Make a Living as a Writer, Part 2
In my last post, we discussed “volume” as a key to being able to support yourself as a writer. Today we’ll talk about the second key: Variety.
A lot of people are wondering what I mean by this, because we’ve all had it pounded into us that we need to “brand” ourselves, we need to find a niche and write to a certain audience in order to build a following. That’s all true, especially for writers just getting established and trying to find their audience. Your best chance is to “specialize” so that each book continues to build your audience.
If you’re traditionally published, you also have an obligation to your publisher, not only to abide by the specifics of your contract and whatever the non-compete section says, but also to make sure you’re putting your energy into making those contracted books as successful as possible. This means writing them to the best of your ability (without so many distractions that you can’t do your best work) and it also means having the time and energy to devote to marketing.
But there are people who have found a way to make “writing” their full time living. How do they do it?
It’s variety… as much as volume.
There are a number of ways writers can vary what they’re writing to increase their income potential. Here are some ideas:
1. Digitally self publish shorter works. If you’re a novelist, consider writing some non-competing short stories or novellas that come “in between” your novels and help prime readers for your next novel. Non-fiction writers can write shorter resources that stay with their brand yet don’t compete with their main books but instead, enhance them or expand upon them. (*See note below.)
2. Write in another genre, possibly under another name. If you’re publishing contemporary romance and you’ve written another series in the suspense genre, your publisher may not want to consider it because it’s “off brand.” However, that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with no place to go. You may be able to independently publish, or you may find another publisher for that genre if you use a pseudonym.* Just be careful—like I said above, you have to make sure you have the time and energy to make each book the best it can be, and properly promote each one. This is easier said than done, and if you have an agent, it’s crucial you thoroughly discuss it.
3. Write something completely different. Many authors grow their income by writing articles for magazines and online journals, or by writing Bible studies or devotionals. Novelists can consider writing on non-fiction topics in their area of interest or expertise.
4. Look for work writing marketing copy or online copy. Many organizations need press releases, newsletters, website content, and other kinds of writing. Admittedly, this may not make you a great deal of money, but I know plenty of writers who supplement their incomes this way.
5. Consider work-for-hire or ghostwriting. This isn’t easy to break into, and may require that you do some work for little money until you prove yourself. But some people have a special talent for ghostwriting and can make a good living doing it.
It’s not very exciting or romantic… but most full time writers have to branch out in one way or another. They’re not spending all their time doing their favorite kind of writing.
To tell the truth, few people are cut out for this kind of writing life, the kind that involves “piecing together” a living from a variety of different writing-related income sources. You have to be pretty scrappy (or well-connected) to make it happen. In the end, you may conclude that the day job is just fine, thank-you-very-much.
Have you considered various kinds of writing to reach the goal of being a full-time writer? Does it sound like something you’d want to do?
*P.S. If you have traditional publishing contracts, there may be restrictions on your ability to self-publish. Talk with your agent before proceeding.
Two keys to making a living as a writer: Volume and Variety. Click to Tweet.
Are you ready to piece together a living through different kinds of writing? Click to Tweet.
The day job is looking better & better! Truth on making a living as a writer. Click to Tweet.
The second key to making a living as a writer: VARIETY. Click to Tweet.