What if There Were No Money in Writing?

Show me the money

Show me the money!

Lately I’ve been reading blog post after blog post about the state of publishing; about how publishing as we know it will cease to exist in 7 to 10 years; and more pointedly, how it’s becoming harder and harder to make money from writing.

We’ve already seen people’s reading habits change in terms of what form and format they’ll read. We’ve seen changes in the ways and places people obtain their reading material.  Some are seeing a trend toward readers becoming unwilling to pay very much for their reading material. The economics of publishing are definitely getting more challenging.

Publishers and agents are working on ways to continually add value to the reader’s experience, so that consumers will keep seeing reading material as valuable enough to pay for it. But if there really is a trend of readers expecting content for cheap  or free, that means it will get increasingly difficult for writers to make significant money (as in, anything approaching a living wage) directly from the written word.

Should we think this through? Or should we set it aside and deal with it when it happens?

If you’re in the “think this through” camp… let’s pose a hypothetical: If the financial potential for most writers were negligible at best—if there didn’t exist a “publishing industry” that represented the Great Hope for you—what would you do? Would you still write? Would you self-publish? Just enjoy writing as a hobby? Would you hang it up altogether?

I understand you’re a writer because you want to be read… but how much of that is about getting paid?

If there were no money in writing, what would you do?

  1. jim esin says:

    My guess is there would be not so much stuff to read, but the quality of content would increase significantly…Cause when writing is your hobby, you put all your love and passion into it, in contrast to those who writes for money, they don’t care much about such things..

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  4. If there were no money in writing then i will do some online survey, Google adsense and sell products online.

  5. If there’s was no income source in writing then people would have shifted to some other profession but I and you know that such thing is only imaginary.

  6. Do not a lot of cash to buy some real estate? Worry not, because that is achievable to get the business loans to solve such kind of problems. Hence take a car loan to buy all you want.

  7. writing online is my hobby and i am making a handsome income from that, but if there would be no money in writing then i will surely spend less time on writing and some other work for money.

  8. Nikole Hahn says:

    I would still write, but self-publish would only happen if the venue were free. I can’t even afford a vacation at the moment. LOL

  9. I can’t NOT write. Even if for myself, I write. When I wasn’t writing books, I wrote newsletters, articles, business manuals, etc.

    What is beginning to concern me is the public’s preference for 99-cent ebooks. I have published as an indie writer because I am disabled and unable to do the book tours, etc. It has cost a great deal to accommodate my medical limitations, but still I write, and still I shall write, somehow.

    But when e-books are 99-cents, it seems like two things happen:

    1. anyone and everyone writes, whether they are good enough.
    2. there is a lack of appreciation for good writing because it is worth more than 99-cents.

    This seems to be the direction things are going. The last bookstore in my area is not doing well. It now sells more games and toys than books.

  10. Megan B. says:

    There are many responses here, so maybe this has all been said, but I’ll say it anyway…

    I am not writing for money. However, being published by traditional means is my brass ring. If the publishing industry as we know it ceased to exist, I would keep writing, but I would not know what to grab for any longer. I would be somewhat adrift.

    If all publishing was self-published ebooks shared for free, I fear the good stuff would be buried under a lot of first drafts that people put out there without even seeking feedback first. I am sure some good stuff would rise to the top, but a lot of other stuff would be lost. I would hesitate to add my work to such a mess. At least with traditional publishing, you have the reward of seeing your book in print, even if it doesn’t sell. If publishing a book were akin to putting a video on YouTube, however, you could only hope that people noticed and appreciated it.

  11. Mickey says:

    I am writer definetly not because of the money. I love writing and have been doing it for years and plan on continuing to do so. 🙂

  12. Cindy Sprigg says:

    A writer is not what I do, but who I am.

  13. Ida says:

    I’ve ‘bought’ a few of the free kindle novels in the past but I’ve since decided that not paying anything is insulting to the writer. ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire’ and all that.

    I’m self-published but except for those who read my novel from a library, I expect to be paid something for my efforts.

    That said, I think e-books should be cheaper than paperback or hardcover and overall, the price of books will probably come down, similar to what has happened in the music business.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      “should” is a loaded word. I don’t know that I would want to make the claim that e-books should be cheaper. The belief seems to be that e-books don’t cost the publisher anything, which is far from true. The price of paper and ink is not negligable, but it is not the driving factor in book pricing. If people want the e-book more than they want the paper book, then I would expect the e-book to cost more than the paper book.

  14. Carrie says:

    I’d write whether or not I get paid for my work. Yes, the money is nice and I enjoy being read by others, but these are not sole reasons why I write. I believe everyone has gifts, and many of these were meant to be shared with others. I write because I want to make people think. I write because if I don’t I’m miserable.

    In a sense, there are probably two types of writers in this world: those that write with a purpose and those that write for a purpose.

  15. Mary Jo says:

    I enjoy getting my (small) royalty checks. I don’t see why writers should write books for free and not be expected to make any money. But I enjoy writing my environmental blog and reaching people in this way. So I would keep writing in one form or another even if I knew I wouldn’t make any money.

  16. LD White says:

    One could argue that Luther began the modern age of publishing when he nailed his 99 thesis on the Abby door. He later received payment for other works because people wanted to hear what he had to say. If you have a message and say it well, money will come…maybe.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      That is an interesting claim, but I’m not sure how one could make that argument. The church door was the Facebook of Martin Luther’s day. Anyone who had anything to say would write something up and nail it to the church door for people to read. We may want to romanticize what Martin Luther did because it seems like an act of defiance, but his thesis may well have been hanging next to someone complaining about the neighbor’s dog, a wanted poster, and someone advertising his business.

  17. Honestly, I don’t really want or care to make money from writing. In fact, I don’t like the idea of money potentially influencing my writing decisions. That’s why I’m pursuing a career that doesn’t involve writing skills at all. I do want to be read, though.

  18. Obviously, I like it best when my writing pays. But in truth, if it didn’t, I would still write. I don’t write because I can, I write because I must.

  19. rrohit says:

    Hi. There were times when i was doing my masters in business years ago and i would be lost writing poetry in the library or on the grass in the field just outside the campus. Your debate brought that back to me Rachelle, thanks, and made the answer to this so incredibly simple, “I would write because I find myself in the process, because l belong to a world of my own creation…

  20. Maybe I’m a Pollyanna, but I don’t believe publishing is going away. But, if it did, I would still write. And I would still work hard to promote my books so people could find them and read them.

    I just spoke at World Fantasy Con and the conference was packed with people who love books, read books, buy books and write books. I believe there will always be a need for good, well-told stories. Whether those stories are told through e-books, traditional publishers, or screenplays doesn’t matter.

    However, I do think the key to writing, in the midst of a “publishing apocalypse”, is to remember that you need to spend a good amount of time promoting your work too. So if you’re already working full time, you would need to write in your spare time, promote your work in your spare time, speak in your spare time…I know a lot of traditionally published authors are already doing this, but they are also getting paid for their books. How many of us would do all that work and not get paid? Not many. I think we would all hope to find a way to earn money from our work. But giving up because the business model is changing? (again, I’m not convinced it’s over for publishing, no way, but if it was…) No. I would not give up. I have hope and faith in things unseen, and I believe the written word will survive all of this.

  21. If there was no money in writing, why not self-publish? Ebooks cost almost nothing to create, and if I can’t make money no matter what, I might as well stop worrying about what anyone else thinks. I’d still want people to read it, but I wouldn’t feel the pressure to make it marketable. Sometimes making a story marketable lessens it’s true meaning.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      E-books require just as much of a time investment as traditional books. That is time that could be spent earning money at something that does pay or doing more important things, like spending time with family and friends. So the cost of making a copy of an e-book really doesn’t matter.

  22. I don’t understand why people think there will be no money in writing. Ebook sales are doing fantastic, and big publishers are selling plenty of ebooks. I think eventually they will just lower the prices of their books, and therefore they’ll still be able to get sales.

    I feel that whatever happens, as long as people enjoy reading, and as long as movie studios turn to books for the concepts of their movies, there will be money in this.

  23. I would still write because I have stories to tell. Funnily enough, I rarely peruse books at the cheaper (99c) end of the market. I’m more comfortable paying a bit more for what I read as most of the authors I enjoy (new and more well-known) seem to fall into that category. Writers work too hard to give their work away.

