Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Writing Craft

Writing is a great career choice for the perpetual student. There is always more to learn, another layer of subtlety or intensity to be added. There are symbols, themes, messages and endless details. Editing can become a life work as opposed to creating.

So when is it good enough? The only answer I have for that is not yet. As long as you're not selling (and that is your goal) then there are only a couple of possible reasons.

  1. You're in the wrong market - publisher, line, genre - take your pick
  2. You're not good enough
  3. You're trying to break in to saturated market

The majority of the time it's number two. There are lots of market forces that work against the new writer. This is true and it has always been true. Success comes in many shapes and sizes . The brilliant poet will never enjoy a six figure income from the her poetry. Unless said brilliant poet is delusional, she didn't expect to.

If your goal is to make money pick another field. The odds are against you. Yes, there are a few authors making impressive incomes but it's a small list. The size of that elite group shrinks further when you consider how may wannabe writers there are out there.

I'm virtually certain there are talented writers who've never sold a single thing. To succeed takes a combination of marketability, talent, good craft and timing. After all those stars line up perfectly, what have you achieved? I'm pretty sure it works out to less than minimum wage.

So why write? I hope it is because you love writing. No other answer makes sense.


Anonymous melissa said...

I agree that you have to love it, but you can also make a decent living (decent, not luxurious! lol) if you put out a few books every year. I've heard H/S requires at least two a year and they prefer three (anyone know about this? Lori?), and according to the figures I've seen on that "show me the money" site, three books a year would bring in a respectable income. At least, a respectable secondary income. I doubt any author can quit her day job until the multi-book contract advances start rolling in...

See, you have to love it because otherwise, you'd never stick with it long enough to get good enough to sell in the first place, and then to roll out enough good books to earn multi-book contracts! lol

2:14 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Thanks for stopping by Melissa. Yes I agree it is possbile to make a living. I don't have exact numbers on how many authors are making a living from writing. I know how many unpaid hours I've put into learning.

Everyone has their own financial targets. Writers pay self-employment tax, have some overhead and need to provide their own health insurance and retirement plan. I'm not trying to be discouraging - just realistic.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous melissa said...

Oh, I know, and I do agree with you. This isn't something that should be done for the money. I'm going on my third year of doing self-employment taxes with no income. Only a matter of time before the IRS comes a-callin'...

3:56 PM  
Blogger Lori Borrill said...

Very interesting post, Evanne!

As far as Harlequin, I only know what my editor said to me, and this could be different for every writer. But she's hoping to see me write at least two books each year, and will accept three. Rare, rare occasions four. I've also heard second-hand that they like you to build a name within the line you sold to before branching out to other lines. So if I had a great idea for a Nocturne, they probably aren't going to want to see it for a while (though I could be wrong--I haven't been down that route myself).

I do think, though, when you do sell, there is some push-back not to go too fast.

I agree with Melissa that you can make a living, but it depends on what kind of living you need to make. In my house, I'm the breadwinner with the full-time job, health insurance and 401K. My husband is self-employed with a modest business. So for me, I don't know that I'll ever be able to quit my day job before retirement age.

But I am hoping the writing helps supplement my income, maybe pays off the house a couple years earlier or sends me on a trip someday. Like Evanne said, it's certainly not something you get into for the money, and anyone who does has more problems than getting published LOL! But as a bonus in getting paid for something you already love doing? Now that's worth every penny!

3:01 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Lori - you've got a great attitude. How many titles they want a year from you probably is directly related to your sales numbers. Which I'm sure will be impressive.:)

I've noticed somehting that surprised me about Blaze author handling. The Blaze authors who rate larger-than-title letters have all published elsewhere.

My unworldly conclusion; even category apparently is not impressed with category. LOL

4:07 PM  
Blogger Lori Borrill said...

even category apparently is not impressed with category

LOLOL! Unfortunately, I think that's true! I probably shouldn't say this publicly, but I've always wondered why Nancy Warren has her own eHarlequin thread under the Blaze line when she only puts out one a year at best. I would have thought that type of honor would go to someone like Jamie Sobrato or Leslie Kelly--someone who really is Blaze all the way around.

Go figure.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Evanne said...

Don't worry Lori - this blog isn't all that high profile ;)

I was thinking about Suzanne Forester vs. Jo Leigh (or I could stick my foot further in my mouth LOL).

Comparing these lovely authors is like assessing the merits of apples vs.oranges but . . . IMHO the merit is the opposite of the emphasis HQ placed on the author name.

I shouldn't be shocked brand name recognition is worth a lot in the market place and I'm sure Ms. Forester has leigons of fans.

5:18 PM  
Anonymous melissa said...

Lori, thank you for letting me breathe again, now that I know two books a year would be just fine. I'd always thought three was some magic number, and at the moment I think I'd be better off producing two good ones than trying to squeeze out three. I don't write all that fast yet.

Evanne, I always thought the "big name" was an honor bestowed on someone when they achieved some sort of status--bestseller, or whatever. Who knows? Who cares? I still don't buy the book unless the story blurb interests me. :-)

6:26 PM  

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