Thursday, March 30, 2017

Quitting the day job


Let's assume three factoids: an aspiring writer has a secure day job he/she doesn't hate, and makes a decent middle-income living at; the author queries and you offer representation; you secure an advance on their manuscript equalling two years income for the author, let's say $120k.

Are there expectations that the writer will now quit that job and get to work full time doing the things people who make a living writing do (polishing the accepted work, reviewing other existing works, beginning new works, marketing)? It's a turnabout on the question about agents working hard enough for writers--is your new client working hard enough for you?

That cacophony you hear if you lean slightly left is every agent and editor in the world screaming "Don't Quit Your Day Job!"

No one expects a writer to quit a day job. Not ever.

Usually when you do, we weep.

I understand it's hard to meet deadlines with a full time job, but a steady income with health insurance is not something to give up lightly.

Publishing income is erratic at best. That $120K is NOT a usual size advance (would that it were!) and the advance could very possibly be the last money you see from the book. Most books do NOT earn out (ie do not earn royalties.)

We expect writers to do a lot of things, but that isn't one of them.

66 comments:

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If you don't hate your job, keep it, if you do, keep it or find another one. Until your book is optioned for a movie, until it becomes a blockbuster, until you have to draft an Oscar speech for best movie based on a novel, until hell freezes over or you win the Powerball:
Keep
your
job.
Just remember how difficult it is to get power for your laptop when living in a cardboard box under a bridge.

Colin Smith said...

Right now, I dare not consider any income I get from writing as anything more than supplemental. That's all I'm looking for--something to make paying the bills a bit easier, give us a bit more wiggle room in the family budget. Granted, I haven't seen any income from my writing yet... but one day... *Puppy dog eyes at any editors that might be reading...*

DLM said...

Yeah, it's hard for me even to conceive of people quitting their jobs to be writers. I know at least two Reiders have done it, but as a single-income household unto myself, it's inconceivable no matter what an advance looks like. And I write fusty old historicals about Ostrogoths, so advances are not going to be in Potter territory, ever.

If I made enough off a novel just to refinish my floors, I'd consider that RICHES. I'd also seriously look at my retirement resources before I refinished the floors, you know?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I complain mightily about time and energy my day job takes from me, but I would not quit, not truly, without some other source of income. I am technically self-employed as I work on a contract basis for the school district so my benefits are not tied to an employer.

I have always been self-employed. I am one of those sub-human independent types you sometimes read about in science fiction and that is so often vilified now days because I am ever so difficult to control. I won't take a dime if I didn't earn it.

I am the only contractor the school district employs. They hired me for a three month contract seven years ago. Four years ago they got rid of all their contractors except me. I am a wicked good programmer and have saved my school district millions. They don't pay me that, but they've been good to me in flexibility and support for my writing proclivities.

Point is I complain because programming is draining. But I get more flexibility to write than I ever had with any client before so I am lucky. Probably, a year from now, I will have to find a new client because I will have finished automating the school district to the point where very junior engineers can support the systems. Even the student interns I train should be able to keep everything going, I am real proud of that.

Yes, Janet is right. Don't quit your day job. Good advice. But there are things a person can do to arrange time to write and all of us here have done that despite life and it's demands. I am selling 85% of everything I own (not my books) and downsizing to a tiny apartment (I want my daughter to feel at home when she comes from New York to visit) so I can work fewer hours to meet my monthly obligations. So no, don't quit, simply adapt to a writing life.

Donnaeve said...

And then there is the way that advance is paid out - depending on the terms of the contract.

You could expect it to be broken into several payments (again, depending on terms). For instance, let's say it's a two book deal - b/c an advance that big would likely mean that - unless you're writing a series, then it would be dependent on how many books you anticipate the series to have - 3, 4, 5, whatever.

I'll go with the two book deal b/c I don't write series books and have no idea how those get paid out. You might expect 25% on signing the contract, another 25% on D&A (delivery and acceptance) of Book 1, then 25% on delivery of outline/first three chapters for Book 2, and the last 25% on D&A of Book 2.

This would be $30K rolling in about every 12 months and that doesn't seem so bad, but remember, there's 15% to the agent, and you really should keep aside 25% for tax purposes. Or even 30% - just to be safe. I used 30% for the taxes meaning you'll get about $16,500 a year.

