Making a Living Through Writing · Reflection

The Biggest Secret About Published Writers


Before I hooked up with Twitter and began studying the book publishing world, I thought most published writers – in particular the ones with a book or three on the shelves at Borders — wrote full-time. Under the impression that a book deal advance would bring glad bank account tidings and distant memories of schleppy jobs gone by, I learned via Twitter that it ain’t always so.

In fact, I learned that many published writers go to work each and every day. They pull on the pantyhose, pack the briefcase, and get on the subway to earn their bread and butter. By night and on weekends, they plug away at their writing.

There are also plenty of writers who are (while pulling off the hardest job in the world of stay-at-home-mom) pinching pennies and watching the bottom line every single day. I was even amazed to discover one of my favorite writers driving to far-away locations for flea market chair deals (I could be wrong – maybe she can buy new furniture but prefers the charm of something unique).

Even more shocking when I found another favorite writer tweeting about car reposession and the high cost of health insurance. Wow! You know what? Writers with book deals are real people. And just like you and me, they’ve got real pains in the butt like taxes and bills to deal with, snotty noses and conjunctivitis in others to tend to, and the joy of wondering if the mortgage check will clear.

Does this make me sad as a yet-to-be-published writer? Not really. I never expected… and will never expect… an easy ride because of the stories I write. After all, the characters in my books don’t have it easy, and I certainly don’t expect to one-up them on that. However, I do expect that whatever comes of my writing, that it will affect the hearts and minds of the people who read it. When it comes to the ability to do that, I know that my job is well done.

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11 thoughts on “The Biggest Secret About Published Writers

  1. Keep plugging away at it. It’s not about becoming rich and famous, or even making a living at it. It’s about doing it because we enjoy doing it, and hoping that what we write can affect someone, somewhere.

    1. Exactly! The true reward from writing is seen in how it affects the reader. Yes, it would be nice to receive an advance, but what I really want is to capture the reader’s heart.

      – Julie

  2. I was surprised, too. Before joining social networking sites, I assumed that many writers lived comfortably, and they don’t. When I was a kid I heard about huge advances and ritzy lifestyles, even for writers who had modest sales. Things have changed a lot since then. Competition has increased–more writers are submitting and advances are getting lower–and most authors have day jobs.

    1. Crazy thing, this Twitter. Not to mention the blogs out there. Guess it’s like being a starving artist or musician. My husband likes to point out that just because someone is on the cover of Modern Drummer (he’s a drummer, of course!), it doesn’t mean they are rolling in dough.

  3. But really and truly, don’t you hope you’re going to be the exception? Or is that just me? Bearing in mind of course that my current day job pays so little that an advance of six bucks and a cheeseburger would be a windfall… 😀

  4. Love these words Julie: “whatever comes of my writing, that it will affect the hearts and minds of the people who read it.”
    Those are words to write by!! Thanks!

    1. It’s true! Of course, I’d like to earn my keep this way, but ultimately I want to earn the heart of the reader.

      – Julie

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