Monthly archives for December, 2009

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Can’t Make Money in Fiction

This myth “You can’t make a living writing fiction” is so clearly hogwash, I shouldn’t have to include it as a chapter in this book. All anyone has to do is look at a certain fantasy writer in England being richer than the Queen. And the number of fiction writers on the Forbes List every year. But, alas, new writers hear this all the time, constantly, from every direction, and sometimes from longer term professional writers.

So, it’s worth a long post I guess. It shouldn’t be a myth at all, but it is.

First up, where does this myth come from?

We have all seen the stupid studies that an “average” fiction writer makes something like $2,345 per year. And, of course, people look at that and think “Oh, my, no one can make any money writing fiction.” Of course, those who say that don’t know how studies are taken, or what a number like that really means.

Most of the big studies ask every person who has a dream of someday writing a novel. The writers asked maybe have finished a few short stories, maybe even mailed a couple. They go to a writer’s group regularly, and call themselves writers, because they are in the early days of learning their craft. They make no money. There are hundreds of thousands of this type of writer, all in the early days of learning. Then, of course there are the writers who will never sell, a person with the best intentions, but no real drive to actually sell anything. Or if they do sell, it’s to a small press that pays in copies or worse yet these days, they give their story away free to an online press and don’t even get a copy.

The studies ask all those writers how much they make, and the answer is almost always zero. Millions of “nothing” answers.

Then these studies include writers in organizations like SFWA, who lets a writer with three sales in the door. And Romance Writers, which has a huge chunk of membership that has never made a sale. All these thousands and thousands of unpublished or slightly published writers are included.

It’s stunning to me that the average is so high, actually. But the truth is, a lot of people have to be making a lot of money with their fiction writing to pull up all the beginning writers to above two thousand average.

Writing, to my knowledge, is the only profession that takes studies this way. It would be exactly like trying to figure out what an average lawyer makes by also including every undergraduate who is thinking of going to law school and every law student in the study about what they made working the law. Lawyers, in that type of study, would make less than two thousand average I’m betting.

So, where else does this myth come from? Duh? The answer is simple. It comes from all the people who are, for one reason or another, simply too afraid to try mailing out their fiction regularly to places who buy it. Or poor writers trapped in the agent myth, rewriting book after book for an employee. For those writers, it would be impossible to make a living at writing fiction. And thus, when you talk to them, they are telling you the truth. From their viewpoint.

How about a writer who has sold three novels and for the first time understands how the money flows? Those early novelists are saying the same thing, of course. Selling one genre book a year is not enough to make a living writing. Unless, you are fantastically lucky. But most of us aren’t that lucky, so a writer with one book a year, who has bought in to the writing slow myth can’t make a living, and they are telling other writers the truth as well. From their viewpoint.

So what about when you hear this myth spouted by a big name bestseller? I heard a New York Times bestseller in a keynote speech once tell 500 people there were only two hundred people in the nation making a living at fiction. Kris and I almost fell out of our chairs laughing, but we were just about the only people in the room laughing. Everyone else thought he was right. As it happens, I’m sitting next to him on a panel the very next hour, so as we were talking, I turned to him and said, “You know that 200 number is totally wrong.”

He look sort of stunned and said, “That’s what I had always heard.” (The myth hits again and is repeated by big name writer.)

I said, “If that’s the case, then don’t you find it pretty amazing that there are seven of the two hundred on this one panel?”

He looked down the panel at the seven of us, all full-time fiction writers, sitting on the panel, and then I asked the 100 people in the room how many were writers making at least $80,000 per year with their fiction writing. Five more people, two of whom I recognized, raised their hands. Twelve of us in the same room at a writer’s convention. That stunned the keynote speaker, let me tell you, and we ended up spending the entire panel talking about this myth. And where that 200 number came from in the myth.