QOTKU is much better equipped to add her stamp of reality on this b/c I'm sure she's dealt with a LOT more contracts than I have, but this is not an unreasonable assumption for how one might pay out. I remember reading a similar breakdown from Gillian Flynn for GONE GIRL in Writer's Digest I think it was...and it was something like this, and her advance was bigger than the 120K OP is using.


Colin Smith said...

Since we're on the topic of earning from writing, let me throw out this thought:

One of the things I like about the idea of earning money from writing is it feels earned. In my day job, I work in IT. I write code, gather data, sometimes create reports, and go to meetings. No matter what I do during the day, I get paid the same. One day, I might solve a big coding issue, and I go home feeling like I've earned a week's salary. Another day may be taken up with meetings and I feel like I've been given money to sit and listen to people gassing on about stuff that only barely touches on my life.

With writing, there's a direct one-to-one correlation between work done and compensation. You write a story (flash fiction, short story, novella, novel), someone pays you for the story, and, in the case of novellas and novels, you get a cut of each copy sold. If your novel doesn't sell, you don't get paid. No-one pays you to sit and write. You get paid for the work done. And if lots of people buy your work, you get paid well. I don't know about you, but there's something in the raw honesty of that I find appealing.

Kitty said...

Steve Hamilton’s debut novel, “A Cold Day In Paradise,” won the Edgar Award for best first novel and the Shamus Award for best first novel.

12 books later, Cottekill author Steve Hamilton becomes full-time writer: After spending many nights and weekends writing 12 novels while working a day job as a technical writer for IBM, local author Steve Hamilton, 53, is finally making writing his full-time job.

Amy Johnson said...

And despite the fact we may never get one cent for all the hours, all the years of writing, and the fact many of us know full well that might be the outcome, we keep doing it. We writers are an interesting bunch.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Ever since I was 10 and dreamed of being a writer when I grew up (or whenever I settled on that), I didn't think "writer and" and I thought "writer". But, as a grown up with a mortgage and medical concerns, this: I understand it's hard to meet deadlines with a full time job, but a steady income with health insurance is not something to give up lightly. is a big deal.

Would I love to be beholden to no schedule but my own, with added Professional Writer™ deadlines? No offense to the library, which I love dearly, but yes. Is that feasible this year, next year? Not so far as I can tell. Especially not with lawmakers nosing around certain healthcare laws in the U.S.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I've conducted a few classes on penning a memoir, and I can't tell you how many times aspiring writers have said to me, "If I could just quit my job and devote myself to writing, I know I'd be successful."

BAH! If this is your passion, you'll find the time. Or make the time. And as others have mentioned, big league "quit your day job success" is rare.

I wrote my first book on a piece of crap laptop balanced on my knees in the bunk room of the firehouse. The only female at a busy station with 7 rowdy, noisy guys (fellow firefighters) who gleefully tormented me with endless practical jokes, I wrote in between the shenanigans and running emergency calls while the city-wide dispatch radio blared and chattered nonstop. Very often I didn't have time to save what I'd written. I lost entire chapters - there were times I thought I'd lose my mind. Talk about distractions and frustrations. But I didn't quit, and today I'm the published author of three nonfiction books (but still wasn't able to quit). Don't tell me about your day job or your toddler keeping you from writing. You're the only one keeping you from writing.

You don't write when it's convenient...you write when the story demands to be told.

Theresa said...

DLM: My first book earned enough to pay for floor refinishing, and you're right, that felt like a big win. I think I bought a new computer bag, too.

The advance I received from my last book went into a research and writing fund. I still have my day job, which is reassuring for the steady income and health insurance. And Janet's right, it also means getting very stressed over deadlines.

Julie Weathers said...

I remember once when someone pleaded for help with a submission with a help site. The writing was really rough and the poor guy had gone to the exact wrong place as this place had turned into a slice and dice blood bath with the minions trying to top each other with nasty comments. Some of them were witty and if you could get through the vitriol and gore, there were some valid points, but you needed hip boots to wade through the carnage.

Anyway, I tried to point out some things to help and some things he was doing right. I told him he needed to keep working at it. He replied he didn't have time, his family was depending on him to sell a book and make lots of money. That's why he needed help. Well, of course, that was the wrong thing to say.

