I hear from a lot of aspiring writers, asking about careers in writing. One correspondent wrote me recently, expressing a great desire to write and to succeed in publishing, and asking what one might expect to earn as a published writer. Here’s my reply, in part:
I’m glad to hear of your interest in writing, and your willingness to learn. It’s a long, difficult road, but it can offer many rewards.
Few of those rewards are likely to be monetary, though. Yes, some people do well–especially if they are prolific. It helps if you write fast, and well, and have a great many stories to tell. Some writers who do well financially are excellent writers; some are not. I can’t tell you why.
You asked what the least was that I made in a year from writing, so that you’d know what to expect. That’s an easy one. Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s what you can expect. You can’t be in it for the money. If the money comes, that’s a wonderful bonus. But you can’t bank on it, so to speak. If you do, you are apt to be very, very disappointed. You must be in it because you want to write and have stories to tell, and are willing to work hard to tell them well.
My one piece of advice is to try to put your desire to see your name on the cover of a book way, way to the back of your mind. Everyone feels it, of course, including those who already have their names on the covers of books. But thinking about that will not help you learn to write. And that’s what you have to do–learn to write. There are many, many skills that come together in the craft of writing, including storytelling, grammar, voice, sentence structure, vocabulary, imagination, organization of thought, knowledge of science and society and psychology, life experience, and many other things. Concentrate on all of these things. Expect to spend years practicing, and learning from others. Read books on writing. Join a workshop. Get feedback.
Do these things, and perhaps one year you will fulfill your dream of seeing your name on a book cover and sitting next to a favorite author at a signing. (There’s no guarantee, that’s one of the kickers.) Be fiery and determined, but don’t be too impatient.
Read my further Advice to Aspiring Writers, and consider looking at my writing course on CD, which you’ll see a link to on that page. (It’s out of print, but Amazon had some used copies, last time I looked.)
But…please don’t ask me to read your work. For the reason, see Before You Ask Me to Look at Your Work