Turns out, there are about 200 NEW NAMES on the major bestseller lists every year. (There are 780 yearly slots on the New York Times list alone, not counting the same number on Publishers Weekly lists, same number on the Wall Street Journal lists, and the 2,600 spots on the USA Today Bestseller list in a year.) So there are about 200 NEW NAMES in fiction hit the bestseller lists every year that have never been there before. That’s just the top spots. I’m not talking extended lists.

And notice, I’m not even counting all the major bestsellers who hit those lists all the time. They are writers as well, people as well, and they count as well. But you get an idea where the silly idea of only 200 came from.

What’s worse, this myth is so bad, that at the master class every year, first night, we ask the professional writers attending, how many writers in the United States they think make a living with their fiction. Many of them say five or ten or twenty. We never have anyone go much past a few hundred. This myth is very, very deep it seems.

So, how many writers in the United States do make a living writing only fiction? Well, that depends on how you define “living.” That’s another shocker for me from information every year from master class students. For the longest time, I figured over six figures gross per year was a living. At that level, there are thousands and thousands of fiction writers making that much and a lot more.

But lately, I’ve been forced by discussions with students to look at reality a little bit more when it comes to “making a living.” A $2,000 mortgage, $1,000 for various insurance, $1,000 for various utilities, and $2,000 more for food and other details, like clothing, trips and such. $6,000 per month after taxes needed to survive. $72,000 per year, but if you are married and your spouse works, cut that number in half. Your half, to say you are making a living writing fiction only needs to be $38,000 per year. Slightly over $3,000 per month.

And many, many people I know make nice livings on less than that. A bunch less. So my number was way high when it came to “making a living” so I have no idea how many thousands and thousands and thousands of writers make a living. It’s a lot more than I even thought it was, to be honest.

First off, how do fiction writers make money?

Numbers First: The common knowledge out there is that we make an advance against sales for our books. Now, if that’s where the income stopped, many of us would have a hard time making a living, to be honest. For those who have never had an advance, let me break this down quickly.

Say you get a $20,000 genre book advance, two book deal. Total $40,000. Not bad money at all. Advances can be much, much lower than that these days in genre, down to less than $5,000 per book without an issue. But for the math, let’s play with a decent book deal.

Each book is divided out into signing payment, acceptance payment, and publication payment. So $17,000 (after agent fee) divided by three equals three payments per book of $5,666.

Say you sell this book on January 1st, 2010. You get the contract in March, (if lucky after negotiations) sign it, get it back, and get the first payments on signing in June, 2010. First payment would be signing on book #1 and #2, for a total of $11,333. Not a bad check. I always like checks with more than one number to the left of the comma.

Your book was done when it was bought, but you and your editor in May have a conference for the rewrite, you get a letter, and you get the book back to your editor in June. They accept the book in September, (if lucky) and in November, you get your second check of $5,666. Your total income for the year about $20,000. Not bad, but unless you have some very tiny expenses and a great spouse, you’re not making a living yet.

Publication comes in the fall the following year and you’ll be lucky to get the check a month later. How about book #2? You were writing it during the spring, turned it in during the summer, and the editor got back rewrites in the fall, and you got an acceptance check in early 2011. Publication for the fall of 2012. So your income from the two books in 2011 is $11,333, and only $5,666 in 2012.

Royalties (again, if you are lucky) wouldn’t even think of coming in until 2013 at the earliest, if the book is doing fantastic and earning out quickly, and you weren’t basket accounted and other details in the contract.

Do the math on this if your advance is $5,000 instead of $20,000. See why the myth gets spread so quickly and easily, even by early published novelists?

For that one contract to ever make you enough to live on for a few years, you are going to have to get very, very lucky and have the book take off big.

So, I seemed to have just made the case for the myth. Right? So how do so many writers make a living? Best way to describe this is a metaphor.

The Magic Bakery Metaphor

Think of us (every writer) as a huge bakery and all we make is pies. Magic pies, that seem to just reform after we sell off pieces of the pie to customers. And each pie can be divided into thousands of pieces if we want.

