According to this Pew Research Poll, adults are reading less and less every year. That is not a promising trend for anyone hoping to make an income as a writer.
But if you look at how many people are self-publishing on Kindle and elsewhere these days, you’d think this was a thriving industry. It is – for writers. In fact, it seems there are more writers than readers out there! And even the readers are aspiring writers, or so it seems.
On the upside: That same poll indicated that children and teenagers continue to read for pleasure – meaning outside of school assignments – at a pre-social media rate. That is good news for anyone wishing to break into the lucrative YA (Young Adult) field, where youthful vampire studs and little mermaids abound, to mutual benefit. This trend also bodes well for the future of publishing in general, since younger generations are remaining relatively literary in their interests, despite the distractions of so much competing media.
There are plenty of success stories that continue to encourage authors to take the plunge into the challenging world of self-publishing their fiction, but non-fiction is a much safer bet when breaking into the business, as evidenced by true tales like these.
Help others, help yourself
The fact is, there is a bigger potential audience for topics like self-help and cooking than for fiction, since frankly, most people prefer their entertainment to be of a visual or interactive variety, from TV to movies to video games. But they still need to know how to fix their own car engine to save an expensive trip to the mechanic, and for that they often do their own online research. Inexpensive eBooks about common, everyday needs like this are sure to attract a much wider readership than the relatively specialized markets for fans of fiction, even popular genres like fantasy, mystery and science fiction.
Successful freelance writers combine a wide variety of projects – from fiction to non-fiction – to produce a livable income every month, from “click bait” blogging to mass media reviews to technical writing, like repair manuals (which requires extensive training).
But beware of ads that require you to write and submit a free original sample of your work. A previously published piece should suffice. If not, chances are it’s a scam exploiting eager beginners by fooling them into providing free content, without ever even getting a response to your efforts.
Also avoid any offers that pay extremely low rates for hundreds of words, demanding that you work that much harder to earn anything more than laundry money. Many of these companies hire Third World workers whose cost of living is much lower than those in American and other commercially advanced societies. Do not let these companies take advantage of your talent and hard work in exchange for “exposure” and “experience.” Only cash pays the bills.
Make your own luck
Screenplays are another option - literally, since simply having your script (or book) optioned by a studio can bring you annual dividends whether the project ever gets a green light or not. (I know this from my own experience.) Again, the competition is cutthroat, and most likely your unsolicited submission will wind up on some agent's slush pile, farmed out to an indifferent intern just like most fiction manuscripts sent to major and minor publishing houses, but considering the possible payoff, it may be worth a shot.
Which brings us to my final point: you probably cannot make a decent living as a writer. The odds are simply too stacked against you, and the competition for the relatively few jobs out there is increasingly intense. Working from home is a very seductive proposition, but most likely you’ll have to combine any earnings from your writing assignments with jobs that aren’t necessarily in your field of interest.
Unless, of course, you get lucky. And you can’t win the literary lottery unless you write your own ticket.
Follow your dreams and passions, write for love as well as money, and don’t expect any more than that creative satisfaction to be your ultimate reward. But don’t short change your own potential, either.
First step on that road to riches, personal or professionally speaking? Just sit down and write.
Are you trying to make writing your profession, and how is that going for you?
PHOTO: DONNELL KING