The way this whole writing thing works
© 2015 Paul Dale Anderson
If you haven’t figured it out yet, let me save you time and heartache. There is only one way to get rich as a writer.
Well, actually, that’s a lie. Writers tell lies for fun and profit, you know, and I’m no exception. There are probably as many ways to get rich as a writer as there are ways to win the Powerball Lottery.
But there is only one quick, easy, and sure way to get rich as a writer.
I’ll reveal that secret to you shortly. It took me nearly seventy years of writing in multiple genres and writing under multiple pseudonyms to learn the secret.
I read every writing manual and book I could find. I attended every writing conference I could afford. I wrote my heart out religiously every single day, and when I wasn’t actually writing I was thinking about writing. I became a master craftsman. I communicated with other writers and with editors in person, by snail mail, and via e-mail, telephone, and IM. I became an editor myself for both major and small press publishers. I submitted manuscripts via slush, agents, Submittable, and in person. I pitched in elevators, over lunch, and in bars. I became an active member of SFWA, MWA, HWA, ITW, and the Author’s Guild. I participated in panels and workshops at Worldcons, regional cons, and prestigious conferences. I was a Guest of Honor more than once. I earned my living as a professional writer who waited patiently for advances and royalty checks to roll in so I could pay rent, buy food, and make monthly health insurance premiums or pay medical bills. I dutifully filled out my Schedule C every year for forty years and even incorporated and filled out a separate annual return as a subchapter S corporation. I knew the writing business like the back of my hand. I weathered the death of a spouse, the death of a beloved agent, the deaths of friends and family members and mentors, and I personally survived a diagnosis of a deadly cancer that should have killed me decades ago and didn’t because I hadn’t finished writing the Great American Novel yet. I survived the digital revolution and learned to use Word and Scrivener and Adobe Creative Suite In-Design. I learned to create and market e-books and audio books as well as how to write fabulous fiction.
So what is this valuable secret I learned along the way? What is the one, sure way to get rich as a writer?
Stephen King knows this secret. So does Dean Koontz. So do I. And soon you will, too.
During recent book tours for my Winds series of supernatural thrillers and my Instruments of Death series of police procedurals, I met thousands of successful writers doing mass signings in bookstores and at conventions. I appeared at workshops and on panels alongside NY Times Bestselling Authors. I attended the Bram Stoker Awards, the Nebulas, the Hugos, the Anthony Awards, and the World Fantasy Awards. I spoke with thousands of professional writers and hundreds of thousands of dedicated readers and wannabe writers. What was the single stand-out factor every one of those people I met had in common?
Few had either the time or cash to pay $24.95 for six hundred plus pages of well-written fiction, but they were all eager to devote more than twice that to attend week-long conferences where they readily purchased non-fiction about the art and craft of fiction writing. They spent hours combing blogs and websites of well-known authors searching for clues to success. They bought multiple fiction books by writers who had published short articles or short books on the art and craft of writing and didn’t buy the books of authors who had not. Not only do successful authors make lots of money from writing about writing, but they make money from selling their fiction to people who have read those non-fiction works and personally identify with the author.
Not only does writing a book about writing generate significant revenue from that title alone, it makes your novels sell like hotcakes. Many mid-list authors earn more from their non-fiction books on how to write than from sales of their multiple novels. Combining both works magic. I’m willing to bet that Stephen King earns nearly as much from On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (which is superb, by the way, and every writer should read it) than he earns from novels that have not been made into motion pictures. When Steve was just starting out and not yet a household word, he regularly contributed articles on writing to Writers Digest and The Writer. He shared what he learned as he learned it. It was a kind of Pay-It-Forward type of thing. And it worked. It helped establish Stephen King as a brand name.
Don’t get me wrong. You still have to write great fiction and plenty of it to become a best-selling author and stay at the top of the charts. But thinking about and writing about the process of writing is an important part of the process to becoming a successful author. Writing success doesn’t manifest until your words appear on paper or are otherwise published. The more words you write the better your writing becomes. The more works you have in print and available for sale, the more you sell. It’s really as simple as that.
But, first, readers need to know your name and know what to expect from you. Writing about what you go through to produce your fiction gets your name out there and also tells readers what to expect from your fiction. It’s a win-win for everyone. Name recognition goes a long way to establish you as someone worth reading.
I’ll tell you more secrets in upcoming blog posts. Here are a few hints of what’s next to know if you want to be a best-selling author.
Sleep and wake up with ideas – the silver dollar trick of Tom Edison.
The marketing rat race.
Selling yourself – Isn’t prostitution illegal?
Becoming a brand name.
Only 2 ways to get rich as a writer: sell to the movies or write about writing.
The difference between being a great writer and a successful author.
How to use the trance state to write great fiction and entrance your readers.