The Magic Pie secret ingredient is called “Copyright.”

Every story we write, every novel we write, is a magic pie full of copyright.

We can sell parts of it to one publisher, other parts to another publisher, some parts to overseas markets, other parts to audio, or eBooks, or game companies, or Hollywood, or web publishers, and on and on and on. One professional writer I knew sold over 100 different gaming rights to different places on one novel. He had a very sharp knife cutting that magic pie.

So each professional writer has this Magic Bakery, making magic pies that can be cut into as many pieces as we want and many of the pieces can return as if never taken, even after being sold off. (You must learn copyright to really understand this.)

Each piece of the pie is a cash stream.

And extending this metaphor just a little bit farther, you don’t even have to have the same flavor of pie. Kris has Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kris Nelscott, Kristine Grayson, Kris Rusch, and others, not counting combining with me every-so-often for Kathryn Wesley or Sandy Schofield.

Each story, each novel is a pie. If you spread them out over a number of names (flavors) you have a pretty consistent cash flow stream because you have so many cash flow streams working. (Assuming you are mailing them to people who will buy them.)

Advances on novels is only one cash flow stream for a few pieces of a pie. (Right now, in the news, publishers and big name writers are fighting over Kindle rights and who owns the rights to books published under contract before the mid 1990’s. They are fighting over the cash stream from a tiny slice of the pie and it is a very big and important fight.)

Repeat: Each piece of the pie is a cash stream.

Let me try to explain this using just one piece of the pie. Say you sold the tiny piece of the pie called French Translation Rights, and your contract with the French publisher limited your book to trade paper only. (You could have also sold the piece of the pie that had French hardback rights, or French audio rights, or French mass market rights, or French film rights. You still have those in the pie and can sell them at any point as well. Get the idea?) Your French publisher will have advances like your American publisher, and there will be royalties and so on. In other words, your French piece of the pie will flow money into your accounts just as your English novel sale does.

And your German sale. Your Russian. Your Italian. And so on and so on. Thousands and thousands of pieces of the magic pie can be sold.

One more time: Each piece of the pie is a cash stream.

Say you sold English Language audio rights to a story. Does selling this one piece of the pie stop you from selling any other piece of the pie? No. And when the audio contract goes out of force, the audio rights piece of the pie suddenly appears back in your pie and you can resell it again.

You create the inventory, the pie, just once, but can sell it for your entire life, having pieces you sold keep coming back to the pie over and over, and your estate can keep selling that pie for seventy years past your death. Nifty, huh?

So, one more extension: A Magic Bakery owner who opens a shop and has only one new pie per year, only one flavor, has little chance of making enough money to make a living and keep his business open. Just imagine as a customer walking into that place. A huge empty bakery with only one pie on the shelf. Customer turns and leaves.

But someone like me, who has shelves and shelves and shelves full of pies, twenty flavors, willing to do new flavors at any moment to customer demand, willing to sell off small slices of any pie at any time, has a lot more chance of having a lot of customers and making a living. Sort of basic business. I have inventory. I have a crowded store and am making more inventory all the time.

Each piece of the pie is a cash stream. (If I have four hundred pies in my shop, each with a thousand possible pieces, I have a huge inventory to make money from.)

Go back and look at my myth posts about writing fast, about rewriting, about agents. I put links to them in the post right below this one. See how it’s all starting to fall together? At least I hope you see?

Let me give you an example of how a magic pie works in real life.

I wrote a short story one afternoon while at a writer’s retreat called “In the Shade of the Slowboat Man.” Took me about five hours to create that pie. It was rejected at the market I wrote it for, so I sold it to F&SF Magazine. Decent money. Then sold another slice to the Nebula Awards Anthology, another small slice (nonexclusive anthology right) sold and then returned to the pie. Then I sold it to another reprint anthology (same right again), another small slice sold and returned to the pie magically for another person to buy, then I sold the rights to an audio play made from the story, making more off of that slice than the other three before, and then I was hired with Kris to write the script from my story, so more money yet again. Now I have that story on Kindle and Scribd selling, and have sold it one more time to yet another anthology. Well over $10,000 income from one short story, and I still have the pie on my shelf in my Magic Bakery, still there for sale.

