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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Want to Write? Don't Do It for the Money.

A friend on a Yahoo Group recently linked us to an author who was musing about how writer's will make money in the future. I want to know how they're going to make money NOW?

I was at a recent Chicago Writer's Association event giving a presentation about The Writing Life. It's one I've given before in some shape or form. I always talk about "knowing your values." What I mean by that is this: think about why you write; determine what it is that motivates you to put story to paper. Most will say it's not about money. Well, it better not be because you are not going to get rich. Oh sure, there will be a few breakouts who will write a bestseller and get big four-book contracts, but that is a very...very...small percentage.

When I used to work full time in the broadcasting business, I was asked about making money all the time by students and career seekers. "You make a lot, right?" they'd ask. All they had heard about were the salaries of Howard Stern and Oprah. Just like in the literary world, about 1-percent of the broadcasters are millionaires, most rough out a respectable living, some starve. At the recent BEA (Book Expo America), a presenter had a statistic: something like 3-5 percent of the books published sell more than 1000 copies; the rest less fewer. Fewer than 1000!

It's become a cliche, but you better be writing because you can't think of doing anything else that is so satisfying, rewarding, insightful.

Remember - Van Gogh was a pauper. He sold his first painting only after his death. This is not to be negative, it's about "knowing your values." If you're writing because you want to be rich, I would suggest making writing a hobby and go get your MBA. Come to think of it, these days getting your MBA may not make you rich, either. :)

David W. Berner

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