Business of Writing – How to Make a Living as an Author or Writer

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Make momey writing

Virginia Woolf wrote for a living, so can you

So You Want to Write for Money?

(This is a special guest post by one of our favorite writers. Grant will visit once or twice a month and explain the business of writing. His articles are spot-on for authors and writers interested in developing business sense or refining the way they run their writing businesses.)

By Grant McDuling

Don’t you find it strange that so many people seem to be wanting to earn money from writing? And have you also noticed how many people have a great idea for a book?

Is it just me or the circles I move in, or is this ‘yearning’ more wide-spread than is commonly acknowledged?

Whichever way you look at it, writing is one of the more exciting ways of earning a living. It’s also creative, glamorous and romantic. It brings with it a certain amount of influence, due largely to the ancient notion that there is power in the written word.

Writers also have a social responsibility, which further empowers them. They are able in no uncertain way to exert a certain amount of influence on any matter they choose. They have the ability to place topics on the public agenda.

Yet it is also a profession fraught with dangers – professional dangers. It is a highly stressed profession, leading to many burning out and others taking to the bottle. It’s also an all-consuming profession that really is like a drug to its adherents. Many find it all but impossible to think of anything else, even when relaxing at home. The adrenalin rush when words are flying off your keyboard as well as the elation and ecstasy when seeing your byline, is hard to explain. There simply is nothing else quite like it.

Dreams Come True – Selling the Best Seller

Every writer dreams of one day writing a best selling novel, yet most know, deep down, that chances are they never will. Yet they continue to dream. And every aspiring writer – the student at university or college (as well as the frustrated employee who is determined to break free and write for a living) dreams of being able to break into the writing profession and earn enough to be able to do it full time. They dream about seeing their name in print; they dream about experiencing that adrenalin rush that they’ve heard about.

This blog post is about making that dream come true. It’s about showing the way to turn your writing ambitions into reality – and to earn real money as you do so. So if this excites you, be sure to subscribe to this blog. Make sure, too, to get involved by posting comments. Experience has shown that the best way to learn is to take action and do something.

If you are more impatient and want to get ahead in your writing career sooner rather than later, you can always download my Kindle book Write For A Living In 7 Easy Steps.

Writing in general, and journalism in particular, is a rather unique profession, and as such, it tries to be all things to all people. It professes to act as a mirror to society in that it reflects what is happening. It sees itself as an unbiased informer. And yet it is also a commentator, as it tries to add meaning to complex events so that ordinary people can understand them. It adds perspective and spin, and it tries to do this as superficially as possible because it is all too aware that the people just don’t have the time to delve deeply into anything anymore. It also likes to act as something of a critique, telling us what we should be thinking, not only of films and the theatre but more mundane events as well. And then it would like to be thought of as an educator … and an entertainer.

It’s no wonder people across the ages have really believed in the power of the written word. And why shouldn’t they? Writing, as we have seen, is a very confusing area of expertise if nothing else. Confused? Well, you have every right to be.

Writing Is a Unique Profession

Think for a moment about the professions. What are some examples? Well, for a start, there’s medicine. That clearly is classed as a profession. What about accountancy? Yes, accountants call themselves professionals. And by the way, when we talk about someone being a professional, we’re not meaning they earn a living from doing what they do in the way we say a golfer is a professional. What we mean is that the job is recognized as being part of a profession. What about plumbers? Are they professionals? Is plumbing a profession? No, and not because plumbers don’t make money. They do, and lots of it – perhaps even more than many so-called professional people. What about marketing executives? Or lawyers? Marketing execs aren’t, but lawyers certainly are.

So what then is it that determines what is, and what isn’t, a profession? An occupation that has its core of knowledge housed or kept in universities or colleges is regarded as a profession. This means that in order to work in that profession, you need a degree. You need formal qualifications.

What makes writing unique? Do you need a degree in journalism before you’re allowed to write for your local newspaper? Absolutely not. In fact, some of our best-known scribes have nothing more than a normal school education, backed up by loads of enthusiasm and a natural talent.

And yet journalism is considered a profession because its knowledge base is locked up in that most ancient and revered of institutions – the university.

There are other differences, like writing must be, on average, the lowest paid of all professions. And, unlike others, its proponents actually do real work for a living; they don’t just “practice”.

Why You Are Reading this Blog Right Now?