I’m thinking of making a novel pie out of the story. Short story pie will remain, novel pie will be created and both have thousands of slices to be sold.

I had Hollywood once give me $1,000 every six months for three years simply to give them the chance to buy a slice of one pie(story) on my shelf. That’s right, I never SOLD anything from the pie. I simply said “Give me a thousand bucks every six months and I won’t let anyone else buy that one small slice of that pie.” They never touched the pie and I made six thousand bucks off of that option.

I love this business.

Now, let me do one more bit of math.

No hardback ever hits a major bestseller list by selling under 50,000 copies. Might get an extended list, but never actually hits a list (unless a real fluke of velocity and timing happens). (Don’t believe me, read Publisher’s Weekly in the late winter, their article about the top sellers and the hundreds and hundreds of books that sold above 100,000 copies in hardback. Many of them never hit a list.)

Do the math.

Example #1: 10% Royalty rate. $25.00 price. Which means the author’s share is $2.50 per book. 50,000 copies sold is $125,000 author’s share. For just the hardback edition (one slice).

Example #2: The $20,000 advance from earlier. What are the sales numbers the publisher is hoping for? Say this is a genre hardback. Do the math. $20,0000 divided by $2.50 author share of the $25.00 hardback. Publisher would be beyond happy if this book sold 8,000 copies. More than likely they would be happy with 3,000 copies, a decent paperback sale, and some overseas sales bought in the contract, with e-book sales, to make the author’s advance back.

It doesn’t take a lot of sales to make some really, really nice money in this business. I have published over 90 novels and hundreds of short stories. I have over 8 million copies of my books sold. Many of you reading this have never read a single word of any book I have written, yet I have been making a living with my fiction for over 20 years now.

Why? Because I have a very full Magic Bakery, with a large number of pies to sell pieces from. I am not a brand name, I am not a New York Times bestseller. You haven’t read any of my fiction. Yet here I am, making a living with my Magic Bakery.

I sell one slice here, another slice there, a bunch of slices over here, and I keep selling them and the new stuff as well, over and over and over. I understand copyright completely, and I use that knowledge.

Can you make a living after writing only one or two novels and a few short stories? The answer is no, of course. You have a bakery with no inventory.

But once you fill that Magic Bakery, once you have customers who know where to buy, know that your product is good, quality product, then the money will come. Each piece of the pie is a cash stream. And a writer with a good inventory and the ability to sell the inventory to customers can make a large amount of money with fiction writing.

If I can do it, if I am one of the thousands and thousands of fiction writers making a living with our fiction writing, you can do it as well. Just write, finish what you write, mail what you write to someone who can buy it. You know, Heinlein’s Rules will build you one very nice Magic Bakery. In a very short amount of time, actually.

Oh, yeah, it’s also a lot of fun.

Copyright 2009 Dean Wesley Smith.


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Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing

I thought I would put up a link to each of the posts in this series that have come along so far. This won’t be the order they will be in the final book, and those who have donated will get a copy of that final book when it comes out. I still have a ways to go. Lots of myths in this business. And I might need to do sub-myths under the large topics, but at the moment the large topics are keeping me more than busy.

Thanks everyone, for the great comments on all of these. That’s been fun as well. They are all right after each link below.

About 30,000 words into this book. It’s just getting interesting. Stay tuned.

Just click on the links to go right to the chapter.







Book as Event

Writing is Hard

No Money in Writing Fiction

Cheers, Dean

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Writing is Hard

This myth comes in many forms and has many faces, but let me put it as plainly as I can to start.

Myth: To be Good, Writing Must Be Hard. (And it can’t be fun.)

