During my time in college, I have heard many times that writers can’t make money writing. The odds seemed ever against my favor with the average annual writing salaries ranging from $35k to $59k per year, and the more successful writers in narrower fields capping out at $70k. With such a wide salary range and the ever-increasing competition in the marketplace, it can seem impossible to land a high-paying writing position. For creative writers interested in making money publishing books, success is often left to the whims of an intern or a literary agent’s preferences.
Don’t feel dismayed by all the scary facts or numbers because the truth is that you can make money writing, and your success has much less to do with your education and the job market, and more to do with you.
Stop waiting for success to find you.
It’s time to stop hoping and praying you’ll land that dream writing position, or get that acceptance letter from the agent or publisher of your dreams. It’s time to accept that you might not ever get “discovered” after your latest literary magazine publication. Instead of worrying about when you’ll fall into your place as a writer and author, I want to show you how to take control of your writing career. Stop chasing thankless writing internships and mediocre publishing temp jobs that pay you crumbs.
I know what you’re thinking; this all sounds great, but how is it possible? The first step to making money writing is to create your dream career and cultivate your audience. Stop salivating over a mythical vision of you sailing the open sea with a typewriter and not a care in the world. To make money writing, you have to put in the research, loads of work, and have patience. You have to operate less like a fantasy and more like a business—become You Incorporated.
Thinking of herself as a business instead of an artist is what moved Lauryn Evarts Bosstick from a no-name fashion blogger to a major fashion brand with her own podcast and book. Bosstick worked as a bartender at night and attended college, all while slowly building her brand, The Skinny Confidential. She now has millions of followers and makes a living doing what she loves to do, giving people the skinny on fashion. Instead of waiting to finish college and then sending out applications for a career, Bosstick built her perfect career from the ground up.
Robert Graysmith was a young political cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1969 when he abandoned that career path to investigate the Zodiac killer case. He ended up writing his debut nonfiction book, Zodiac, which has gone on to sell approximately 4 million copies since its release in 1986. Graysmith has since written and published ten other investigative books. Not bad at all for a cartoonist.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m giving case studies about people who became successful writers without ever having planned on it. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely someone who has a formal education in creative writing, literature, or English, or you’ve spent countless hours doing your laborious research to teach yourself how to write better.
The fact that you have an interest in writing as a career means you most likely have a natural talent for storytelling and can navigate through character development, plotting, and various elements of craft like nobody’s business. If these successful writers can build a brand and make a living without having a formal education and or overt writing talent, then your odds of doing the same or better are even higher!
Don’t be a starving artist, be a creative entrepreneur.
So what is the magic dust that makes someone like Lauryn Evarts Bosstick, a successful writer while you’re sitting here struggling to find your way? While there could be any number of elements that stand in your way, I’ve found that the most common denominator is the writer’s inability to function as a business. I’ve spoken to numerous writers who cling to the fanciful idea that one day they’ll be discovered and spend the rest of their days sailing, hunched over their typewriters, and pumping out bestseller after bestseller.
If you’re waiting for someone to discover you’re writing, you’ll likely be waiting forever.
In the years before graduating from my creative writing program in college, I kept hearing professors and students talk about how challenging it is to break into a writing career, and that most will only have the option of working full-time jobs while writing on the side. I conducted my research only to find that my potential writing opportunities looked as bleak as I had heard. Even still, I refused to let myself become a statistic for how writers can’t make it in the world. As someone who has grown up inside a family business and has had my own, I was no stranger to innovation and resourcefulness.
I spent my final two years at college doing writing internships and marketing work-study jobs that added actual value to my resume. I created my writing and marketing agency that allowed me to take on freelance writing and marketing gigs that adjusted to my class schedule. As I developed marketing strategies for small businesses, designed websites and ads, and fine-tuned website SEO to drive traffic, I realized that writers have been doing things backward.
Market your writing like a business does a product.
Every successful business will spend months upon months strategically marketing new products before launching them so that they can get as many sales as possible once the latest product drops. Think about how many iPhone commercials you see before the new one is available for purchase. It’s common sense that if you want people to buy your product, you should probably let the market know it exists before you’ve launched it.
Writers make a grave mistake by waiting to market themselves once their first book is published. They also make a mistake by relying on the publisher to do all the marketing for them.
As I’ve continued to build my marketing expertise through marketing for businesses, the answer to a writer’s success seems crystal clear. If writers can learn basic marketing and business strategies and apply them to their writing processes, they can create the same success that thousands of bloggers and YouTubers have created for themselves. That’s what Bosstick did. She leveraged storytelling and simple SEO-building strategies to build a massive audience, and that audience has remained to purchase her book once it became available.
Sure, it’s a bit daunting when we realize that our entire futures rely solely on our shoulders, but there is also something quite freeing about this idea. Technology has given writers the ability to build successful writing careers and work from anywhere! If creative writers don’t embrace technology and the ever-evolving methods of book publishing, quality literature will soon dissipate.
So how can you make money writing? The first step is to realize that you’re more than an artist. You’re a business. You are an entrepreneur. Even better than that, you’re a creative entrepreneur, something that puts you above other entrepreneurs in the world. Working as a digital marketing and branding strategist, I’ve seen exactly what has helped businesses build brand awareness online, increase revenue, and gain massive followings. This column of Melbee Academy will serve as your marketing resource, where I’ll teach you how to apply simple marketing techniques that will grow your audience, build your author brand, and ultimately help you make money writing.
Thinking of yourself as a business instead of an artist might be a shocking new concept for you, but don’t let it overwhelm you! Your success is my success, and I’m here to guide you. I created Melbee Academy to help writers build their careers for free! The world needs more quality literature, and you’re the key to making that happen.
Let’s get started!