I've been meaning to write this for a long time but there's so much to say that it's hard to even get started. I made my living as a writer. I made enough money that I can live almost anywhere in the world and have enough to not just live but put away savings. Well, except for when I'm Japan and have to buy Arashi concert tickets!
So, how do you do it:
I'm not saying that I'm the most talented writer around, hell not even close, but if you want to make a living as a writer, you have to be able to tell as story. You have to be able create something saleable.
You don't have to be the next *insert name of your favourite genius writer*. In fact, if you have aspirations of critical success in as a literary writer, making a living is probably not for you. Pondering for weeks over a single word choice will cost you money.
On the other hand, there's a lot of shit out there telling people you can make a fortune without ever having picked up a pen before. It's balls. Maybe lightening strikes but it's up there with winning the lottery -- and buying a lottery ticket is a lot less work.
Having a publisher sign you is great for kudos and feeling good about yourself and all that crap but there is one thing it's not good for - paying the bills. Am I going to take 70% royalties from Amazon or 1% from a big name publisher? Let me think about that for a while.
This is the 21st century where publishers don't have much to offer. You still have to do your own marketing and promotion. Sure you get editing and covers and shit paid for but, in exchange, you have no control.
If I self publish, I can put out books as far as I can write them. I don't have to comply to some other businesses publication schedule. I don't have to work with someone who's about five years behind the market.
And those advances that publishers give you -- I earnt far more than the average advance this month. In one month, not spread out over a bunch of pissy payments.
Work your guts out
To be honest, I could work harder and faff off on the Internet less. I still make money but the harder I work (and smarter, smarter is also important), the more money I make. If you sit around waiting for some airy fairy muse to tap you on the head with their magic wand, you are going to starve to death. If you sit around your local hipster cafe banging on about the masterpiece you plan to write, you won't be able to afford their coffee.
You need to get your arse down, your fingers on the keyboard and the wifi turned off.
I put out five novels last year. This year I want to release a heap more than that. One book a year doesn't cut it. Five is nice. I'm making a living. One book a month, that's what I'm aiming for.
If you are writing your first novel or even your second, sure take your time. Look at it as a learning phase. But, when you have the experience under your belt, when you understand plotting and pacing and how to get all the wiggly, squirmy bits of a novel to work together, then pick up the pace.
My goal is always to produce more books but also to produce cleaner drafts. I don't mean clean as in not full of sex. Sex is good. I mean, cleaner as in needing less redrafting and editing. There are a mega-ton of books on writing that tell you that you can write a book in a month or a week or 24 hours. That's bollocks. What they mean is you can write a first draft in that time. It might six months of editing and redrafting.
Writing faster isn't about writing a fast first draft. It's about speeding up the process from OMG, this is a great idea to having a finished product to release.
Write to Market
This is one that gets a lot of knickers in a twist. Zoinks, you are writing for money instead of nurturing that dream novel in your heart? Sell out!
Is it so wrong to write something people want to read though? Like if you make widgets and the red ones sell, would you keep making pink widgets because that's what your heart tells you?
The secret is to think of it like Venn diagram, which, if I wasn't so lazy, I'd create and post here but I think you can get the picture without me having to open Paint.
There's one circle that is the shit you want to write. The second circle is stuff people want to pay money for. You should be working in the bit where those two circles intersect. You want to make money but do something you enjoy too.
For example, when I first started writing romance, motorbike club books were hot. Probably because of that Sons of Anarchy TV show or something. I can't write that. When I think of bikers, I think of fat, hairy guys who'd rape you and force your mother to watch. Ick. I'm sure not all bikers are like that but still, I can't get into the romance of it.
So, my thinking was 'what's hot and I can write?'
Find that sweet spot and it's sweet.
Of course, there's a lot more to writing to market than just checking the top 100 on Amazon. There's a whole lot more. way more than I want to go into. But the basics are find something that's hot, know the tropes and expectations, package something similar (blurb, cover etc).
Write a Series
I resisted this for ages but it works. It's the magic bullet. Well the bullet that works when everything else is in place.
I usually give away my first book for free. It works.
Promote the buggery out of everything
I don't do much social media under my pen name. What I do is pay for advertising. There are a lot of dodgy advertisers for books and a handful that work. Get to know what works and what works for your genre. Then spend money to make money.
Also, under promotion -- good covers, a good blurb for your book and decent editing.
Oh, and have a mailing list. That's essential. Have a mailing list and work at building it as much as possible.
Some people can write without drinking copious quantities of coffee but why would you want to?
Sit back and watch the money come in
Well, sit back at your desk and write your next book and the next... It never ends. No resting on your laurels.
You constantly have to be watching the market. What's popular, what's hot in covers, what's the next big thing.
Some people say things better than me.
Jami Gold's blog - which is full of amazing advice and also has some freaken awesome resources like Excel beat sheets you can download for free.
That's pretty much the basics. There's a lot more I could say so if you have any questions or things you want me to expand on, let me know.