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Want to Get Rich Writing?

July 13th, 2005 by Bob Bly

By now almost everyone knows how Stephen King wrote his stories and novels while living in poverty in a trailer on a hill in Maine, with a typewriter propped up on his knees as he sat in the space next to the boiler.

According to Parade magazine, King earned $52.4 million last year.

But before you decide to get rich writing novels, talk to Lance Marcum, whose first novel, ?The Cottonmouth Club,? was recently published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

In an interview with Writer?s Digest (August 2005, p. 17), Marcum said: ?For nearly four years, I spent every available moment writing, sacrificing more than 4,000 hours of free time.?

Based on that labor, his earnings on the book so far come to a measly $1.50 per hour — far below minimum wage.

Only a few folks get rich writing novels. Most novelists can?t even make a living.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 13th, 2005 at 5:56 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

64 responses about “Want to Get Rich Writing?”

  1. Steve Slaunwhite said:

    Publishers pay a pittance for novels, especially from first timers. A famous direct mail copywriter I know recently sold his first novel. In an email to me he said, “I’m taking all my advance money and splurging it all on a really, really nice dinner… at olive garden!”

  2. Mike Arnzen said:

    There’s a sobering article from 1995 about the “writer’s lot” when it comes to freelance income: I suspect novel writing alone is far worse. Big advances are intermittent and unpredictable; royalties rarely earn. “Keep your day job” can be sage advice for most, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. My second novel just came out and I’m very happy — as long as I don’t think about the “wages” involved! 🙂

  3. Yvonne DiVita said:

    Thanks for the free publicity, Bob. In that old-fashioned, Dick and Jane world of the 20th century, and even in this new digital world we live in, publishers steal money from authors all the time, in addition to stealing all rights to their work. Authors who want to keep control, receive much bigger royalty payments, and actually get HELP marketing their work, authors services companies are where they should be looking.

    Not POD — though that’s how many author services companies print (as I do), but a company that can work with the author to produce a quality publication. Novels are a rare breed, however. Barely worth the effort, as you note in your post. Hard work for little financial reward.

    Non-fiction, on the other hand, that’s another story. Even the big publishers are giving print-on-demand a hard look — hey, think of it: no more warehousing books, no more book returns — I say, what’s not to like about that?

  4. kelsey said:

    Here’s a question for you all.
    I wrote a novel non of the four major Israeli publishers would publish. I didn’t spend 4 years writing it, but it were very busy 15 months.
    Now, there’s a small publisher who is willing to take my novel and publish it, given that I’d pay for it and give away most of the future reveues (if any).

    Do you suggest to do business with these guys?
    (Other alternatives are: Toss the book and write another one, or keep looking for a small time publisher who will take the book.)

  5. Richard said:

    I remember Mr. Bly launching his blog with the proclamation that he doesn’t think blogs are anything that marketers should get excited over.

    I don’t know if I agree or disagree. But it does seem that blogs (and other forms of electronic self-publishing) can create an audience.

    For example, the originator of the Boing Boing blog used his blog to create a built-in market for his science-fiction books. Seth Godin gave away electronic copies of his dead-tree book in order to attract a big audience for all things Seth Godin.

    Godin now has several high-profile books under his belt. It may be instructive to read his advice for authors:

  6. Mcgill said:

    I think writing novels should not be taken as a profession.

  7. falana segun said:

    dear sir,
    we will like you to publish our novels. we will like to know whether you do charge any fee.
    thank u

  8. falana segun said:

    dear sir,
    we will like you to publish our novels. we will like to know whether you do charge any fee.
    thank u

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