Do you need money to be able to write?

This very perceptive question was asked by somebody on Twitter and although I tried to answer it there and then, the answer got snarled up and I had to stop. So here it is. It’s an honest answer but I think it needs giving.

Yes, you do need money. Most of you will have rent or mortgages to pay, mouths to feed including your own, probably clothes to buy for growing children. The bills are endless. And although I would love to be able to say that from the word go you will earn sufficient money to cover them all, I have to tell you that this is very seldom the case.

According to official figures there are 62,000 writers in the UK, of whom 40,000 are self employed, so I can quite see why the question was asked. But in order to live well and comfortably you need to sell well and the sales figures are far less encouraging. In the UK, the top 10% of writers earn about 70% of the total monies earned by the trade.

You have to sell at least 5,000 copies in one week, or even better 10,000, to be recognised as a bestseller. An ‘established bestseller’ is recognised when he or she passes the million mark for sales. This is a big, powerful business and the people who get these astronomical sales are rare and the people who put them there are powerful. They are well known literary agents and the large publishing houses which are the only ones that can command sufficient funds for all the heavy bills they will have to pay to get their chosen author in the shops and on the list.

I’m sorry to say all this, but it is true. I’ve lived it, so I know.

If this were not such a touchy subject, I could tell you a ridiculous but true fairy story about how my first bestseller came to be. But now is not the time or the place for it.

However I can say trust me, I know what I’m talking about, because I’ve been in the business for such a long time, Lottie and I have just added it all up and it’s 42 years. I had my first bestseller published in 1985 and passed the million mark in sales with my eleventh. That sounds like bragging but it is straight fact.

I wish all writers could do equally well but it’s a tough world and the statistics are against us.

One thought on “Do you need money to be able to write?

  1. A depressing post, Beryl. I write to live, but I couldn’t survive on what I earn if I still had a mortgage and children living at home. (Oh, hang on – I do have children living at home! 🙂 )


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