Is it ok to write for money?
Well… yeah, of course it is. I fact, there are plenty of copywriters, ghostwriters, journalists, etc., out there that write for money every damned day.
What I’m wanting to cover here, though, is — is it ok to write books for money? That is… should making money be the driving factor behind your desire to write, when writing is not currently your day job.
The answer to this isn’t so straightforward. On one hand, sure, it’s not a problem to write with the dream that you’ll become a bestseller and be able to quit your day job to focus on writing novels. If I’m honest, that is absolutely part of what drives me to write.
However, the simple truth is this — thousands of books are published on Amazon on a daily basis. In fact it’s been estimated that at least one book is published to Kindle Direct Publishing every minute. That’s a lot of competition. How exactly do you make your book stand out when it’s been buried by more than 100 other books in less than 2 hours?
The truth is, not many writers are lucky enough to make money from writing. Even the “good” indie writers that I follow on social media didn’t start making enough to quit their day job until they were more than 5 books in. In some cases, it took 10 to 20 releases before they took the plunge.
Of course, the problem is that the stories of only the lucky few rise to the top. Andy Weir self published The Martian, and now it’s been turned into a movie that smashed the box office. Christopher Paolini’s Eragon was “discovered” within years of self publishing, and then sold over a million copies in its first 6 months after being re-released. Amanda Hocking is well known as one of the first self-made millionaires from self publishing. Fifty Shades of Grey started via self publishing. The list goes on.
These stories make the dream seem real, and achievable — and although this kind of success actually is real and achievable, it hides the fact that these people worked hard to get what they did. Amanda Hocking’s novels were rejected by traditional publishing for years, so when she released her first novel and it did well, she had a whole lot more that she could also release, leading to great success with a whole lot of work upfront. Christopher Paolini toured the UK for a year actively putting the word out for his novel before it was discovered. Success is delivered on the foundations of hard work. There is no silver bullet. No “get rich quick” guide to self publishing.
On the flip side, I see a lot of writers out there on social media, sharing their ideals and stating that they simply write for the love of it and they don’t care who reads it. I can see the romanticism in such statements, and I respect the love of the art, but I also wonder what the point is. Sure, that’s not for me to ask, but it almost seems like a waste of time — all that writing, just for yourself. There’s a whole world out there that you could be experiencing, but you just want to live in your head… Again, I guess there’s nothing wring with that — provided it’s not at the expense of something critical.
For me, I want people to read what I have to say — that’s why I write it. Sure, I’m AFRAID of how people will respond, that’s just human nature… I have all kinds of fun thoughts that go through my head every time I write and release something into the world — am I a good writer? did what I wrote make sense? Is my writing too simple? Are people going to criticise it?
In the end, though, I can’t control people’s opinions. I can only control my work. So I do my best, I polish as much as I feel it needs (and can afford), and I release the best product I can upon the world. So far, the feedback has been great, but I know that one day I’ll hear from someone that doesn’t approve… and that’s fine. You can’t please everyone.
I’m also incredibly proud of my work. I like the stories I’ve come up with, and as simple as they appear at first glance, I put a lot of thought into themes, characters, and arcs. I often have something to say as a result of certain aspects of the story. Sometimes it’s cathartic. Sometimes it’s critical of the current status quo. Regardless, I put effort into my work, I’m proud of it, and I want it to be seen.
In fact, ideally I want it to be recognised.
So yes, a core driving factor behind my writing is a desire for my work to be noticed, and as a result, for it to make money. If I could quit my day job and focus on writing, then I would be a happy man. However, I’m currently a very small fish swimming in a very large ocean, so I need to be realistic. For now, I’m just happy there are people reading my book, and — hopefully — enjoying it.
TL;DR: you do you, friend. If you want to write for money, do it! But just know the likelihood of success is limited. And if you want to write for the love of it! Go for it — just not at the expense of anything else in your life that matters. If you can, though… perhaps aim for somewhere in between.