Recently, someone tweeted a question for published writers, asking how many books they published before they quit their day job and wrote full time. I didn’t read the answers. Mine would have been don’t do that. Every published writer I know has either a day job or a partner who helps support them.
Obviously, there are exceptions. J. K. Rowling doesn’t need a day job. But for every Rowling, there are thousands of working writers who don’t make enough to live on.
I offer as an example one of my favorite crime writers, Adrian McKinty. He’s currently big news on writer social media because his new book, The Chain, is a runaway best seller.
But before The Chain, McKinty published nineteen other novels, including my favorite, the Sean Duffy series set in Belfast during the Troubles.
Between them, those 19 books won over 20 awards.
So you would think McKinty could certainly quit his day job, right?
And he did. To live on, he took the other route and had a partner who worked full time.
It wasn’t enough. In 2017, he and his family were evicted from their rented house. He decided to quit writing for good and took a job driving for Uber.
One reason for the shortage of funds was that as prolific as he was, and as critically acclaimed as the books were, he sold only a few thousand copies each year. Frankly, that shocked me. I’ve been reading his books for years and just assumed others were too. I don’t know how much McKinty would make from a few thousand sales per year, but with my small press, I make about a buck a book. Try living on that.
McKinty’s talent was so strong that other writers came to his aid and talked him into trying one more book, which turned out the be The Chain.
If you want a fuller account of his struggle, The Guardian has an article.
For me, the moral of this story is don’t count on earning your living as a novelist. Publishing is a tough, tough business. Don’t become a writer because you think you’ll make a lot—or any—money. Write because it’s a satisfying thing for you to do.
Deep as a Tomb (Loose Leaves 2016) by Dorothy A. Winsor is available in e-book and paperback. E-book only $3.99.
When the daughter of a would-be rebel and the son of the king wind up living in the same household, her secrets are threatened by his need for revenge. Murder, magic, and underground tomb mazes.