I don't know what dire emergency he and his family had, but it obviously wasn't going to be solved by writing a book. About the only way to make quick money writing is with a cleverly worded bank hold up note.

Anyway, like Kitty pointed out, most authors take a while before they can actually quit their day job and support themselves writing. One author, and I don't remember her name, said it took five successful books to earn out her $25,000 advance and get to the point she felt she could afford to write full time.

DLM said...

Theresa: hee! :) Now, my WILDEST financial fantasies would involve a slate-floored dream porch, out the beautiful fantasy French doors from the actually real living room. And a dumbwaiter. My house is tall; I have great dreams of a dumbwaiter.

Kregger said...

This reminds me of an X-Files episode. One character called, "The Smoking Man" wrote stories on a classic typewriter on the side while harrowing my favorite characters, Mulder and Scully. During the episode, TSM, received multiple rejections. One day he got his wish with an offer for publication. TSM promptly wrote a letter of resignation to whatever obscure government agency that employed him. On his way to the mailbox (remember those?) he passed a newsstand (another blast from the past). TSM asked for a copy of an anthology from his new publisher. The newsie showed him a selection of the publisher's works and stated he wouldn't wipe his you know what with the pages. TSM didn't cave to idealism and continued to muck up the series for years after his epiphany.
I guess it's alright to quit your day job in fiction. Like Ms. Reid said, don't in RL.
I'm not quitting my day job, but then I only have a few years left to work. After that, I'm putting Jimmy Buffett on a continuous loop and going sailing.

Julie Weathers said...

All right, I keep hearing about woe is me with lawmakers nosing around healthcare laws. OH MY GOD! What will we do without insurance. Well, I guess the same thing my three sons are doing now that they no longer have insurance thanks to this bs plan all of you seem to love.

Amy Johnson said...

Diane: As long as you're talking fantasy, why not get yourself a smart butler instead?

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Julie It is the same for me as your sons. Like I said, if you're independent, this country literally despises you and treats you like a criminal. Pretty much self-employed or small business = royally screwed under current law of the land. I feel your frustration and am going to refrain from further ranting. Going to finish day job and maybe go kill that banker you have locked in the cellar. I will feel better.

Melissa said...

As someone who worked in publishing, nothing struck fear into our hearts more than an author who announced they were quitting their day job. We knew calls to us would increase four-fold. "Did you get my latest manuscript, do you want to publish it?" Yes, we got it five minutes ago. Don't know yet if we'll publish it. Stop calling.

"Has accounting sent out me my royalty check yet? When will accounting sent out royalty check? Can I get an advance check on my advance? I know royalties don't come out for two more months but my parrot is starving." Stop calling.

Very few authors can completely quit their day job, especially if they are the sole support of themselves or their families.

DLM said...

Haha! Amy J, the very magic of the dumbwaiter is it is DUMB (in the mute sense). The only beings I care to have underfoot around my house are non-human ones, barring one certain fellow currently 4000 miles out of my reach.

My job is about as good a gig and people as it'd be possible to hope for. I love it, love my team, am grateful pretty much every day. It's a blessing I'd be a moron to give up, even if I didn't know that being an author would never pay the bills.

Also important: having a job I have to physically go to provides shape and discipline for my days, things and people to see; all those things we need as writers, right? In many ways, if I were somehow to become independently wealthy, it would be a loss to me of more than income, to give up my work. And I like my work. It pulls me out of my own head, not a bad thing - and, too, there's our fitness room and my workout buddy. Not small potatoes, that last benefit.

I'm a good writer, but I'm also a good secretary, project manager, planner, report-monkey, and bottle-washer. Honestly: it would be a bore to be "nothing" but a writer.

Colin Smith said...

Diane: How many writers are nothing but writers? Even full-time writers have other interests. I couldn't only be a writer if I tried, and anyone who has visited my blog should know that. :)

Megan V said...

Yeah. Definitely do not quit the day job if you can avoid it.

Only thing I've got to add is this blog post that I keep bookmarked to remind myself what payout from a six figure book deal actually looks like.

http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2015/02/real-talk-ix-figure-book-deal.html

Lennon Faris said...

A sobering truth. Even people who win millions from the lottery tend to not do well when they quit their job.

