Small Fish Huge Pond?

Where to Use Your Writing Time

We all want to catch the big one, don't we? We strive for the huge, Great American Novel dream. We slave over our writing babies to see if we can wow the public with our creations. In non fiction, we work hard to give our readers the information for which they have come to our article or book. We crave the home run.

But how often does this happen? Can we count on getting the big break, landing the big one right at our feet with all the world watching? That's not the case for the vast majority of writers. There are far too many writers and not enough audience for everyone to become the next J. K. Rowlings.

Many of us run around our writing time like we're an explosion in progress, flying off in every conceivable direction, getting nothing of note accomplished. If we are fortunate, someone stops us and says, "Hey, aren't you spinning your wheels?"

At some point, a writer must decide on where to place his time. This decision will determine the course of his writing life. This is not to say he cannot change course, but a course is set nonetheless. Money often drives the decision making process. No matter where you begin, realize you are a small fish in a large, large ocean.

For example, if you choose to go the book route, you must understand that as of this moment, November 21, 2009, there are over six-and-one-half- million manuscripts looking for a publisher. This places your relevance much smaller than most writers wish to believe. Not that a book contract cannot or will not happen, it's just not too likely. Even if it does, you usually have a couple years before you see publication and money. This sounds discouraging. It's not meant to be. You should be aware of your reality though, before you take the leap.

Then there's the "writer's mills." A successful writer friend dubbed places like Ezine and Hub Pages and others as "writer's mills." The connotation here is that this is where writers go to write "easier" material. Money is often not real prevalent in these places, or so the writer friend says. They serve their purpose in many ways, but not as an income earner.

Then there's journalism and copywriting - two forms of writing that historically have income attached to them, much more in the latter than the former these days. Both are more 'dry' by nature.

Magazines and contests are no way to make a living unless you are talking trade magazines. The trades are doing very well right now, unlike mainstream magazines and newspapers. Contests are very difficult to win, and while entering is a great idea, you had better submit to many if you hope to make any money. The fees for entering will eat you up as well.

So where do you put your effort into writing time? That depends on the writer and the needs. If it's income you must have, and time is a factor, the trade magazines are most likely the best bet. If you're a gambler, have a day (or night) job and can wait for your novel ship to come in, then by all means put your time in there.

Copywriting is lucrative for a go-getter. If this is something you might like to do, there's money all over the place for good copywriters. If you're going to write the blogs and article depositories, volume is key. This is not a one-a-week deal, As many as you can churn out is how many you should write daily. They need to be interesting as well. You cannot write vanilla pieces and expect people to read. That's true of all the categories, but in the blogs and article depositories, there is no one telling you your writing is too plain-Jane. The only way you'll know is by your number of views.

Screenplay writing is another category. There are many, many areas you can pursue. Technical writing is another. As a writer you can get too many irons going and get nothing done, especially financially, so focus is key.

Pursue your passion based on your financial needs. Size up your market and pursue it. Establish yourself before you go hopping all over the place. Once you're established in one market, then you can branch out, returning to your base market as needed or desired. This is one of the beauties of writing - diversity. Using your writing time wisely and with a plan is more important than most anything else.

Just remember, wherever you go, when you begin, you will be a small fish in a very large sea of writers. Focus and play to your strengths. Establish yourself in a base market, then and only then, move into another. Attacking all the markets at once will destroy you.

Comments 34 comments

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Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

You finished this one off with some great advise!

Focus and play to your strengths. Establish yourself in a base market, then and only then, move into another. Attacking all the markets at once will destroy you.

Congratulations on your HubNugget Wannabe Nomination!

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hi Duchess OBlunt! Thank you for your comment. That advice is something I struggle with. I'm sure I'm not the only writer with the malady either! I didn't even know about HubNugget Wannabe. That is too cool. Thank you.

CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Congratulations on your HubNugget nomination. Great advice on writing, if a little daunting!