Presumably, you are interested in earning money through writing. It could be that you are a university student intent on gaining employment in the media.Maybe you just want an outlet for your creative writing talents.

It really is a fantastic feeling when you see your first article in print. And it’s even better when you receive your first check. But the excitement grows on you like a drug. In fact, many serious researchers have deduced that journalism IS a drug in that it stimulates those addictive chemicals in your brain every time you complete an assignment, chase a story, meet a deadline, scoop the front page or see your byline in print.

This series of blogs aims at giving you a new perspective on the business of writing for money. Some of the concepts you’ll read about will be new to you; they’ll make you think about writing in a different light. But over time you’ll be in possession of the most powerful, easy-to-understand and implement recipe to kick start your new career as a writer. Stay with us, it’s worth it.

Grant McDuling ghostwriter

Grant McDuling, author and ghostwriter

  Grant McDuling is a Brisbane-based author of 35 books so far. He has published three as Kindle books and says that since buying a Kindle, his reading habits have changed. Grant is a well-known ghostwriter, having written for a range of clients all over the world, Many of his books are now international best sellers with sales in the millions. Grant has been writing since 1978. His other interests include amateur radio, computers, electronics and classical music. He is also working hard at improving his golf swing.

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18 Responses to “Business of Writing – How to Make a Living as an Author or Writer”

  1. Hi, How do you do it? If interested, please take a look at my novel Different Flags, now out on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com. Thank you. Eugenia Renskoff

  2. Hi Eugenia, nice to hear from you. Are you still writing?

  3. Virginia Woolf famously wrote that “a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write FICTION” [emphasis mine]. And by money she meant family money, a spouse’s money–not necessarily money earned by the sweat of one’s pen. Although Woolf did earn some money from reviews and speaking engagements, she would be the first to acknowledge that as a novelist she required ample leisure time. However she wrote for a living it was not to fill the larder or pay the servants’ salary. Just saying.

  4. That’s the funny thing about the creative arts, Karen. Most of the ‘greats’ were in the position of not having to earn a living. They created because that’s what they wanted to do, not needed to do. Sadly this isn’t generally possible today. The consumer society we live in demands we generate ever increasing amounts of cash so we can spend. I have found I make FAR more money writing non-fiction books than fiction. Although having said that, my novel The Fields of Hope (http://www.amazon.com/The-Fields-of-Hope-ebook/dp/B004X6UCXM) has been signed up by a movie company, so I may reap a better reward from that one at the end of the day.

  5. Congratulations, Grant, on the movie sign-up. I think we’re comparing apples and oranges here; a genius like Woolf is a literary writer while most who make a living from their pen are commercial writers of some sort. I’d argue that the consumer society we live in today dictates, to some degree, the kind of books that are written. And yes, there’s more room in nonfiction than fiction; a larger readership, source books that people find useful, a range of topics. Some writers do make a lot of money from fiction, but those are a rare species.

  6. I suppose it’s the same with music, Karen. It never ceases to amaze me how many musical geniuses went to their graves as paupers. Take Mozart for example. Today he would have been insanely rich if he were alive and at his peak. Just an observation …

  7. As far as I’m concerned, I write since I learnt to write. Yet, on these days, many people think they can write because of the existance of computers, but computers even though, they make the task easier, they don’t provide with talent, one has it or has it not!

  8. I think if you’re a determined writer you’ll write no matter what and go on to self publish your books through Amazon’s Kindle store. If you’re a true writer then you’ll repeat this process until you have enough books to make a living from. That is what many writers are doing today.

  9. Jeff Goins (http://goinswriter.com/) says in his ebook that you become a writer when you say you are a writer. There is something to that. If you decide that’s what you will commit to, your chances become much broader.

  10. I agree with you, Elizabeth. And would also add that paying your dues to the industry of writing and publishing is important. Along with the saying must come the doing, I think. In today’s world of digital publishing, anyone can write and publish, but to make it your living requires that you know enough of the business to be credible and readable.
    —mkp

  11. Grant McDuling May 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    Vicky, You are right, of course. But there is something to having the right tools too. I mean, I remember back when the choice was either a pen and paper, or a typewriter. The worse thing about the typewriter was that, invariably come the last paragraph on a page, you make a mistake and have to scrap the whole page and retype from scratch. So infuriating. Also, deciding to rearrange chapters was a nuisance as it meant a retype.

    Computers have changed all that and allowed us to concentrate on our craft rather than our typing.

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