Home » Big Publishing, Ebooks, Joe Konrath, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing » Why do people fail to make a living as writers?

Why do people fail to make a living as writers?

9 February 2011

Kristine Kathryn Rusch is in the process of performing a great service for writers, beginning and experienced.  In a series of articles (I think they’re too comprehensive to be called blog posts), she lays out her view of the current publishing world, including major upheavals, all with a goal of educating writers on the business side of the industry with which they’ve chosen to involve themselves.

A lot of authors say they just want to write, but that’s not usually what they mean.  You can write and write very well without being published.  What most authors mean by that statement is they just want to write and have their writing be published and have enough money to be able to keep on writing.  Absent a large trust fund or a partner providing financial support, this means earning money from writing.  If you want to earn money from writing, you are an entrepreneur as well as an artist and understanding the business you are in, if not a necessity, is a very good idea.

Excerpts from Changing Times – Part Seven:

People fail to make a living in the arts for two main reasons:

1.  They don’t try to make a living. They get another profession and spend their time at that profession, treating their art as a hobby.  The folks who eventually make a living as artists (whether that’s as a writer, musician, filmmaker or painter) get jobs that enable them to put food on the table while they pursue their passion.  Often those jobs are part-time. Certainly those jobs are the kind that you do not take home with you—no papers to grade, no post-shift phone calls or e-mails, and no 60+ hour weeks.  These jobs are not professions. These artists understand that their profession—even if they’re not currently being paid for it—is their art; their day job is what makes sure they have a roof over their heads.

2. They fail at the business side of their profession.  Succeeding as an artist is all about knowing how to thrive in a business environment—at least in capitalistic societies.  Yes, those societies often have art grant programs, and honestly, the artists who manage to get grants repeatedly—enough so that they never need “real” jobs—are just pursuing a different business model than the commercial model I discuss in my blogs.  There is a system to the noncommercial side of the art world, one that has its own rules and regulations, and some artists learn how to operate effectively in that world.

But that’s not my world.  My world is commercial, and that’s what I’m dealing with here. Again, I’m using “artist” here to refer to someone whose profession is in the arts, because this holds not just for the writer, but for the dramatic, musical, and visual artists as well.

. . . .

Why aren’t more successful writers giving out public information?  First, some don’t have the teaching gene.  Second, many of these writers don’t have the time.  Third, a few of them don’t understand how the industry works any more than the aspiring writer does.  But the real reason is this one, the fourth reason:

Successful writers get attacked a lot from within our own profession for our success.  We are repeatedly told that we “don’t understand the problems of new writers.”  We “know the secret.” We’re “unbelievably lucky” We’re “hacks.” We have “no respect for art.”  We’ve “sold out.”

. . . .

When Scott Turow said on the Charlie Rose television show that the coming e-book revolution will harm writers, Turow is absolutely right—for the kind of writer that he is. When J.A. Konrath says on his blog that the e-book revolution will be the best thing that has happened to writers, he’s exactly right—for the kind of writer that he is.

Link to the rest at The Business Rusch: Writers-The Overview (Changing Times Part Seven)

Big Publishing, Ebooks, Joe Konrath, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing