First, an observation from earlier today, which is as true now as when I first said it, uh, like, four hours ago:
“The problem with being a writer is that one’s Asshole Phase is unusually well documented.” — me, to another writer
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) January 22, 2014
Second, I’m seeing various people commenting on these poll results from Digital Book World, in which it is pronounced that most writers — no matter how they publish — earn less than $1,000 a year from it (here’s a longer article in the Guardian about it).
My thoughts about it: Well, the poll doesn’t seem particularly rigorous, as it appears the participants were self-selecting; there’s some bit of selection bias going on there. So take the numbers with the appropriate grains of salt. That said, even if we discuss only the universe of respondents to the survey, the results aren’t telling us anything we don’t already know, both factually and anecdotally, which is that most writers aren’t making a whole lot from their writing, and that having a diversified set of income streams is the way to go (also, day jobs and awesome spouses/partners are nice to have when you can get them).
This isn’t necessarily an excuse for despair or resignation (i.e., the “no one becomes a writer to get rich” gambit, which I dislike). But it is useful in remembering that writing is work and that while finishing a work — and then publishing it! — is the end of one process, it’s additionally the start of another process entirely, one that takes as long (or longer) than being published, and which has its own set of victories and frustrations.
Third, along the line of that last sentence, see this piece by Kameron Hurley about the long, long path of being a writer, and what “success” looks like from the inside and outside.
Fourth, as a piece of personal archaeology, here’s the page for Scalzi Consulting in 2002. What? You’ve never heard of “Scalzi Consulting”? It was the name of my company when I was doing a lot of corporate and marketing work, before the whole “writing novels” thing took off — which, incidentally, it only really has in the last few years. Before then, consulting with tech and financial services companies was how I paid most of the bills as a freelancer, and should the novel writing thing ever collapse out from under me (and it might, you never know), it’s probably where I’ll go back to. Hey, bills won’t pay themselves. Mind you, for now I plan to ride this novel-writing train as far as it will go. I think it’s got a few miles left on it. We’ll see.