  24. Christine says:

    I have a dream of making a small second income with my writing. I hope I can at least let my writing pay for my writing. Currently, I write for quarters. I’m not writing for the money. I am writing for sheer joy of figuring out the best way to hit a reader. One day I hope to hit more readers than my beta, CP and judge readers (oh, and my reluctant husband). Until then I hope to become a better writer, a strong writer, a great story teller. No point in anything else for me.

    I’m addicted to writing. So the money is bonus.

  25. Yes, I would. I enjoy the experience of writing. I create worlds for myself. If others can enjoy them as well, that’s great.

    I just wouldn’t edit and polish as much if I weren’t getting paid.

  26. Brian says:

    I have to throw that question back at you. If you found out that in the next five to seven years that your commission would only be 7% instead of 15%, would you still work as a agent?

  27. Paul says:

    I would still write, and I don’t think it will completely be low pay. I think the quality written work will still sell, but the hack work will be self published for free. It is now, and some of it is pretty bad. Even if it were just “cheap”, say $2 bucks for an ebook, it will only take a few bad stories to convince the buyer to pay the extra money for something backed by a publisher, who has weeded out all the garbage. Just my thoughts.

  28. I just don’t expect to make much money period. Sure, it’d be nice, but if I were really counting on it, I wouldn’t be in grad school right now.

    I guess my motivation for seeking publication is wanting to be recognized as good enough to be published and wanting to connect to readers. If I weren’t going to be paid, would I still seek these things? Probably. And possibly self-publish if I could convince myself I was good enough and the publishers were ALL crazy. However, I might worry less about deadlines and the like if I were doing it for free!

  29. Larry Carney says:

    Guess I could always puruse a career in professional wrestling 🙂

    “Now introducing….The King of Commas, the Smasher of Sonnets, MIIISSTER WRITE!”

  30. If there was no money in writing, would I still do it?
    As crazy as it may sound. The answer is yes.
    There’s just something about writing. Something I can’t explain. I feel blessed to have given the gift of passion.
    Where is leads me is all up to God:)

  31. If there were no money in writing, I’d just keep writing. In all honesty, there has been little money but enormous satisfaction in writing and the glow of having positive comments from people in the field whom I respect. I always kept the day job. Now that the children are out of college, writing is my day job but the only payment is that it’s my identity. After so many agent responses of, “I like it but I don’t love it,” I can now say my love has come along. An agent wrote just recently to say she loved, that’s l o v e d my characters. Even if she can’t interest a publisher in any of my three books, I’ll keep writing and trying to publish in one form or another.

  32. Lee says:

    It would be wonderful to make lots of money as a published writer. In addition to writing, I like to read as well. No, I don’t buy enough books to make any one author rich. But, if an author’s material is good enough, others will buy their books as well. So, I figure that some writers will continue to make a lot of money, some writers will make some money, and some writers will not make much money. There will probably be more people in the “some money” category. Hopefully, there will always be a venue for good writers to showcase their work.

  33. TC Avey says:

    I would still write. I’m not making money now and I write (yes I hope to someday make money), but if there was no chance of earning even a dollar, I would still write. The words come out of me and I have to believe they have the power to influence people. That is the most important thing, not money. Money (or the potential of money) is just a bonus.

  34. I had to think about this. Then I giggled a bit because most of the writing I do is donated to newsletters and devotionals for groups that I believe in. Great question and it truly put things into perspective. I write because I have something to say and people who want to hear it…. money would be nice though. 😉

  35. Linda Connelly says:

    I would write no matter what, its about creating something, done not because we expect a huge payout but because that is what artists do and have done since time began.
    🙂

  36. Erik Swiger says:

    You people make me want to cry! I knew that I was not alone, but I feel more-than-ever a part of a community. I’m a self-published author, and I was thrilled that last month I made more sales in Australia than in Britain and the U.S. combined, a whopping $3.63! Before I attempted to write for money, I would get my writing fix by taking it out on my poor family and friends in the way of long letters. That’s why I decided that of all the things in the world I COULD do for money, writing was my passion. I have always been a writer, so I thought I would see if I could make a living at it. Not yet! But I will try, try, try until they pry the keyboard from my cold, dead fingers. In simplest terms, I want to tell stories by the fire, and I want the stories to be so good, that people will give me food in exchange. That’s really all there is to it. Thank you all.

  37. Dan Miller says:

    The path for success as an author is changing. No longer do we just write great content and then wait for our publisher to sell lots of books. Today’s marketplace requires that we, the authors, are actively engaged in the selling process as well. And as an author, we will likely make little money from the actual sale of books anyway. The way books make us money is by helping us build a platform and credibility. And that platform earns us fans who then purchase seminars, workshops, coaching, ebooks and audio products. If you’re an author it’s an exciting time to jump in the game. There are no obstacles – just opportunities.

  38. wayne gary says:

    Money is secondary…story is where we all are. Through personal experience and or of others..ideas that appear in the dead of night while in the shower wherever…It must “get out” it must be told…It may offer all kinds of encouragement and spark all kinds of creativity from others..

  39. Bret Draven says:

    Money is great and all, but it’s about throwin’ down some sweet one-liners at the bar. For example, when approached by a nice young lady, it never hurts to be able to say, “Oh me? I’m a published author!”

    I am sure there are other reasons to write, but honestly people… it’s about the street-cred!

  40. Colin says:

    I wrote stories when I was a child because I wanted to, and I enjoyed it. The only reason I would need to make money doing it now is because I have a wife and kids to take care of. The fact I have to do something else to fulfill my family obligation in this regard pains me, but that’s the way it has to be. I still write because I enjoy it, and always will. But I would also love to know I have readers that want to read what I write, and that people would be willing to support me in this by purchasing my work, so I could spend more of my day writing instead of doing other things to pay the bills.

  41. It’s never been about the money for me. Yes, I would self-publish. Yes, I would hope to eventually receive back the money invested on the front end should I self-publish.

    Mission and ministry over money every time.

    peace~elaine

  42. As long as people continue to watch movies, writers will be paid.

    With that said, I AM a writer. I enjoy the money I make from doing it of course. But not writing would be like removing a part of my soul. I have wanted to be a writer since third grade. It’s ingrained in me.

    As far as making money, if you’re not making any money learn to market! I know that many writers are introverts. I know I am one, but I’ve learned that I won’t sell books by being shy.

    My first book was self-published in April. To date, I’ve made about $200.00 on it. No, it does not pay my bills. But with pro-active marketing my sales are increasing. I started out with only free marketing ventures. Now I have a enough to spend some cash on paid marketing and my sales are increasing.

    I say, expect money! Write because you love it, but expect to be paid something for your craft. Never quit dreaming!

    Okay, sorry, I’m done preaching! LOL

  43. Charise says:

    It seems there’s a lot of discussion that could take off from this question, but the question seems directed at that something inside of us that prompted us to write something we didn’t have to (no grade or job depended on us). I started writing with no intention of seeking publication (had some extra time on my hands). It was much later as others read some of my “hobby” that the idea started to hatch”Maybe I could do something with this.” So, YES, I would still write because I all ready did.

    But that does not mean I am immune to the frustration and disappointment of the most likely financial outcomes. And it does not mean I am not suspect of the push to do a whole lot of work (beyond writing) to achieve what $$$-wise?

  44. Voni Harris says:

    I should have said, how many many artists and writers became famous an started selliing their creations AFTER their death?

  45. Voni Harris says:

    I wonder if storytellers of old got paid? Homer, for example. I guess they ate and had shelter, though. How many, many writers and artists became famous and started selling their creations

    I’m also thinking of those Dover thrift editions of all the classics. And of the free online copies of those same classics.

    It’s all about the creative act, being made in the image of your creator, following His call. And, for me, the power of the word.

    As someone else mentioned, that’s easy to say when I have a supportive, wage-earning husband, for whom I’m so grateful.

  46. I have a couple of thoughts on this, Rachelle. First, to generalize, or perhaps over-generalize, the keyword to consider is Reward. Reward for a writer comes in many different forms, from the inexplicable inner satisfaction of finding just the right word or creating a phrase or sentence that just sings, all the way to the big royalty check. A writer merely needs a Reward in order to write. If there is no Reward, the writing will stop. It’s biological.

