Saturday, July 07, 2007

July: Supplemental Writing Income

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics has an interesting page of statistics about working as a professional writer or editor. Bloggers are now listed as part of the writing profession, btw, probably because so many are now being directly or indirectly compensated for their content (which now must be disclosed.)

It sounds lovely, doesn't it? Then why are so many authors unable to make a living at this gig?

The statistics reported sound nice, but novelists know that they can't depend on a fixed or salaried income from publishing their original work. We earn what we earn from contract to contract. It's difficult if not impossible to make a living as a full-time novelist; most of us are obliged to moonlight, work day jobs, or depend on the financial support of family or a spouse/partner/significant other.

It's still possible to supplement your income as a novelist while still doing some writing. You just have to set aside the big honking dream of bestsellerdom and use your skills and talent in other ways.

Before I turned pro, I always tried to find part-time jobs that somehow involved writing or publishing. I've been paid to write articles, speeches, resumes, technical manuals, sermons and ad copy. I've worked for a PhD who had me help polish his doctoral thesis and transcribed the first draft of a novel manuscript from a minister's longhand notes. I didn't make a fortune at any of this, but I enjoyed all of the jobs and I learned a little something about writing from each of them (such as never compose a novel in longhand if your handwriting sucks.)

Although I make a decent living now from publishing my original work, I still moonlight on occasion. I've written about a dozen books as a ghost writer, self-published one book, and sold articles, essays, short stories and even one blog post to various publishers and industry entities.

You can't expect writing jobs to fall in your lap, but there are plenty of employers actively looking for writers to work for them. Craigslist has writing/editing job listings by state -- here's one for, an online dining guide site looking for foodie and entertainment writers.

Cruising freelance writer sites is always good; you can find some great job listings on them. Sites like Sunoasis Jobs are great because along with their listings they offer links to job listings elsewhere.

There are web sites and bloggers who are dedicated to helping writers find work. Author Marjorie M. Liu regularly posts sub ops, contests, grants, and other writing opportunities on her blog; Angela Booth does the same with articles, inspiration and info for freelancers, fic, nonfic and web writers. My favorite place to surf for writer sub ops is

One more thing to remember while hunting for writing employment: if a job isn't right for you, consider passing along the info to another writer who might appreciate the work. We all need to make a living, and that person you help might be in a position someday to do the same for you.

Related Links:

For you aspiring editors out there, Susan Basalla May's excellent article, The Realities of Jobs in Publishing.

Look for writing job listings at Publishers Weekly Jobs,, and The Write Jobs

Nancy DuVergne Smith wrote an interesting piece here on what freelancer writers were making back in 1995.

1 comment:

  1. We earn what we earn from contract to contract.

    That sounds too close to commission to me. So even if I was an aspiring author (which I'm not), I couldn't do it anyway. I can't imagine the stress that authors must feel when trying to make writing their FT job.


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