I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about what the future might look like, if I continue down the path of trying to become a published author. I’ve been thinking about what it would take for me to be a professional writer; what path I might follow to success. I’ve been thinking about what it means if I never pass that threshold. This post has been gestating inside me for the better part of a month or two, and has taken me several weeks to write.
Since I was very young, it’s been my dream to be a full-time author. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And for much of my youth, this seemed an attainable dream. There were lots of popular fantasy writers, and as far as I knew they were all making pretty comfortable livings by writing books.
But lately, my thoughts on the subject have been a tad more… not really pessimistic, I think, so much as resigned to reality.
I’ve blogged a bit, off-and-on, about some of the challenges I’ve learned face someone interested in a writer’s career. Some time ago, for instance, I blogged about the story of author Steph Swainston, who put a premature end to her writing career to go into teaching, and what her decision says about the difficulties of a writing life. More recently, I blogged a link to new author Myke Cole’s explanation of how he makes the finances of an author’s income work for him.
Several authors have blogged about the decline in author advances across the industry. Some, including Tobias Buckell, have even done surveys of fellow authors to try to glean some empirical data. (Here’s Tobias’s survey. And here’s a separate survey by author Meghan Ward, which includes a lot of non-speculative fiction data points. And here’s some thoughts by Constance Hale and Gianmaria Franchini. There’s lots of good, crunchy data) If you make your way around the various author and writing blogs, you’ll likely have seen one or more of these before. Meanwhile, authors like Jim C. Hines have regularly blogged about the vagaries of their writing income. The take-aways from these various links: the stability and dependability of writing compensation is weak, and in many cases it’s completely insufficient to support even a single person living alone, much less a family – especially if you write genre fiction, it seems.
In another recent Jim C. Hines post, author Benjamin Tate/Joshua Palmatier talked about how declines in available shelf-space at brick & mortar book sellers has significantly impacted an author’s ability to break out and make a living doing the writing thing. Another author, Kameron Hurley, in a long post about her own personal challenges and self-doubting also talked about the difficult realization that having a day job will be necessary for her having a successful writing career.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on, trawling the internet for more posts and more links that touch on the subject of writing income or the challenges of the writing life. They are legion. These are just some of the more prominent and/or more recent that I’ve come across. Continue reading