The Modern Writer’s Lifestyle & Earnings

Please note: BK Publishing takes no responsibility for how you use the information presented here. All risk is assumed by the reader.

If you imagine being flown around the world, lavish hotel rooms and outrageous sums on residual cheques, then the writing life isn’t for you. Yes, this has happened to a very small number of writers. Very small, like maybe ten in the last thirty years, if that. If you believe you’re the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, good luck. So why are you looking at this website?

You want be a writer. Why do you want to be a writer?

(Please be honest with yourself. No one, unless you tell them, is going to hear your answer.)

If you picture yourself in exotic locations with a manual typewriter, drinking from a coconut shell while trying to avoid knocking your eye out with the little umbrella as the next great novel types itself out on your magical keyboard, then you’re not a writer, you’re a dreamer.

If you like the idea of dressing ‘literary’ and hanging out discussing books and existentialism, you’re not a writer, you’re a university student. Maybe take some courses in writing and get a part time job at a bookstore.

If you hope that having a book, any book, published will increase your dating potential, guess what? You’re not a writer. Try exercise, improved hygiene practices and join some clubs or groups where you can meet people.

Are you trying to prove something to someone? Your parents? Maybe it’s Uncle Bob, who thinks you should get a real job in sanitation. Or maybe the girl/guy who used to live in the same apartment block as you that you’ve been following around for two years and she/he still won’t give you the time of day? You guessed it; you’re not a writer. Maybe a stalker, but not a writer.

Why do you want to be a writer? Can’t stop thinking about story ideas? Are you constantly reading books and articles, fiction and non-fiction, and find yourself jotting notes, story outlines, and character sketches?

Maybe you’ve been writing for years. Maybe you’ve already figured out that writing is hard work. Maybe the need for regular food and shelter is secondary to your need, hunger, mania, for the written word. Your need to communicate, share, educate or entertain is strong enough to wake you at night, to keep you inside on beautiful days in a dingy corner of your room. Hey, maybe you’re a writer.

If you want to entertain, enlighten and share with readers, are willing to put in long hours for little return, continuously learn and improve your craft, are able to take stacks of rejections, deal constructively with criticism and learn basic bookkeeping…hey? Guess what …you might be a writer.

What do you write?

If you’re trying to cash in on the latest trends, good luck.

By the time you’ve finished reading this article for BK Publishing, the project you started four weeks ago based on Oprah saying that ‘Chic Lit’ is hot has probably already staled. That means when you finish your novel in a year (the average time it takes to write a decent novel and may or may not include the editing) the odds are good that the genre has lost its lustre.

Basically any interest the public (the buyers) have has waned, and of course most publishers (product producer) aren’t interested in something they can’t sell.
As a writer, you should pay attention to the flood of poor quality fast writing that is done regularly to cash in on the popularity of what’s hot today. Why? So you can avoid it!

What should you be writing?

There is an old saying in writing: write what you know. Horse hockey! I’ve never been to Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy or the bottom of the ocean. I’ve never seen a murder committed, nor have I been robbed nor robbed anybody. And I’ve never seen or ridden a unicorn. Yet, I as well as many others write fantasy, science fiction, mysteries, the list goes on.

On this website, the saying is ‘WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE’.

Are you passionate about cowboys? Why are you trying to write Chic Lit? You work(ed) in a travel agency and keep asking yourself, “what if that couple really were hitters for the ‘mob’ or smugglers?” Why are you trying to write a romance when your heart’s in a mystery?

Not sure what your genre is?

What do you like to read? After all, real writers are avid readers. Not only does this allow them to see where the industry is going, what’s being done in their genre but also allows time for their own creative energies to recharge. If you need direction – start at your bookshelf.

You’re right! Enough with the soul searching – lets talk money!

The reality is that most writers never earn enough from their writing to quit their day job. If they’re lucky, they might be able to take better vacations. Many writers combine work with pleasure and plan vacations around stories, articles or assignments. Hopefully they’ll be able to afford a better vehicle and/or better overall lifestyle. Plus they get to leave something behind not only for the world, but for their heirs as well.

Yes, we’ve all heard about the overnight success stories. But if you read the fine print, you’ll find that most of those overnight sensations took ten or more years to happen. That’s ten years of learning and refining their craft, dealing with rejections and did I mention taxes?

It is critically important to keep track of all writing related spending. Even the moderately successful writer is paying out of their own pocket for book tours, marketing and websites. I recommend taking a basic bookkeeping course and if you are not adept at doing your own taxes, then find an accountant who handles writers.

You will still need to develop a filing system for your receipts. Carry and use a logbook to track kilometres (or miles) when you’re driving to writing related events. Keep track of phone bills, paper, pens, binders, pads, printer cartridges and don’t forget your mailing supplies. If you’re self-publishing, you’ll have to keep track of all printing costs.

You’ll need to check with your area’s tax laws to see what you can and can’t use against earnings. Also you must make sure you meet the definition of a ‘writer’. Where I live I must publish a minimum of twice a year to keep my credentials.

Being a writer means being self-employed with all the perks and responsibilities that come with it.

Still want to be a writer?

Then apply your bottom to the chair and hands to the keyboard. Because what you earn, depends on you!

T. Masters-Heinrichs
The Grumpy Wordsmith