I was posting something at a writer's site where I hang out - and thought I would share it here at the blog. A writer, maybe young, I am not sure, asked about the profitability of being a writer. As usual, lots of writers chimed in that there is no profit in being a writer. I don't fault these writers at all - I share their sentiment about the monetary side of writing.
So I wrote this in response:
(edited to protect the names)
I always find it kinda sad when I see these posts (and don't get me wrong ____, I don't mind you asking at all), just that the responses are usually like others - there is no profit.
And I have been known to post the very same. It seems like writing for profit these days, even minimal, is such a long long long shot. We talk about back in the day when the big pubs paid decent cash, and there were just more of them. Truth is, there were fewer writers trying to do it.
So the paying markets have shrunk - and the amount of writers trying to publish has... well, I don't even have a number that can represent that (kajupled?) Add that to a time when self-publishing is easier than it has ever been, and what do you get? More writers.
I've read a lot of self-published writing - trying to gauge the market - and I have to say, there is a lot out there that is not ready for press. That doesn't even mean quality of writing - simple typo's and grammatical errors abound, along with the Swiftian adverbs, and clichés you could cut with a knife.
This is seeming tangential, but maybe I will find my way back. I have tried all of the above, collected rejections from the bigs, pubbed in the smalls, actually scored a great agent, and had my novel read by the big 6 (unsold). I have self-published (just put out a collection last week), and made an embarrassingly small amount of money. But boy did I give away a lot of books.
I am using your question as a jumping off point, but here is the thing. This whole journey has led me to really question why I write... I mean really question it. Work hours and hours and days, weeks, etc. on something that will maybe make you enough to buy a case a beer (non-import)? Seems kinda nutty. But I realized after all the frustration, I write because I have to. There is nothing I would rather do - and nothing fills me creatively, intellectually, or spiritually as much as the craft of a well-told story.
I am back looking for agents again, collecting pennies for my self-published efforts, and subbing the odd story to the big, small,and tiny magazines. But above all, I am writing. And now with a different purpose. Which is much more profitable than any of my other efforts. It helps make me human.
Sorry for the pontification - your question and subsequent responses just grabbed me. There is, as I always tell my artistic kids (actor/comedian/theatre major... oy), the grand "you never know." And so I still write for that too.
Best of luck with all your writing.
End note - in posting this, I feel I am being more forthright about my self-publishing than in the past. True, I have been disappointed by my sales in that area. So why release another collection? (As I did just last week.) The explanation is somewhat hard to articulate, but I do know this release is different than my other ones. I am very proud of these stories, and I wanted to feel as if they were truly finished - even the ones previously published. I loved writing them, I liked re-writing and ordering them into a theme, and loved putting them into a book form. Basically, it was about the artistic buzz. Would I love lots of people to read them? Of course. But I've been down that road. For me writing has a new purpose - or maybe one that was always there, and only has just now re-emerged.