Something else to consider: if you have to depend on something you love to keep you afloat, sometimes it stops being something you love.

Colin Smith said...

Megan's link:

http://literaticat.blogspot.com/2015/02/real-talk-ix-figure-book-deal.html

I think this link is one for the Treasure Chest--thanks, Megan! BTW, I hope to catch up on Treasure Chest updates by the end of the week. This includes updating the "Questions for Prospective Agents" with items from Monday's post, and then adding yesterday's post. I'll let y'all know when it's all done. Don't post anything interesting or clever in the meantime, okay, Janet? ;)

Claire Bobrow said...

I recently finished Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and just like Janet, she advises not quitting one's day job. Her opinion is that the financial pressure placed on your art can crush it. In an interview she said :

"It's not fair to your craft, to put this kind of pressure on it. Get a job on the side to pay the bills, and learn how to live an inexpensive, frugal life. (The motto I always use is: Aim for a bigger, smaller life. Bigger in spirit, smaller in material need.) Then devote yourself to your vocation. In other words, don't demand that your art supports your life. Instead, make a promise that your life will always support your art. Get whatever job you need to get in order to pay the electric bill, but let your art rise and grow based on its own desire, its own momentum, its own urgency."

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Lennon So true. I love writing so much. I need writing. If I had to rely on it for income, it would quite sour things. It has been like that with programming. I am self-taught engineer. It was a hobby way back when but I no longer enjoy it as I did.

Of course, I never loved it the way I do writing. I've never loved anything the way I do writing. I would not sour it by relying on it for my food and shelter.

If my writing was so successful that it was on scale with George Martin or the like, that would have me reconsidering the day job thing. Otherwise, I will keep working.

DLM said...

Colin, of course I meant "for a job". :)

Okay, I've broken the vomment limit again today, and I've been pushing the rules around here a lot lately, so it's time for me to shut up. Ciao, all!

Colin Smith said...

Diane: I understand, but it is a useful reminder that even "full-time" writers don't write all the time. And that's a good thing. Having other things in your life broadens your experience, and sharpens your imagination. Even a non-writing full-time job. :)

Timothy Lowe said...

Honestly, I'm not sure quitting my day job would make me more productive. That might just be me, but when I have a lot of free time, I tend to waste it.

CynthiaMc said...

I bought a cashmere coat with the money I earned from selling my first short story. I still wear that coat.

french sojourn said...


Out of abject idiocy, I looked at the total editing time on each of my three m/s, then added them up...Divide that by any amount of money made for publishing it, and well. Don't quit your day job. Don't get me wrong the time spent on all three have been absolute heaven, but it was sobering doing the math.

Come on Lotto! My writing will not buy a Catamaran and the provisions needed to circumnavigate this spinning blue orb.

cheers Hank.

John Davis Frain said...

If you want a hilariously fun romp about lottery winners who don't quite succeed in life, pick up Carl Hiaassen's "Lucky You." Great fun. Been a while, but I don't think any writers win the lottery in his story.

E.M. Goldsmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

I worked in foreign exchange for a number of years and wrote during my lunch hour. In fact, that's how The Damn Novel came to fruition (which I adore, despite calling it The Damn Novel), so I certainly can't bemoan the fact that the rest of my writing time was limited. TS Eliot was a banker. In fact, that was my inspiration--if he could do it, so could I.

I started my editing, coaching, and consulting business (under which I also publish my books) as a side business. At one point, I was also working at an antiquarian bookstore. Ah, the days when I had energy...

When I resigned from my FX job it was because I was on the verge of a health relapse. I'd intended to do some temp work to sustain myself, but the relapse ended up being so much worse than we originally thought, and I couldn't work with any consistency. It's been two years, and I still can't.

Once upon a time, before I got sick, I thought this was what I wanted--to have all the time in the world to write and spend my days at home with my dogs. But wishes are cautionary tales. My days are spent in Epsom salt baths for pain, making sure I'm taking the right medicines and making healthy meals, or sleeping because I can't stay awake. There are pockets of time--increasing as I get better--where I'm able to focus on writing or my business or my awareness efforts, but it varies day to day. I've gone whole months without writing simply because I haven't had energy. Still, I'm grateful
I have all of these things--the writing, the business--because they give me purpose and a little bit of income.

