Just one in ten authors can earn full-time living from writing, report finds

This article was in the Daily Telegraph today :


That only one in ten authors earn a full-time living from writing doesn’t surprise me. I have forty four titles online at Smashwords and Amazon,and I’m as poor as a church mouse. The report pertains to British authors,but I somehow doubt that the figures quoted would be a lot different for American writers.

I found its references to self-publishing a little confusing,as it looks like they’re not referring to ebooks at all,but rather what was once known as vanity publishing,where writers pay for hard copies of their books to be printed. Clicking on the blue highlighted The Business of Being an Author link in the article will give you a PDF copy of the report.

The statistic that 42.3% of earnings are accrued by just 5% of authors is shocking. That there’s such an imbalance in how readers choose what to read proves people buy what they know,and what everyone else is talking about. The book needn’t have any literary worth,with the Fifty Shades series being so poorly written that they’re pathetically trite.

JK Rowling has better technique,but was allowed to run roughshod over any editing considerations on the back of her financial success,making the later books in her Harry Potter series bloated. There’s such a thing as being too successful,for she’s gone from being an impoverished mother living on state benefits,to having a net worth of one billion dollars. This means that she needs to employ a team of ten bodyguards,to prevent kidnapping attempts and terrorist attacks.

Why would want that situation ? I’d be happy to just earn a decent living. After writing a 160,000 word psychological thriller in 2014,I’ve spent the last six months researching ways of promoting myself and my books,making social media postings and chasing literary agents and publishers who accept direct submissions. This feels like mixing wallpaper paste each and every day,compared to the joy that I got from creative writing.

I will endeavour to persevere though,for I know that it’s all a case of getting the ball rolling. After all,JK Rowling could still be living on benefits,had the eight year old daughter of a senior publishing executive not said that she liked the first Harry Potter story – causing him to give it another look. Twelve other publishers had already rejected it.

Different versions of your book – racy and literary.

After contemplating becoming a transvestite in another posting today ‘Self-Publishing And The Sexes’,I’m also pondering the advice given by Fay Weldon.

Fay Weldon


She reckons that we should write two different versions of our book – one for traditional publishing,which is literary in tone,and another dumbed-down racy version for readers who use Kindles and other e-reading devices. This means ” abandoning one’s dignity.”

After eighteen months of trying to sell my books,I’m not sure that I’ve got any dignity left – and if I have,it’s probably slipped down the back of the sofa and is beyond retrieval. Fay Weldon has a history of making tongue-in-cheek provocative statements,but I think that she may have a point.

I’ve mentioned in other blog postings that I’ve been giving my ebooks on Smashwords away for free. I started this three months ago,as a promotional tactic to help launch my novel. It’s also a basic form of market research,to see what draws readers. I’ve tried changing tags and book covers,to see if this increased the downloads of a title that was being ignored.

The only conclusions that I’ve made,is that people like sad titles,rather than happy ( who’d have guessed that ? ),as well as titles with a name in or that’s in the form of a question. Unsurprisingly,any mention of sex or erotica helps to shift copies – so bear that in mind when choosing your descriptive tags and book title.

This is proved by the success of my first volume of erotic verse,which is called ‘What Do You Like ?’,with the subtitle ‘9 Erotic Poems’. This has been downloaded 500 times,as of today,which makes it the most popular of my forty-four free titles.

Fay Weldon’s advice may impel me towards a career writing torrid romances featuring villainous lovers with smouldering eyes,heroines with heaving bosoms + of course,the obligatory randy vampire and horny werewolf !

Pinterest and Self-Promotion

As I’ve commented on this blog before,writing a book is relatively easy compared to the Herculean task of actually marketing it. People need to know that something is available to buy,if one is to make a sale. One way of doing this is self-promotion – selling yourself.

There’s lots of different ways of doing this,and social media is the way to go,assuming that funds aren’t available for a costly advertising campaign. The notion that one can simply write a book,upload it without saying a thing about yourself,and it will sell like hotcakes is laughable. Remembering that most ebooks struggle to reach sales of 100 over a couple of years,is a great goad to get involved in all of this putting yourself about by schmoozing. But I warn you,it feels like pushing a length of string,as no discernible progress can be seen.

