Talking About Money: Why Writers Need to Be More Honest About How We Earn

Talking About Money: Why Writers Need to Be More Honest About How We Earn

We don’t talk about money. For all the social advancements I’ve experienced in my brief lifetime, we still don’t talk about money. It’s our everlasting taboo.

For the independently employed, that taboo is almost more severe. We juggle clients and assignments and projects, but we only speak in ranges.

There is something to be said for being polite, yes. But in this new normal of freelance-as-full-time (which often exhibits as piecing-together-enough-part-time-gigs-to-make-it-work), we need to talk about money.

Sponsorship: For better or for worse

Ann Bauer’s recent essay on Salon, “Sponsored by My Husband,” finally started the conversation, but the truth was harsh. Some writers, she illustrates through a series of examples, have connections or family ties that allow them to work as a writer even when they don’t earn much money.

She explains her own path: that she published her first novel at the age of 39. She was a single mother who spent three months under her parents’ roof while she finished her first draft. She fought tooth and nail, and her gratefulness for the marriage she’s in now — a partnership, to be sure — is clear. “I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job,” she admits.

The responses to Bauer’s piece have been varied and at times even heated. Brevity’s social media editor, Allison K. Williams, shared that she tailored her online dating preferences hoping to find a mate who could take care of her financially… and it worked.

“Not paying my own rent is weird,” she writes. “Letting him hand me money for groceries and taxis is weird. But it’s better than not writing.”

Bay-Area freelancer Stephanie Lucianovic explores the idea that it takes more than a breadwinning partner to be a successful writer. She shared a string of tweets that she later expanded in a post on Medium, and which I have compiled here:

My last book was sponsored by my husband. My advance was eaten by the daycare needed to write it in the first place. My next book will be sponsored by my husband, the editing jobs I cram into every nook and cranny, the tears of my children, and my ego.

My writing has been sponsored by: no vacations in almost six years, on a single family car, and library books only. No glamor. Reality. My last book was also sponsored by my MIL who came out to help during the writing and again when I toured. Tour 100 percent sponsored by my husband.

All of these conversations bring up something many of us already knew: we’re grasping at straws. In the dark. While wearing mittens.

Some of us get help, by chance or by choice. Some find other ways to endure the battle to practice our craft. Laura Bogart, who writes for sites like Dame and The Rumpus, offered powerful declaration of independence.

“I will never be beholden to any man, however loving and supportive he may be,” she writes. “Having a husband as a patron is just as intangible as lighting out for the coast with only moxie and a moleskin. I don’t have a way out; I only have a way though.”

Her call to action is one that we share here at The Write Life: “We need more stories of women artists finding their way through… Marrying well, or leaving life behind altogether, cannot be the only answer.”

We need stories from men, too. Because surely some men face the same challenges, making choices around independence and how we cobble together our writing careers. This is more than a conversation about gender. It’s a conversation about craft.

A new normal for writers

The stories are starting to appear. But for the most part, they are disheartening at best.

In these essays by women with two, three or four books under their belts, we find having your name on the shelf doesn’t necessarily make life as a writer easier or even sustainable. In Facebook groups and discussion boards, we hesitate to share what we made for a piece that (after much hand-wringing, usually) landed at a major publication.

But we are talking about the publications that pay very little. Directories by Scratch magazine and The Freelancer have sprung up to help writers estimate what they might be paid by a variety of publications.

We have to remember that people pitch and publish their writing for various reasons; some are dead-set on the career track, while others like to dabble, with the occasional financial reward. If we’ve learned anything recently, it’s that it takes a lot of writing for $25 or $50 per piece to build a career and/or nest egg.

Our own Nicole Dieker is a great example of kicking up the conversation about money. She just brought her freelance income column to The Write Life, where she’s publicly tracking her to-the-penny income each and every month. She also shares how many pieces she writes each month. And that’s where it gets scary.

Dieker wrote 65 pieces in December (a slow month, she notes). She wrote 102 pieces in November. Sure, some of those pieces were likely short — she’s not writing long-form magazine-style — but that’s more than three pieces every day of the week. All seven days.

I am convinced that Dieker doesn’t sleep. I don’t know her personally, but I know she’s working hard. So are the rest of the women who have responded to Bauer’s initial piece. It’s time we all follow their lead and admit that the market for freelance writers is terrifying.