I say this because what might look like the writer's life isn't necessarily benefitting to the writer. For me, even though I "have all the time in the world to write" (which isn't true, but for argument's sake, we'll go with it), my health is a full-time job that gets in the way of the dream. One of my good friends, a successful romance writer, quit her job to write full-time but confessed she was having a hard time juggling her job writing with her job as a mom now that she was home. Even a NYT best-selling author I know supplements her income with other writing services to sustain herself financially.

I don't know if the writing life as we imagine it exists anymore. Those days of gathering with the Fitzgeralds and Hemingways of the writing world in Gertrude Stein's Paris apartment look vastly different to the bustle of writers now. But maybe that's the point: we can still reach success no matter what our own writing life looks like. We just have to make it work for us.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Susan No, we no longer gather in Paris apartments. We come here instead. And that works for me. The Reef is quite as inspirational as a Paris apartment despite the frequent blood splatter.

Susan said...

Elise: Yes, that's too true! But wouldn't it be nice if we had someone like Stein to financially sponsor our writing? Then again, Janet's wisdom is invaluable...

RosannaM said...

The reality of life where bills need to be paid and family needs to be fed can seem stifling and energy sucking but only if you let it. I like EM's plan of downsizing to fit her new reality, and Kitty sharing Elizabeth Gilbert's advice of creating a small, Big life.

I could see how agents dealing with idealistic clients would be horrified at the thought of them quitting their day job. Get the boat closer to the dock before jumping. A first book--boat is barely into harbor. Lotta treading water in your future if you jump now.


Not exactly OT, but has anyone ever thought of taking on wildly different jobs, just to get access to a broader range of people to study and mine for character gold? Bartender, Uber driver, Walmart greeter, school lunch server? The thought tickles my brain from time to time.

Steve Stubbs said...

I agree 100%. One thing OP might consider is that when s/he runs out of money and is forced to go back to work every interviewer is going to say, "Hmmm, you have a gap in your work history. You must have a drug or alcohol problem." I have NEVER interviewed anyone I was not interested in hiring pronto. But most business people enjoy watching you squirm.

It is OK to start a business and then fail and be forced to go back to work. But you have to have a credible story and it has to be verifiable. If you are a spy, you have to create a legend for yourself. People do that all the time, but they are easy to see through. I read one resume from a fellow I knew personally who claimed he was working all through a serious market downturn and that he earned a degree from the University of Oklahoma. I knew where he was when he claimed he was in Oklahoma earning his degree because he worked in the same company I did and it was NOT in Oklahoma. Anyone could ask two questions and find out he did not have the technical skills he claimed. Plus his work history during the downturn was obviously phony. His resume was not a well thought out piece of fiction.

Degrees don't count for much anymore. If I can hire someone with a master's degree from India who will work for less than a security guard earns in this country, you have a problem competing for the same job. I laugh out loud when Bernie Sanders says he wants to give everybody a free degree. Professional jobs are all being shipped overseas, especially IT jobs. The long term goal is to automate those out of existence using Artificial Intelligence. People over 40 are being age discriminated out of their careers. If they expect to retire on unemployment or welfare, Paul Ryan has other ideas. Being out of work is terrifying, or should be.

If you have to work for a living, you have to work consistently. Hang on to your job and find some way to stay forever young. Regard your job as the last one you will ever have.

That may be what it is.

Craig F said...

I fear cutting off the wellspring of my creativity if I were to change too many things. There are other inventions to ponder and boats to design. From those mental exercises my writing comes forth. Even if I were to parlay a Scalzi-like deal I can not just sit at a computer and pump out fiction.

For me writing doesn't happen everyday. I can not force out 2k words a day that have rhythm and flow. Maybe one day I will be there but at the moment I am not. Writing needs to be one section of the gestalt that is me.

kathy joyce said...

Me, sitting at computer, writing a work report: "I can't wait until I can stop this and be a writer!"

My brain *slaps me*: "What are you doing right now? Eighty percent of your job is writing. You ARE a writer."

Me: "Yeah, but..."

It helped me a lot to understand that I didn't want to "be a writer." I wanted to "write" specific things: a novel, non-fiction that was published and attributed to me.