    Second, it came to me just a short way into reading your post, and alluded to in some of the comments here — if readers no longer wish to pay for their reading fix, then the type of fix they will be able to get is going to change. Readers who adore being able to stay up half the night consuming the last book of a beloved trilogy may find such thrills harder to come by — if writers aren’t crafting prose in that form anymore because they aren’t paid to do so. Sure, the writer may still tell the tale, because he or she still gets other rewards from the writing and from their fans. But the story may end up being less well-crafted, or at least differently crafted, perhaps for chapter-by-chapter publication, or by release as blog posts.

    Certainly the reading experience has already changed in many ways for many readers with the internet and with eBooks. But if, or as, the flow of money toward toward the author stops, the availability of creative work may not stop, but its form and quality will certainly change. In the end, if readers want a particular kind of “fix,” they will willingly pay for it, and authors will thus willingly provide it.

    Thanks for your blog, Rachelle.

  47. T.M. Burnstad says:

    Ever since I discovered the art of storytelling at age 6,I knew that one day I would be walking into my local bookstore and I’d see my name on the cover of a book that I had written. I have so many stories to tell, so much that I want to share, that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop writing. I’m still trying to break into the industry and despite my struggles and numerous rejections, I’m still picking up my pen and writing a new book. So, would I write if there was no money? Definitely. I’m doing that right now. And if I ever do manage to get my book published then I will sing with joy from the mountaintops before writing another book… And another after that. I have a job that pays the bills. Writing is like breathing for me. Making money off of it would be the cherry on the cake: a nice addition but not completely necessary.

  48. K. J. Henry says:

    Wait a minute…people get paid to write? Really! When did this start?

  49. David Todd says:

    I really don’t know what I’d do if I knew right now that I’d never make another dime from my writing. I’ve earned about $4,000 over the years from writing, most of that from articles for several publications. While that’s not much it has helped pay some bills at some critical times. I hope the opportunity to earn that much again doesn’t go away.

    I suppose if money was not to be earned from my writing, I’d write more poetry (which doesn’t pay anyway), and I’d concentrate more on writing family history books. But I think I would still write some creative works. I think.

  50. Adriana says:

    What an intriguing idea! I already write and post my work on my blog, not waiting for money.

    I write poetry, which is quite difficult to sell, not that I’d even try too hard!

    I write for myself.
    Because one day without writing is a day I won’t remember when I’ll be 98. 😉

    Still, writing is a skill and a talent, something that defines us. If other skills can produce money why should we even consider this? Do sculptors, painters or magicians work without being paid?

  51. s.p.bowers says:

    If there was no traditional publishing as we know it I would still write. And I probably would self publish. I would like to get paid, actually the hubby wants me to get paid for all the time I’ve put into this. He’s an engineer and sees things in a cost/value relationship. But it’s not about the money. I want my books to go into the world and find homes where they can be loved. Just as I want the same for my children.

  52. Roger Floyd says:

    You better believe I’d still write. I write because I like to, because I enjoy telling a story, because I want to produce an entertaining book, not because I expect to make much money at it. If I were much younger, the situation would be different, and I’d expect to make a living at it, but that’s water under the dam (or is that over the bridge?).

  53. Nessa Locke says:

    Because I live in the real world with the rest of the humans, it does not escape me that most people like to think they’ll be monetarily compensated for the time they invest in anything they spend a lot of time doing. However, I am one of the lucky ones who realized at a young age what a stress factor money can be in our daily lives. My opinion of collecting a paycheck for my written words changes often.
    I like loving a simple life. I write because I enjoy it. I write because it relaxes me. I write because random people will approach me and say, “Aren’t you that girl who writes that Wench blog?” It makes me feel proud.
    If you were to add money into the mix, I am sure that I would not enjoy it nearly as much. It would become a job, a chore.
    (But I’d probably take the money anyway…)

    • Jen says:

      It is funny how quickly money makes something you enjoy a chore. Once you are paid to do the job, instead of just volunteering, people’s expectations and demands change. Appreciation is exchanged it seems for the paycheck. I like you would prefer the appreciation and the freedom of doing it for free.

  54. I have spent the past 50 years or so writing without expecting any money in return. So, what’s the difference? I write because that is what I am passionate about. I write because I have things to say. Thankfully, I am a kept woman and can depend on hubby to take care of my needs. But, I want to be published and have that book with my name on it. It’s always been a dream and I want to complete the process necessary to make this dream come true. Just writing is a LOT easier than writing to be published.

  55. Hmm, the fact that there is money in writing is news to me.
    Honestly, I don’t care what I make, I would like to be published because I write, I dont write because I want to be published. The effort has already been made, I just need someone that can help turn my efforts into something someone can see. I don’t know that end of the business and the thought of tackling learning it myself is a bit overwhelming. If an agent told me they could get me published and out in the book world in any form but I may never see $1, I would still accept their help and put in any and all effort needed to get my MS to that point.
    I love writing, I do what I can to find time to craft the stories I love. Since I do that, I might as well share it with whomever is interested in these characters and places I have created.

  56. Kaitlyne says:

    Personally, I wouldn’t spend nearly as much time revising and the only people who would read my stuff would be family and friends (mostly because I wouldn’t put it out unrevised to anyone else).

    I love to write and will do that for myself just as a hobby. However, revision takes away from my writing time (I can’t do both) and, while I enjoy doing it, takes an awful lot of time and effort. If there’s no chance of receiving anything back for that time and effort, I don’t see much point in doing it.

    Anyway, I have a few people who would read and enjoy my work, and if there was no way to make a career out of it (or even earn a little supplemental income) I doubt I’d ever pursue anything beyond those few people.

  57. I love telling stories. That being said, I think it would be very difficult to continue writing novels if there wasn’t at least a small glimmer of hope that I could someday support myself (and my family) as a novelist. In other words, professional validation, as mercenary as that may sound, is a quiet yet extremely powerful motivator for me.

  58. Karen says:

    Wow! This question engendered many responses! Writing is a craft, an art.
    I’ve been an artist since I first began
    to create crayon pictures and tell my
    younger siblings stories. I would still
    (and do) write because I am an artist,
    plain and simple.

    In these changing times, it’s a matter of
    discovering a satisfying venue.

  59. Jen says:

    I love to read. It feeds my soul. I cannot imagine a world without books to escape with on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

    I guess I think of writing as a potluck. We all need to bring a great dish to the table if we are going to have enough food for a meal.

    We have to keep writing if we are going to have books to read.

  60. Sylvia A. Nash says:

    I’ve tried to stop writing. I can’t stop. The most I’ve ever made for a piece is $50. I hope to someday have a published novel. I hope to someday “support myself” from my writing. Money or no, I’ll keep writing in some form or another whether anyone reades it or not. I have to.

    That said, if there were no possibility of a money-making writing gig, if everyone just self-published whatever came out of the pen or off the printer, I think good writing would decline.

    That doesn’t mean we would write garbage, but we probably wouldn’t edit 100 times before publishing. I learned a long time ago from a multi-published professor, who was also a multi-grant recipient, that any writing can be improved. You stop writing and improving when UPS or FedEx comes to pick up the package.

    To sum up this rambling note, “writers” want to write the best they can money or no. The possiblity of money makes most of us strive even harder to write better.

  61. Jeff Goins says:

    I would keep writing anyway.

    Wait… there’s money in writing?!

  62. CGWorrell says:

    I’d have to write anyway…as a means of silencing “the voices” in my head. It has therapeutic benefits.

  63. I think writing for money (unless you are a salaried writer – news, scripts, marketing, etc.) is similar to playing the lottery. You know going in you have a slim chance in hell of hitting it big or even breaking even, but you do it anyway. True writers, cursed with the sickness, never expect to make a dime.

    However, I do think ePublishing has evened the playing field and made it possible for more writers to earn something for their efforts, whether it be money or a reader that enjoyed their work. I hate to even say it, but I guess you can look at ePublishing like the terrible TV reality shows (American Idol, etc.). It’s all about the average person getting exposure. If anything ePublishing has made me work harder, knowing I have more opportunities to be read.

    The rest is up to luck, marketing and whether or not my work is truly good. Time will tell.

  64. Jeff Cook says:

    There’s money in writing?

  65. Nyree Girl says:

    Honestly, I dance around this question a lot. I’ve been writing for online publications for a while now..for free. And some days I wonder if I should pursue paying gigs because, let’s be honest, getting paid would just be nice.

    I’ve self-published four books, love it and will probably continue to do so. It works for me. More than likely, i’ll keep writing anyway.

    Money or not, I know it’s a calling from God for me. He’ll supply the rest if I stay faithful.