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

You did an excellent job in bringing this to light. Much of the responses I received after finishing my novel from both friends and family was, "So when do you start making money?" I had to laugh at this. 'Are they serious?' I thought. I have many friends that are musicians and painters that are struggling just like the rest of us and not one of them expects to make anything for their work.

Obviously, all of us want to make money, but can we really rationalize that doing something we love is going to make a us a ton of money? Is that really practically? I don't think is should be. Just do what you love and make strides to get noticed...Let's go from there.

This was certainly a solid hub. Thanks for the reality check! Congratulations on your Hubnugget Nomination. You're off to an excellent start!

Should you get the opportunity, please take a look at this hub:


Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hello CMHypno, thank you for your kind comment and congrats. I am pleasantly surprised by the nomination!

Hi dohn121,

I agree with everything you wrote. Yeah, we all would like to make some money, but if that's the sole motivating factor, will anything of worth be produced? And in my case, would I even like it? I appreciate comments. Thanks for the congrats. I'm still a little surprised by the nomination. Too cool! I will check out the hub forthwith...

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Reality bites! Ouch!? Hey Michael, loved how you put this hub together for writers. Hmmmm more ponderings to do today. Hehe Yes, you made it to the Hubnuggets this week! Congratulations! Cool huh? Well keep on doing what you love to do best as you enjoy the Hubnuggets.

To vote or simply drop by to see the happenings of the Hubnuggets this week just click this link: To the writers and the Hubnuggets, yeehaa!

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hi riplemaker, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. Comments make the Hubs go round! I noticed you are from the Philippines. I was just over in the Philippines in 2006. Everywhere from Bagio to Tagatay to Plaridel and of course Manila (Luzon of course...). I'm helping a woman who is building schools there. I made many, many nice friends. The Filipino people are wonderful!

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Yes it does feel good to interact with people through comments. Yes, I'm from the Philippines, Cebu to be exact. That is wonderful that you are helping a woman build schools. Isn't that a coincidence you mentioned that - I also am involved with a preschool. Hey, maybe you could help us too. LOL Thanks for your lovely compliments re: Filipinos. That's so nice to hear.

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Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Hey hombre Michael Ray, I was blessed to be in the top five hubnugget newbies last week. I can see why they picked this article this week. Your direction really speaks to me, I'm glad I read it and look forward to more. Teetering on voting for this one already...


Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

ripplemaker, My friend building schools is struggling. The economy has her on the ropes. When I went to the Philippines, I did not take a scenic tour. What amazed me was the resilience of the people and how friendly they are. Her preschool is St. Anthony's Development and Learning Center in Cutcut. Thank you for commenting.

Ben Zoltak, Wow!I truly appreciate your input. The HubNugget nomination really blindsided me (in a good way of course). I am simply happy to be considered! Thank you for the kind comment.

Redfish 7 years ago

Superbo counsel. The "system" discourages writers. The boys and girls who have been eaten up and spit out by the old buggy whipped publishing dark side should find good encouragement in your verbs.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author


Thank you for the vote of confidence! Out with the old, in with the new!

Guinevere Edern 7 years ago

As always, a wonderfully honest piece of writing. Whether writing fiction or non fiction, you always hit the mark. Well done!

When working on my novel, the one thing I hated were talk show hosts interviewing the latest hot little novelist on the sofa and making it seem as though all a person had to do was sit at the kitchen table, write each day, jump up, mail the thing and wait for the checks to roll in. AS IF!!! Writing is a process that takes years of hard graft, just like learning any craft be it music, dance, acting or art. There is no shortcut. Those who appear on talk shows and speak as though everything was accomplished in ten minutes including the gazillion dollar advance (Oh, sure)does the writing profession a disservice. We all need to dream and I am not saying we should blast away fairyland but writing and actually getting published might just as well be two different vocations. They require HARD work! Rejection, rejection, rejection and like lunatics we come back for more. From the concept of my novel to acceptance for publication has taken six years...and I consider myself fortunate.

Pen anyone?