Total hogwash, of course, yet it is stunning how many new writers believe this, and how readers, when they bother to think about it, believe the myth as well. And, of course, almost everyone who teaches creative writing in a university program believes this as well, and teaches the myth.

Where does this myth come from?

Answer: A thousand places, actually. But I think the best place to look first is at writers themselves.

Fiction writers are people who sit alone in a room and make up stuff. By its very nature, one of the easiest tasks ever given to a human being. But, alas, fiction writers are people who make stuff up, and thus, making stuff up doesn’t stop when our fingers leave the keys. We use words like “struggle” and “fought” in sentences describing the creation of a story. “I had to really struggle with that story.” Or “I fought that story into existence.”

Good, active writing. Who cares if the reality was you sat fairly still, in a comfortable chair, in a warm room, at a computer, and just made stuff up.

Don’t forget that we writers, by our nature, are drama queens, to say the least. Because our task is so easy and so much fun, we have to make it seem harder to those around us, and to ourselves, otherwise we get no credit for all the “hard work” we do every day.

Writers play up this myth of “hard work” so much, we actually start believing it ourselves at times. If nothing else, fiction writers are the masters of self-delusion.

A second place to look for why this myth exists is the culture of publishing. See my last Sacred Cows post about books as events to see part of the reason. But let me do the math one more time to show just how really silly this is.

One manuscript page is about 250 words. This post is now a distance past that number of words right here. So if I write one page, 250 words, I would be done writing in about 10-15 minutes. Sometimes quicker. If I did that 10-15 minutes every day for one year, I would complete a 91,000 word novel, about a normal length paperback book.

Oh, yeah, that’s hard work, sitting silently for 15 minutes per day and moving my fingers. And the current culture would consider me a prolific writer if I did that every year for ten years. Heaven forbid I actually write 30 minutes per day and produce two books a year.

We writers have to really hide this math, and we have to really do a lot of drama to keep the world believing that working fifteen minutes a day typing is hard work. Stunning how good of a job we have done in this scam, isn’t it? As I said, we are masters of delusion, self-delusion, and just flat making stuff up.

Of course, there is always the “art” argument that comes flying in. Writers who want to hold onto the myth that writing is hard work talk a great deal about the “art” and the “craft” of what they do, especially out in public. And of course, see my rewriting posts about that part of the myth. But the truth is, when we are really creating art, we are doing it from the back of our brains, typing fast, buried in the story. Much more on the myth of “art” in later chapters.

So the myth of writing is hard has built up almost as much as the myth of agents. How did that come about?

In the beginning (I love starting a sentence like that), all writers struggled over simple sentences, meaning back in the early days of learning how to talk and write as kids, writing was hard for all of us. I went all the way through college avoiding any kind of class that forced me to do a paper or essay. I hated writing. It was just too hard. Much easier for me to do a multiple choice test.

Most people never get past those early, almost basic memories. So we grow up thinking that someone who can write a story, an article, or heavens, an entire novel, have a special power and are working really, really hard to write. Some writers I know actually still believe this.

And, of course, the pulp writers, pounding out thousands of words a day, actually were working hard on those manual typewriters. Go ahead, don’t believe me, try pounding out a single page on a manual typewriter. You’ll be covered in White Out and your arms will ache.

But sitting here in my perfect chair with perfect arm support, letting my fingers try to stay up with my old brain, I’m not doing much work. In fact, if I didn’t get out and do some exercise, some sort of movement in the real world, I would turn into a 500 pound blob with fingers. I was headed that way about three years ago. Now I’m down to 190 and still losing and exercising. That’s right, I have to get up and move away from the writing to do any real work or exercise.

Also, the early days of trying to learn how to tell stories is difficult and very frustrating. The people around you think you are wasting time, your family talk in worried whispers behind your back, your workshop hates everything you type, editors give you form rejections, and even your cat won’t go near your computer chair. Everything about learning how to write stories in the early professional days is hard. No argument.