Kelly Sundberg’s response to Bauer’s post on Brevity struck me most. “I don’t have sponsorships,” she writes from her perspective as Brevity’s managing editor, “I have jobs. The only person sponsoring me is me, and for now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

So, let’s talk

This is our fight as writers, and for most of us, it’s not going to be pretty. With that in mind, I invite you to start your own conversation about money. Do it with your writer friends, or do it in a trusted online circle. Maybe even start with your family. Start talking about why you write, and what sacrifices you’ve had to make to lead this life and this career.

I, for one, am ready to take off these mittens and turn on the light.

What do you think about the sponsorship debate?

Filed Under: Blogging


  • I’ve never understood the appeal of writing a huge volume of pieces for $25-50 per piece. I don’t need the validation of “being” a writer, if it comes at the cost of writing the things I actually want to write. There are plenty of other jobs and careers to have that pay more than that. Maybe the proverbial novel in the drawer will be a blockbuster bestseller. Maybe it will remain in the drawer. But I’d still rather be working on that than churning out hundreds of blog pieces per month. (Ironically I do make a living from writing, but I write corporate stuff for either a regular wage or decent fees per project.

  • Ann says:

    Diversify is certainly the way to go but you also have to decide what your bottom line will be regarding the pay from the publications and websites you write for. I would rather get a day job than get paid $10 for 1000 words like some content mills pay.
    The minimum that is worth it for me is 10 cents a word ( I said for me, I’m not forcing my opinion on anyone else) and that is only for something I can write while sitting at my computer and using the phone.
    If I have to leave the house and interview someone then I would only do it for a higher rate.
    But I believe you have to be pro-active in finding places that pay. I spend a lot of time marketing my essays i.e. looking for new publications and sites that pay a reasonable amount.
    I also give writing workshops which I advertise on my website and LinkedIn and have a blog, all of which show a potential editor that I treat my writing as a business and not a hobby and hopefully can be relied on regarding work and deadlines.
    Like most businesses, writing is 40% work (i.e.writing) and 60% selling (i.e. finding markets that pay reasonably).

    ‘Taint easy that’s for sure and I don’t make a ‘real’ income from writing- I still have another part-time job as well.

    But I’ve worked out for myself that whether or not I earn more from my writing depends on my efforts- the amount of writing I do and the markets I find. Although in my writing I try and avoid clilches like the plague, I gotta admit ‘you reap what you sow’.

  • Annie says:

    I have no patrons, supporting husband or family or a trust fund to ‘finance’ my writing. Sometimes I envy writers with spouses who support them while they write but not often. There are always tradeoffs, no matter what you do or how you handle it.

    I’ve worked regular ‘jobs’ to finance my writing. I’ve bartered writing services for rent. I’ve cobbled together side hustles to support me while I write. Currently, I make a living as a freelance writer. I know how to live cheaply, so it works. And after several years of plugging away at that I’ve developed more clients, more opportunities and now I’m doing much better. But for the most part, I have no life. I write for money and then I write fiction.

    I think it’s the same with any creative product, it often takes years to establish any decent flow of revenue but what’s the alternative becoming an HR Dept Head at some corporation? Not for me.

    Frankly, I’d rather suffer the difficulties of self employment than work for anyone else. It’s hard work but so is working for a company that you really don’t want to work for and has no connection to who you are.

    To me, the solution for fiction writers aside from continuing to write, publish and gain a readership, is to freelance as a writer. It makes sense. Musicians do their top-40 and wedding gigs so they can pursue their music, painters give lessons so they can afford their paints and canvasses, dancers run aerobics classes or dance lessons, actors wait tables, park cars. And so forth.

    And maybe we’re looking at this through too narrow a prism. If you read about any really successful person, whether an artist, entrepreneur, marketer – any business owner, regardless of the product, we all go through the same thing: years of hard work, scrimping and saving, help from friends and family. It’s hard work building anything in this world. Right?


  • Gina Horkey says:

    What a great piece and conversation!

    I write non-fiction for the web and have recently realized how hard it is to string together a proper living from writing alone. So, I don’t!

    I’m the breadwinner of our young family of 4 and recently sold my small financial planning practice to do this full-time (husband is a SAHD to our two toddlers). Even though I consider myself a writer, I guess I’m more of a webpreneur:-)

    Just adding my two cents to the conversation:-)

  • Val Vassay says:

    I am very much a novice freelancer, having had a couple of magazine articles published – for which I was paid quite well – and several letters/photos published and paid for by magazines. But I, too, would like to do more writing and get fairly remunerated for it. My question is: has anyonetried copywriting and, in particular, business to business (B2B) writing? I am told thiss is very lucrative and not too difficult to do and to break into the market. Any info on this, please?

