Doing it for money

Living by creative work is a bit of a gamble, to say the least. Most of my working life I’ve had other jobs on the go as well – often also in publishing, because marketing and editing pay more reliably than writing does.

I spent this last year mostly working on my own stuff, when I wasn’t being horribly ill. Given the many rounds of being horribly ill, it’s as well I wasn’t trying to do much else! But, I gambled on a couple of things and it hasn’t worked out. This happens. Opportunities melt away, or turn out not to be as good as they looked. Currently the entire book industry is being sorely challenged by distribution issues, paper shortages and whatnot, especially in America. Royalty payments are down, because American book sales are really low right now.

What you earn as an author tends to depend on work you’ve done in previous years, and there’s often no knowing how long it will take for the work to lead to money. One of the advantages of self publishing is that you get the work out and sell it. Big publishers move slowly and can take years to make decisions. Graphic novels are slow to make, so the books we’re working on were first drafted ten years ago. With the series complete, that set of books will be more interesting to other publishers, and Sloth may be able to pitch it on – but who knows?

Once upon a time, I wrote a novel in six weeks because someone offered me something like a thousand pounds to do it, and that’s more money than I’d ever made from writing before that point. By the end of it, I had days where I was mostly just shaking and crying – multiple drafts of an 80k novel is a lot to do in six weeks and I didn’t sleep much. I didn’t do another one. I couldn’t have sustained it, although it turned out that my first husband thought I should have done.

I gambled and lost, this year. I lost money on an event where I really needed to come out ahead. Everything has been slower than I needed it to be. Releases are delayed. Various projects have been hit with problems and some things I’ve just had to rethink. Meanwhile energy costs, and food costs are set to rise. I have a safety net, but it’s finite, and shrinking. 

I spent New Year’s eve looking at local employment possibilities. I’ve done all kinds of work along the way, I have no qualms about jumping back in – shelf stacker or dinner lady maybe. My skills aren’t much use for conventional employment outside of publishing, I don’t have a car, and that means I’m pretty much obliged to look at minimum wage jobs if I can’t get the writing based work to pay. At one point a few years ago I was doing half a dozen small jobs to make ends meet, and it was tough. So, I was bracing myself to get back into all of that.

Much to my surprise, I find that instead I’m going to be writing a novel to a tight deadline and for a flat fee. I’ve got three books to read as a matter of some urgency, and I’m going to be flat out for the next eight to ten weeks. So if the blog is a bit brief, or sporadic, this will be why. But it will pay better than being a traffic warden, and I was going to have to lie on that application about how well I handle aggression and conflict situations…

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

10 responses to “Doing it for money

  • bish

    Loved the laugh in the last line.

  • Dr. Qwufua Broomstick.

    This is true, books somehow are becoming obsolete, it pains when majority of the people don’t buy books in printed format, just to support the author, no matter if they have already read it from a friend or in ebook format somewhere online. I prefer to have the printed book direct from the author,
    Hails for the writing!

    • Nimue Brown

      I think we’ve got a particular problem at the moment with getting paper, printing, distributing, with so many things impacted by covid. That’s definitely impacting book sales in the states in a big way. And if people are struggling, food has to come first, but I hate that it’s like this.

  • darrack1

    “If you can make a living doing what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” as the saying goes.
    That ‘If’ is a remarkably big word those isn’t it. I had a reasonable year last year, all things considered. My out goings as a writer were only about 10% more than my income from sales…
    and I sold only about 10% less books than the year before, given I didn’t actually release any in 2021 that’s not too bad.
    I wish I could make a living out of writing, but that’s a pipe dream for me, my total income from all my writing from my first novel seven years ago adds up to about one months salary from my day job, and I like to eat.
    In short, even attempting to make a living out of writing alone is bravery on a level that I can only applaud.
    Such bravery deserves to be rewarded, so I hope it is.

    • Nimue Brown

      Or alternatively, if you try to make a living from what you love you’ll never be not working and you’ll be a hot mess of anxiety all the time…

    • Nimue Brown

      it is bonkers, and most of the time the pressure being full time puts on the writing just isn’t worth it.

      • darrack1

        I had a very similar conversation last night with a friend who is a full time writer/publisher (and my editor) who’s been struggling for a while with various stuff. It’s not easy, there are no platitudes I or anyone can say that makes everything easier and unlike last night, I can’t just bring you a bottle of kraken and sympathy. All I can say as a reader of your work is the end result is most often wonderful.

      • Nimue Brown

        Thank you, and also, a bottle of kraken is a bloody good idea, I was wondering what to do for self encouragement, and that’s a fine notion.

      • darrack1

        another benefit to working from home, rather than wage slavery in the office, is probably that when someone quotes a line from This Corrosion to you, and it morphs into an ear worm, you don’t have to fight the urge to do a little dance, as your in stuck in the office where they would frown on that kind of thing… You can just have a little dance. hey now, hey now now….

      • Nimue Brown

        That’s not evil laughter. No. Definitely not.

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