  66. I would still continue to write. I love writing. I love the way it feels to create something. It is fulfilling to me. The idea of sharing my work is even more so, despite the state of publishing. Sure, it would be nice to get paid for doing it. But if I had to go through my “writing career” without getting paid, then so be it. I don’t think that money would really affect the way it feels to me because money isn’t in the equation now.
    My idea on the state of publishing as we know it is, more and more, people are effected by the state of the economy. It’s a viscous circle that, unfortunately, touches us all in some way. I hope that it will eventually even out and bounce back. But if it doesn’t, I’ll still be pounding the keys.

  67. Samuel says:

    I do it for the prestige and all the screaming hot chicks.

    They love me.

  68. Lol. So far, there hasn’t been much money in writing for me anyway and I still do it, so I guess I’ll look at it as a bonus if I do make some. I think stories and the desire to tell them keep coming whether there is money there or not, and I don’t think writers can help writing, no matter the outcome. If you can life a life not writing, then do it. You’ll probably come out way ahead.

    If a writer is able to develop her skill to such a point that she can make something for her writing, good for her! (I love happy endings.)

  69. Lisa Welch says:

    Not writing would mean a silence I just couldn’t endure.

  70. TNeal says:

    The money side of publishing influences how often I write and the understanding that, if I want to make a living, I need to write well and often.

    The area most influenced by the lure of cash though is the business side of publishing. I do want to make a living therefore I’m motivated to learn more about marketing, Twitter, e-pub, platforms, YouTube…and how all that relates to writing and selling a novel.

    The dream “build it and they will come” is just that–a dream. Money, in part, motivates me to continue the effort to write. If no payoff existed, I’d tell stories for the fun of it but I wouldn’t put in the hours to learn to craft a better story.

  71. I know there is a huge movement of “get something for nothing” lately, but that can’t continue long-term (in ALL industries) and have an economy supported on it.

    The thing that comes to mind are the “extreme” couponers… the ones that try to get their 4 carts of groceries for $5.92. Most grocery stores have started to change their coupon policies, because abuse of coupons is not conductive to making a profit.

    That isn’t to say freebies aren’t needed. Even grocery stores give away free samples to wet your appetite!

    I guess my point is… I’m not “worried” about it right now. Do we need to evaluate things? Sure. But a “woe to writers” attitude isn’t going to help either.

    As far as my writing, I’d write “something” if there were no hope for money, but nothing like I am doing now. Instead of my constant fight to make it a priority in my day, it would be quickly put on the backburner and only done in my “true” down-time, which is slim pickin’s these days!

  72. Carradee says:

    I’d find a way to make money with it. (Wait, I already have—with web content. And if sales of my self-published fiction doesn’t pick up, I’ll work more on my non-fiction projects.)

    But anyway, if something happened and all my writing income dried up, I’d probably experiment more. Since I was a teenager, I’ve gotten ideas for businesses and websites that someone else has later made built and made money on, so I’d try some of those, I suppose.

  73. I’m perplexed at the notion that great writing won’t always have a value worth paying for. I believe it will, most assuredly. Yes, people want more and more for free, in everything, not just reading material (i.e., Swoup Deal of the Day, Living Social, Buy-1-get-1-Free, coupons, etc.). It’s not just publishing going through a huge shift – consider what’s happened to the travel and housing industries. TV shows need storylines. Movies need scripts. Corporations need annual reports. Magazines (even ezines) need articles. This content won’t write itself nor will it have to be donated. I for one am very excited about the future of writing. We have more resources available to improve our craft (like your wonderful blog – which I get for free!), resources that didn’t exist before this revolution in publishing.

  74. Diana Dart says:

    I’m all for thinking it through. You stated that “publishers and agents are working on ways to continually add value to the reader’s experience, so that consumers will keep seeing reading material as valuable enough to pay for it.”

    That’s my focus as a writer as well, adding value. Creating a body of work that screams quality and maybe, just maybe, moves hearts.

    As a reader I will continue to fork out cash for novels and other writing that speaks to me, entertains me and teaches me. My hope is that other readers will feel that way about my stuff. If they don’t? I’ll keep slogging through, adding value and stretching myself.

  75. Jo Lawler says:

    I actually would not be writing fiction if I didn’t have the hope of make at least some money at it.

    However, I wouldn’t stop writing altogether, because my non-money-making writing is done to help people with advice or comfort or words of wisdom, and I could never stop doing that.

  76. Anna Labno says:

    I think that agents don’t push for foreign rights.
    While Kindle is becoming popular in United States, it will take a while to affect other countries at that pace.
    They should look for stories more universal that appeal to people everywhere. Instead, they are limiting it to United States. By doing so, they are killing their own potential. They aren’t reaching on broader scope; they’re staying inside the box.

  77. Jerry Eckert says:

    People write for money???
    I write to change the way people think, to hone and sharpen their moral integrity, and to entertain, provide a bit of light on occasional dark nights.
    Now, if there are movie options and anything with six (6) digits before the decimal, then we can talk.

  78. I’ve been writing my whole life and never once made a dime.
    “Are birds really free from the chains of the sky?”-Bob Dylan.

  79. Danielle says:

    There’s no money in writing? When the richest woman in the world got the castle in Scotland THROUGH her writing?

    There is money in writing; it’s who gets it, and how it’s divided, that may have changed.

    Look at Famous Author who was so successful he now employs a “team” of writers. The best seller list contain more repeat appearances than ever. That’s one example of how the published world has changed. In other words, what makes the real money may now be the umpteenteh bestseller from a name the public knows. Readers, like financiers, are risk-averse.

    What we may be seeing now–at least I propose the idea–is the disapparance of the mid-list author. We’re divided now into the pyramid’s base of little knowns and the apex well-known earners at the top. With not as many names in between as I think there used to be.

    I think that marketing a book has become a lot harder than it used to be. in the past, just a “good publishing house name” might be enough to inspire a reader to take a risk on an unknown author. Does that still hold true? I don’t think so.

    As for writing if I weren’t paid for it, I already do. Nevertheless, I think “earning” is a goal every writer should keep firmly in mind. It keeps us on our toes, if nothing else, trying to improve our craft and marketability.

  80. I’ve been writing my whole life and not once have I ever made a dime. “Are birds really free from the chains of the sky?”-Bob Dylan

  81. There is not only no money in writing, there is negative money in writing. So far.

    I pay freelance editors to help my work look its best. I keep a nice website. I do market research, go to conferences, and read books on writing. I’m an SCBWI member.

    But I can’t stop writing, and I want to get better. So there you go: bye-bye $$$. So far. It would be nice to at least break even someday.

  82. Connie Brown says:

    I’ve been thinking about the changing dynamics in publishing for several years…and watching and praying.

    As for the making a living component of your comments, I chose to go back to my day job. Now I write a lot on technical subjects as part of my role on a software development team. This is part time right now.

    By necessity, that means, I’m writing fewer freelance items on non-technical subjects.

    I’m still involved with writing and writers outside of work. Mostly listening or contributing behind the scenes.

    As for the publishing industry component of your comments, I find the ebook movement exciting — I see lots of potential there when a writer can find a topic readers want or need and can deliver it up for them. I’ve yet to figure out what I might contribute there, but I hope to.

    Overall, for me, writing is communicating to serve readers. I can do that in a variety of ways. Mostly for free. So I do. And I’m grateful my day job allows me to write and pay bills.

  83. Rachelle,
    Your question comes at an interesting time for me. I’ve only really started writing in the last year or so, and I truly feel that God has pointed me in this direction for a reason. Whether that’s money or not, I don’t know. It’s become such an essential part of my life in that time that I think I would probably have started writing anyway, even if I knew that nothing fiscal would come of it.

    Creating stories, characters, places… I enjoy it so much. My writing isn’t perfect, but I feel it’s on it’s way. It’s something that lets me relax, and escape from this world a little. All in all, sure the money would be nice, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s about writing for myself first, and then writing to help or entertain others second.

    I’d keep writing.

  84. Nathan Rudy says:

    I would still write, but in different forms. I wouldn’t work in novel length, and would likely go significantly shorter.

    But essays, blogging, op-eds and short stories would still be on the table since I enjoy the process of writing and editing.

  85. Robin Patchen says:

    I hope we’re all writing because writing is God’s calling on our lives. I will write until the Lord tells me to stop, whether He decides I should be paid for it or not. Easy for me to say as a stay-at-home mom with a well-paid and supportive husband, I know.

