WRITING MYTH: Professional Writers Can Quit Their Day Job

Quitting your day job and making a fantastic living off your books. Isn’t that almost every writer’s dream? The Greats make it look so easy. Stephen King. Neil Gaiman. Laurell K. Hamilton. J.K. Rowling. But scratch the surface, and you’ll find out they all came from modest pasts, and fought hard to get where they are today.

Even those who are mid-list authors, those who don’t make a million dollars a year, and maybe make less than you do in your corporate job, make it look easier than it is. “They’re doing it, why can’t I?” Dig deeper. Sometimes they struggle to make ends meet. It isn’t all fun and games, even when you do work for yourself. There are no paid sick days for authors.

Still, that’s what most of us yearn for. I hate to break the bad news to you, but that’s not likely to happen. Many, many professional writers – even those with traditional publishing deals – still have a day job. Even those you may be familiar with. Chances are, they’re still working in a cubicle or retail store somewhere, and writing in their time off from the “day job.”

Making enough money from your books to quit your day job is HARD. That doesn’t mean you’re not really fantastic at it. You might have written one of the best books of this century, but there’s no guarantee it will become a best seller.

There are tens of thousands of books in the world. Think about your own “to read” list. Be honest; is it likely that you will make it all the way through that list (which likely grows almost daily as you discover new books that pique your interest) before you die? Probably not. There are a lot of great books on that list, and the fact that you may never get around to reading it is not a dig on said book.

When my own “to read” list grows too large, I take a break from looking for new and exciting books for a month or two. How many great books made their way to the top of Amazon lists in that time, but fell back down before I noticed them?

And in this never-ending sea of books, how do you make yours stand out? You can’t just click “Publish” and wait around twiddling your thumbs. You have to work hard to market your book. The vast majority of authors are far more creative than they are business-minded, so this effort falls flat.

But every once in a while, a book will come out of nowhere, and not even the author expected what was coming. Look at Andy Weir, author of The Martian. He was originally a self published author, who sold enough books on his own to catch the attention of a literary agent. The stars then aligned for his book to make its way to Ridley Scott, who eventually turned it into a movie.

It is possible. And I don’t say all this to discourage you. I want you to be BIG, but realistic with your goals. That way, if you aren’t able to quit your day job in three years, you won’t be as devastated. Yes, it will still be disappointing, but when you have a healthy dose of realism, it’s much easier to dust yourself off and say, “Well, self, we’ll do better and make it next time.”

As long as you never give up, the dream is still alive.

Happy Writing,
Jen

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