How to Make a Living From Your Writing
Everybody wants to be a writer. Until they try to become one.
In short, writing itself is a lot of work, and trying to make any money off of it can be like shouting into a void. But that doesn’t stop many of us from dreaming. Joanna Penn is one of the few who has turned the dream into a reality, and has written a series of books, as well as her blog and podcasts, full of tips and tricks on how she did so and how you can too.
Of course, the savvy reader can’t help but notice that a lot of her success as an author seems to be driven by her success at selling self-help books on how to be successful as an author. But that is part of her point: she has, through hard work and excellent marketing and strategizing, created a virtuous circle in which she makes money from writing books about making money from writing books. She found an ever-popular genre and started contributing high-quality products to it that were strategically advertised and linked to each other. (She also writes fiction, which she says in this book creates about 50% of her income). In this book she breaks down some of the basic possibilities and processes for becoming an self-employed author-entrepreneur.
And that’s the first of her “First Principles”: think of yourself as an entrepreneur who “creates value from ideas.” She also has a short but enlightening section on “creating scalable income”: that is, things that “you create once and sell over and over again.” As she points out, the beauty of creative work like writing is that you put in the time to create something once, and then have the possibility of selling it for as long as you want to keep doing so. These two concepts are extremely useful for authors who want to turn pro.
The book also has helpful ideas on deciding what kind of writing you want to do, how to define what “success” means to you, how to shift from working a regular job to writing, and how to be productive as a writer. It’s a bit of a grab-bag of ideas, touching lightly on all the basics, and a great resource for people casting around for inspiration or ideas on how to start writing as well as how to start making money from your writing, although not super in-depth.
I read it after seeing a webinar with Penn, and she is persuasive and encouraging as both a speaker and a writer. Reading or hearing her will make you feel like you CAN do this, and give you a few pointers for how to get started. The book is very easy and quick to read, positive, and has links to plenty of other resources. Many of those resources are Penn’s own other publications, which is where some readers might get a little turned off. The book IS well-written, informative, and engaging, and is probably worth the $4.99 price for aspiring professional authors, if nothing else than for the confidence boost it will give you. It’s also…what do you call it…content marketing is the term, I believe. It’s designed to market Penn’s books and services as well as teach you how to create and market your own, making it an immediate example of how to do what she’s showing you what to. Like I said, this may put some readers off, but those may be the readers who need the lessons the book has to offer the most. Like it or not, making a living out of writing means treating it like a business. Overall, a helpful, easy-to-read, and inspiring introduction to the topic that will leave you feeling good about yourself and your chances.