  • I’d love to see some more discussions on this topic where authors who have been successful at making money can share some of their ideas on how they did it, even if there’s no one right way at doing it. I’d like to hear numbers, and how long it took to reach a comfortable number (which will be different for everyone, but for me at least $2000/mo would do quite nicely).

    I’ve been in the actual “business building” mode with my writing for a little over a year and I’m only just now averaging $100/mo on my book sales through Amazon. My first one was published in Jan 2014 with a few more throughout 2014 added to the roster. All of them are small, niche non-fiction and I have many more ideas in the works and plans for how to expand my audience. It’s just taking an incredible amount of time to get the plans organized and executed, because, as so many others who’ve commented… life happens. Obviously, at only $100/mo I am not supporting myself, lol. I am sponsored by my husband. But in my dreams I will be eventually able to sponsor him so he can pursue his woodworking dreams 🙂 I credit my website and blog for nearly all of my sales, but that too took a good long time to build so that Google would send me traffic. I’d like to hear how others are making consistent sales and building audience. My niche would lend itself well to doing presentations and that’s on the list of things to do (first one scheduled in April this year), and I’ve started a project with Compton Gardens in Bentonville that will likely lead to more audience over the coming years. The website, the presentations, this upcoming project are all indirect means of making money, though, and take time to bear fruit. I’ve read “Sell Your Book Like Wildfire” by Rob Eagar and am trying to put that concept into practice. So all I’m doing right now is getting the kindling going, according to that wildfire metaphor, but it sounds like a sound principle and the smoke is beginning to curl at least 🙂

  • While I do think it’s important to know how much money a particular publication will pay you when you write for them, I totally disagree with the idea that writers MUST or OUGHT TO share exactly how they’re making their income.

    That’s a very private matter, and some people just don’t want to share that information with the world. It’s their right not to. It doesn’t make them any more or less of a writer.

    Why are we so obsessed with knowing how people make their living? Writers are, frequently, not people who define themselves by what they do for money — precisely because they often have day jobs. And does the whole world need to know what your day job is? I say hell no, not unless you care to share, or if it somehow builds your writing credibility to do so. Otherwise, who cares?

    • Amen, Laura. Talking dollars and comparing who makes what is not important. What does it matter except to make you feel dominant or depressed? I’ll talk how to do better and help others make more, but to broadcast the dollars and cents counted on a tax return? Not important. In a lot of cases, touting what you make only makes you a target to others who’ll tell you what you’re doing wrong or say you’re the exception to the rule.

  • WordPress WordAds is how I make most of my money with my blog. If I don’t make at least $100 a month, I don’t get paid.

    There have been months where I didn’t get paid.

    I recently gave my website a face lift and the focus is now on marketing for “starving artists”.

    We have to be more open and visible. Telling our stories online is an opportunity to sell our work.

  • There are ways to live and live well as a writer. and talking MONEY is part of it.

  • Wow, great article and great comments. I’ve noted too the people who want everything for nothing pay. I’ve checked out so many freelance sites in the past year, and five minutes with the postings reveals:
    –Asking for full-length ghostwriting (50K plus words) for $500
    –Multiple article creation for $10 an hour…but they set a limit on number of hours per article, so you end up making far less because all those articles have to be researched
    –Per-piece payments of $50 for items that require 10 or more hours of work
    Well, this is all terrible, and I’ve walked away from all of it. I own and operate a company that helps authors who truly want to improve their work, business owners and CEOs who want a quality book ghostwritten and who are willing to pay for quality, and individuals who understand that a query letter that nets them a $10K advance is worth a few hundred bucks. I’ve done this for 20 years. It has ups and downs but generally the people who want quality find me.
    So my best advice is to only work with individuals who respect what you have to offer, and who respect the amount of time it takes to create the pieces you create. You are the professional. Don’t work for less because you might as well write your own books and work for a steady income doing something unskilled for unskilled pay.

    • Laura Brennan says:

      Laine, I absolutely agree. Just because you’re good at it doesn’t mean it’s easy. You have to value what you do and walk away from the sales pitch that *they* are doing *you* a favor by publishing your work.

