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Not Always What They Seem
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Even if you're not published yet, if you read the right blogs you know something about the realities of trying to make a living by writing fiction. If you read my blog, for example, you know (in a vague sort of way) that a half dozen excellently reviewed mystery novels from a high profile indie publisher does not necessarily a living make. If you read Mark Terry's blog, you know (in much greater detail) how you can be making a living writing, but not entirely from fiction.

Just as I'm a lot less forthcoming about my finances than Mark is about his, there are plenty of writers who are even less forthcoming than me.

Writers aren't required to make public financial disclosures and most don't. Just because writers might give the impression (purposefully or not) that they are deriving their sustenance from their fiction doesn't make it so.

When I was a kid I assumed that the writers whose books lined the library and bookstore shelves made their living by writing. Why not? Adults did stuff and got paid for it. That's how it worked. My dad left the house to teach every morning and so he could afford a place to live and groceries. One friend's dad sold cars, another's went to some office to do something or other. Why would writing books be any different, particularly since books were so much more important than cars and schools and whatever people did in offices?

By the time I was in college I knew better. (Goodbye sf novels, hello law school) And the older I get, the less writers there are who make a living at the job.

Some writers simply don't mention their work life outside writing, and why should they? But there are a few who -- to put it kindly -- don't exactly go out of their way to disabuse those who might get the impression that they don't need to do anything but commune with the muse.

Then too, the fact that someone does write fiction full-time is no guarantee there's a living being made. Some writers will be very quick to let the world know they do nothing but write but not nearly so quick to reveal that their gainfully employed spouse brings home pretty much every oinking bit of bacon. Well, the former information is much more interesting than the latter, I suppose.

I can see it might be a good policy to keep readers in the dark about one's literary compensation. A potential book buyer might well ask, why should I waste money on a novel by this guy who's so inept he could make more flipping burgers at MacDonald's if he'd cut his hair to get the job? (Which he's too stupid to do)

If, however, you aspire to write fiction, are wondering whether to give up the day job right now or in the future, are feeling discouraged that you might never be able to write full time, or generally depressed about wherever it is you perceive yourself to be on the writing accomplishment scale, it is good to keep in mind that when it comes to published writers and their livlihoods, things are not always what they seem.

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