Somehow, that realization has helped me to write a novel and stop bellyaching about my "real job."

Casey Karp said...

OK, as somebody who did quit his day job, lemme share my story (short version).

Bottom line, I made it far enough up the ladder in my field that I wasn't actually working in my field, I was managing others. I like to think I did it well (and my boss seemed to agree), but as I've said before, the job was eating my brain. I'd come home and turn on the TV because it was too much of an effort to read a book.

So the plan was to dedicate myself to writing for six months, get the habits established, find a voice, all that good stuff, and then look for another job. Preferably one in another field, where I wouldn't have so much seniority and experience that I was instantly turned into a manager again.

The six months was up more than three years ago. I'm still looking for that job. I'm still around thanks to (in order of importance) a wife with the patience of at least three saints and a job with insurance, generous assistance from my parents, and my savings from all those years of employment.

The first installment of my advance for The RagTime Traveler has been buying lottery tickets every week. It's about half gone.

So, kids, what have we learned today? Don't quit your day job! If you've got to get out of your current job, find a new one first. Then you can write. And keep that job until your savings from the job and your writing reach the point where you can live on them comfortably for the rest of your life, even if you never sell another piece again.

Oh, and Rosanna, I've often said that nobody will take a writer seriously until he/she/they/otherpronounofchoice has worked in three fields: education (or an allied field such as librarianship), the military (or police/fire/other high-risk, high-reward endeavor), and the sex industry. I've done one of the three--but I'm not saying which one.

Colin Smith said...

Ooo... don't get me started on education and the out-of-proportion emphasis there is in this country on spending a mortgage to get a degree to do a job that doesn't require a degree but you get one anyway because people will think you're stupid and can't do the job if you don't have that piece of paper... I'll save that for my own blog. :)

I'm with Timothy. If I ever become full-time writer, I'll have to be a lot more disciplined with my time than I am now. It's easy to find so many other things to do when you have "free" time--time you said you would use writing... :)

Amy Johnson said...

OT: Oh my goodness! Thoughts of us all meeting and writing together. But yes, this venue is fine--no need for a Paris apartment. We'll chat some, get into some deep conversations, write, repeat. But there should be refreshments. And I think it would be right for us to all call each other dah-ling from time to time. I'll play host today. Julie mentioned lavender cakes yesterday. Yes, I'm serving lavender cake and tea. Enjoy! And there's the the fragrance of lavender from the various bouquets. Julie, where are you? I have lavender cake. And now comes the writing part for me. Carry on, dah-lings!

Timothy Lowe said...

Colin-
We build our own destiny. Brick by brick. Word by word. Those with degrees and those without. I've always hated the word 'stupid'.

Besides - without interesting "real life" experiences and expertise brought by day jobs and relationships and hardships, where would we find the grist for our mill?

JD Horn said...

When you decide to make your living as a full-time writer, you give up a portion of your artistic freedom, as you are committing to an attempt to produce books that will sell. The (anticipated) commercial viability of a project can decide which story gets written. Publishing is a business, and that fact can strip away romantic notions of living the writer's life in a blink. Just one more point to consider.

Colin Smith said...

JD: I guess that depends on whether or not you self-publish. With self-publishing, you can, theoretically, produce books that don't sell. If you're working with a traditional publisher, they have an investment in your work, which requires a certain number of sales so they can hope to get a return on that investment.

RosannaM said...

Casey, Now you've got me wondering...

Steve, Now you've got me terrified....

Amy, Now you've got me eating virtual lavender cake...

JD Horn said...

Colin - True enough, but even when--or maybe especially when--you're self-published, if your books don't sell, you don't eat. :)

Beth Carpenter said...

Lennon, your statement "if you have to depend on something you love to keep you afloat, sometimes it stops being something you love," reminded me of a study I read about.

Researchers set out art supplies and asked children if they'd like to create a picture. All the children agreed. The researchers gave half the children $5 in payment for their "art." The next week they repeated the experiment. The control group happily created another picture, but the paid group mostly refused unless they got paid. Whenever I hear of a pro athlete holding out for a bigger contract, I think of this study.

Nicole Roder said...