  86. Lisa Fender says:

    WOW! Rachelle, I think you hit a spot in the brains of most writers, look at all these posts! I think we write because we love too and through out history there has always been story tellers, some out loud and some written down, writers will always write! As far as being paid, writers need to be more positive. Just like writers will always write, readers will always look for something to read! That will never change! I don’t believe that books will die out, publishers might, but not books. It is sad to see what has happened to the book and music industry, but if someone reads a book they love they will pass it on through word of mouth. Now a days it can take longer for a book to become popular, but if it is a good book the word will travel. Look at George R R Martin, how long ago did he write the first in the Song of Ice and Fire series?? Now his books are catching on and people love them. Other times it doesn’t take as long like Twilight. I think we need to just write the best possible book we can and put it out there and see what happens. I think the key today is your platform, marketing early so that when your book comes out people would have already heard about it.

    I don’t relish the thought of having to pay most of my book earnings to an agent and publisher, but what ever it takes to get my book out in the public and hope and pray that people love it! That’s what I want to hear!!

  87. I’ve been writing all my life. For a long time I brought my short stories to my professional association meetings, and they got passed around (that was before the internet was so big). The magazine that published my first essay sent me a check for $25. When they published my second essay, the envelope came, but they’d forgotten to put the check in. I never said anything. That essay went on to be published in a book, but I didn’t know it until almost 10 years later because I had given up my copyrights (didn’t know about that either). Today I am in the last years of a very fulfilling career, and I’ve gotten my MFA (my job paid for it), so I hope to write and maybe make a little money on the side doing it. My memoir is not going to be a bestseller, and I don’t imagine I’d really want that in my life at this point. But it would be nice to have my first book published and for it to be a literary success as I enter my late fifties.

  88. Janet Bettag says:

    There’s money in writing? Seriously? I didn’t know that!

    My basic motivation for writing is three-fold: I write some things because I believe they will help make somebody else’s life easier, some things just for the creative outlet the work provides, and some things I write because a story simply MUST be told.

    If there is money in it and I ever see a substantial amount of it (I’m talking more than a $15 prize in a writing contest), I believe my basic motivation would remain the same. I write because I was born to be a writer.

  89. Bonnie Lacy says:

    If we have something to say as writers, if we can help someone through our work, then we will keep on writing.

    Period.

    Thanks Rachelle.

  90. Timothy Fish says:

    Of course, writing isn’t just about money, but the elephant in the room is this thing about readers who don’t want to pay more than a small amount for books. The real question is, do I as a writer want to work for someone who doesn’t want to pay me for my work?

    My answer to that is that no I don’t, but why is that? There is a lot of writing that I do with no expectation of someone paying me. There are things that I do for people that I know will take several hours or even days for me to accomplish, but I do it without asking for compensation. What is it that makes this situation different?

    It comes down to a matter of appreciation. It is hard for me to say no to someone who appreciates what I do for them. On the other hand, it is difficult to keep doing something if people don’t show appreciation. If a husband brings his wife flowers and she throws them in the trash, he might try again a few times, but eventually he will stop bringing her flowers. The same is true for writers and readers. If I spend weeks slaving over a novel, but when I put it out there the readers won’t take it unless I give it to them or don’t charge more than a small amount, after which they complain because it wasn’t what they were expecting, you can bet that I’ll be ready to write them off. I don’t need that.

    We write because we want to touch lives, so in that way, it isn’t about the money. But money is the primary way that readers we’ve never met show their appreciation to us as writers.

    • I completely agree with this. On the one hand, I realize money for books has to come out of our “discretionary income,” and for many people, there’s not a lot of that. I buy a lot of books in all formats – hardcover, paperback, digital, and audiobooks – but I’m always looking for ways to save money on the books I buy. I also know a lot of people who love to read but never buy books, relying on the library or borrowing from friends.

      There are people who simply can’t afford books. But there are even more people who’d just rather not pay very much for books. That’s the part that is hard – realizing people don’t put a premium on the hard work writers do. You may spend hundreds of hours writing a book (not to mention the thousands of hours you already put in learning to be a good writer) and yet most people won’t be willing to pay more than $10 for it.

      It’s a reality, but frustrating.

      • Do you think the old business adage of “lower the price and move more units,” applies to the $10 theory. If so, I think the earning potential of the published author might remain the same as it is now, or *cross fingers* increase.

        That’s the “talk” of many self-published authors, from what I’ve seen. Those who have lowered their price point and moved more books. I think fair pricing in the eyes of the consumer is largely driven by the new publishing paradigm.

        With that said, I still want to go traditional publishing. Odd, maybe, but true. I have a twisted love affair, a fantasy if you will that traditional publishing will remain a key player. However, if I’m proven wrong in the next 5 years, then I’d e-pub a few novels and see how that goes.

        Writing, for most of us committed to our craft, is synonymous with breathing. I’d continue to write, but I’d need to rejoin corporate america to pay the bills *Blech*

        • Timothy Fish says:

          Lower price for more units sold is only half of the picture. There are two curves. One shows the number of books people are willing to buy at a given price (demand) and the other shows the number of books a publisher can afford to sell at a given price (supply). The maximum profit occurs where the two curves cross. I think the end result will be that if people aren’t willing to pay more than $10 then publishers will simply not publish any book that they can’t afford to sell at that price point.

      • Jen says:

        I am one of those library users. I could never afford to buy all the books my family reads in a year. Nor would I have the room in my house to keep all the books. But I also use the library as part of good stewardship. I want to read a book but I don’t need to keep it on my shelf getting dusty when I am done. My boys and I also get to try different genres and take reading risks that we may avoid if we had to pay full price. Strong library systems create avid readers who do still buy books when they can’t wait for their favorite author’s new title to become available or they want to mark up the book with lots of notes. They buy books for their kids as treats and recommend their favorite books to friends who usually go out and buy the book.

        I guess I read your comment about libraries Rachelle as a negative.

        • As an avid user of the library, I’d never say anything negative about them. (Libraries buy a lot of books, so they really help authors.) But I’ve always bought books, too, trying not to just get everything for free (even long before I worked in publishing). I was always aware of the need to help authors & publishers get paid for what they do…so they can keep doing it! I’m sometimes amazed how many people love reading but never grasp this.

  91. Lori says:

    This is distressing. I write novels because I LOVE to write and yes, I want to be published and paid and this to be my full time job. But I suppose if it doesn’t then I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now, keep copywriting materials. I have to have an income. So I can’t say “Oh, I’ll just do it for free for a hobby.”

  92. Shon says:

    I have a question. Do you have to make money from writing before being able to call yourself a writer? I haven’t made a dime from writing, but if I do, I’ll frame that sucker with a business card that says “writer” under my name!

  93. Ann Bracken says:

    Would I continue to write? Definitely. Would I like to make money at it? Most assuredly.
    Do I expect that to happen? Not enough to quit my job.

    The truth is that most writers have a compulsion to put the metaphorical pen to paper. There are stories that invade our dreams and characters who clammor for attention. Plus, there is something truly satisfying about the words, The End.

  94. I think I’d still have to write. The bigger question is would my husband continue to be as supportive? Probably somewhat, knowing it’s my mid-life therapy. He likes me better sane. Go figure ;o).

  95. Rain Laaman says:

    If there were no food left on earth, would I still be a human being?
    Yeah. If there were no publishers left on earth, would I still be a writer? Yes. A writer is something I am, even when I’m not writing. I didn’t realize until I began querying that I might actually make money from writing.

  96. Writing is how I communicate. People in the writing community think I am outgoing.Giggle.

    When husband and I get in the car to go somewhere he often tells me to talk when we get there. He would not have known me at the last ACFW conference.

    It there was no hope of money somewhere down the line, husband would not be happy with the expense of writing.

  97. Rebekkah says:

    I’d do it as a hobby. The quality would probably be less, because it would only be a hobby, so I wouldn’t go through all the stages of editing. But writing is my de-stressor: it’s how I survived high school, college, and my first job; it’s how I put myself back together when life shatters my self-confidence or my hope. When I write, I’m in control – no matter how wild or uncooperative my characters are, I get the final say, I’m the one who says if they live or die or suffer for an eternity of undeath. Luckily for them, I prefer happy endings. And that’s the thing – there aren’t many happy endings in the real world. But when I write, there are ALWAYS happy endings: the good guys always win, good actions are rewarded instead of punished, and the rent never exceeds the paychecks. (Maybe that’s not how the story begins, but it does end that way.)

