A couple of days ago, his new friend wrote: Being an independent writer is a tough challenge. There are so many writers out there now it's really difficult to get the product into the hands of the readers. To be honest, I'm often amazed that anyone actually finds my works on Amazon and buys a copy.
Glynn didn’t have to ask his friend what he did for a living. The gent is retired. If he had to make his living from the sale of his e-books, well, considering what he’s shared privately, it wouldn’t all be prime rib and macarOns, I’m telling you now.
I don’t know that it’s ever been easy to make a solid income as a freelance writer. In the days when self-publishing wasn’t a thing, we tried to make it happen for one full year. We sold a novel, almost sold another, found buyers for a dozen-plus nonfiction articles…and prayed the car wouldn’t break down, the roof wouldn’t leak, no surprise medical bills would appear, because we had exactly enough to get by and nothing more. Since all of our articles were “pay on publication”, there was never a guarantee that a check would arrive until it was in our hands. One of our pieces disappeared for nearly a year before its intended magazine went belly-up; rights issues kept us from recovering our work without hiring a lawyer.
When you’re wondering which bill to pay that week, you don’t bother contacting lawyers over a $300 fitness piece. It’s not worth their time. But, for us, that $300 would have made a difference at the time.
It was actually a relief when we decided it was time to get a day job. Glynn found a place that needed workers to build huge electrical box-thingies, while I started taking graphic design courses until I could land a graphic design job. The grind of barely-getting-by lessened, the car got repaired, we could afford to see a doctor if needed. We immediately stopped writing articles – we'd managed to sell every piece we wrote, minus the dead magazine, but the work was never a joy – and we concentrated on our fiction.
We love writing fiction. If a day job meant we could write what we wanted, we loved having a day job.
Can someone make it as a writer without a day job? People do it all the time. Our friend, Sue, the romance novelist, is doing it at this very moment. But most of the writers we know personally are like us or haven’t done quite as well as us, and we're not exactly soaring up the bestseller charts. Like Glynn’s buddy wrote, it’s a tough challenge.
When Glynn was a younger man, he corresponded with an up-and-coming writer who was on the verge of significant financial success. Unfortunately, his early minor successes never translated into a big-time career. The last time Glynn heard about him, his pen pal was still writing professionally, still fighting the traditional pub fight, and felt blessed to have a roof over his head. His cabin had no power, no water, but at least he had a home. We’ve recently met another writer, a columnist whose work I read and enjoyed a few years ago, who shared very openly that he was living below the poverty level. Part of that was was because he no longer had a steady gig. The in-between stuff no longer paid the rent.
It can be a rough world out there. After a couple of years, Glynn quit building electrical box-thingies to enter the medical field. He’s enjoyed his career as a Registered Nurse. I continued working in graphic design and, these days, I do mostly freelance work. I also design book covers, including the ones on our books. One of my older covers is at the top of this blog. I'm not delighted that my new novel is coming along slowly, but contracted design work trumps writing on spec. With fiction, as Glynn's friend knows, you can never tell.
There’s nothin’ wrong with a day job.