Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If Writers Were Good Businessmen…

Judith Arnold
“If writers were good businessmen, they’d have too much sense to be writers.” – Irvin S. Cobb

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but I've made money as a writer. Decent money. In some years, very good money. Enough money that writing has been my sole profession since my first book sale. 

Shortly after we got married, my husband goaded me into taking a year off from my job teaching bonehead English at a local college to see if I could earn money as a writer. This was a leap of faith for both of us. His job at the time paid very little. Knowing that if I failed I'd have to go back to teaching bonehead English was the greatest motivation in the world. I was determined to make money with my writing, if only to save myself from college students who weren't quite sure how to spell "the." And I did it. Within a year, i'd scored my first sale.

“The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.” – John Steinbeck

 Since that first sale, I’ve had up years and down years, six-figure years and four-figure years. My husband and have I budgeted carefully, living off his income (which fortunately improved over time) while saving my income for major purchases: cars, real estate, vacations, college for our children. Even when I was enjoying an up year, I always prepared for the possibility that the following year would be a down year. One year my books might be flying off the shelves. The next, my editor might leave, the market might shift… Who knew?

That was pretty much what happened to me a few years ago. My editor at Harlequin and Mira left, and the remaining editorial staff didn’t know what to do with my books. The romance novels I had written so reliably for years saw their sales plummet. Ebooks began to transform the entire publishing industry.

A couple of four-figure years ensued…and I adapted. I got the rights back to many of my novels and embarked on a new life as an independent publisher, revising, updating and reissuing those older novels as ebooks. I’m earning a nice income from them. I found a publisher for my new projects, which also brings in money. I’m working harder than I worked ten years ago, or twenty. But yes, I’m making a living as a writer. In fact, for the first time in all my years as a published author, I’ve finally hit the USA Today bestseller list this year with three different books that have spent a total of eight weeks on the list.

So, what’s my advice for how to make money as a writer? Work hard. Write beautiful, well-crafted books. Get lucky. Work harder. Study the market. Be flexible. Budget wisely. Work even harder. Take chances. And if all else fails, consider writing something more lucrative than fiction.

“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.” – Philip Dusenberry

USA Today bestselling author Judith Arnold’s newest release, The April Tree, is featured in Amazon’s Monthly 100s this month, and is on sale in the Kindle store at the special discount price of only $1.99. It’s also available at Barnes & Noble , Kobo, and Bell Bridge Books. Her latest indie-published releases are the ebook Hush, Little Baby (Amazon  I  Barnes & Noble  I  Kobo) and the audiobook edition of Safe HarborFor more information about Judith, please visit her web site.


  1. Great post, Judith! I love your creativity. Now I'm going to think about advertising...!

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