This is a problem many people who love doing creative stuff (writing, music, programming, painting, pottery, calligraphy, anything creative and original) will face:
“This is good, why don’t you make money from it?”
As if the only value anything has is by how much dollars it makes.
You could create the most beautiful painting, the most moving music, the most engaging novel, but if you don’t have the big dolla’s in your bank account, you are a failure.
And all of it is complicated by the fact that, yes, like most creatives, I do want to make money from my writing. Maybe not millions, but a little would help. Especially when the day job is going shit, and you know the fantasy that online entrepreneurs sell:
Quit the day job! Start your own business! Don’t depend on one person for all your income! Blah blah blah! Now buy my book/course, so at least one of us can get rich.
It doesn’t help with all these online “gurus” who claim you can make the big $$$ by selling anything (yes sir, ANYTHING!) online, if only you buy their expensive course.
One guru (and why name him, since they all do the same) says you can make money online (BIG MONEY!) even if you are selling things like crotchet kits or dog training. All you have to do is (in thunderous manly voice):
FOLLOW MY FORMULA!
His formula was, in a nutshell: Create training courses and sell them to others, just as he was doing. And at least one of us made big money (hint, it wasn’t me).
I loved writing fiction– novels, short stories, interactive fiction. At first, I would just self-publish them on Amazon, no care whether anyone bought them.
Then I joined a few writer groups, and they were all like “You need to market your work”.
And so I spent hours every week building my email list, running ads, asking for reviews (as you need them to sell books), blogs/podcasts.
I found the type of fiction that sells is in a few mainstream genres, and in series (so you write a dozen books, all with a hard-boiled detective, for example). That’s why every book nowadays is in a series because publishers (traditional and indie)have figured out this is the “formula” to success.
I like to experiment and play—one genre I love writing is comedy-horror. This is one of those super niche genres that have a few hardcore fans but isn’t mainstream. Think Shaun of the Dead in movies, or one of my favourite books John Dies at the End.
Other books I wrote were supernatural detective series, a fantasy comedy (a teddy bear that solves crime). Now, there are books like these and sell (and where do you think I got ideas from?), but they are not mainstream.
If you want to make the big money, you at least have to try writing for the “market” or trying to write in a way that appeals to the mainstream, or at least a large number of people.
So that’s what I did. Why not? Everyone else was doing it. They were pasting screenshots of how much money they were making online in Facebook groups.
And while all the above I tried worked in the short term (and yes, it DOES work), soon I began to hate what I was doing and one day, I just couldn’t type anymore.
And one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. Couldn’t type one more word. Quit 2 years ago, after 7-8 years of writing.
Have tried to restart many times, but each time, I feel disgusted and quit.
Trying to make money from your “passion” is hard
Just follow your passion and you won’t have to work a day!
Sure, if your passion is online marketing or making WordPress sites for cash-rich, time-poor business owners.
When I was writing, I hit all the clichés about “passion”:
- I would be lost for hours in writing
- I loved doing it
- I did it for several years non-stop, including training to become better
And yet, in spite of my passionate “passion”, I never made enough money to quit the day job. I followed my passion and all it gave my was wrist pain.
And it is a field where people make money— but like many other creative fields (music, sports, art), it’s a winner-take-all field. 5-10% of authors make 90% of the money. And that’s fine, I knew the statistics before I started.
But I was still hoping to make some money. To be honest, I do, but it’s never been more than a fancy night out each month.
I never cracked the Amazon algorithm; I never got 10,000 fans on Facebook; I never got a huge email list of people Oh gosh! Just waiting to buy my book.
And in trying to hit these targets, I started hating what I was actually doing — writing.
My advice is: If you love someone, do it for love, don’t always try to make money from it.
It all comes back to doing it for the love and accepting that perhaps this will always remain a hobby. Do it with a craftsman’s mindset, always improving for the sake of improving.
And don’t let anyone shame you if you don’t want to make money.
Note: I wrote this post 2–3 years ago, and it had been sitting on my hard drive since then. I have given up fiction writing, though my books are still online I don’t do anything to promote them, nor am I writing new ones. I wrote this post as a warning: If you love something, do it for the love and don’t let the Get-Rich-Types make you lose your focus.
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