When it comes to writing fiction for a living, you need to remember that writing is an art and publishing is a business. The professional fiction writer must be good at both.
Key Ways to Making Money Writing Fiction
Most novelists are not bestsellers with their first book. Competition for selling your work is fierce. Hundreds of writers submit their work to online and print magazines, editors, agents, and more every single day.
Write What the Market Wants
The fiction market is flexible and trends are what is in demand. If you want to sell a short story to a magazine, look at the top sellers on the New York Times and USA Today book lists. Make a note that holiday stories need to be queried and submitted at least six months ahead of the issues in which you want to be featured.
Making money as a fiction writer means knowing where and how to sell what you write. A copy of Writer's Market will help you get organized with its lists of publishers and magazines looking for writers, and it identifies open markets looking for fresh voices.
Know Your Personal Markets
If you want to write for a magazine like Red Book or Ladies Home Journal, read them. Read the stories they publish, identify the voices they like and the tones they enjoy. This is true whether you want to write for a magazine or you want to write a novel. Know your market.
Review Submission Guidelines
Do not just write the story you want and send it in without any knowledge of word count specifications or other restrictions. Not only will you be wasting your time and not selling your work, you may also eliminate potential markets if they think you can't take the time to know what they want.
Network with Other Writers
Romance novelists have a national organization: Romance Writers of America and it also features multiple local chapters. The same is true for most genres of writing including Science Fiction and Mystery, but RWA is one of the only organizations that allows full membership to unpublished authors working to become published as professional writers. Networking with other writers can increase your education and provide you with other publishing opportunities.
While you're working on your novel, participate in contests for short stories and novels. Some offer cash prizes, some offer item prizes (such as computers or vacations), while still others offer a chance at publication or put your manuscript in front of an editor or agent. Contests offer you an opportunity for professional feedback and career growth.
Technology and a growing eMarket allows writers to self-publish and achieve a respectable living. Self-publishing is an option with multiple venues.
- Author Dean Wesley Smith put forth some straightforward numbers for self-published authors to break down how they can turn writing short fiction into a living. Smith sets an average goal of $48,000 a year and shares what it would take to achieve it. In self-publishing, volume is king.
- Kindle Direct Publishing - Allows you to publish your book and distribute it globally via Amazon's Kindle device and applications. You will earn 70% of the cover price as a royalty.
- Barnes & NoblePress - Recently converted from NookPress allows authors to self-publish eBooks or print books. Royalty is generally 65% of the cover price.
- Smashwords - Offers distribution to multiple ePlatforms including Kobo, iTunes Books, and more. Royalty varies between 60% and 70% of the cover price depending on the platform.
When self-publishing, your book should also have professional editing and a cover. This overhead cost will be the author's burden and recouped through sales.
Ghostwriting can prove lucrative for the professional fiction writer. You write a story for a client and typically receive half-payment up front and the balance when you deliver the manuscript.
Three things to remember as a ghostwriter:
- You have to be able to fully develop someone else's idea.
- You will typically not receive credit for the story.
- You have to write to your employer's deadline.
As you develop your fiction writing technique, maybe sell a short story or ghost write a book, consider teaching craft to other authors. Writing fiction can be a lonely business. In addition to taking classes, teaching helps you develop your craft. You can teach online through RWA chapters or sites like Savvy Authors, or independently. You can also teach via your local community college or community center.
This is a lucrative option, but even more difficult to break into than novel writing. Most screenwriters are members of the Writer's Guild of America and write screenplays in their off hours from their day jobs like a novelist. Take a screen writing course, study techniques and film, and start writing.
Locating Jobs for Fiction Writers
In addition to working on your bestselling novel or short story, you can find a job that utilizes your creative writing skills and helps you to hone and develop those skills. If you think outside the box, are a self-starter and disciplined -and enjoy flying solo- these are the jobs for you. A fiction writer has to be creative and may need to apply to multiple positions to find the right fit.
- Simply Hired - Offers listings of most current fiction writing jobs from ghost writing to writers for telenovelas, video game writers, teaching positions and more.
- Freelancer.com - Lists positions seeking copywriters, ghost writers, poets, and more.
- Upwork - Allows writers to submit proposals for ghost writing work and other projects.
- Indeed.com - Lists positions for teaching, freelance writing, video game writing, copywriting, ghost writing, editing, and bloggers with a talent for fiction writing.
Freelance jobs in these various markets are available through contracting agencies and online job services as well as through pitching your portfolio. Don't be afraid to try something new, but no matter what you do, you have to write to make money writing fiction, so start writing.