      Pish-tosh. Besides, they’re usually the worst clients.

  • Wonderful article. I’ve hopped all around your site and I’m loving all the good info! I write romances and YA and currently have about 13 ebooks and paperbacks.

    My kids are all out of the house, I am the only one bringing in income, so I have to hustle and diversify. I have two small art endeavors I get nice $ change from, time to time. I also have a transcription business and a seasonal lawn maintenance business. I have a few other streams of income I work at. I actually love all I do.

    I live in a pretty economically stressed area of the Catskills in upstate NY, so diversification has always been the key. Working for myself, I get to make my own hours but I also get to write on my own schedule. At this point I don’t make much on my writing but I am doing what I love. My goal is to eventually create a nice writing income to add to my other income streams.

    • Grace–just wanted to say that I like your diversification~and your website! I can see where it would be a goal to make a steadier income from your writing. You are quite far ahead of the pack already, I think.

      Your situation and love of diversity in your career reminds me of one of my favorite books on the subject, “Make a Living Without a Job.” It was a must-read before I went to writing full-time and I still love it. Here’s a link if anyone is interested:

      I love that diversification allows us to use all different parts of our personalities and talents. A win-win for sure (especially if, like me, you are a little ADD when it comes to life!).

      • J.P. thanks for the response. I agree, diversification rocks. People sometimes think I’m nuts when they ask me what I do and I tell them all of it. 🙂 But I love it all! Thanks for the link will check it out.

    • Grace, I like your method. I’m working on building the same sort of system with “Reconnection to Nature” being my central theme.

  • Thank you for opening this can of worms. No, really! 🙂
    Becoming a freelance writer is like starting any other “business” (I have started 2): it takes time, and you better have something else to finance the dream until it becomes lucrative.

  • Maria says:

    Wow. This is timely. For the past 10 years, I’ve been the associate editor and senior writer for a small ethnic publication. It’s been the perfect gig for a mom –flexible, part-time, all that. I was making $1000 a month, and a few perks here and there. When time allowed, I would contribute to other publications, or take on an occasional freelance job. The pub recently folded, and I’m looking into what’s next. And I’m finding that people want the moon for $10 or $15, and in some cases, they want the sun, but can’t pay. Is writing not valued? I keep hearing about companies starving for content, but then I contact them, and the parameters just don’t fit the mom-lifestyle: be on this call at 3:00 pm (my kids get out of school then); write on-demand, when we need you (I can’t write for you when kids are home, when I’m driving them to activities, or they are home sick/have a day off, etc.); or spend hours and hours researching and writing about something for $50 (which in some cases, that amounts to $2-5/hour? Might as well go pour coffee at Starbucks). Does that make sense? I guess I had been (and still am) sponsored by my family, because I don’t work full time, but certainly my contributions to the household “earn” it (chef, housekeeper, laundry person, homework leader, counselor, arbitrator, creative coach, taxi, schedule manager, etc. etc.) I read things like “I write from 7-noon every day, no exceptions.” Well, when you are a mom, that isn’t your option. So I will just keep looking, and perhaps the way is to simply create my own opportunity. How do moms do it?

    • Diane Ziomek says:

      Maria – I started writing online in 2010, and at first was happy to be able to make a few dollars writing. I quickly realized I had to work a lot of hours for a couple dollars per article, and that is just not feasible. I chose to work from home so I could be available for my teenagers and my parents – appointments, days off, help needed on the farm (when Dad called) and so on. I have looked into several content sites, but as you say, they expect a lot of work for nothing. For those of us who do provide quality articles, we have to suffer because the market has become saturated with mediocre writing.

      Even now that my kids are out in the workforce, I still like to be available for them. My son lives with his dad (an hour away) but I am the one who goes with him to follow-up appointments and I’m the one he calls when he’s not feeling great. My daughter lives with us, and works crazy hours sometimes, so I am the one who keeps her laundry done and food made for when she gets home. That does not include housework, my own part-time job or the animals I have to take care of. What I’m trying to say is, no matter how old our kids get, we are still their mom. Being there for them is important, and anyone who expects a work-at-home parent to be available at the drop of a hat obviously hasn’t been in our shoes.

      As for other opportunities, have you considered writing books and eBooks? Depending on subject matter, some do very well. Given your experience with writing for a magazine, I am sure you could utilize the content you have written over the years. Self-publishing and targeting your market could be an extra source of income for you. I know a self-published author who makes over $500 per month in royalties alone, so it is attainable. I haven’t made that mark yet, but her subject matter is much different than mine.

