Monday, April 2, 2012

How to Make a Living As A Writer, Parts One and Two by Rachelle Gardner

Today's offering is a great 2-part article written by literary agent Rachelle Gardner. She provides some really spot-on practical advice about how to approach your career as a writer. I have printed  excerpts of both. Find the links to each of the full posts below. Enjoy!


I’m going to make this very simple: The secret to making a living wage as a writer lies in two words: volume and variety. Today let’s talk about the first one.


The biggest mistake writers make with respect to their “publishing dreams” is hoping for that one big break that’s going to change their lives, allow them to quit their job, and propel them into the life of the full-time writer.

Making money in this business, for the vast majority of writers, isn’t about having one huge hit. Or even two huge hits. Instead, it’s about building a career, book by book, and building an audience that wants more of your books.

Writers begin to see a “living wage” when they have a stack of books out there in the marketplace, each one bringing in royalties regularly. Even if each book is not selling a huge number of copies individually—if you have a whole bunch of books out there, each selling some copies, it starts to add up.

It’s all about building a foundation, building a reputation, so that each book you release builds on the last and each one expands your audience so that your new readers are always wanting to go back and find your older books, too.

You’re not ready to “quit your day job” until those royalty checks coming in regularly are adding up to the amount you need to support yourself. Hopefully this is in addition to any advances you’re getting.

Now, this is difficult because you’re only one person. You have limited time, and you can only write so much. That’s why it’s important to take the long view. You’ve got to methodically and strategically build your career. The writers who are doing it full time are able to do it because they have a large volume of product out there, and they’re having enough success that their audience keeps growing.

Read Rachelle Gardner's full post.



Yesterday we discussed “volume” as a key to being able to support yourself as a writer. Today we’ll talk about the second key: Variety.

Now a lot of people are wondering what I mean by this, because we’ve all had it pounded into us that we need to “brand” ourselves, we need to find a niche and write to a certain audience in order to build a following. That’s all true, especially for writers just getting established and trying to find their audience. Your best chance is to “specialize” so that each book continues to build your audience.

If you’re traditionally published, you also have an obligation to your publisher, not only to abide by the specifics of your contract and whatever the non-compete section says, but also to help make sure you’re putting your energy into making those contracted books as successful as possible. This means writing them to the best of your ability (without so many distractions that you can’t do your best work) and it also means having the time and energy to devote to marketing.

But there are people who have found a way to make “writing” their full time living. How do they do it? It’s variety… even more than volume. And I have to tell you the truth, few people are cut out for this kind of writing life, the kind that involves “piecing together” a living from a variety of different writing-related income sources.

Read the complete post.


Ms. Gardner's Bio:
I’m a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency based in California, founded by Janet Kobobel Grant. (Click to meet the other members of the Books and Such team.)

I work at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I’m a voracious reader, a mom, a firefighter’s wife, and a huge fan of Starbucks.

I never get tired of talking about books and publishing, and working with authors is my dream job. This blog is a place where I get to hear the concerns and perspectives of writers in the trenches, so that I never lose touch with what’s happening on the other side of the desk.


  1. Some great points here. Thanks for posting. Xx

  2. Great posts...I was just thinking of these same two things today! It may take years, but I'm definitely going to have a lot to choose from some day :)