Oh, how I would love to make a living writing! I think this is every writer's dream! But yeah, I can see how quitting the day job would be a mistake. (Not that mine pays much. I wipe noses and bottoms for a living, and the tiny tyrants I work for haven't given me a raise in years,)

But with that said, publishing schedules are often brutal for writers. I know lots of writers who are expected to write, polish, and promote a new book every year. I have no idea how they do that unless writing is their full time job. I wonder how possible it is for agents to negotiate an easier schedule for writers who can't afford to quit.

Kate Higgins said...

Working for yourself is hard work. Despite what anyone says, you are NOT working for yourself. You are working for all your clients (including agents) and your family. No one pays your vacation time, your social security, your health insurance, your sick days or adds to your retirement savings.

Unless you are very good at budgeting and very good at writing and have a name that makes headlines; don't quit that day job! Make your self a timeless, writing cave or somewhere where nobody knows your name to write.

My husband and I have worked together for over 30 years in our editing, writing, PR and graphic design business. We've made it work somehow, and remarkably have stayed married. Try working with your spouse in a 13x18 foot office where one of you files and the other (moi, l’artiste) piles. This kind of writing/editing does pay the bills but in no way was it easy.

My husband is a 'non-technical' editor as in editing technical content without losing the meaning but making the words accurate and palatable for the common reader. He works via the internet with engineers, scientists and politicians. He is an ex-newspaper editor so condensing content is his forte. I write for children and adults and illustrate...two very diverse people ever shared a life.

If I ever get published I will use the money for extra storage for all my ideas and I shall travel. And I will be a little more satisfied than I am right now.

Kate Higgins said...

One more thing...we are never going to retire completely.

stacy said...

I'll put in another vote for downsizing your life--or at least moving to a cheaper city. I did it and couldn't be happier with my decision. It's still a struggle, but less of one than when I was in Chicago. Columbus is big enough to support my freelancing, but small enough where I enjoy more amenities while spending less, AND I have easy access to the country, which, as I've gotten older, has become a necessity for my peace of mind. And yes, I do have more time and energy to write and draw (I'd like to create graphic novels).

Lennon Faris said...

Follow up question (maybe some of the published folk here know details?) - what DOES the agent and editor expect from an author, once s/he is published?

Let's say the book did pretty well, but it's just a standalone book. Does the author have the ability to say, 'oh life is CRAZY right now, so my next creation might take a few years!' or are they now on a fixed time schedule? I am always hearing published authors talking about 'the next deadline.' (Donna!)

Lennon Faris said...

And Beth - I love studies like that.

Donnaeve said...

Hey Lennon, (!)

Contracts are different for authors, but in mine, I was always having to work on the next thing. For instance, when DIXIE sold, the contract had an option - meaning my publisher had rights to look at the next work before anyone else. That next work was an outline + first three chapters. And the new contract for that option book (THE ROAD TO BITTERSWEET) had the same thing. Like a domino effect, ya know? There are many deadlines too. Right now I have two. 1)Copy edits for BITTERSWEET are underway - deadline is Apr 10, and 2)next book is due to editor in November.


OT: Remember a couple weeks or so ago there was talk about interning? Weeeellll! Rachelle Gardner is looking for interns - and it can be done REMOTELY! Here's her FB page: Interns

Gypmar said...

RosannaM,

I did two years as a lunch lady at my kids' school, partly for the reason you mention! We live off my husband's income, and the money barely made a difference, but I felt like I needed to do more than be home all day while my kids were at school.

Two years were all I could take, but I did get some good stories. Nobody works or parties harder than lunch ladies!

RosannaM said...

Gypmar My thought exactly. It would be one way to broaden our exposure to different people. People watching at airports and cafes gives you a glimpse, but it is mostly just surface impressions.

Donna. That sounds like a pretty intense schedule. Did you already have ideas for books 2 and 3 before 1 was accepted?

Elissa M said...

Ha, ha, ha! My "day job" is artist (hubby is a musician). I doubt I could quit painting/drawing even if that were ever an option. Any writing income I ever make will just be a bit of frosting--maybe we'll be able to go out and eat some place where my husband didn't just play a gig!

Colin Smith said...