      I do not write-on-demand either, because it just doesn’t work for me. I like my eBooks because I can write what I am passionate about and the royalties do trickle in. I also supplement my income by helping other authors, which will hopefully one day be my main source of income.

      As for those writing at the same time every day, I think they are blowing smoke because no matter how dedicated a person is, life happens.

      • Exactly! 1) The whole “sponsored” thing doesn’t take into account the full-time job of parenthood, and 2) you’ve got to do what works for you. It’s not about anybody else.

        As for creating more income, in addition to seconding Diane’s suggestion of e-books (which can also position you as an expert in your field), I highly recommend looking into corporate writing and copywriting. I’ve gotten my gigs through word of mouth from friends, colleagues and past clients. My specialty is pitching – how to talk about yourself and your projects. So the first work I usually do with a corporate client is working with their salesforce about how to talk about a new project or initiative in a way that’s honest and engaging, and then from there I am often asked to rewrite their website, and then the brochures… I get a lot of business by starting with my niche. And it’s hourly at $110-$185 (since we’re talking money) depending on the project and how much business the client gives me, and I negotiate the deadlines, so I can write when my son’s at school. And the occasional late night when I overcommit…

        Maria, you are an expert in whatever you’ve been doing with your former publication. What kind of businesses advertised in it? Can you contact that kind of business (not necessarily the exact same ones) and talk about what you, from your end, saw as working and not working in terms of messaging? Where do you already have relationships, people who know you can write and write well? Can you talk to them about ways in which you can work together?

        There is a certain amount of hustling, but if you are talented at what you do (and of course you are, this is your expertise), then you are offering something of value. It’s right for them or it’s not right for them; rejections are not personal. And if it is right for them, you are doing them a favor by contacting them.

        It’s not glamorous and two years in I still don’t have quite enough clients to make a predictable income, but it’s much better money than just relying on blog posts. And, as I said, I’m with Diane on the e-book front; I’m planning to branch out into those this year. We can’t rely on one or even two or three streams of income. On the plus side, I do spend most of my work day writing — you can’t beat that.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience and advice here, Laura! I love comment threads like these.

          Here’s another strategy for building a freelance writing business at the beginning: writer C. Hope Clark breaks up her time into chunks based on the type of writing and how much it pays, then works on “leveling up.”

          TWL Assistant Editor

          • Heather, I loved that article! I’m not being nearly as systematic about things as C. Hope Clark (although I aspire to be), but I am slowly replacing my lowest-paying clients for higher-paying ones, or negotiating rate hikes if it’s a client I’d like to keep.

            Two other writers who are generous in the nitty gritty of their businesses are Joanna Penn (TheCreativePenn) and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (KrisWrites). More book-writing (traditional and self-pub) than freelancing, but interesting to see how different people handle writing for a living.

            Love this site! Thanks for opening up this conversation, and many others as well.


          • Heather,

            Thanks for the kind words. I like open talk about making money (duh! However, there isn’t one path. For instance, anyone wanting to write a book is accepting the fact she will not make money anytime soon. The process is painfully slow, the competition stupidly high. It’s a gamble, and a choice.

            If one is in this business to make money, they choose the best routes to make it, by identifying strengths and using that expertise to seek their writing work in order to make a buck. Artistic loyalty is for the birds. Whether you love writing the subject matter or not, it’s how you get the ball rolling. If I were a new writer, I’d be freelancing like mad, avoiding the cheap markets, and painting myself as a professional…from day one. If you believe it, others believe it.

            I preach a 25/50/25 rule. Twenty-five percent of your pitches to sure-fired bets. Fifty percent to challenges that pay more. And 25 percent to the dream markets. Over time (not days or weeks, but more like months and years) you’ll find that you slide up if you’re religious with the plan. The lower 25 percent eventually becomes filled with markets that you once had in the 50 percent range. And eventually, if you’re diligent, one or two of the dream markets creep into your 50 percent range.

            If I needed writing to feed my belly, I’d freelance. I’m lucky enough now, after years of platform building and other income that I can write novels. The novels are the least of my income, frankly, but they are my addiction. They might be more if I self-published, but I have no patience for formatting and cover design. I prefer to write.

