase "uncommonly sensed" because it's more reflective of creative types.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advice on Becoming a Writer

Despite all the nonsense I write on my blog, I get a lot of serious requests from people who want to get published seeking my advice.  I’ve gotten more than the usual number lately, so I thought I would do a blog post on it.  This will probably take several blog posts to write all of this down, so here’s the initial step:
The first thing you should do is ask yourself “Why do I want to be a writer?”
Writing is not something that you “fall back on” if you lost your job or need some cash.  I’ve been contacted by a lot of out of work people who think that getting published is the answer to their financial problems.  The truth is that it’s quite the opposite.   Several famous authors (Balzac and Sir Walter Scott, for example) have gone bankrupt publishing their own works.  Granted that the publishing industry has changed since those times, but the lack of or difficulty generating income is still there for most authors. 
Starting a writing career is like starting a small business.  You’re going to be doing many jobs (writing, marketing, developing your online presence, event planning, etc.) and working long hours to build yourself.  And, just like a small business, you should anticipate that it will take at least 3 years for you to get things moving.  Your planning approach for this career should be long term and you should not expect fast returns from your work.  It will take time to build yourself up and get your career moving, so make sure that what you really want is to be a writer.  If you’re writing because you enjoy the escape of going into your imaginary world, you may be better off reading books by other authors, going to the movies, or daydreaming.
Like most occupations in the arts, writing is not something you go into for the money.  Most writers don’t make the salaries of Dan Brown or J. K. Rowling (let’s face it, no one makes J. K. Rowling’s salary but J. K. Rowling!).  However, there appears to be a myth that getting a book published is like winning the lottery.  Here’s the reality: most books actually lose money.  By the time that you pay for editing, printing, and marketing you will be bankrupt unless you sell enough books to absorb those costs.  Even if you strictly publish eBooks to avoid the printing costs you still have considerable up front costs that you may never recover.  This is why publishers reject even well written books: because they know that if they can’t sell enough copies to cover their expenses that the book is going to cost them money.  Books that don't make money also don't pay royalties to the author.
So my first message to those who want to be a writer is to make sure that this is what you really want to do because this is a very difficult industry.  In fact, it’s probably easier to become a rock star.  After all, there are no reality TV shows called “American Author” where writers compete for a publishing contract.  But maybe there should be...



  1. Great post! It is an adventure, that's for sure- and you're right, you cannot embark upon a writing career hoping only for money. You have to truly believe in your work, you have to diligently and strategically market yourself and the book, costing lots and lots of money and time, and then you have to edit and revise, edit and revise, edit and revise, all the while still holding true to the belief that your book is amazing, no matter what type of criticism is coming in. Setting your feelings aside is essential- and looking at the material from a sales point of view is hard at first- but now I like it- I love my story, I enjoy working on it, it brings me happiness to see even one kid walk away thinking about it- this is what drives me- and doing something for myself that makes me feel proud of myself. My co-author and I have spent almost every waking hour (other than the times we have to work for money) for the past 2 years writing, editing, refining, ramping up our online presence, networking with other authors and learning about the literary market place (mysterious as it is). It's been a wonderful journey- filled with failures and successes- laughs and tears, and it's certainly not over yet. Our book isn't for sale yet, as we are trying to publish the traditional way first- but we've spent quite a bit of money on advanced reader copies, and other promotional items to generate a buzz, which is what you have to do in any business, with any product.

    Thinking about the America's Top Author- I don't know if the world is ready to watch me think and write- let alone see what I look like when I'm working on my websites... I have a tendency to talk to my computer lol-... what a weird show that would be : )

  2. I've been building a platform by getting stories out rather than my novel/manuscript/barb-in-my-side in various anthologies and magazines. I also spent all summer cooped-up writing commercial ad copy. Obviously my goal is to finish the book, but like most writers I think positive feedback is the best way to keep going. Think baby steps. Lots and lots of baby steps. Patience helps too.

  3. I am from London and living in Portugal....I am writing a blog about an event that happen to me some years ago and I am enjoying putting the story down on my blog. I am not an author as you may tell if you look at my blog but I am enjoying it nevertheless.

    I have had some good comments and page views and followers, so not all that bad.

    I would love your views and if possible comments either positive or negative.

    The link is: http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.com/2010/02/1-let-journey-commence.html

    Thank you so much and happy new year....

  4. The Desert Rocks - That is great advice! Continually taking baby steps in the right direction is often more effective than attempting giant strides.

    Dave - I will look over your blog as soon as I get a chance (should be within the next few days). Thanks for sharing the link!


  5. Just stop by to say thank you for stopping by A Book A Day Reviews. I love your blog and am now a follower!

  6. Dear Amy,

    Thanks for stopping by and joining me at Create With Joy! I love your blog and look forward to getting to know you in this upcoming year!

    I wanted to add to your article that in addition to lots of hard work, discipline, and the things you mentioned in your article - there are LOTS of opportunities within the field of writing if one is serious about becoming an author that do not entail the American dream of becoming a traditionally published novelist. Research the opportunities that are available - connect with other writers and different types of writers/authors to explore the possibilities - and, above all - WRITE and improve your craft!

    Have a fabulous week!


  7. Great point, Ramona! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I think there are a lot of people who would like to publish a book who aren't really "writers." There's a difference between writing and being a writer.