The early days of trying to learn how to write professional level fiction is an ugly extension and reminder of learning to write as a child. Very basic fear. It’s a wonder any of us ever learn how to write novels, now that I think about it.

And of course there’s Practice. Don’t even mention that ugly word to writers. Writers, unlike any other brand of art, think they don’t need to practice. However, early days of trying to get published forces practice on all of us. No one buys our practice sessions and calls us brilliant, so we keep putting out stories and novels until someone does buy one. Practice is hard work for the most part. Anyone who played a sport or a musical instrument knows this fact. So when writers are practicing in the early years, it is hard work.

And remember, learning is uncomfortable by its very nature. When you are learning something new, it makes all us uneasy, makes us want to return to the status quo of not knowing something new. We all like stability, but when learning writing and craft of story telling, there is no stability. A writer is constantly trying something new, constantly on edge, and thus it feels hard and uncomfortable for years at a time. That’s normal, just normal. And clearly not hard work, but because the learning and trying something new feels difficult, we think it is hard work.

And this applies when we are struggling (nice word, huh?) through a story and it feels like it’s not coming together. That, we say to other writers, is working. We had to “work” at the story, the plotting into an unknown place felt uncomfortable, therefore it felt hard and if it feels hard, it therefore must have been work.

As I said, writers as great at self-delusion.

So the memory of working hard at writing still haunts all of us from our childhood. On my writing computer I have a short story to finish. But that feels like work, so I sit here at my internet computer, typing this instead. See, even I do it, still, after all the millions of words and 90 plus published books.

So, as I do with every chapter in this book, let me try to outline in simple form where writing is actually hard, and where it isn’t hard.

Where writing is hard.

1) The business of writing is hard. No argument there at all. And that business comes flowing into the writing. Thoughts about selling or not selling stop most writers at times. That makes the typing hard. Just dealing with the myths around agents can drive a writer to a nap very quickly. Cash flow, doing proofs, and everything about the business is hard.

2) Discipline is hard. Just carving out time to write is hard. Really hard, actually. Especially in the early years when the feedback loop is so negative. Simply finding time to get to the computer is hard when day job, kids, and bills get in the way. That’s hard and very hard work. The fun starts when you get to the chair with some time ahead, but getting there is hard work early on.

3) Writing more than six to eight hours a day is hard work. I know, under deadlines, I have spent that many hours and many more at a computer. When you write for eight hours a day, you know you have physically worked at something. But fifteen minutes a day to write one novel a year. That’s not work. Write ten thousand words a day for a week and you will know real hard work in the area of writing.

Those are the only places I can think of that writing is actually difficult work.

Where writing is NOT hard.

1) Sitting in a chair for an hour or so a day, making up stuff, is not hard work. It’s just not.

2) Coming up with story ideas and novel ideas is not hard work. In fact, after a while, professional writers have far, far too many ideas to ever think about writing them all, and we are constantly coming up with new ones every day. Coming up with story ideas actually becomes annoying because there are so many and it is so easy. (Fear of ideas not coming is something you learn your way past in the early days, the uncomfortable days. No worry.)

Where writing is just flat fun.

1) Sitting in a chair, making stuff up, while knowing that someone will pay you a lot of money for what you are making up. Yup, that’s fun.

2) Knowing that the typing you are doing today might still be read and earning you and your kids money fifty years from now. No other job I know of has that wonderful aspect to it. That’s fun.

3) Finishing and mailing stories is fun. Some of you might call that work, the mailing process, but actually, it’s fun. (If you think of it as hard work, if the fear is trying to stop you, you have other issues to get past.) Every time you mail something, you are mailing potential, and that’s exciting.

As an attorney friend of mine once said, when he goes to work, he gets so much per hour and then goes home. When I go to work, finish a story and mail it, every day I have the chance of making a lot of money and being read by a lot of people and making money with what I did that day for decades to come. That’s exciting and fun. If you don’t approach mailing manuscripts to editors as fun, you’ve been listening to too many agents talk.