    Writing is my way finding good in the world, of not losing hope that there is still good in people. So even if I never got paid, I’d still write. But the things I wrote would be different, if only because there would be no incentive to be original, innovative, productive, or even well-written. I’d be doing it just for me, just in my free time, just when I felt like it.

  98. Nairam says:

    I would write. As I am. I actually have a pretty doom-and-gloom view of earning enough to live on anyway (more so than anyone who finds out I write–they always ask immediately if I’m published), so I know I’m not in it for the money.

    The amount of readers is really what appeals to me about publishing, but even as I am right now I have a decent, if modest, following. I can live with that.

  99. tara tyler says:

    i guess thats part of the problem, we should value our talents more?

  100. It’s rare that anyone makes what I’d consider a living wage for writing, unless employed as a reporter for a news publication. Sure there are the writing stars, but even they are not making the so-called “big bucks” today. Regardless, I’m in the camp where I’d continue writing, with little or no consideration of compensation. It’s just what I do.

  101. tara tyler says:

    how do you find time to read all your comments!
    i just want people to read and enjoy my story.
    my satisfaction is their understanding & appreciation. that i was able to entertain =)
    $ would be a bonus

    some people just love to write! (i would say most)

  102. Marielena says:

    Many times in my 30-plus year career as a journalist/writer, I wanted to hang it up. Creative writing and my novels waited. This month, I took a great “money risk” with early retirement to write my novels because they wouldn’t wait any longer. Today, I write not for the meager paycheck of some magazine or organization, knowing full well that the chances of selling a novel, much less any monetary success, are slim to none. So why do I do it? It may be a silly answer, but I must. “It” won’t leave me alone. This time I’m writing not only to nurture my creative spirit, and yes, because I want to be read. It’s more than that. I want my words to inspire, uplift, give hope; I pray that readers find some universal connection in my stories. Would money be nice? Of course. But I’m also a big believer that when we truly enjoy what we do, it reflects on the page. That translates to rewards that may not always be monetary.

  103. Kelly Combs says:

    The validation of publication is enough for me. And because I’ve only been published in compilation books or articles, I have yet to be paid over $50 for anything I’ve written, and usually a copy of the book. So for me, not about the money. But my husband is the “bread winner” so it’s easy for me to have that attitude.

  104. I write mainly because it’s personally satisfying. My blog is an unpaid hobby for me, but it gives me immense satisfaction knowing other people use it as a resource for improving their own writing. As for my fiction, I hope to get published traditionally some day because it’s a goal I set for myself years ago and have yet to cross off my list of accomplishments. I don’t expect to make lots of money from it, but I don’t think I would publish a novel for free.

    Regarding the change in the ways we get our reading material, I think the move to ereaders may eventually prove to be a blessing for lesser-known writers. I know I’ve spent more on ebooks since I got my Nook Color in May 2011 than I’ve spent in the last 10 years on regular books, and most are by authors I never heard of. I never would have looked for these books in a traditional bookstore.

  105. Sommer Leigh says:

    Would I still write if there were no money in publishing? Yes, but it wouldn’t look a thing like how I work now. There’s always been a pretty wide difference between writing because you want to write and writing because you want it as your career.

    I hate the idea that writing is a skill that doesn’t deserve to be paid for like any other skill, that there is something inherantly less valuable than say, fixing computers or flipping burgers. I have a career in mind, and so all of my behind the scenes work that has little to do with the writing itself – the education into the industry, the research, the networking, and the amount of time I spend helping other writers – these things would no longer have value for me if a career was not an option. (Well, except for that last item.) If a career were not an option, I’d have significantly more time to write, ironic as that might sound.

  106. I love “thinking this through.” My dream changes and evolves every time the publishing industry shifts. I’m pretty analytical as far as thinking through the many options. There are so many factors and alternatives, depending on your goals. And when you remove the money factor, the options change further. I think I write mainly to be read, to get people thinking about issues in different ways. But there are certain things that I want from traditional publishing that I haven’t quite figured out how to get from self-publishing. Still, I think about it. How can one not at least think about the many different ways to be read?

  107. Martha Carr says:

    I’ve never been paid a lot – but when I was recovering from cancer I received several grants available only to working writers that helped me to be able to sit back and relax plus I found a medical grant so I think I have gotten paid just not the way I expected.
    Good post for writers!
    I’ve also gotten hundreds and hundreds of emails and letters from readers who said their day was easier because of something I’ve written. That’s worth it too.

  108. There is money in writing? My editor and I need to chat.

  109. April says:

    Ah…the infamous money question. I’ve always written. Always. Even before I realized I could actually try to snag an agent. I will always write. Period. One day, I hope to be published and be read, but the money honestly doesn’t matter to me. I have a good day job with good benefits and make enough to contribute to our household. Any money I make if/when I publish is icing!

  110. Karen Jordan says:

    Money? Did you say money? You can actually get paid for doing this? Sign me up for that seminar!

  111. Malin says:

    I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to do EXACTLY the kind of effort I do today, and I wouldn’t need to spend so much time explaining to people that “I want to be published” doesn’t mean “I want to be famous and earn lots of cash”. I think the writing industry would be better off with less money involved.

    I’ve never expected to earn a lot (although it would make my dream farm easier to accomplish) – all I’ve ever wanted is to be read.

  112. April Brown says:

    Definitely not in it for the money.

    However, i look at it this way: Would I rather someone have to save for four or five months to buy one of my books for $20.00, or would I rather them be able to buy four of my books at $5.00?

    At $5.00 they could buy one a week, and share more of my books with friends, encouraging more sales.

    At $5.00 a book a reader will find more authors to enjoy reading, instead of just buying one or two sequels of their favorite author a year.

    At $5.00, my book is more likely to be bought, than if they have to save money, and something else catches up their attention in the mean time.

    At $5.00 my book is the cost of one hour of work for 85% of the population. (You can claim minimum wage is more, yet once taxes are taken out, the average worker has to work 1 hour for $5.00 of pay.)

    Should my work be worth more than one hour of pay? Perhaps. Yet, I’d rather have 1,000 readers than just ten. Those 1,000 can multiply far faster than ten who have lots of money.

    • Timothy Fish says:

      However, you could look at that another way. Let’s say it takes 8 hours for the reader to read the book. The author and publisher are working for the reader during that 8 hours, so if the reader were to pay them an equivalent wage, that would be $40.

      • Stephen King says:

        But we’re not working for the reader during that time. We’re sitting at home enjoying the ample fruits of our labors, or maybe even writing the next one.

  113. Of course I wrote my first book expecting to become a multimillionaire overnight just like Dan Brown and JK Rowling did. Doesn’t everybody? Then I found out that they didn’t exactly do it overnight, either, and so I reconciled myself to the reality of writing. Specifically, there is no money in it.

    Luckily I have a day job, one that pays my bills adequately and includes a boss and coworkers who were as jazzed as I was over the cover art on my first novel. My boss doesn’t fear losing me anytime soon, though; she’s aware of the reality of writing also. Specifically, there is no money in it.

    Did I mention that there is no money in writing? At least, not at first. Potentially, not ever. That said, for a writer who’s not entwined in the Big 6 scheme, it’s a simple mathematical equation: we make $x per book sold. If we want to make $x times a hundred thousand, we have to sell a hundred thousand books. It can be ten thousand copies of ten different books, or a thousand copies of a hundred different books, or ten copies of ten thousand different books.

    All that said, Konrath wrote several good essays on the topic, and I agree with him. Readers will always exist, and will always be willing to pay something for the stuff they read. That something may not be $25 a pop, but $2.99 is less than most people pay for lunch. Granted, at $2.99 a copy the publisher and the agent can hardly afford their Maseratis, but neither of those is the writer. Neither of those is the content producer; both are mere middlemen.

    These days, I’d say the writer is the position to be in.

    • Stephen, my 9-year-old Ford is so flattered that you would refer to it as a Maserati!

      • Stephen King says:

        You mean all agents aren’t multimillionaires either? Dang. 🙂

        The “middlemen” comment was a bit harsh. I blame the overage of blood in my caffeine stream at that moment. Agents are wonderful and fluffy and stuff, and I look forward to the day when I need one.

