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What They Don't Tell You About Being a Writer

Updated on November 14, 2014

Before We Get Started

This article is meant to be a wake-up call. This is a cold bucket of water over the head, a slap in the face, and a large dollop of reality, all rolled into one.

Before I undertake any challenge, I gather all the facts, mull them over for a bit, mix and match different ways to attack the problem, and then devise a strategy. It’s just who I am and how I rock n roll, but I suspect most people, when facing challenges, want to know as many facts as possible. Eliminating the unknown moves us one step closer to the known, right?

So that’s why I’m here. If you have ever considered being a freelance writer, or if you have ever considered writing a book and actually selling that book for money, then this article should be of some use for you.

I’ll try not to slap you too hard.

Writing is not a nice stroll along a paved path
Writing is not a nice stroll along a paved path | Source

Traditional Publishing

So, you have your bookshelf lined with your favorite books. They are all there, those written by Hemingway, Lee, Steinbeck, King, and Koontz. You dust them weekly, pull them down occasionally for inspiration, and dream of the day when your own novel will sit among them.

You have heard that in today’s world of publishing, it is almost impossible to attract a publisher unless you have an agent, so you go out and get a copy of “Guide to Literary Agents,” and you proceed to write queries to them all, and lo and behold, two months later, you hear back from an agent who is interested in representing your book.

Success is yours! Your book will be published!

Not so fast, bucko!

Having an agent in no way guarantees that you will have your book picked up by a publishing firm. It increases your chances, but does not guarantee a darned thing. The latest estimates suggest that a full two-thirds of books represented by agents are not published.


Sorry about that slap. A bit harsh, ‘eh?

There are no guarantees in the ebook publishing world
There are no guarantees in the ebook publishing world | Source

Ebook Publishing

It’s the latest thing. It’s the wave of the future. It’s easy to do and easy money.

Three of those four statements were correct. It is the latest thing in publishing, it is the wave of the future, and it is easy to do.

Easy money? Are you crazy?

Here’s a statistic that will sober you up quickly: 87% of ebooks make less than $100.

Come to think of it, that statistic won’t sober you up…it will drive you to drink.

Literally anyone can publish a book these days. If your dream is to see a book with your name on it, then go for it, and may the gods smile down upon you.

If your goal is to make money from ebooks, then may those same gods take pity on you.

Yes, yes, I know, there are some great stories of people making six-figure incomes from writing ebooks, and those stories are correct….but….for every one of those stories, there are thousands of stories about writers making zilch.

Just so you know.

Writing a Book Is Not As Difficult As…..

For those of you who want to write a book and actually make money with it, consider this statement: writing the book is about 30% of the work involved in making money from that book. In fact, writing the book….six months of writing 100,000 words, is the easiest part of making money from that book.

Welcome to Marketing 101.

A writer must learn marketing to attract an agent and/or publisher. A writer must learn marketing to sell his/her ebook. A writer must learn marketing and then practice it with the fervor usually reserved for mothers protecting their babies from harm.

Let me share a true story with you. I’m not going to tell you the author’s name because I don’t have their permission, so you’ll have to trust me that the story is, in fact, true.

One day a fine writer finished their book, and decided to self-publish it. They contacted printing houses for the best price. It turned out to be $5.25 per book. They then took their life’s savings and ordered 10,000 books printed. Before this writer ever made a penny, he was fifty-thousand bucks in the hole.

He then purchased a used RV, and he and his wife set out on a massive road trip. He scheduled book signings and book readings. He wrangled his way on to radio shows and public broadcasting stations. He spent a year on the road and, through his tenacity and personal marketing skills, he sold 100,000 copies and was eventually contacted by a major publisher (Penguin) and signed a contract.

Six months to write the book….one year on the road promoting….a fifty-thousand dollar investment….but success was found.

How serious are you about marketing your book?

Making Money As a Writer Is Easy, But….

I’m dead serious. Hire me as a consultant and I’ll have you making a decent supplemental income as a writer in three months….but

There’s that but again.

If you want to make a living as a freelance writer, and by “making a living” I mean paying all your bills and having enough money to really enjoy life, then plan on working your butt off.

In other words, if your goal is to make one hundred bucks per month, then that is very, very doable in a very short period of time. If your goal is to make a thousand per month, then I would suggest you buckle your seatbelt and get ready for one hell of a ride.

And Speaking of Working Hard

Working hard is not as important as working smart.

I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.

Marketing means meeting real life people
Marketing means meeting real life people | Source

Marketing Is More Than Facebook

In fact, if you are relying on Facebook for the majority of your writing promotions, then you really need to get out of the writing business.

Let me tell you something about Facebook, or Twitter, or any of the other social networks. Are you ready?

They are SOCIAL networks, first and foremost.

Do a little experiment. Take an hour out of your day and read the feeds on Facebook. How many of your “friends” promoted their latest music gig, book, poem, art exhibit, etc. during that hour?

There are so many of them that they tend to just become background noise. I see one of my friends is having a book signing, but I really don’t pay much attention to it because, well, there are SO MANY and I have a life to live.

Close friends pay attention to your latest article or book; fringe friends could care less.

So your Facebook marketing campaign is just part of the picture. Sooner or later, and sooner is best, you are going to have to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, and that means going out into the real world and selling your product. It means establishing relationships in the literary world. It means establishing relationships with book store owners, with agents, and with the buying public. It means pounding the pavement and working your butt off.

And once you’ve done that, then do it again, and again, and again….and say a little prayer while you’re at it.

That’s Enough to Get You Started

You now have some information to get the ball rolling. Reality is harsh at times, but it’s necessary if you are to have any shot at all of making it in this writing business.

I hope my slap in your face didn’t hurt too much. I really do want you to succeed, so call this tough love, given to you in the spirit of friendship.

Best wishes on your journey.

2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”


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