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Can you make a living as an author?

The question of sustainability.

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Although we find joy in writing, it’s a constant balancing act between life and work, costing time and money to invest in it.

So what happens when we decide to turn that passion into a career? Is it possible to pay the bills? Here are five links that answer that question.

  1. Lincoln Michel offers a thorough breakdown of how much a writer can make. “When it comes to author income, publishing is a bit like gambling. Every time you spin the wheel, you might get a fortune, break-even, or get nothing at all.”
  2. Jane Friedman also weighs in on the question. “You don’t earn that much at first, but you keep at it. If you can stay in the game longer than others dropping away from discouragement and disillusionment, it’s possible to see results.”
  3. Leigh Stein shares how many copies you can expect to sell of your book: “…for every 10 books published, the expectation is that 8 lose money, 1 breaks even, and 1 makes money.”
  4. Sandra Newman urges us to discuss the financial insecurity of the career. “In interviews about that novel, I told the story of the bulleted lists, but never mentioned the homelessness, never mind the humiliation each time I had to ask for help.”
  5. Lastly, Ann Friedman reminds us that we don’t need to turn our writing hobby into a side hustle or career: “If monetizing can take the joy out of anatomically correct crochet, what can’t it ruin? That’s why I’m keeping my deviled-egg hobby unspoiled.”

Indeed, writing isn't a path to guaranteed riches. In fact, most of us will struggle to make it a standalone career. But if you stick with it over time, build up a back catalogue of work, and create multiple streams of income, you may turn it into something sustainable.

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David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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