I’ve read advice that gaining a significant amount of followers for a blog can take a couple of years. The same thing is said of Pinterest,which I hadn’t previously considered as a venue for self-promotion. I’ve looked at it plenty of times,enjoying the wonderful images that people compile,but hadn’t really noticed anyone trying to sell themselves and their products. As one of the main selling-points of a book is its cover design,then it’s easy to appreciate that Pinterest is a great place to gain attention for one’s stories.

I’ve been trying all sorts of things to raise my profile,since finishing my novel ‘The Perfect Murderer’ last November. I don’t really feel like a creative writer anymore,as all I’ve produced in three months is four poems. Instead,I’ve been researching marketing,blogging,making postings on this blog and Face Book,as well as updating the already published books to mention these places to find me.

I started a business account with Pinterest,to promote myself as a brand. I’ve been adding to my Pinterest boards,though what good they’ll do I don’t know. I like sharing nice photographs and spreading knowledge,but it’s an astonishingly time-consuming process. I did a board on favourite art on Tuesday,and thought to add some biographical detail about the artist. This needed checking,so pinning 73 images took me nine hours !


Linking some of these to my existing books could be a bit tricky,but the thing is one links one page to another,then to my blog,to my Face Book page,to my Linked-In account,to my Twitter feed ( maybe ),to my Smashwords shelf,to my Amazon page,to the Good Reads book review site.

By which point Paul Whybrow has disappeared up his own arse !

Referencing myself via the Pinterest boards is easier for some of my chosen subjects than others. For instance,some of the book covers I designed for my stories used copyright free paintings,which I included on the ‘Art I Like’ board,along with my designs. The theory is,that anyone who likes my taste in pinned images,might click on the cover and onto the sales sites where they’re sold.

I’m considering doing a similar thing on Tumblr and Reddit,but that would mean repeating a lot of what I’ve already done,which runs the risk of boring people. Doing this is such a lengthy and involving task,that I now understand why people work as social media marketing consultants.

I am in danger of developing carpal tunnel syndrome,from the amount of clicking that I’ve done recently on Pinterest. I’ve put together nine boards so far :

      * Joy – Pins To Make You Smile  * Doom  * Animals As Friends * Rust Never Sleeps

     * Art I Like  * The Road Goes On Forever  * Look At That View  * Colours Of Nature

      * Wise Words

The latter board uses the common Internet trope of placing inspirational quotes on a suitable background image. I’m aiming to include lots of sayings to do with literary endeavours,to encourage other writers – and maybe even myself ! Here are some of my favourites : 

Anais Nin offering a toast

Anais Nin offering a toast




Why all writers are vain

There was an interesting article in The Guardian newspaper today by Julian Baggini,about how sensitive writers are to criticism.



( some great stories on writing beneath this article,and do read the comments section )

One of the first pieces of advice that I’d give to anyone considering writing a book,is to develop a hide as thick as a rhinoceros. Everyone thinks that they’ve got a book inside them,but nobody considers what will happen when the book is released into the wild ! 

Being an author is setting yourself up as a target for criticism and rejection. These brickbats will come from friends,family,readers,publishers,book-sellers and critics. That’s if they say anything at all,for being completely ignored is the usual fate of a freshly published book. This is why writers welcome adverse criticism,for at least it means that someone has noticed you.

14 reasons why you shouldn’t dream of being a full-time author

The British government’s YouGov poll on which are the most desirable jobs,prompted several articles in the newspapers from authors.

Chas Newkey-Burdon discusses the reality of being a writer in this article from The Daily Telegraph : 


Chas Newkey-Burdon

In the last few months,since I’ve been chasing a traditional publishing deal,I’ve come across two rather startling,not to say depressing,statistics about the process of getting one’s work known.

It’s said that out of 1,000 submissions made to a literary agent or publisher,only one will be given any serious consideration.

Mirroring this figure,out of 1,000 downloads of an ebook on Amazon only one review will be made by a reader.

I keep saying it,but being a writer is tough !

You think writing’s a dream job ? It’s more like a horror film.

This article was in today’s Guardian. I recognize many of the thoughts of Tim Lott, who wrote it.


Tim  Lott

The comments at the bottom of the article are worth reading (expand them),particularly the one about the 60% of people who want to be writers,imagining that it’s all J K Rowling easy-peasy wealth and celebrity. It wasn’t for her,when she was trying to find a publisher for her first Harry Potter book,though fortunately that turned into a publishing juggernaut which will keep her for the rest of her days.

