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Career as a novelist?


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Hi guys,

I'll like to know where I could find information on life as a writer, having a writing career? For instance, say I finish a MFA and I publish my first novel through an indie publisher. I assume that most likely only my close friends will read it and find it compelling.

But then what happens? Not to be pessimistic but its unlikely that I'll be making much money. Any way, I'll like to know from you guys were I could get insights on what a career path as a novelist would look like. Or if any of you had any experiences with novelist friends.

Edited by ItALO
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There's not really such thing as having a career as a novelist. On average, people who publish novels make around $3,000-5,000 per year off their writing. Really successful people make around 10-15K. At a given time, a handful make a full time living. Almost none get rich. (If you're writing to get rich, then I would advise you to reevaluate your reasons for getting into it in the first place.) More and more, the market for literary fiction is looking like the market for poetry. There will always be places to publish, but fewer and fewer will pay even a pittance.

Of course, having a book published makes a career in academia a lot more accessible, which is how quite a few writers survive. Many also work in media, non-profits, arts administration, etc. Lots are also doctors, lawyers, fast food workers, janitors, bus drivers, nurses, school teachers . . . There really isn't such a thing as "life as a writer," because a writer's life is full of the same problems as non-writers'—kids, bills, health. It's kind of a romantic notion that goes back to a period when the only people who published were white men born into wealth (i.e. they had a lot of down time to write and self-aggrandize). Most likely, even with an MFA and a book, you will be working a job that requires at least 40 of your hours every week. That's how most people do it. Of course, you could always find a partner who is independently wealthy . . .

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  • 3 years later...
On 3/17/2017 at 8:30 AM, prouster said:

There's not really such thing as having a career as a novelist. On average, people who publish novels make around $3,000-5,000 per year off their writing. Really successful people make around 10-15K. At a given time, a handful make a full time living. Almost none get rich. (If you're writing to get rich, then I would advise you to reevaluate your reasons for getting into it in the first place.) More and more, the market for literary fiction is looking like the market for poetry. There will always be places to publish, but fewer and fewer will pay even a pittance.

Of course, having a book published makes a career in academia a lot more accessible, which is how quite a few writers survive. Many also work in media, non-profits, arts administration, etc. Lots are also doctors, lawyers, fast food workers, janitors, bus drivers, nurses, school teachers . . . There really isn't such a thing as "life as a writer," because a writer's life is full of the same problems as non-writers'—kids, bills, health. It's kind of a romantic notion that goes back to a period when the only people who published were white men born into wealth (i.e. they had a lot of down time to write and self-aggrandize). Most likely, even with an MFA and a book, you will be working a job that requires at least 40 of your hours every week. That's how most people do it. Of course, you could always find a partner who is independently wealthy . . .

I think that Thomas Pynchon and Don Delillo would be rolling in their graves if they saw this :D.

Don't forget that novelists who are full-time make it using book tours and book readings which work well. Also you would have to be a completely kick ass novelist to make it full time. Which is why being a professor is awesome.

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