Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

In this blog series, I’m breaking down Written Word Media’s author survey. They released their findings in October 2019, and I’m breaking down their points as an emerging author who has six books in her catalog and has made less than 60k a year from her writing. In all total, I’ve made less than 2,000 dollars in the three years I’ve been publishing.

In their first point, they said emerging authors, on average, have six books in their catalog, authors making 60k a year have 22, and authors making 100k a year have 28.

In their second point of this survey, WWM focuses on time.

Emerging authors, on average, spend 18 hours a week writing, 60kers, 28 hours a week, and 100kers 32 hours a week.

Marketing-Is-Hard-2-indie author writing time

graphic taken from survey article linked above

And this makes sense if you’re going to call yourself a career author, or if you want to be one. Treating writing as a job isn’t something you can just say you’re doing–it’s something you have to do.

A while back, I listened to an indie author interview and it might have been Adam Croft who said before they started earning career-author-money he worked 16-hour a days: Eight at his day job, and eight hours a day writing.

This doesn’t come without sacrifices, and this is one of those things where you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it, and how long are you willing to work at it until you succeed?

I don’t watch much TV. If I read, it’s at work during slow times. I’m a single mom of two with a job, three cats, a clunky car and I live in a place where the clouds dump snow on us four months out of the year. My time can fill up if I let it.

We all have lives, but the fact is, writers who write 20-32 hours a week just aren’t finding time. They’re MAKING time. And once you start making a bit of money, if you don’t make time to write, your royalties will dry up and what you were using to pay the rent will be gone.

personal organizer and pink flowers on desk

Ink in an hour every day.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on

The math is pretty simple. If you can write a 1,000 words a day, in three months you can write a 90,000 word novel. Rinse and repeat three times a year, and you have a steady publishing schedule. The writers who write 20-32 hours a week honestly love to write. They don’t have to force themselves to write. They don’t have to bribe themselves. They love it. They don’t HAVE TO write. They GET TO write.

If you’re someone who needs to be on Twitter sprinting all the time, who needs one of those apps that start deleting your words if you’re not typing, if you’re on Facebook three hours a day when you could be writing, then be honest with yourself.

As Kristin Kathryn Rusch says in the high-powered author panel at the 20booksto50k conference last month, there’re easier ways to make money. If you don’t like writing, figure out why. Maybe you don’t enjoy the genre you’re writing in, or maybe you’re a pantser when really you would work better from an outline. Maybe vise versa and you find an outline too restrictive. Maybe you’re new to writing and you’re struggling with craft. Whatever the reason is, get it figured out–if you want to call yourself a career author and start making career-author money. (If you’re happy writing five hours a week, putting out a book a year, if that, then obviously, this post isn’t for you.)

(Here’s the panel if you’d like to watch it. It’s very informational!)

I write whenever I can, and if life events take me away from it for too many days at a time, I get crabby. I get life interferes, and I’ve never been one to promote writing every day, but I don’t waste the time I do have binging Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.

I don’t keep track of how much time I spend writing, but I do produce 10-15k words a week without fail. Since January 1, 2019 to right now, December 9, 2019, I’ve written approximately 385,000 words.  I’ve completed 4 books in a series (they are being edited and proofread even as I type), and I’ve written one and a half books that will be a trilogy under a pen name I’m going to start next year. That number doesn’t include the blogging I do, either.

What can you do?

  1. Keep track of your time. Are you napping when you could be writing? Watching a movie? Where can you make time to write?
  2. Figure out why you have to force yourself to write. If it’s not enjoyable to you, you won’t want to do it.
  3. Find a partner. We all need support. I have a couple people who love read what I write. That helps.
  4. Realize that writing and publishing is a profession just like any other: doctors, lawyers, teachers, HR directors. Listen to podcasts, go to writing conferences if you can. Network with other writers. Join an organization like RWA, or the IBPA. Act professional, be professional.
  5. Read good books. Reading fuels your brain. Don’t worry about copying another author’s ideas or style. That’s crazy. Read for pleasure and just enjoy yourself.


Reading is inhaling.
Writing is exhaling.

What it boils down to is mindset, and there are a few great books out there on the topic:

The Indie Author Mindset: How changing your way of thinking can transform your writing career by Adam Croft

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
by Craig Martelle

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey (Books for Writers) by Joanna Penn

I’ve read all of them, and they’re great. (These are not affiliate links; I do not benefit from your purchase of these books.)

Thanks for reading the second post in this series! If you have a unique way of making time to write, let me know!

Next up is the survey’s third point about using an editor! Don’t miss it!

See you then!

end of blog post graphic

6 thoughts on “Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

  1. That “hours spent writing” metric is tricky, because a lot of authors have a day job that is *also* writing. For example, they might be a freelancer writing content for a web daily. Other studies I’ve read show that the vast majority of people who make their entire living writing happen to also have a day job in education or journalism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel like this survey was focused on writers making money from fiction books. how many hours you spend writing books. of course, butt in chair is only one way to write. lots of people dictate their books which is faster. i write longhand then transcribe, and in the end that might take me more time, but it’s easier to make time to transcribe than it is for me to sit down and know i have to come up with stuff on the blank page. i guess it depends on your work habits.


      • It was definitely *not* focused on writers of fiction. It was across all genres, and I think those self-help/inspirational writers who crank out book (think “chicken soup for the…”) after book are probably skewing the results a lot. The way those books are marketed is completely different from fiction. They buy google keywords, and try to redirect people who weren’t even looking for a book into buying their stuff. They have websites that look like cereal boxes. They crank out several books a year because they are just saying the same platitudes over and over.


  2. This was a good article! – though certainly not for me, because I write and publish mostly for pleasure and not really because I want to make it my primary career. If I earn something from it, fine; if not, still fine. My goal is to give to the world what I got from reading books.


  3. Pingback: Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes? Part 3 | Vania Margene Rheault

  4. Pingback: 2020 Indie Publishing Predictions Blog Series | Vania Margene Rheault

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