So you want to be a full-time self-published fiction writer? It’s a mouthful to say, and a big commitment to handle! You might have heard people say that it’s just not possible to do this in the 21st century.
Well, we’re here to tell you that you can.
But let’s not ignore the obvious. The truth is that writing can be a capricious gig. In fact, full-time writers and authors can earn anywhere between $20,000 and $91,000 in a year, with no way of knowing what the future holds. Most full-time writers are freelancers or contracted authors with a publishing company. These writers can gauge their earnings a bit more than others and estimate income from an ongoing list of clients and royalties.
However, there’s a new breed of writers taking over the industry: self-published authors.
Imagine writing only what you want to write, eight hours a day, seven days a week. No supervisors, no crushing deadlines, and no book contracts. It seems like a dream come true!
You already know that the writing life is a lot more complicated than it seems on paper, and you’re willing to give up your job security, peace of mind, and sleep-filled nights to get what you want. Kudos! Becoming a full-time self-published author is totally possible, even for writers who focus on fiction.
In this article, we are going to take a closer look at the world of full-time fiction writing, and how you might become the famous writer you always wanted to be.
We’re going to explore:
- What it takes to write full time
- Ways to turn an income
- Full-time writing dos and don’ts
- Whether or not you’re ready to start
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What It Takes To Be A Full-Time Writer
Writing full-time means something different to everyone. If you’re planning on writing full-time as a self-published writer, you might have more obstacles in terms of reach and audience. If your niche is in the fiction section of writing, you’re going to have your work cut out for you.
A day in the typical life of a full-time writer is not so different from someone with a non-writing job. Renowned fiction writer Steven King, an author of works like It or Pet Sematary, explains his regular day as follows:
- King writes every day of the year, even holidays. His day begins at 8 or 8:30 AM.
- He writes at a minimum of 2,000 words and refuses to stop until the minimum has been reached.
- His day is typically over by 1:30 PM, allowing him to pursue other things.
To summarize: all it takes to be a full-time writer is discipline, compunction, and routine. If you have the skills and time-management techniques to write a book, you have the ability to break into the market!
Here are some statistics to encourage you:
- Amazon Kindle sales are 34% of the eBook market.
- Self-published writers make 96% of their book price, while trade authors only make 7.5%.
- There are 44.2 thousand full-time writers in the U.S.
Maybe writing is the easy part for you, and that’s great! Next, you will need to discover how to make money while you get started.
Making Money as a Self-Published Fiction Writer
When it comes to writing full-time, money doesn’t simply grow on trees. As sad as it may be, creating and self-publishing works of fiction doesn’t come with an automatic paycheck. You’re going to need to find new ways to make money, pronto!
If you’ve already got the chops to write fiction, there are some ways to generate an income while working on the next great American novel.
- Ghostwrite fiction for other publishers. There are hundreds of thousands of people online searching for a good fiction writer, often paying fairly well. Not only is this a great way to feed your wallet, but it’s a great way to feed your brain as well! Let the creative juices of other projects flow into your own work. Who knows what could happen?
- Enter your work into competitions and other contests. There’s no guarantee that your piece will actually get picked, but it’s certainly a great way to gauge reader interest. Plus, some contests come with a cash prize to those who place, or even gift cards for honorary mentions. Why not give it a go? Start by submitting to publications such as Writers Of The Future or Autumn House Press.
- Once your book reaches 50,000 sales, you’re going to start attracting the attention of publishers, agents, and Hollywood filmmakers. Some indie fiction books, including The Martian by Andy Weir, made their way to multi-million dollar movie deals in the United States. All that to say: stay the course!
When it comes down to brass tacks, you may still need to keep your full-time job for a short period of time before you make the jump to self-published author. If you’re really keen on leaving your current position, start saving up an emergency fund that will cover basic expenses as you build a following.
Full-Time Self-Published Fiction Writers: The Do’s and Don’ts
Like any other kind of entrepreneurial effort, there are some clear ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ that should be followed as a writer. If you don’t think you can comfortably operate within these parameters, full-time self-publishing is perhaps not for you.
DO: Practice writing every day for at least two hours. Whether you are working on your book, you will need to consistently create content and build up a portfolio.
DON’T: Spend all day thinking rather than making your next move. It’s helpful to have goals or steps written down that you want to complete in a day. Use online tracking software like Evernote or tools like Trello to keep yourself engaged.
DO: Regularly read work within the genre and fine-tune your own writing. Although you need to keep some elements of your writing separate from outside influence, use the longtime experience of other full-time authors to direct your piece.
DON’T: Publish your work without promoting or advertising your product. With millions of eBooks available on the market today, there’s no way readers will know about your story unless you say something.
DO: Create a plan for your future. Are you going to write on-off novelettes, or are you going to create a Robert Jordan-esque series of in-depth works? Regardless of which you choose, make sure to have solid expectations for yourself as you transition into full-time writing.
DON’T: Give yourself permission to slack off on a regular basis. It’s fine to take a break every now and again. In fact, leading scientists suggest that you do! However, indulging in short-term gratifications today could put off long-term aspirations tomorrow. Keep this in mind.
Your fiction is a work of art — literally! It deserves to be seen by readers. That’s why following these ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ provide the best chance of getting where you want to go, without stressing too much about the particulars.
Related article: ISBN Numbers: Why It’s Important and How To Get One
Am I Ready To Start Writing Full-Time?
Now you know how to make money as a writer, are familiar with your strengths and weaknesses, and have a good understanding of the ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts as a professional in the field.
Just one more question remains: are you ready to do this?
This scary final thought can only be answered by you, and only when you’re ready. If you feel really lost, here are a few ways to get a solid answer:
- Do I have at least some experience with self-publishing and writing?
- Do my feelings about writing full-time go beyond the security of my full-time job?
- Do I have the skills to keep writing, even if it’s exhausting or hard to do?
- Do I have an emergency fund to cover unforeseen expenses?
- Do I have the gumption to hit all of my deadlines without fail?
If you answered ‘yes’ to each of these questions, you might be ready to start a full-time career in fiction writing. If not, you may have some work to do before sending in that two-week notice.
Truthfully, the only person who knows if you’re ready to start writing full-time is you. Carefully weigh your options before stepping into the writing lifestyle full-time. Have complete confidence in your abilities, and be willing to stand through the pitfalls and failures that come with learning a new skill. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, make good decisions, and give yourself the opportunity to thrive in a new environment.
Are you ready? We think so. Take a deep breath and start typing, writer!