Can I Afford to be a Writer?

Now there’s something I hadn’t considered much before. A post on Facebook recently by a lovely lady I consider to be a massive success really made me think. She is a fabulous writer and I presume she sells shedloads of books, yet she has financial problems and is as worried about money as I am.

This made me look at the writers I know through social media and the amazing fact is that most of them have other jobs. There isn’t a single Barbara Cartland among them. No lying on a chaise longue, eating chocolates and dictating to a willing secretary for any of them. There goes my cunning plan!

Seriously, though, I have known for a long time that writing isn’t something you do for the money. Unless you are a mega-selling author the chances are that you will have to keep on with the day job or prepare to live hand-to-mouth. It’s not the profession I fondly imagined in my youth, when the word “writer” conjured up the image of someone like Enid Blyton or the Pullein-Thompsons, living in the country, surrounded by ponies, attending country fairs and gymkhanas, eating cucumber sandwiches while chatting to the local vicar and patting the children on the head before sending them off to their governess or nanny so I could get on with the writing.  Sigh. Fact is, writing is something many people fit in between heading off to do their dreary “proper” job, cleaning the house, doing the supermarket dash, dropping the kids off at school and walking the dog. It’s a wonder any writing gets done at all, particularly when writers also have to Tweet, Facebook, blog and Pinterest to make sure they are actually known to anyone outside their own neighbourhoods.

I get that, and I accept it. What worries me the most, though, is can I actually afford to be a writer? I don’t mean in the sense of earning money. I mean, in the sense of paying out. I follow a lot of writers on social network sites and they are constantly discussing sending off their manuscripts for proof-reading, line editing, editing (I have no idea what the difference in all these things is by the way!) Then, if they choose to self-publish, they also have to pay out for formatting and cover design. All of this costs money. Editors, designers etc are skilled people and, quite rightly, they charge for their services. The question is, how does someone like me, with an income barely above the minimum wage and a monthly rent to pay that is over half of that, find the extra cash to pay for these services?

How can I send a novel to a publisher or agent without having it checked first? And if I can’t afford to do that I am truly stuck. Also, if I chose to self-publish I would still need an editor because no way would I want to unleash an error-ridden piece of work on a truly horrified public. And there is the mystery of cover design. I know it’s possible to do it yourself, but I don’t really have the technical savvy to do that.

How do other writers manage? I appreciate that some of them have better salaries than I do, but there must be others out there who struggle? How do they pay for all these services? Is there a secret I know nothing about?

If anyone knows the answers, send them on a postcard please – or better yet, just leave a comment!

Have a great week xx

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