            But no two writers are the same. Some have other incomes. Some have support. Some don’t. The goal isn’t to be a martyr and brag how rough you have it. Nobody wants to hear it anyway. The goal is to write, and do so with blinders on, not watching who’s passing you, or who you’re doing better than.

            Nobody, and I mean nobody, should decide to become a writer and leave a 9-to-5 without health insurance, without clients, without experience, and expect to make a go of it. We have to rely on some sort of income to get that ball rolling, and $25 checks rarely cut it. You whore yourself out to the highest bidder, in my opinion, until you become strong enough of a platform to call more of the shots.

            Whew – didn’t expect this long of a reply! If you need the money, or want to make a decent income with writing, it’s a business decision first and foremost and art takes a back seat to skill and diligence.

          • Thanks for sharing all of this so candidly, Hope! I totally agree with you (and love the 25/50/25 rule!)

            TWL Assistant Editor

  • Diane Ziomek says:

    I am fortunate to have a supportive partner, who does cover the majority of our household expenses. I do, however, have to cover the rest. For me, finding the balance between writing for pay and writing what I want to is the hardest part. I am not assertive enough to get out there and “pound the pavement” so to speak, so I tend to struggle more.

    I do believe in diversification, and in my case I have a fiber arts business (small) in addition to my writing. I also offer promotional services to other authors as a supplemental income (but not always steady), as I know how difficult the marketing part can be. Truth be told, I am much better at promoting the work of others than my own.

    Being an independent author, I do not have the name of a big publisher behind me. After all I have learned on my self-publishing journey, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Granted the dollars aren’t big, but I am doing what I love. I do something each day to increase my platform and let others know about my books, and I am hopeful it all pays off so I can take a vacation in the Bahamas one winter.

    Some authors are able to fund their writing time via crowdfunding or other sponsorship, and for those that can, kudos to them. For the rest of us, we do what we have to and make it all work – one way or another.

    • I love that you brought up diversification, Diane — such an important idea to consider.

      Self-promotion can be so intimidating. Did you see this post about strategies that have worked for one shy author?

      TWL Assistant Editor

      • Diane Ziomek says:

        Thank you. No I did not see it before, but I have read it now. I have started to be more active on Twitter and LinkedIn, so hopefully that will give me a boost. I also use Facebook, but the posts do not go out to everyone that likes my page (unless I pay to promote them).

        I am definitely an introvert, so I am very familiar with the stress and anxiety when it comes to talking about my books. Thank you for pointing the article out to me. I will be buying a copy of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”.

  • Diversification is my motto. You name it, I’ve written it: news, TV, features, web series, essays, short stories, blogs, and I’m working on my novel. But I also figured out what I do well as a writer and I teach workshops in that. I write web copy and brochures. I ghost on umpteen different projects every year.

    I don’t make as much as my husband, but I also take care of our family — other commitments are part of life. And other types of writing allow me to do the kind of writing I love without having to eat mac ‘n cheese five nights a week.

    And I agree, too, that there’s no one way and no “right” way. There was a stretch where I had a day job that left took care of the money thing and left me with energy and time to write. That was awesome, too. Whatever works for you.

  • Harvest says:

    I appreciate this piece. I grow weary of reading from authors about how they were able to quit their jobs and write full time–even support families–on their writing income. But what they are really doing is making a living from people who want to imitate their model of success; which is to tell people how to run a business and has very little to do with the craft of writing. Of course, I’m happy for individuals that feel they are living their dream. I, however, find this particular post refreshing for the realistic portrayal of the writer’s life. Thank you.

  • T.O. Weller says:

    I read Ann Bauer’s piece in Salon when it first came out and I don’t think she necessarily intended it to stir a debate about sponsorship. She wanted to come clean for the sake writers out there who are scratching their heads and wondering why they can’t figure out time & money, like it appears that she has. Her example of the wealthy author’s response to a query along those lines further illustrates her reasons for sharing the truth.

    But, having said that, I’m admittedly puzzled by the debate and some of its more vocal participants. Really, if you can possibly pull it off, why wouldn’t you want to be sponsored? Another word for it is patronage, and it’s a centuries-long tradition. It’s how writers, poets, musicians, and painters have found the time and space to pursue their art for a very, very long time. Without it, I wonder how Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Mozart, or Beethoven would have fared, to name just a few.

    I remember reading about their patronage many years ago in school and being envious. I wanted to write full time and there was no such thing in my world, but I would’ve jumped all over it had it been an option.