4) I wrote that. Yup, that’s fun, great deals of fun, simply saying to someone, “Yes, I wrote that.” I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it was last weekend spending a good hour and a half signing books as fast as I could sign. I have an ego, just as anyone else, and trust me, that’s fun. Signing books for fans who love your work is not work. It’s an honor and a ton of fun.

5) The challenge of the business. Nothing is easy about becoming and staying a professional fiction writer. The business, the push to continue, the dealing with money is never easy. But the challenge is great fun. If you aren’t the type of person that goes at something that seems impossible and says, “Oh, why not, let’s try,” then you might want to find another job to chase. If you feel that security is everything in your life, then go work for Enron. That should do the trick. But if you love challenges, there is no more fun challenge than this business.

Suggestions on how to make writing more fun.

1) Take the pressure off. Simply put, this is not brain surgery. No life is in your hands other than some made-up characters. And you can kill them if you want, since you are God in your story. Take off the pressure.

2) Take stock of how you feel when you get up from a good writing session, where you finished pages. Do you feel good, excited, happy? Most of us do, sort of like just coming off a good carnival ride. Remember that feeling when you go back to write the next session or the next day.

3) Make mailing manuscripts to editors (or agents if you have that pathological need to add problems into your career) fun. Mailing and the game of trying to match the right manuscript with the right editor at the right house is fun. Frustrating at times, sure. But the more you make that part of things into just a game to keep as much writing on the market as you can, the more fun you will have and the less rejection will bother you.

4) Stop calling your writing work. Stop thinking of writing as a grind. Stop complaining to other writers all the time how bad the week was and how little you got done. In other words, CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE.

If you have an extra ten minutes, write something. If you are lucky and have a few hours, be excited about sitting down and exploring whatever world you are running around in with the story. Come at the writing with excitement, with expectations of fun, with delight.

As a mug I use for tea says on the side, “Attitude is everything.”

Over the years I have allowed myself to fall into some pretty nasty traps around the business of writing and writing itself. I let myself forget how much fun it is. I let myself believe that some writing was better than other types of writing. I let myself think that it was better to not write than write. I have managed to escape all the traps, but I was not immune to them by any means. Heck, I quit writing a half dozen times along the way.

That’s right, I figured the grass was always greener on the other side of some fence, so off I went to start a comic book store, or off I went to play professional poker, or off I went to try to play professional golf for a second time. And every time, at some point fairly quickly on those side roads, I realized I had left what I loved to do, that I had left the easiest job on the planet, and a job that paid the most. I had left a job I really enjoyed.

So now I write for a living once again, and I enjoy it even more than I ever did. I have a very, very cool story to finish tonight, one that I have been playing at too long because I’m just having too much fun with the idea. Am I going to work now?

Yeah, I suppose, since I make my living at my writing, I am going to “work” now. But I sure ain’t complaining about how hard I work. Or how tough my job is.

I sit alone, in a room, and make stuff up. That’s my job description. I have, without a doubt, the easiest and best job in the world.

It is a giant myth that my job is hard work.


Notice below that I have added onto this series of chapters a donate button where you can donate if you feel these chapters of this upcoming book helped you in some way and you want to keep me writing them and putting them up here. And if you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this article along to others who might get some help from it. Every week or so I will be adding a new chapter on the myths and sacred cows of publishing. Stay tuned. Upcoming are chapters on bestsellers, research, rejections, and so much more. This business has a lot of myths. An entire book full.

Thanks, Dean

My Newsletter Sign-Up

Current Bundle

Bundles: A great way to discover new writers and read some of my novels or nonfiction writing books at the same time.

So if you want to read two of my books about the business of writing, you can get it in a bundle with eight other great books from other writers from Storybundle. Click on image to go to the bundle.