OT: I've updated the Treasure Chest as promised. You'll see a new link at the bottom: "Gems from Janet's Archive." This is the start of a list of the most helpful of Janet's blog articles, starting with yesterday's on working with a junior agent. But I need your help to grow this list! Please send me links to your favorite articles from this blog (NOTE, this list is restricted to Janet's blog; there's a separate list for other helpful links). My email address is in my Blogger profile. Thanks! :)

BJ Muntain said...

I've heard some authors say that, until you've sold a certain number of novels (I think about 7 is the number they use), you won't make enough money to quit your day job. Even then, many don't. Some do, though.

Like Susan, I'm currently unable to work a lot. It's not a fun life, that's for sure. And I can attest to Susan's claim that time 'off' doesn't mean 'time to write', if you don't have the energy. At least I don't have to worry about health expenses here in Canada.

I envision the writing life as being busy: writing, editing, going to book signings and on tours, travelling to conferences and conventions. There are a number of science fiction and fantasy authors who do this. Of course, this life doesn't preclude a day job. You just need a day job that is flexible enough that you can take time to be away when necessary.

kathy joyce: It wasn't until I realized I had to write in order to be happy, that I finally managed to get into writing jobs - tech writing, mostly, but my last job was in marketing and communications. I enjoyed those jobs, especially the ones where I could be a bit creative. Before (and between) those writing jobs, I found work to be unfulfilling.

I like to think that a day job that involved writing helped me to be able to write to deadlines, to write interesting copy and write it quickly. My last job also taught me a lot about marketing, which I'm sure will also help me when I finally get published.

Steve Stubbs said...

Hi Colin,
I noticed in your post you work in IT. That is a good example of why you do not want to quit your job and hope that occasional freelancing will pay the bills. Forewarned is forearmed. So be aware that there are lots of kids being cranked out in this country and overseas who will work for less and are coming up behind you. IT companies are using the beloved H﷓1B visa program to bring in people from third world countries to displace you, mainly India and China. In Silicon Valley, 47% of IT jobs are already being done by H﷓1B visa holders. One company advertised for H﷓1Bs a few years ago and said in their want ad, "Arrogant Americans need not apply." There is a segment that appeared on 60 Minutes recently entitled "You're Fired" about this. You can watch it online at 60minutes.com. Managers are sharpening their pencils. Click on "Episodes" to find the segment. IT workers are being coerced into training their third world replacements and told they will not receive any severance when they are fired if they do not. When they are jettisoned there is no place to go. It is very important to develop a Plan B before they tap you on the shoulder.

You may not like sitting in meetings, but treasure it while you can. As a resource for paying the rent, it beats the hell out of winning an occasional Shamus award. Plus IT teaches you that writing is a commercial activity. You have to write to please a customer. No arty farty writing for your own pleasure. That is a valuable lesson and one that will serve you well as a writer.

Colin Smith said...

That's okay, Steve, I have no intention of quitting my job anytime soon. In fact, on balance, I like my job, and I work with good people. :) What I was saying about being in meetings, etc. wasn't so much a dig at the nature of my job, but a comment on the fact that I don't always feel like I've earned my paycheck. Sitting in a meeting where I have nothing to contribute isn't worth what I'm paid. (There are plenty of other times when I feel like I'm more than working my worth, I hasten to add.) At least with writing, there is a one-to-one correspondence between work done and payment for that work. I write a book, you buy my book, I earn money. Basically. :)

Susan said...

BJ: Energy or the brainpower! So sorry to hear you're in a similar situation. It truly is so difficult when it feels like your life has been stripped away, but I'm grateful that I have my writing. Writing sustains the spirit.

BJ Muntain said...

Susan: It truly does. :)

Colin: Regarding meetings - of course you're being paid what you're worth, even during meetings. They're paying for your presence. Just because they have you in a meeting doesn't mean your time is less valuable. And I'm sure your boss knows very well how much they're paying you to attend that meeting. (I used to think I wasn't getting paid *enough* to attend some of the meetings I had to attend, but that's another story...)

Lennon Faris said...

Donna(!) lol - thanks! that was a lot of info I had no idea about.

John Davis Frain said...

Susan & BJ,

Remember that the greater the obstacle, the more glory you can take in overcoming it.

I'm sure I butchered that quote, but you guys are smart, you know how to listen to what I mean instead of what I say.

Just keep writing. And overcoming obstacles. And tuning out the doubters. See how easy this is!