I have a dream…

Posted: February 25, 2014 in Regarding writing

Actually when it comes to my writing I have several dreams, or more likely aspirations, some of those aspirations are more realistic than others but all of them will entail me keeping writing, I think that’s the one thing that’s a given in any future other than a Twilight Zone one that sees aliens flood the earth with “Writers’ Block” gas leading to a shocking moment when I fall to my knees and shout “NOOOOOOOO!!”

But other than that I will keep writing. The only question remains, how will my writing ‘career’ develop? And will I even be able to look back and call it a career? I can see five options;

Option 1: Things pretty much carry on as they are. I write short stories and some end up published by Indie publishers. I make a nominal amount on each story and get the odd contributor’s copy. Meanwhile I write more novels, none of which any agents or publishers will touch with a bargepole so I self-publish some of them. Effectively writing remains a hobby.

Option 2: Similar to option one, only I get my short stories published by publishers that pay pro rates, and maybe a novel gets picked up by a publisher, or else my self-published works take off a little. I make a bit of money, not enough to remotely stop working but maybe enough to pay for the occasional luxury item, or maybe even a holiday, and enough for me to legitimately consider writing a part time job.

Option 3: Similar to option two, only several novels sell, and whilst the money doesn’t exactly roll in, I get to a point where the paycheques are regular enough and large enough that I could consider writing my full time job, or at the very least a point where I could afford to work just a couple of days a week in a ‘proper’ job and still live the bacchanalian life to which I’ve grown accustomed.

Option 4: Similar to option three, only my novels sell quite well, I become a well-known author, and maybe a book gets optioned by an independent film company to be made as a low budget straight to DVD flick starring Vinnie Jones or Danny Dyer. Quite patently writing is my career at this point.

Option 5: I become JK Rowling (or possibly just E. L. James). My books sell in the millions, are translated into every language on Earth and are optioned by major Hollywood studios who make giant blockbusters out of them starring Jennifer Lawrence. I make enough money to buy my own castle and pay Richard Branson to shoot me into space.

Of course there are probably varying shades of grey (see what I did there) between each of these options, and I think it’s fair to say that option 1 is more likely than option 2, which is more likely than option 3…and so on and so forth.

Of course being realistic, anything beyond option 1 is, at the moment, a pipe dream given the most I’ve ever been paid for a story is probably around the £10 mark. But part of being a writer is about having dreams and goals, and at the very least I believe, seriously I really do, that one day I will sit within option 2 at the very least, hopefully option 3. Four would be nice, but I’m not sure I’m that good (see, I have set myself realistic goals. I have self-belief but acknowledge I have limits…hopefully the gods of literary fate are listening and are impressed by this).

As for option 5…would you believe me if I said I didn’t want this? No? That’s ok; I wouldn’t believe you either, gentle reader, if our roles were reversed, and maybe I am deluding myself, I’m just not sure I’d ever want to be that successful, that rich
Don’t fret; I don’t think it’s ever going to be an issue…

And if Option 1 ends up being the only option for the rest of my life? Well that’d be ok…Obviously I say that with a slightly resigned, slightly disappointed sigh, because I really do want (need!) more than that (determination, see. Take note aforementioned gods of literary fate…) but if that’s the limit of my creative life then so be it. It won’t stop me writing. Nothing will stop me writing *

*aside from those pesky Twilight Zone aliens obviously.

  1. neil says:

    I don’t know if more or fewer books are getting published these days. Epublishing makes it easier to get a book out there, but probably less chance of a physical copy being published. Probably need some kind of viral campaign to get noticed nowadays.

  2. I know three authors who are published by mainstream book publishers: one has made next to nothing (non-fiction on TV series), one appears to be doing okay but is an absolute writing machine, and the other has given up work, but only after voluntary redundancy and with five books published by Penguin under his belt. So that’s one at your stage 1 and two at your stage 3. The friend who’s with Penguin says it’s really important to get an agent, as he’s seen writers lose out big time when dealing direct with publishers; writers rarely know the ins and outs of contracts as well as an agent will. Making money from books is hard. Weirdly, a friend who self-publishes is doing pretty well, and even got nominated for an award last year.

    • starkers70 says:

      Yeah I think the longer I’ve been writing the more the scales have fallen from my eyes in terms of actually making big money out of it. Naively I think the moment I finished City of Caves I thought “This is it!” It was going to be published, the film rights were gonna be sold…I was an idiot really.

      A few years ago, back when they were accepting submissions, I did try to sub some ideas to Abbadon books and, at the time, they basically paid £5000 for a 90,000 word book. Now at that kind of money making a living writing would be hard, you’re looking at having to publish, at a minimum, 5 books a year to earn the average wage (v rough estimate) and because it’s a one off payment there’re no residuals or anything like that, even if one of them becomes a best seller. With working full time as well I know if I put my mind to it that I can write 90,000 words in a year, but I think one book a year (plus x amount of short stories) is my limit. No wonder Dan Abnett probably never sleeps!

      In the near future my aims are to try and get into that second grouping, I’ve never been paid pro rates so I think that’d be a great step forward, and I’d like to pique the interest of an agent, even if it was just in a “Not this time, but we’d be interested in seeing the next thing you do” kind of way.

      It’s interesting to note that whilst I have a much better idea of the mountain I have to climb now, this hasn’t dented my determination to climb it, if anything it’s made me more determined. Now if I can just reach the next base camp!

      • Mim says:

        It’s possible that with Abaddon the rates increase as you write more and pick up more of a following – that’s just me guessing, though, I don’t know for certain.

        There’s a really interesting article on The Guardian about how pay for authors has dropped in recent years, and how new modes of changing are affecting the way publishing works : http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/02/bestseller-novel-to-bust-author-life

      • starkers70 says:

        I would imagine that’s true regarding Abbadon and similar publishers. If you’re the kind of author who develops a following, whose books sell more than anyone else’s, it would stand to reason that you could negotiate a bigger payday.

        That’s a really interesting article, although at times it was hard to feel sorry for some of the people mentioned: “Oh it’s terrible I can’t afford to rent an office on the south Bank to write anymore.” It strikes me that for many of them they were so successful that they couldn’t imagine a future when they weren’t, so they didn’t invest/set up pensions etc. It’s sort of akin to footballers, obviously they earn obscene amounts of money but they also have a very finite career. I guess everyone, however talented, is prone to not planning for their future. I’m still amazed that some literary writers make any money at all, even during the good times. I recall reading an article many moons ago where a writer said it was a huge boon being nominated for the Booker prize because up until that point their critically acclaimed novel had sold something like 300 copies, if that, in the UK. Meanwhile you get someone like Alistair Reynolds getting million pound advances for ten books (though I’m not sure I’d want that level of pressure).

        The internet and amazon really have changed the nature of the game somewhat, especially the rise of self-publishing, but I guess it is swings and roundabouts somewhat. You have more opportunity to see yourself in print nowadays, but probably less chance of making money at the same time so there is that trade off. In some ways I wish I’d had the same drive and determination about my writing that I have now 15 or 20 years ago, but the flipside of that is that if I ever did get some modicum of success I’m hopefully less likely to let it go to my head now.

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