Smith’s Monthly Subscriptions

Smith's Monthly, an original fiction magazine featuring every month a full novel, short fiction, serial adventures, and nonfiction now available for subscriptions.

And twenty-six of them now exist... Amazing, huh? And hard to hold. Here I am holding the first five...

$6.99 electronic and $12.99 trade paper editions are available at your local bookseller. All paper subscription copies are signed. For more information, just click on the cover.


Online Workshop Schedule

These are the starting dates of upcoming online workshops. Limited to twelve writers. All have openings unless I say closed below. For sign-up and more information about each workshop, click the Online Workshop tab at the top of the page.

Class #51… June 6th … The Business of Writing
Class #52… June 6th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #53… June 6th … Author Voice
Class #54… June 6th … Ideas into Stories
Class #55… June 7th … Teams in Fiction
Class #56… June 7th … Depth in Writing
Class #57… June 7th … Plotting With Depth
Class #58… June 8th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #59… June 8th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #60… June 8th … Advanced Depth

Class #1… July 11th … Author Voice
Class #2… July 11th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… July 11th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #4… July 11th … Plotting With Depth
Class #5… July 12th … Character Development
Class #6… July 12th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… July 12th … Advanced Character and Dialog
Class #8… July 13th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… July 13th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10... July 13th … Teams in Fiction

Class #11… Aug 8th … The Business of Writing
Class #12… Aug 8th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #13… Aug 8th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #14… Aug 8th … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 9th … Teams in Fiction
Class #16… Aug 9th … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 9th … Plotting With Depth
Class #18… Aug 10th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #19… Aug 10th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 10th … Advanced Depth

Sign-up and more information under Online Workshops tab at the top of the page.

Classic Workshops

You can sign up for these and start at any point. They are the regular workshops, only you don't send in the homework and you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like.

They are half the price of a regular six week workshop.

Classic Workshops offered.

Making a Living... Classic
Productivity... Classic
Discoverability... Classic
Writing in Series... Classic
Genre Structure... Classic
Career... Classic

Lecture Series

More information on these lectures under the Lecture Series Tab above.

#1... Heinlein's Rules... Dean Wesley Smith 15 videos... $75.00

#2... Read Like a Writer... Kristine Kathryn Rusch... 8 videos... $50.00

#3... How to Write a Short Story: The Basics... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 7 videos... $50.00

#4... Writer's Block and Procrastination... Dean Wesley Smith... 8 videos... $50.00

#5... Carving Time Out for Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#6... How to Research for Fiction Writers... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 14 videos... $75.00

#7... Pen Names: Help With the Decision... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#8... Motivation: Starting Easier and Writing More... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#9... Practice: The Attitude and Methods of Practice in Fiction... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#10... Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#11... Prolific Lecture: How to Become a Prolific Fiction Writer... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#12... The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward... Dean Wesley Smith.... 11 videos... $50.00

#13... Starting Writing. Or Restarting Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#14... Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#15... Audio Narration Lecture... Jane Kennedy.... 9 audio lectures... $50.00

#16... Your Writing as an Investment Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#17... How to Get Your Books into Bookstores Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#18... How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer Lecture... Kristine Kathryn Rusch....11 videos... $50.00

#19... Why Some Books Sell More Than Other Books... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#20... How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#21... The Basics of Designing Science Fiction Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#22... The Basics of Designing Mystery, Cozy, or Thriller Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#23... Paying the Price: A Working Writer's Mindset ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#24... Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline... Dean Wesley Smith... 12 videos... $50.00

#25... Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#26... Organization... Allyson Longueira... 8 videos... $50.00

#27... Confidence... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#28... Stories to Novels... Dean Wesley Smith... 9 videos... $50.00

My Publisher

WMG Publishing Inc. is now my major publisher of all my coming novels, collections, and short stories.

Support This Blog On Patreon

I now have a Patreon page with some nifty rewards for your monthly support.

Just click on the image to go to my new Patreon page.