Finnish self-published novelist Helena Halme makes the case for indie authors making writing their second or even third career.
Last week, I had a meeting with a small print publisher and as we chatted she told me – by the by – that she felt well-established authors, who do nothing but write, lose their voice because they are shut out of the ‘real’ world in their writing cocoon. She said that she had met several established authors whose work she couldn’t take on because she felt it felt stale, and had passed its peak. This publisher is herself an author, and writes when she can, while running her publishing business.
This kind of multitasking isn’t unusual, of course. Today many indie writers wear several hats. Successful author/entrepreneurs like Joanna Penn, Roz Morris, and Jessica Bell can vouch for the effectiveness of combining writing with a career in public speaking, professional services such as consultancy, editing or graphic design.
Historically writers have often been journalists/magazine editors (Dickens is a great example), teachers, lawyers, even nurses.
Why You Shouldn't Give Up the Day Job
Many years ago, when I attended a seminar on how to get published at The London Book Fair (this was long before the birth of Kindle and the modern indie author), I was shocked when one of the authors on the expert panel, sitting high above the heads of the audience, told the full auditorium that she was still working as a nurse and that writing was her hobby. She’d just won a newcomer’s prize for her novel. There were gasps in the room when she advised us all it best not to give up our day job even if, or when, we achieve the ultimate goal of being (traditionally) published.
Often it now seems that the most successful authors combine their writing with jobs in the literary field. When I was working in an independent bookshop, nearly all of my fellow booksellers were also writers. (This is worth remembering when you market your works at book shops. You may be talking to some-one just like yourself!)
Now I know the mathematics of how little traditionally published authors receive for their work, I can quite understand why this particular newcomer needed to keep her job.
The Financial Imperatives of the Indie Author
It is, of course, the financial realities, which often force all kinds of writers to have other careers. Just the level of rents and mortgages in cities like London, and my native Helsinki, makes it difficult to live off your writing alone, even if you don’t have to give percentages from your books sales to agents and publishers.
Personally I write in fits and starts, publishing a new novel every two years or so. I tend to get obsessed with a story and write the novel very quickly and edit at leisure, often taking a year to get a particular novel out. So, as you may have guessed, I could not live off my writing alone. (I think it’s generally accepted that you need to publish about one book per year to have a fighting chance to make a living from your writing).
At the moment I’m in a full-time job, running a not-for-profit association with a sizeable commercial arm, which allows me very little time – or head space – for writing. Or, I should say, novel writing. I now edit a quarterly magazine, writing some of the articles in two languages, and blog regularly on my personal blog and on other blogs (here for example). My articles are also published in magazines, such as ScanMag, so even though I’m not at my desk every morning writing a novel, I am still keeping my pencil sharpened.
I add words to the novel-in-progress – a sequel to my Nordic love story, The Englishman, when I have a chance; at weekends, on holiday, sometimes at night if I am really obsessed with a part of the plot.
My dream is to be able write full time, but after ten years of writing as a second (or third) career, I wonder if I would really be able to sit down and write a certain amount of words each day? And, if my publisher friend is right, would my writing suffer if I did nothing but write?
I at least, feel the need to live in between my books; to add to my experiences of life, to inspect and examine people around me; to study the human condition. Isn’t that what we novelists need to write about anyway?
OVER TO YOU
Do you think it’s important that writers have second careers to keep their writing fresh? Please join the conversation via the comments box.
Helena Halme will be at the inaugural Indie Author Fair in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire, UK, on Sunday 16th November, and will be very pleased to meet you there.
Do indie #authors need a second career to keep their #writing fresh? by @HelenaHalme https://selfpublishingadvice.org/second-career/ via @IndieAuthorALLi #selfpub