“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?”
Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft.
I don’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into creating a book and marketing it to the public, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit. First, I’d like to bring up an article on Writer’s Digest called Is It a Hobby or a Job? by author Brian Klems. In it he discusses how writing is definitely work, but it’s not classified as a job until you make money off of it. He also goes on to say that the amount of work that goes into it writing can’t just be classified as a hobby either. I’m sure a lot of you are nodding about the latter point.
In this day and age, it’s hard to make a living as a writer because of the low pay, but that doesn’t make it any less of a job. It just means I have to work that much harder to keep my literary career alive, oh, and also work the other 40-hour job I do during the week at the same time to cover the rest of the cost. Most writers have to still work a 40-hour job, or part time, to make ends meet. Some take the plunge and quit their daytime work to write full time, and I applaud them for taking the initiative.
Unfortunately, that usually elicits the image of someone writing for a couple hours, binge watching Netflix the rest of the day, then complaining they have no money.
Let me kind of give you a view of what it’s like to live as a published indie author, and then tell me if you think that writing is still just a hobby. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for a year, so imagine what an author juggling several books goes through everyday.
- I work from 8:30-5pm Monday-Friday (and some weekends for overtime).
- I volunteer in the evening for literary organizations.
- Starting around 8 or 9 pm until I go to bed, on weekends, or on my “day off,” I do at least one of these things:
- Research information for my book.
- World build or develop elements for my book
- Write or edit my novel.
- Discuss with my editors and proofreaders what needs to be changed and apply those edits.
- Talk with my sensitivity readers about changes that need to be made.
- Keep a presence on Amazon , Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Wattpad, Goodreads, Bookbub, Allauthor for marketing reasons.
- Design banners, contests, graphics to post in all these locations about my book.
- Reach out to bloggers to review my book or do a blog train.
- Update my website with new author information and author interviews.
- Build connections with fellow writers, editors, marketers, etc.
- Set up signing events.
- Attend signing events in different cities and states.
- Post chapters on Patreon to help pay for my website.
- Commission art of characters for stickers/swag.
- Commission cover art.
- Create other swag (bookmarks, necklaces, etc)
- Run an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs.
- Participate in online “takeover” events.
- Query my books.
- Participate in online book contests to either 1. get an award for my book. 2. find an agent/publisher for my other books.
- Format my book through Scrivener and Adobe Acrobat.
- Set up and publish my book through Ingramspark then order copies.
- Contact libraries and bookstores to carry my book.
- Set up ISBNs, sales tax permit, BIN.
- Check inventory and order more supplies on books and all marketing materials.
- Review finances.
- Prepare a book launch with local venues.
- Attend writing conventions to make connections and learn the latest marketing techniques.
- Participate in author summits both as a listener as an author.
…and the list goes on.
Being an author is a multi-faceted job, and most of the time you have to do everything yourself. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, publishing houses are doing less to market the book and encouraging authors to do more of the work. Many of my author friends spend days at conventions and marketing to sell their books and pay for the table, gas, hotel, meals, and other bills.
But you may ask, “Erin, you charge $15 for your paper book. How do you not make money off of it?”
Because by the time you factor in the editing, proofreading, printing, marketing, and sales tax permit, I don’t see much profit. Every dollar helps and puts me closer to making a better income off of writing. But I have to market to make that happen. I’ve heard it takes until book 2 or 3 to actually see a return in money, which is why initially it may look like authors are so broke, even if they receive advances from publishing companies.
That doesn’t mean writing isn’t a job.
Honestly, for me, it would be my dream job to write full time and survive off of my books. While that might be a long time in coming, I’ll do what I can to keep working towards it. In the meantime, I hope this gives people a better understanding of how much work goes into being an author and that it’s more of a job than most realize.