Not Everyone Thinks Being a Writer is a Good Idea

One of the extraordinary challenges you’ll face as a writer is the opinion of others toward writing as a profession.

You’ll face varied reactions from friends, family, day job coworkers, acquaintances, want to be writer friends and even members of your writer’s group when you are a writer.

A few people will say that’s nice. Some will start telling you about their great American novel plan. They may even offer to share the millions of dollars you can make together if you’ll just write the book using their idea.


You will find others not seeing you as a real writer if you don’t flesh out their vision of a writer. These are the people who talk about writing, but rarely or never put their behind in a chair and write. They only see the real writer as a person with a print book, who goes from book store to book store doing book signings or doing interviews. Of course, someone else has set up all the interviews and book signings. All they do is leave their five-star hotel room and ride the limo to the event.

Author’s Earning $1,000,000 or more per year.

“As of May 5, 2016, only three Big Five authors who debuted in the past five years are currently making a seven-figure run rate from their Amazon sales—print, audio, and ebook combined. On the other hand, 14 indies who debuted in the same time period are right now doing the same.”

Author’s Earning $100,000 or more per year.

“1,340 authors are earning $100,000 per year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors. The majority of the remainder? They come from traditional publishing’s longest-tenured ‘old guard.’

“Fewer than 115 Big Five published authors and 45 small or medium publisher authors who debuted in the past five years are currently earning $100,000 per year from Amazon sales. Among indie authors of the same tenure, more than 425 of them are now at a six-figure run rate.”

Author’s Earning $25,000 or more per year.

“More than 4,600 authors [are] earning $25,000 or above from their sales on Forty percent of these are indie authors deriving at least half their income from self-published titles, while 35 percent are Big Five authors deriving the majority of their income from Big Five published titles, and 22 percent are authors who derive most of their income from titles published by small- or medium-sized traditional publishers.”

“The vast majority of traditional publishing’s midlist-or-better earners started their careers more than a decade ago. Their more recently debuted peers are not doing anywhere near as well. Fewer than 700 Big Five authors and fewer than 500 small-or-medium publisher authors who debuted in the last 10 years are now earning $25,000 a year or more on Amazon — from all of their hardcover, paperback, audio and ebook editions combined. By contrast, over 1,600 indie authors are currently earning that much or more.

Source for the above:

Why so much mention of money?

Too many people use the financial bottom line as the reason to measure success or their reason for writing. They expect to write one book and make a million dollars.

Could it happen? Yes. Is it likely to happen? No.

Others want to see their name on the spine of a book or byline in a magazine. I confess it feels good to see either or both.

Why a person writes is personal. Here’s my story when I first shared my dream of becoming a writer.

My Story.

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

“What are you going to do now that you failed your physical due to bad vision and you can’t use your appointment to the United States Air Force Academy,” asked my high school guidance counselor.

“I’m going to be an author,” I said.

“You can’t be an author,” she replied.

“Why can’t I be an author?” I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

“Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades and SAT scores you could aspire to be a doctor, dentist, or lawyer,” she said.

I was heartbroken.

Raised to believe I could do anything, because of my high school guidance counselor now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing?

Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only…

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.


Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.


I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.


This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.


To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.


Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. I have been rejected by the best. My rejections include The New Yorker Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Poetry Magazine.


Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good. Then comes the question, can you do it again?

Writers’ Groups.

Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good. See the comments on dollars from Author Earnings may even be scary.

Don’t let the negative thinker stop you from chasing your dreams.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late.

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.

Parts of this article were originally published in the June 30, 2014 issue of Author Culture.

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