The John Dos Passos observation quoted made me snort in recognition at the truth of it : “Writers are like fleas, they get very little nourishment from one another”.

Writing and Failure

This article from the New York Times is worth a read. Even established authors suffer setbacks and get the blues,so if you’re just starting out difficulties can grow out of all proportion.

I constantly remind myself that if it doesn’t come naturally,then leave it. There’s little value in forcing something into being – things take on the flavour of their creator’s mood.

Setting a writing project aside for a while,and tackling something different,some poetry or a short story might free up the log jam in your mind + you’ll get a kick out of seeing a new piece of work flow freely from your imagination.

Charles Bukowski

The career of Charles Bukowski should give encouragement to any writer who starts to apply themselves late in life to writing. He was 49 when he finally quit working at menial jobs,including as a filing clerk at a post office. As he said :

“I have one of two choices – stay in the post office and go crazy … or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve.”

He’s sometimes been referred to as the ‘laureate of American lowlife’,and he was certainly familiar with the seedy side of poverty. An inveterate drunk,he turned his experiences into a script which was filmed as ‘Barfly’,starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.

He penned an amusing Roman a clef called ‘Hollywood’,in which he wrote of the making of the film adaptation of ‘Barfly’,using pseudonyms to disguise the names of the actors.


Bukowski’s weariness with the world meant that he said a lot of truthful things,in what sounds like a cynical way. Even his gravestone is cryptic,with the inscription ‘Don’t Try’. What he intended with this advice was explained as being waiting for inspiration to write something – one shouldn’t try ,shouldn’t force work out of one’s system – if it doesn’t come naturally,leave it.

His poem ‘So You Want To Be A Writer’ explains his philosophy well,and should be read by anybody aspiring to be a writer.

‘So You Want To Be A Writer’

Charles Bukowski, 19201994
if it doesn’t come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don’t do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it for money or
don’t do it.
if you’re doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don’t do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don’t do it.
if it’s hard work just thinking about doing it,
don’t do it.
if you’re trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you’re not ready.

don’t be like so many writers,
don’t be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don’t be dull and boring and
pretentious, don’t be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don’t add to that.
don’t do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Richard Brautigan

Richard Brautigan is one of the most unusual writers you’ll come across. His style has been described as naive,and he’s certainly surreal,humorous and dark in places. I love his novels,short stories and poetry. He has a unique style,with very short chapters,sometimes of only a couple of sentences. His prose reads like poetry,with clever metaphors.

I discovered him by chance,while working at Marylebone public library in Westminster,London in the early 1970s. I was drawn to the unusual title and the cover photo of ‘The Abortion : An Historical Romance 1966’. The story is set in a strange library,where the books on the shelves are brought in by the people that wrote them. It reminds me a little of epublishing,now that I think of it. There’s a romance between the shy librarian and a stunningly beautiful poet. Brautigan poses with a singer called Victoria Damalgoski in the cover photo – she was a folk singer who made a couple of albums,but has since disappeared. She’s a dead ringer for Vida in the story.


Brautigan’s writing makes you think,and some of his observations are wistful and chillingly accurate. One of my favourite works is ‘The Hawkline Monster:A Gothic Western’,which is violent,sexy and funny. It has one of the most amusing entities in fiction. The characters of the cowboy gunmen must surely have influenced Patrick deWitt in his writing of ‘The Sister Brothers’.


Sadly Brautigan’s sales and fame waned in the late seventies and eighties. He fell prey to various mental maladies including depression,and descended into alcoholism. Long obsessed with suicide,he took his own life in 1984. I miss him.

Snoopy and ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’

While approaching literary agents and publishers in the last couple of months,my memory drifted back to some old Peanuts cartoon strips.

I’m sure that we all recognise the situations below. Snoopy often begins his stories with the phrase ‘It was a dark and story night.’ This was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton,who was an influential English novelist of the nineteenth century. 


He also came up with the phrases ‘the great unwashed’,’the pursuit of the almighty dollar’ and ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’.
He could wax lyrical as well,and as I get older turning into a silver wolf,I take comfort in his observation :