    I have since found my way ‘through’ it, but it has taken me years to get to this point. So, just to be clear, I would never dismiss the artists who have found their way ‘through’ financial challenges any more than I would dismiss those with ‘sponsorship’. How can we help but admire anyone who has risen above the struggle to find their success? They inspire us.

    Bottom line: I don’t think we should say that one path is more admirable or legitimate than the other.

  • While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I find this topic fascinating. I recently attended a writer’s panel on making a living in the “world of writing” (the panel included small publisher, journalist, poet who taught school full-time as well as two authors) and the general consensus was, “do other things to support your writing habit.”

    However, one author struck me as genius: she said that diversification was the name of the game. Write what you love AND find other writing-related income generators to add into your business. Looking forward to reading more comments–thanks for starting the conversation, Lisa.

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      It’s probably worth thinking of those diverse writing-related gigs in the same way we would look at a job description. Maybe you hate writing social media copy, but if it pays well and clients appreciate your work, then you just gotta keep it on your docket.

  • Daryl George says:

    I think the interesting thing to note is how few of us (speaking about myself as well) truly treat our writing as a BUSINESS.

    I think if a lot more of us treated ourselves as our boss would treat us, we would be able to do significantly better off and actually earn a decent wage instead of the pennies that we do (again, myself included)

    Personally, I have no real interest in finding a “sponsor” to support me. I’d like to think that this is less about my male ego but my personal ethos of making it on my own.

    Unfortunately, in my country welfare is extremely limited – unless you have children (I don’t) or are a senior citizen (not even close) you literally get no sort of funding whatsoever (and yes, I DO pay income tax, social security, etc). As a result, I have to tread very carefully when it comes to finances!

    • Very important point, Daryl, regarding treating your writing as a business. So important. In fact, after seven years of writing as my only job I can say that my business skills are as important as my writing abilities. There are lots of great writers out there … but one needs the business abilities to make this a long-term success. Thanks for the reminder!

    • Lisa Rowan says:

      Great point- it’s more than a job. It’s a business that needs to be tended to in order for it to grow!

    • Tim Moore says:

      Good comment and advise, Daryl. There are at least two parts for the life of a writer, the creative and the business part. Most of us would like to stay focused on the creative side of our craft, however; we need to have a good head on our shoulders when it comes to getting paid.

  • Angela Allen says:

    I don’t have sponsors, I’m divorced and live alone. I also have Multiple Sclerosis, a chronic incurable disease of the central nervous system, which makes it difficult to get around like I did just before a few yrs ago because now i’m in a wheelchair more often than not.

    I receive a very low monthly SSI check of $721.00, out of which comes my rent, utilities, internet, and cell phone bill plus necessities that food stamps can’t buy. I’m getting ready to start classes online at Southern New Hampshire University to pursue a Bachelor of Science In Professional Writing, so that I can get better paying writing jobs; I’m tired of giving my hard work and creative craft away for pennies. I think we need a Writer’s Revolution!

    It seems that everyone takes the craft of writing for granted, but if they had no sopply of good writers, than good writers would be in high demand.

    • Julie says:

      I am with you in so many ways. I live with chronic illness as well and because of that I don’t see me working a full time job again in the future. Writing allows me to still contribute something both to the world and to my household, even though it may not be much. I have my blog but it makes pennies; it is just now reaching the point where I can get sponsors. I freelance write and edit and that brings in a little, but again not much. I went back to school last year to finish my degree mainly because I just wanted the hope that went with working towards something. Then I discovered a minor in technical writing and added that to my degree. I see so many opportunities in that field and most of them require a degree.

  • Gaines says:

    It can be difficult to follow the writing dream and make any real money. I moved near family in Arkansas, am single and have a very, very low overhead. So even if I make $1000 in a month I can live decently (rent for a three bedroom house here is around $300/$350 per month). But, not everyone wants to live in AR (though the Ozarks are beautiful and I have the benefit of family close by). I guess we all have to make sacrifices to do what we love. I found that moving (lived in KC for years) and enjoying the benefits of fresh air and low cost of living worked for me.

  • Wow. Sixty-five to 102 pieces. That’s a lot of writing. Even at $25-$50 dollars per piece, that’s still tough to live on as a single income.

    With fiction, small press pay is about the same as that. Even pro markets paying $500 or more per story would require 5-6 sales per month to survive. I’d be curious to see if there are any fiction writers out there making a living on selling short stories alone.

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