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Making It Work: The Financial Life of a Neo-Pro Author

January 18, 2012

Author Myke Cole (Shadow Ops: Control Point, an urban fantasy book about military special ops in a post-return-of-magic Earth) recently blogged about how he stretches his finances and makes things work on the income of a first-time author.  His post was very instructive, and you should read it here.

The points that stand out to me:

  • He’s living a very spartan life.  Not just “no cable” spartan (Dear Wife and I live without cable, for example) but “no TV” spartan.  Run-down appartment spartan.  No car spartan. 
  • He’s single
  • He lives in a dangerous urban area in a run-down appartment, which he makes work by being a physically imposing individual (seriously, check out the author photo on his bio page: he’s significantly more ripped than your average doughy author (yours truly included – I’m fairly thin but I’m all bone and squishy bits, and you’d be forgiven for laughing if I tried to “flex my muscles” for I have none to speak of)), meaning nobody messes with him
  • He makes healthcare work by being a military Reservist

I think about the finances thing a lot.  The thing is: I have a pretty decent job.  It’s not a truly creative endeavor, but I enjoy many aspects of what I do and I get paid reasonably well to do it.  I have a comfortable home, and my family is safe.  I don’t have to put my life in danger to live or to work.  I’m not the maximally happiest I could possibly be, doing what I do for a living, but I am sufficiently happy with the work that I do to say that I enjoy my life and my work.

Here’s the thing: I want to be a published author.  I want it deeply and truly down in my bones and to the very core of my being.  Creating and sharing stories is part of who I am, and I can’t ever not do it.

But as important as those things are to me, there is one thing I can never, ever, ever, ever compromise: the health and safety and comfort of my family. 

It’s very interesting to see how a fantasy/sci-fi author makes it work.  It’s good to know it is possible.  But the life Myke Cole is living would be intollerable to me.  It wouldn’t have been intollerable to me, say, ten years ago when I was single and didn’t have a family and responsibilities.  But I have a wife and a son both of whom I love more than life and more than myself.  I want to be a published author, and it is the dream that drives me.  But if being a published author would require the kind of sacrifices of my family that Cole has made in his life, I would sooner sacrifice my dream – sooner sacrifice my very self – than ask that of them.

Someday, I hope to find a way to make becoming a published author work – to make it compatible with things like “a regular income” and “full-coverage healthcare” and “college savings for my kid” and “a comfortable home in a good school district” and other things like that.  When I do, watch out!  For now… I write when I can, but I have to focus on those other, important things first.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 12:20 am

    This was an excellent post. I enjoy reading your blog very much.

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  2. January 19, 2012 12:57 am

    I was just reading that article the other day. 🙂 That and a few others on his site.

    He sounds like he’s got a realistic plan that suits him (I’m sure being single helps), including alternatives in case things don’t work out. Though personally, from what I’ve heard, I think his first novel will do pretty well. Let’s hope!

    I don’t ever expect to become a full-time writer ’cause I think I’d go crazy, lol.

    • January 19, 2012 11:25 am

      I agree – early buzz suggests his novel will do fairly decently, and that’s good for him. And planning for multiple contingencies is also definitely a good idea. Myself, I’m sort of like you on this topi: I’m slowly, slowly becoming less optimistic about my chances at ever becoming a full-time author. It’s really, really hard to let that dream go (and it’s not gone yet), but the more I learn about the publishing industry, the more I realize that success in being an author depends on a large number of factors that are completely outside an author’s control. Further, the ideal conditions for a successful auctorial debut do not presently – and are unlikely in the near-to-medium-term future – exist for me. I may blog about this in the future…

  3. January 29, 2012 11:37 pm

    I found his approach interesting. As you point out it is a little extreme. It also struck me that he managed to become a published author without becoming full-time first. I don’t need much, but I do like having security and that’s one thing I wouldn’t feel if I put myself in his position. But fortunately, there are many ways to maintain security and many approaches to writing. I wish you the best luck finding your way.

    • January 30, 2012 10:54 am

      Yeah, likewise, security is important to me… I couldn’t just dive in like that, hoping things would work themselves out. I don’t know what, if any, path I will take toward being a published novelist/author… but it won’t look like his – because it can’t look like his.

  4. Roll permalink
    March 15, 2013 11:18 pm

    It does make it easier to pursuit your dream if your are financially doomed anyway. In Greece we have 500 euro salaries now and 30% unemployment. When the day job will not cut it anyway for years to come and you will be starving anyway, why not be a starving artist? 🙂

    • March 22, 2013 3:37 pm

      Definitely sorry to hear about your plight in Greece. I’m not sure what I’d do in that situation.


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