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Is the Rat Race of Writing Worth It?

June 18, 2016
(image via wikimedia)

(image via wikimedia)

The internet is a massive race for new content.  Monolithic websites combine news with cat videos, scantily clad women, and lists, lots and lots of lists.  YouTubers rush out new videos every day.  When you read/watch too much of it, you realize most of the content is regurgitated.  So many people are creating new content that most of the ideas are overlapping.

And with so much new content being forced on the public, it’s tough for independent artists and writers to make money off of it.

I’m not complaining.  20 years ago, it was almost impossible for independent writers to make money.  Now it’s just difficult.  I’d rather live in a time where it’s difficult to make money than a time when it’s impossible.  But I’m not sure I’m prepared to do what it takes to be successful in a difficult environment.

Last week I ran across an article about plagiarism where an indie author says she has to write 15 books a year to make a living.  15 books?  That’s James Patterson range, and he has a bunch of co-authors doing his work for him.   I don’t want to use this author’s name because she’s feeling a lot of stress from writing (and other issues) anyway, and even though she probably doesn’t read my blog and wouldn’t care what I had to say, I don’t want to feel like I’m criticizing her personally.  She’s making a living by writing, which is what I’d like to do, so more power to her.

But 15 books a year?  I’m sorry.  I can’t let that go.  15 books a year.

This prolific author writes erotic romance books, and that’s a completely different genre from what I write.  I’ve written one sex scene in my life, and she’s written 75 sex books in the last five years.  I don’t know how many sex scenes go into an erotic romance, but I’m guessing it’s more than one.

Who’s got the dirty mind?  I’m a guy, and I don’t think about sex enough to write 15 erotic books a year.  If I had to write 15 erotic books a year, I’d feel a lot of pressure, and I’ve heard what can happen to some guys when they feel too much stress about their performance…

I don’t want to think about it.

If I were in my 20s or 30s, I’d probably be working for a website churning out that new content.  Instead, I’m in my 50s with a job that has nothing to do with writing, so I can take my time.  True, I might run out of time (I try not to think about that), but anybody can run out of time and not realize it.

I’m not sure I’d want to be a writer if I had to write 15 books a year to make a living.  I’d rather have a day job and struggle selling one ebook at a time.  At least I’m having fun writing.  I don’t always have fun at my job, but it doesn’t feel like the independent writer who has to write 15 books a year is having fun either.  And if you can’t have fun writing 15 sex books a year, then what can you have fun writing about?

Writers have to be a little delusional, but I’ve never been insane enough to think I could write 15 books in a year.  I couldn’t think of enough new ideas to fill out 15 books.  Readers wouldn’t want to read 15 of my books a year.  I haven’t even finished reading 15 books this last year (I’ve started dozens/hundreds, but I’ve finished only a few.)  Writers shouldn’t write more books in a year than they read in a year.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds good.

Sometimes I complain about my lack of financial success as a writer, but maybe I shouldn’t.  I’m having fun, and the writing isn’t stressing me out.  If I felt like I had to write 15 books a year to make a living on writing, maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t be worth it.

*****

What do you think?  What is your book-per-year limit?  How much writing would make the whole thing not worth it for you?  Is it better to write for fun or to stress out making money from it?

10 Comments
  1. I would love to make a living as a writer, but I don’t think I could write 15 books a year. I’m still in my 20s, so I have some time to work on building myself up. I just hope one day I actually publish a books readers like.

  2. It took me about a year to finish each of my novels. I really can’t imagine writing much faster than that, even if I wasn’t working full time. 15 books a year is more than one a month. I can’t imagine coming up with anything worth saying in that kind of timeframe.

    And I am working on an erotic romance now, as it happens, which will probably never be published (I’m doing it as a favor to a friend, who has been unable to find anything that fits her own very specialized niche) and it’s not going any faster than my other novels.

  3. um…LOL. I’m doing good if I manage to publish one book a year. That might be why I am totally unknown and unloved. LOL

  4. It took Anthony Doerr 10 years to complete All the Light We Cannot See, and he won a Pulitzer for it. I don’t think anyone writing fifteen “novels” in one year is writing anything worth reading, but I could see how they might sell a few books that way. There should be a happy medium, I’d think.

  5. Write for fun, with money as a bonus. What good is writing if it isn’t fun? I could write computer manuals for money, but that wouldn’t make me happy.

  6. Alice deGrey permalink

    If it was only drafts, I could probably write 3-5 books per year. If it includes editing and polishing to satisfaction, it’s more like 1-2 books. Definitely not enough to earn a living. But the thing with art and writing is that it’s not just about doing it. It’s about inspiration too, so I think it’s totally valid and even beneficial to do something else as a day job and write as a hobby (that earns a bit or a lot of pocket money, depending on how good you are). A lot of people do that, don’t they?

  7. Best to write for writing’s sake and not dwell too much on financial aspects. If it makes you happy, keep at it I guess….I have no answers…:(

  8. I have pushed out about 30 books out since 2012. But to be honest: A couple of them had been written before that date – either staying offline or published on my website – and plenty of them simply exist in two different languages. My record was the latest book, about Pluto and the New Horizons mission, that I have begun in April and published last week.

  9. All the authors I know who are turning out one book per year are writing garbage novels. I used to read Chuck Palahniuk religiously until he started writing a book a year and the quality of the books flatlined. You were being nice so I’ll just say it for you: Erotic novels are almost exclusively garbage novels. 50 Shades of Grey was a garbage novel that somehow made it big. It’s easy to write 15 novels a year if you don’t care about the quality. I couldn’t write 15 short stories of any decent quality in a year…and they’re short!

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