G. Edern

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

lol!!Thank you Guinevere! Having read your blog and a couple excerpts of your book, I'm anxious to get a bonafide copy in my hands. I know it will be worth the wait! Thank you for such a strong comment. I love it!

cally2 profile image

cally2 7 years ago from Paraparaumu, New Zealand

Really enjoyed the hub. Some sobering thoughts for all of us who dream of giving up the dayjob.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

cally2, I talk to hundreds of writers a year and far too many do not understand the industry. Giving up that day job is one of my goals, but it does not happen easily. J. K. Rowlings and company get such huge publicity, but for every writer like her, there are millions who do not make it big. Learning the business is critical. I believe this is the greatest time ever to be an author, but you must know what's going on, and what's going on changes almost daily it seems. Don't give up the dream, just roll up your sleeves and commit to the long haul. Thank you very much for your comment.

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Janetta 7 years ago

A little disheartening when you think of all the other writers and all the other manuscripts out there, isn't it? I guess it just makes it all the more sweeter for those who make it :)

cindyvine profile image

cindyvine 7 years ago from Cape Town

Eh Michael, well-written and very true. With my new novel just finished, I have to think mainstream publisher or self-publish. So am thinking, might self-publish again with Createspace, get it on Amazon and still continue trying to get an agent and publisher. That is the hard part, even if you believe in yourself and what you wrote.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hi Janetta, Yes, it can be disheartening, but there are many ways of looking at publishing. The definition of "making it" often needs to be re-evaluated. Most writers dream of their book supporting them financially. On a percentage basis, this is absolutely false. That said, there are many, many ways to use your book to assist in financial support. The book opens doors to speaking engagements, off-shoot products, expert status and many other things that can bring you income. You must not only believe in yourself, but be willing to redefine what you call making it. Don't give up the dream of a book that sells millions, just don't put all your writing eggs in that basket either. Few actually get that fortunate. It's the writers who doggedly stay at it, stay focused and adapt to the business side of writing who hang in there. So be encouraged, you can do it. And yes, if we really do hit that writing gold, that would be sweet! Thank you for your comment.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hello cindyvine, there are soooo many options available today. You have POD, vanity presses, coop small presses, mid level presses, University presses, traditional publishers, self publishing, e-publishing. Finding the right fit that gives you the most bang for your money is key. Writing the book is only 5-10% of the work. But you have options and you have money available to you if you learn the business of writing. Anytime you are in business for yourself, the one thing you need to believe in is yourself. The great thing is, a person who applies themself can actually make it. Most often this calls for an author to redefine herself business-wise. Excellent comment, thank you.

MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Interesting and informative article. You put it succinctly Michael Ray, writing doesn't necessarily mean you will earn.

The key is to believe in yourself and as you have stated, focus on a market which interests you.

As a copywriter I have made money writing (20+ years) and now for the first time I am writing for my own pleasure (and fans too I hope). Look for my articles in 2010.

Congrats on your nomination as a HubNugget, although I'm yet to know what that is as I'm so new at this.

robertsloan2 profile image

robertsloan2 7 years ago from San Francisco, CA

Actually, I would add one thing to this.

You're a small fish in a big sea but for one thing. The better you write, the bigger a fish you are. It is possible to do all of those types of writing. Journalists do become novelists. They get plenty of money from the journalism.

They also get something more -- professional contact with editors and constant practice.

Articles and writing mills, webpages and blogs are good for many things. They bring income, sometimes small, sometimes more. It depends on how much you do it and sometimes on well chosen topics.

It'll do something else too, modernize your prose. So that when you do get back to your novel, no matter how much you loved certain 19th century writers, the edits bring it up to where it sounds like a 21st century novel.

It's good to set goals. It's good to weigh how you want to earn a living and whether you want your writing to become your main income. Copywriting pays the highest, I think, with journalism and article writing coming next.

The big win for novel writing is to have enough of a readership to create your own niche. It's not necessarily to become the next Stephen King or J. K. Rowling. There are some soft markets for novels both online and through small presses using print on demand.

