Writing for profit…

Ask yourself - are you in it for the booty?

Ask yourself – are you in it for the booty?

Ransom notes.

That’s how the old joke goes: “What kind of writing makes the most money?”

“Ransom notes”

The truth is that no one really knows the secret to making piles of cash from writing. When Bloomsbury were accused of somehow influencing people to buy the Harry Potter series, they were openly scornful. One spokesperson said “Really, if we could do that for JK Rowling, we’d do it for all our authors”. Of course they would, it’s their financial success too.

One thing a lot of writers agree on, though, is that setting out to write something because other things like it are selling is a huge mistake. For one thing, by the time you’ve completed YOUR dinosaurs-on-a-spaceship novel, everyone might be rushing out to buy Zombies on a Bobsled fiction instead. For another, it’s hard to write well when you’re not interested in your subject matter, and if you’re writing it with dollar signs in your eyes, then you’re not interested in the story and the characters, you’re interested in the money.

There’s one crucial point to make here, though. You CAN write books with the intention of making money. In that situation, you are organised about the way you write. You work to a schedule, you have an overall plan for the book you’re writing and where it’s going. You negotiate with an editor and a cover artist to produce the best version of your book that you possibly can. You create a network of friends and writers and readers who read and review for you, and who spread the word about the completed book. You keep that book hovering in everyone’s consciousness while, in all probability, you are  writing the next book. And you keep going, even though those first two, three or four books have not catapulted you into the ranks of the mega-rich.

The sections above are dealing with fiction writing of course. Writing non-fiction is a different thing altogether, and it’s a matter of finding a subject in which you are something of an expert, and tailoring the book to your experiences OR having access to other experts who will contribute to the book. But unless you’re working from a commission for the book, you’re still going to be the one pounding the virtual pavement and banging the drum for people to buy it.

The other way to make money from writing (WARNING, CYNICISM AHEAD!) is to write books on how to make money writing books. Do a little research, and you will be amazed, staggered and eventually a little sickened by the number of people telling you how to write best selling books, when the only best selling books THEY have written were about…writing best-selling books.

I believe that your first reason for writing, the first person you should be trying to impress, is YOU. Write because you must, because that story demands to be told. If it’s good, or if it can BECOME good with some polish and judicious surgery, then pursue it. Get help, take a deep breath, take advice and take the plunge.

DON’T rush out and write a story about sparkly vampires.*

I’m wondering if I wrote this piece because my latest book is a zombie novel, and I’m worried that I’ve not just missed the boat on that genre, but that the boat has sunk and sent a Tsunami towards the shore that is threatening the town…. Nonetheless, I have to see the story through, and since I’m enjoying it and people have liked the preview (available in “Troubled Souls“) I’ll self-publish again.

 

 

 

*This should be generally considered as good advice regardless.

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8 responses to “Writing for profit…

  1. Truly great advice. And, I agree that the people making money are the authors selling books on how to write, blog, tweet, etc. Thanks

    • Thanks! Of course, not all of those authors are doing so from a position of ignorance. I’ve read some great writing books by genuine authors – most notably Stephen King’s “On Writing”. But I’m always suspicious of the ones who say “I’ve sold millions of books” and never quite get round to mentioning a title…..

  2. Just finished my tween coming of age vampire novella with non-sparkly vampires.

    Are you ready, America?

  3. I don’t think zombies will ever go completely out of favor. They’ll always be a niche for it. May not make tons of money or start a tsunami but if you’re good enough maybe make a bit of splash. 🙂

    A lot of people love to trash Harry Potter & Twilight but what everyone seems to miss is they told a compelling story that a large portion of the population wanted to read. That can not be replicated and it for darned sure shouldn’t be dissed.

    All the rest of us can do is to tell our own stories and hope they are so irresistible that others will want to read them, too.

    Your point is well taken that they’re are a lot of sites out there about writing from people who’ve published very little, if at all. I try to stick with fairly well known authors who’ve “made it”. Some of them can be very helpful.

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