Today’s Dose Of Reality is Provided By:
Sarah J. Maas
Like most writers out there, when I daydreamed of my first book deal, I dreamed BIG. Ferraris, a mansion in Maui and a villa in Tuscany, a live-in chef to make me gourmet mac and cheese whenever I wanted. No joke. I fantasized about making enough money off my books that I could write full-time and never have to work again.
Well, let me tell you two things:
1. Writing IS work, so even if you’re writing full-time, it’s not like taking a permanent vacation.
2. For most writers (myself included), even if we get a pretty awesome book deal, it’s not enough to permanently quit our day jobs.
Yeah, it sucks. But it’s a reality we have to face. I thought I’d get out of college and never have to work. HA. Funny.
See, unless you get a ginormous deal that will make you financially set for LIFE (which is extremely unlikely, I hate to say), you’ve got to be able to support yourself. While that initial advance might last you for a few years, what if you never sell another book again? Until you can say—without a doubt—that your writing provides enough income for you to live comfortably (no ramen diets, please), don’t quit your day job.
There are other reasons, of course, not to quit your day job. Like…being social. Not just from a writing perspective (because real life experiences translate into real good books), but also from an emotional one. Meeting people and getting out there is healthy. Believe me, I’m a bit of a hermit by nature, and I still have to force myself to go outside—and you know what? It’s good for me.
Also, there’s the emotional strain of not having a steady paycheck. The money you make off your books doesn’t come every two weeks. I got my book deal back in March, and I have yet to see the first installment of my advance. If I didn’t have the income of my day job to fall back on, I’d be freaking out. My husband would be freaking out. My DOG would be freaking out (no more treats and toys for her! Boo.). My house would not be a happy place to live.
But, Sarah—if I have a job, won’t it interfere with my writing?
No. You will be tired, and you will be stretched thin, but you can do it. Don’t whine, and don’t make excuses. If being published is truly your dream, then a 9-5 won’t kill it. Maybe it’ll be a lesson in discipline—which you are going to NEED if you someday want to write-full time (you wouldn’t believe how tempting daytime TV is). And everyone loves a good rags-to-riches story—think of how cool it will sound when you tell Oprah that you slaved in a corporate prison for years before you had your breakout book!
But my writing is really, really good! I’m sure I’ll get an agent/book deal really quickly!
Don’t count on it. No matter how awesome your writing is, you could easily spend months, if not years, querying, and then even longer on submissions. And again, even if you sell your book right away, you might not see any money for months.
No buts. You are not the exception to the rule. Unless you’ve got a fantastically wealthy family or spouse to provide for you (and if they don’t MIND providing for you, which is also key), you need a day job. Not necessarily a career (unless you want one), but a day job. Something to keep the electricity running.
It sounds harsh, I know. Honestly, I was the Queen of Buts (…maybe I should re-title QUEEN OF GLASS…). And in the 18 months after college—during which I was unemployed, but writing full-time—it WAS an emotional burden not to have a job. Even if I wrote….6 books in those 18 months, there was always that pressure. It’s not fun.
So, be patient. Serve your time. You’re in good company. Most of the successful authors you see on shelves had to work multiple jobs before they could write full-time. Finish college, get a job (however miserable), and keep your eyes on the prize. You CAN get there someday—but until then, just don’t quit your day job.
Sarah J. Maas is the author of several novels, including QUEEN OF GLASS, a YA fantasy retelling of Cinderella that will be published by Bloomsbury in late 2011. Sarah resides with her husband in Los Angeles. You can visit her blog here.