  114. Wendy says:

    Like Sue’s answer 4 above me. Had a good laugh at the picture, and yes, I’m in this w/ or without the green.
    ~ Wendy

  115. Peter DeHaan says:

    Earning money from writing is ideal. But there are some things that I would be compelled to write, even if it produced no revenue. Of course then I wouldn’t have a writing business, but a writing hobby.

  116. Ginny Martyn says:

    It’s hard not to see publishing going the same way as recording. We only pay a $1 or $2 for a song rather than $20 for an album. It’s a different world. One of the MAJOR selling points for getting an e-reader was that I could get new titles for $10 as opposed to &25-$30 for hardback. However, I think I’ve bought more books because of that fact 🙂

    I’ve been writing for 10 years, and I’ve made less than $1,000. Some days I wish it was about the money–then I could walk away. But, like the others, I remain.

    It’s more about creating something people respond to rather than just getting paid. I think that’s why I started blogging. Instant feedback is like my personal crack and stats are a currency almost as prized as cash.

  117. Sue Harrison says:

    The words and stories would still call me. I’d be writing.

  118. kiff says:

    It’s my right, to write. The gratification of walking into barnes and noble and seeing my book on the shelf is my reason to wake up each morning. I’m not getting paid for what I do now,and considering I live in the Caribbean where writing/publishing is not even given the attention or committmenthat it is compared to UK or US,its a miracle in itself that I press on.

  119. otin says:

    Paid? You mean people make money off of this? lol.

    The same thing happened to the recording industry. Who actually buys an album anymore? People download what they want to hear.

  120. Joe Pote says:

    It hasn’t stopped me so far!

  121. There is no money in writing…so don’t even worry about it.

    But there is money in being an author, developing a fan base one soul at a time, and nurturing the relationships over a long period of time.

    And guess what, you don’t need an agent or a traditional publishing house to do this for you. They can’t do this for you and truth be told, never could or would.

    All a publisher could do (and really, all they needed to do) was print your book, distribute your book, and, to some degree, promote your book. The focus was on the book. The dead tree pressed into paper, printed, bound, and shipped. But in the end, its really not about the book, is it?

    This is where traditional publishers went off track and continue to do so today. It is why they are rapidly becoming obsolete. They are focusing on the wrong asset.

    No, you can’t make money writing, but you can make money as an author with a growing base of fans that you care for and nurture. That’s the asset. That’s where the money is.

    Now quit reading this blog and others like it, stop wasting time on query letters hoping someone will dub you worthy, and go work on your business. The path is there before you. You don’t need permission from anyone to do this…so get on with it.

  122. If I could reach many readers, or had a decent shot at doing so, and if it didn’t cost me too much, I’d still write. (That pretty much describes where I am now – but it’s been less than two weeks since my book became available, so I’ll reserve judgment on whether writing may eventually pay.)

  123. Emily H. says:

    I have always felt that I wanted to write even if I wasn’t getting paid for it. Telling stories is something very important to me.

    And now, with a contracted book due… every day I get home and I write for a couple hours and I go to sleep. I have very little time for being social, for doing housework, for fun. It’s not really sustainable. For a while I was able to work part-time, but not anymore.

    I think that I will always be a writer, but having two jobs is really hard.

  124. Bill Rogers says:

    That’s average with an e of course!

  125. Bill Rogers says:

    The averag income for writers in the UK a couple of years ago was £4,000. That’s about $6,400. Hardly a living wage. People have always felt compelled to write. If they only do so in the expectation of earning money the majority are going to be disappointed. Digital publishing isn’t going to change that. It may mean many more people earning very small amounts, but on the other hand there will be others who would never have been published who may go on to earn a fortune. I predict that it will mean more, not less, people writing for others. That must be a good thing. Perhaps agents could compensate for loss of earnings down the traditional route by offering to help successful eBook authors to achieve film & TV rights?

  126. One reason I made it through high school is because of an enthusiastic, creative English teacher who encouraged me to write. And write. I’ve just never been confident enough to share it with the world. So, yes, I would write if anyone read it or not. I won’t even mention making money.

    I finally broke down and started a blog–platforming and all that–a big step for me because I rarely show other people my work (I have three IR’s, that’s it). The blog is great because I’m getting some postitive feedback and I can write about the themes that keep cluttering up the focus of my main project, those little articles that side-track my thoughts.

  127. Sylvia Smith says:

    Mini rant: I’ve taught high risk high school students long enough now that I can guess what a world with no writing would be like; for that reason alone, I will continue to write, even unpaid as I am. In fact, EVERYONE should write, prolifically, because writing is the discipline of thought. Logically, a world with no writing is also a world with no reading. And a world with no reading would ultimately be a world with an illiterate, mentally lax population of drones. Why? Because the drive to read is a basic hunger of the human brain that emerges at an age of readiness right after speech. Ignoring this drive results in a serious deficit for the non-reader. More reading material is needed than the relatively few, often commercially driven offerings dispensed for the sake of the market by publishers. Readers need custom choice that meets their need to know in order to remain readers, and I am not willing to live in a world of non-readers. Few writers make enough to live on anyway. As a teacher, I live every day in a local and online community of “unpaid” writers: students, teachers, reporters, scholars, poets, artists, and on and on. All have something to say, and contribute to the common dialogue that creates the fabric of local, even national, civilization. As much writing as can feasibly be produced is essential nourishment for a free society, commercially published or not. The last thing the written word should yield to as a barrier is commerce. Even if there are only two people in the room, he who holds the pen controls reality. That’s creation. That’s power. Money? I can get that another way.

  128. Miles says:

    I guess I’d do whatever poets do now.

  129. Stephanie McKibben says:

    When you take that approach, this is a question that can clear up a lot of prohibitions. It’s always been about creation for me.

  130. Mel Menzies says:

    One of my books paid for my new kitchen; another for a holiday; a third went into savings. Most advances, however, barely covered the cost of travelling the country doing speaking and signing tours. Who was it who said that 1% of writers make a killing; 4% a living; and the other 95% pin money?

    Who cares? I started writing as a schoolgirl and I’ve never stopped. Writing is not what I DO. It’s who I AM.

  131. Sra says:

    I very much need an audience. I’d never be able to do the “I just write for myself” nonsense. I write because I want to affect people. (And sometimes puppetmaster their emotions as I cackle in the background.)

    So for money? It’s not really as much of an issue (though it is still a little one). For an audience, yes.

    As far as the market, my theory is that the reason it’s getting harder to make money is because people just don’t want to pay actual money to get a non-tangible product. (Practically everything else on the internet is free. Why should books be different?)

    Digital is convenient, portable, quick, easy, but if your computer or kindle crashes… sucks to be you. Your hard copy books aren’t going to crash. They aren’t just going to disappear, or turn invisible. They won’t randomly turn into files of Statistics homework.

    (That is a true story. All my ipod music turned into stat projects. I seriously don’t understand that.)

    People don’t mind paying money for actual things. It’s much harder to want to pay money for binary code equivalents.

  132. Cindy Sprigg says:

    In my opinion, and this post will probably be removed,is that Agents and publishers have a lot to do with the decline of the printed word.
    Before the computer age and the e-book format, agents and publishers could afford to be picky on what and who they represented, because self-publishing was an expensive option.
    With the advent of e-publishing, writers can publish their work at little or no cost, and still make a reasonable return from their work.
    I would still write, I have no choice, but I would see my work published albeit in non-traditional format.

  133. Addy Rae says:

    I would definitely still write. At this time I have no chance of making money at writing, but this doesn’t slow my writing down in the least!

    I write because writing makes me happy, and because I have stories that fill up my head. I would love to be published, and I will someday start the query process, but not getting published isn’t a big deal to me. 🙂

  134. I would still write. I haven’t made any money so far, but I keep writing because it’s important to me and I enjoy it. I think it would make a difference, though, if writers couldn’t get published at all for whatever reason. I don’t want to be the only one who reads my writing.

  135. Since my total earnings to date as a published writer are about $22 and that’s two years of publishing a story every month or so, I think I can safely say that $$$ are not a big deal for me…

  136. As has already been said, you mean there’s money in writing?
    Seriously, I have made money from my books and writing–not enough for my hubby to quit his day job (quitting my day job of a stay-at-home mom is not an option, LOL)but the money is not the only thing that motivates me. I would still write because I have characters haunting me, keeping me up at night to tell their stories. I write because I have too.
    Where the money part comes in for me is it makes me write a lot faster and give up a lot more than I would otherwise.