Selling to a small press is a big step up from self publishing. For one thing, they pay you instead of your fronting the setup fees. For another, you've got an editor working with you and some distribution you didn't have to build up for yourself by marketing the book.

Skilled marketers can turn a print on demand novel into a financial success. The key to that is a good frequently updated website, regular purchases of crates of your book, prearranged signings and events that get lively and entertaining for the public. Marketing, in other words.

You're going to sell more of them taking boxes of printed self published books to bookstores on consignment than just selling online. That takse driving around and creating the events. The good website will help people in the area know where the event is and when to show up.

However, for the e-book and small press markets, your marketing efforts are joined by their marketing efforts. Romance and "romantica" are particularly lucrative genres. I've known a number of people who make a good living by becoming prolific novelists in those genres.

The self publishing success stories and small press success stories can lead to pro contracts if your marketing is good enough to get a large number of readers. Somewhere around 10,000 copies sold is my guess at the flashpoint publishers take an interest in an author. So the self publishing route is not automatically a career killer.

Yes. It's a big sea. But this is also a game of skill, not just chance. The more you write and hone your skills, the bigger a fish you become.

There's also a good living in it far below the level of J. K. Rowling and other world-famous superstars.

I'm disabled and living on social security. Without the immediate need to live on it, I'm going pure novelist. A few short stories sold can help my novels gain positive attention though. So could a few contest wins. I may be entering some in 2010.

One thing to remember for novel writing. The publisher will not make a profit on your first book. So learning the craft well enough to know you can do a second book, a third, a fourth that are equally good is what careers are built on. The up side? It gets easier the more of them you write and the more familiar your process becomes.

Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

Truth From Truth profile image

Truth From Truth 7 years ago from Michigan

Great tips, thanks.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

robertsloan2, Wow! I hope you copied this comment for a Hub! In the five weeks I've been on Hub Pages, that is the most extensive, well-put-together comment I've seen. I agree with everything you added in there. There is money to be made, and a skilled marketer is the one that will make it. The co-op presses are a hybrid between self-publishing and small presses. Many co-op presses aspire to become a full-fledged small press themselves and just need a couple authors with excellent marketing skills to get there. This was one awesome comment! Thank you very much!

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Truth From Truth, thank you for your comment.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hello MPG Narratives, Thank you for the comment. A copywriter for 20+ years? You could probably help a lot of people here with some of your knowledge. I'll look for your articles. I've found Hub Pages to be a breath of fresh writing these past 5 weeks!

jacobkuttyta profile image

jacobkuttyta 7 years ago from Delhi, India

Nice hub with solid tips.

Learned many things from your hub.


Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hi jacobkuttyta, Thank you for your nice comment. I appreciate it very much.

GPAGE profile image

GPAGE 7 years ago from California

Michael Ray King...VERY good advice. I'm glad I found you through the newsletter! BEST, GPAGE

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hello GPAGE, I'm glad you found me as well. I thrive off comments on Hub Pages. I love getting feedback, especially from people who take the time to tell me that something I've contributed has helped them. Thank you for your comment!

Dan Carson profile image

Dan Carson 7 years ago

I just do it for myself and wherever it takes me, so be it. Great hub.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hi Dan,

Thank you for taking the time to comment.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 7 years ago from Chicago

I learned a lot here, Mr. King. I may look into copywriting. I fancy myself a new Frank McCourt. I am working on a book that I think will be every bit as good as Angela's Ashes but about America from 1960 to now. Ostensibly, an autobiography but more a commentary on culture and society.

Then again, I may try to get into writing and producing documentary films.

Thanks for the great tips.

Michael Ray King profile image

Michael Ray King 7 years ago from Palm Coast, Florida Author

Hello Mr. Watkins,

Judging from your hubs I am positive you will be successful. Your research for your hubs is very extensive as well as impressive. I'm just gratified that something I have written may help out. Thank you again for your positive comments. They serve to motivate me.

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