February 16, 2015

What We Know Now That We Didn’t Know Before About Writing for a Living

By Joyce and Jim Lavene

If this seems like a really long title, that’s because it’s a very big subject.

We had been seriously writing for about three years before we had our first book accepted.

By ‘serious’ writing, we mean that you do it every day and that you’re sending out to publishers.
Our first novel was a romance with Harlequin Books. That was even more unbelievable since we really expected to be published by a smaller press.

You notice that we didn’t say ‘if at all’. We always had faith that we would be published – the question was always when, and would we live that long?

After that, we kept writing and sending out work. We found a wonderful agent who encouraged us and helped us find a good path. We kept writing anything we could think of and kept publishing with whoever would take us.

We were finally making money at our work, but was it enough to quit our day jobs? We had reached a point where we had three mystery series with Berkley and worked for a local newspaper. We couldn’t keep doing both – there just wasn’t enough time or energy.

Finally our agent sold two new series for us. We quit our newspaper jobs amidst much nail biting and gastric distress.

At first, we’d felt like we’d jumped off a plane without a parachute. We were terrified. We questioned every penny we spent, cut back on everything non-essential, and gave up drinking coffee at Starbucks. We were in the trenches, ready to get dirty and ugly if needed.

That was two and a half years ago.

And it worked for us.

At least it has so far – anyone got some wood to knock on?

Some things that helped:

We’d always had a plan for this day, including a separate bank account for our writing money. As a writer, you are a small business. Learn as much as you can about taxes and other business issues.
Take the time now to understand your royalty statements. You know what we mean if you’ve seen one.

We began increasing our spending as funds became stable but we aren’t going to buy a new house or anything. We’re writers and by the nature of the job, funds are unstable.

We don’t drive a new car but we do have a very nice used one. You have to decide what’s important.
We do what we can to promote with a budget we don’t go over, not matter how much we might want to. Expensive conferences are fun, but we really like electricity. We bet you do too.

Is this the path everyone should take? No. But for those of you who are thinking about jumping ship, we hope this helps. Writing for a living is scary but so is any other small business. You’re taking a chance that you might not make it.

The question is – how much is it worth to you?
Joyce and Jim Lavene write award-winning, best-selling mystery fiction as themselves, J.J. Cook, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Penguin, Amazon, and Simon and Schuster along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. Their latest book is Spell Booked. They live in rural North Carolina with their family. Links:  Freebies? Updates? Subscribe:

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