  137. I’d still write because I can’t not write. I start to go weird when I don’t write. Also seeing the joy I brought to fellow classmates in college with my stories made me want to keep doing it. Also I just love adventure of writing a story and not knowing where it’s going to go and all the surprises along the way.

  138. A good writer can probably make a lot more money from blogging than they could publishing books.

  139. Sana Quijada says:

    really? there’s money in writing? cool.

  140. I haven’t seen any money yet, and I’m still writing. If there were no potential of any money, I wouldn’t have to SPEND so much joining organizations, going to conferences, etc. I might come out ahead!

  141. Ilima says:

    The bottom line is money = time, and time = quality. If you truly care about your craft, you need to be investing a significant amount of time in it. Unless you have a trust fund, that means you need to earn enough so that you don’t need to spend 40 hours a week working a day job. Readers driving down the market for books are going to reap what they sow — less excellence and more mediocrity.

  142. Claire Dawn says:

    I’d write. And I think alot of other writers would too. Truth is the grand majority of writers don’t make a living wage off writing.

  143. Cat says:

    There is money in arranging my cat hairs neatly on a page and having you humans read them? I don’t believe it but I will go on doing it anyway. 🙂

  144. Matt Morton says:

    I would still write. Most of what we write isn’t for money as it is (for example, I love writing for my own blog but make no money off of it). We write to express important ideas and to connect with those who read.

    If the publishing industry really did disappear, I imagine things would go back to how they were before there was such a thing. People might not get paid directly for writing, but they would get paid for being creative individuals with unique ideas. Philosophers, preachers, public speakers, and storytellers have always found a way to make a living from it.

  145. I write because I have to write, because I am compelled to write. When I’ve made money, it’s been nice, but that’s never been my motivation.

  146. Well, there hasn’t been any money in it for me so far. If every possibility of earning money with my writing evaporated, it would just be another day at the keyboard for me.

    Welllll, okay. I’d miss the dream of becoming one of those fortunate few who DO earn a living writing novels. I’d probably be just a little heartbroken at having that fantasy ripped out of my head.

    But I’d still write.

    The industry may be changing, but reports of its utter demise are a bit premature. I’ll keep working at the craft and dreaming about making my wonderful agent a very large amount of money until the day Amazon closes the Kindle store because nobody wants to buy books anymore.

    And even then, I’ll still write.

    D.

  147. It has been fascinating to see how the book industry is changing. It can be scary. I feel worried when I go to our local library and see it empty of people. : (

  148. Josin says:

    Before I started writing “for real”, I wrote fanfiction – definitely a not-for-pay situation, but it was still an amazing experience.

    Entertaining people, and having them say they appreciated what I’d written (not an uncommon comment in fanfic circles, no matter who does the writing or what they produce) was wonderful. (And the near-instant turn around on feedback didn’t hurt, either.

    Making a living from writing is the dream, but there are other things to be gained simply from providing a reader with new material.

  149. Alexis Grant says:

    Wait, are you suggesting there *IS* money in writing? 🙂

    • Cathy West says:

      That was going to be my question!! If there is, I sure haven’t seen any yet. The only money I’m seeing is my own, disappearing in chunks as I spend it on marketing and promoting my book. But then I didn’t really go in expecting much at this point so I guess I’m not too shocked.

    • I was thinking the exact same thing, Alexis! 😉

      • Rita Monette says:

        Haven’t seen any money yet, and I’m still writing and revising and writing. Love the process. Although it would be nice to get some recognition.

  150. In the six years I’ve been a published author I have made a grand total of $5.
    But I’ve made people laugh, I’ve made people cry, I’ve made people stop and think about things they hadn’t considered before, and I’ve taken people on exciting fictional adventures.
    I didn’t become a writer to pay the bills – that’s what I teach violin for. I became a writer because it was what I just had to do. And if you ask me, writing’s meager reward is reward enough.

  151. Anthony says:

    “But if there really is a trend of readers expecting content for cheap or free, that means it will get increasingly difficult for writers to make significant money (as in, anything approaching a living wage) directly from the written word.”

    Rachel, you seem to not have crossed your information age Rubicon. There are groups of writers who have declining revenue. There are groups of writers who have raising revenue.

    Right now, at this moment, there is a writer with a backlist that was going nowhere, that now, with the help of Amazon and such, is drawing a good monthly salary.

    This salary is made possible because of information technology in the hands of an average reader. On one hand, one could say that drives down prices to an unsustainable level as the supply greatly expands.

    On the other hand, one could say that the market for the written word is undergoing a market correction. To some it is painful, to others, a boon.

    Put it another way: storytelling is a social contract between the storyteller and the audience. The glass-half empty person says it’s all about greed.

    The glass half-full says a writer wants to be so good, people pay money for it. Writing for money is not a zero-sum game. Everybody wins.

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      “There are groups of writers who have declining revenue. There are groups of writers who have raising revenue.” Absolutely true. It has always been true, and will always be true, regardless of how the business changes. Good thoughts.

  152. RayS says:

    What would I do?
    Write.
    I’ve been writing over 50 years and I think I’ve made less than $100. Obviously not in it for the money.

  153. maine character says:

    I asked myself this a while back, and in the end I realized a better question would be, “How much could someone pay you to stop writing?”

    Once I knew that, I kept on going. Same way I play guitar and write songs, knowing I’ll never be on stage and not caring one bit.

  154. Rick says:

    I have to say, I think there’s a (likely unintended) implication in this blog post that’s making me uncomfortable, and it’s the conflation of ‘making a living’ with ‘doing it for the money’.

    Would I still write if there were absolutely no traditional publishing industry to speak of? Yes, of course.

    Would I write much, much less, because I would have to continue to work at day jobs with no hope of ever being able to write full-time? Yep. In that instance, the thing that puts food on the table becomes a priority. The dream can never be anything more.

    Additionally:

    Just because readers want/expect things for cheap, it does not logically follow that “it will get increasingly difficult for writers to make significant money (as in, anything approaching a living wage) directly from the written word”, especially since “a living wage” is not something many writers are presented with even now.

    The price of books has a bearing on how much money the author earns only insofar as % of author royalties goes. But how many people buy the books… that’s a powerful economic mover, too.

    There’s a good argument to be made, and the ebook market makes it, that more people will buy more books when they are priced at cheaper rates. I hesitate to buy ebooks for $9.99 (though sometimes I will). So does Janet Reid, as she posted earlier today.

    But when I see an ebook I’ve wanted and it’s between $6 and $8, I’ll usually snatch it up without a second thought.

    (This comment is a bit all over the place, for which I apologize. I’m going to bed now.)

    • Rachelle Gardner says:

      All good thoughts, Rick. You said “a living wage” is not something many writers are presented with even now. Yes, you’re right, but it’s still the HOPE and even the expectation of far more writers that you might realize.

      • Rick says:

        You definitely win the award for most functional and convenient blog/comment set-up, Rachelle. I didn’t even have to do anything and it lets me know when you reply! This is rare enough to make me irrationally happy.

        And yes, I do agree with you. It’s the hope/expectation that keeps many of us in the game for as long as it does.

  155. Adam Heine says:

    The title made me laugh. I think the more relevant question is: what if there were money in writing?(!)

    If money was a guaranteed no go, I’d still write, but it would be delegated to a low priority hobby, like playing video games. I’d find a community to write for, but I’d definitely write less.

    • Your first paragraph made me laugh, Adam.

      If there were no money in publishing, only having people read your work… My life would be very different! Writing is such a large part of me that I know I would never give it up. But I also couldn’t continue with it being my main dream. I’d have to get a “real” job. 😉

      So I’m in the “it would become a hobby” crowd. Would I still publish, even if only for readers? Yes. If I like writing so much I would do it for a hobby, I would be excited enough about it to want to share.

  156. Maxie says:

    My father is a writer (non-fiction) and when I was growing up, I decided that if I ever pursued writing, I would do it for the love of creating and practicing a beautiful craft. If there were no money in writing, I would chase the dream as hard as I do today…because I don’t think of writing as a cash cow.

  157. I don’t anticipate making much, if any, money, but for whatever reason, I still want to be published traditionally. It’s the whole seeing my name up in lights thing, though, strangely enough, it’s not about any level of fame. More than that, it’s an accomplishment, a notch on my belt, so to speak. I love writing. I love my stories. And I’d like others to love it, too. So that’s it primarily. I just want to have some folks say, “I loved your book!” Guess it must be vanity.

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