Thoughts on Writing for a Living from Carrie Jones

By on March 5, 2015
Thoughts on Writing for a Living from Carrie Jones - Writer'

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I am not supposed to say what I make a year. My agent told me this and I’m totally okay with listening to him because:

1. He is my agent
2. I love him.
3. He is like the knight who battles the industry on my behalf, taking his paltry 15% as he jousts over contracts and attacks people who steal books on the internet and listens to me cry.

However, it is hard not to talk about it because lately all I’ve been seeing is posts about publishing the old school way (traditional, the publisher pays you, your books are in print with ebooks secondary) and publishing the new school way (self, only digital, you might pay an editor and cover designer).

And it is all sort of cranky. I think it is meant to be helpful – all that data – all that opinion – and for some people it probably is helpful, but for me it is soul crushing.

These posts about income and money and the “business” of writing make me hyperventilate. Seriously. When I see average salaries and negative posts about writing and money and the end of eras and dinosaurs and anything that includes the words “predictions,” “dire,” “evil,” or “money,” I pretty much shut down and think, “HOLY CANOLI POOPSCAPE, HOW WILL I EVER MAKE MONEY WRITING?”

*I don’t really think “poopscape.” I am trying not to swear.

And I’ve been trying to figure out why I have this reaction when I actually do make a living writing.

When I started writing, I expected to make no money and honestly I was pretty cool with that. The opportunity to write stories that people actually read was pretty freaking amazing to me. Back then all I heard was:

1. It takes 10 years to publish.
2. You will be rejected a hundred times.
3. If your book is not perfect you will not get published.
4. If your book is not hip, you will not get published.
5. If you are not hot-as-swear-word, rich, know editors in the business, your dad is not Rupert Murdoch, you will not get published.

And then there were these lovely nuggets:

6.  You will never make a living. Ever. Unless you publish with the big publishers.
7.  You will never feel safe financially. Ever. Unless you are J.K. Rowling, Meg Cabot, James Patterson, and possibly John Greene.
8. You can not switch genres. People (reviewers) hate that.
9. You can not write about sex, gay people, human-sized pixies.
10. You will never ever ever make a living. Ever.

And every time I read any of that? I pretty much felt my heart turn to ash. Luckily, my heart is a kick-ass phoenix and rebuilds.

I was super lucky. I proved a lot of that stuff wrong.

1. It took me a year to publish.
2. I was rejected, but not 100 times. I still get rejected. I am like that goober girl at the seventh grade dance who asks EVERY SINGLE attractive person to dance to Blurred Lines until someone finally says yes.
3. I make a living (right now) writing even though I have written across genres and I am not hot or rich and my dad was a truck driver.

And I think the reason why I make a living right now writing is that:

1. I do ask everyone to dance and when they shudder at the thought I am totally okay with that.
2. I practice my dance moves constantly even between rejections.

So, what I’m trying to say here is that if you want to write, write. If you want to make a living writing, write as much as you can and work on  your craft and don’t obsess about marketing and how to publish, just write a story that makes you happy or that thrills you or that you must tell. If you chose this as your career, try to enjoy it. Write for fun and for craft and for truth and for money last if possible. Write and write and write and blow off everyone who tells you that you can’t unless you do x and y and z.

Just write.

And I realize that I can say this because I am currently making a living writing, but I have also realized that I can also say this because I am used to being poor. Before I was a writer, I was a newspaper editor (@$24,000/year) who also freelanced articles and taught gymnastics at the Y to get by. My dad never made more than $22,000 a year, I guess. It might have been $23,000. Making money is kind of crazy to me. So, I feel blessed and lucky to make a living writing. But if I didn’t? I wouldn’t stop writing. I would go back to being something like a dispatcher for police departments or beg people to hire me as a reporter or whatever. Because that’s the thing about stories. If you want to tell them, you tell them. And yes, it is a business, but the business part of it can take the truth out of your stories and the joy out of your soul. Don’t become overwhelmed with those posts about making money and not making money and how to or how not to. Just write. Okay? I want to read your stories.


Originally posted as "Writing For a Living and Not Being Cranky About It" on Photo by


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