How much is that Island? #thewritinglife

Not that long ago I went to a family reunion out of state. I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in a while and many asked “how’s the writing coming?” As authors there is so much we could reply to that, but no one wants to hear about the drudgery of making word count, wrangling  plot threads, or trying to balance social media, promotion, and deadlines. In most cases I smile, tell them a bit about my latest release, and maybe one or two successes I’m proud to share.

When I bump elbows with a friend I haven’t seen for some time, I’m usually asked about my writing. After some brief discussion I normally get this question: “So, when are you going to retire?”

Because—come on—everyone knows writers are rolling in money. I’ve been told by this point, I should have enough to buy a private island.

photograph of tropical island in the middle of the ocean

This post is rambling a bit, but let me roll back the clock. When I was in my twenties, one of my co-workers had a relative who was a published author. He wrote sci-fi and fantasy, my genre at the time. She approached him about looking at some of my work and he agreed. He wrote me a nice critique and also included some advice.  This was in an age before ebooks or indie authors. My co-worker’s relative was a traditionally published author with a New York house, who had twelve books to his name. His advice? “Don’t expect to make a living at this.”

I was shocked. Because—come on—everyone knows writers are rolling in money.

My, my. What time does to one’s perspective.  I’ve now have ten published books, with two more scheduled to release—one in January of 2019, and one in August of 2019—but I don’t have to worry about buying that private island. It’s not going to happen in this lifetime.

We all want to hit the NYT Bestseller list or see our work made into a movie or series, but the reality for this writer is that my author income is supplemental. I look at it this way—I love to write. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid in grade school. Non stop! I was doing it before I was published, and I’d still be doing it if I wasn’t published, so if I make a supplemental income on the side for something I enjoy doing, it’s all good.

I think most people glamorize the life of a writer, but don’t realize the amount of work that goes into what we do. How often have you met someone, told them you’re a writer, and heard: “Yeah, I should write a book, too.”

Seriously? What other profession garners that kind of response? Have you ever heard anyone say I should act in a movie. I should drive a race car. I should perform surgery? Getting crazy here, but we all know that one, right?

Yet, we keep trudging along, creating our worlds and characters, shuffling them out to the reading public and hoping for good sales and a few reviews. That author way back-in-the-day who told me “don’t expect to make a living at this” was right. And yet, I wouldn’t live my life any other way.

How do you handle well meaning people who think writing is a gold mine, or that anyone can sit down and peck out a book on the keyboard?  Share your thoughts on the writing life (islands optional) in the comments below—ready, set, go!

bio box for author Mae Clair






35 thoughts on “How much is that Island? #thewritinglife

  1. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  2. I’m a bit late getting in on the discussion here, but…

    I swear, if I had a penny for every time someone has said something that makes it clear they think I should be rich by now, I’d have more money from that than I make in book royalties. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have said something like, “But you’ve published all those books, so you should have plenty of money saved up from sales.” Or, “How can’t you afford it? I thought you were a writer?”

    I have more than 50 titles published (a mixture of poetry collections and children’s stories) and nine times out of ten actually spend more on book production than I make from sales. But I write and publish my stories and poems anyhow, because I love writing them, and I believe art in any form should be shared with the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Victoria, I forgot that line “But you’ve published all those books.” Yep! That’s another one that gets tossed around a lot. I guess writers are a misunderstood profession and the only terms others have to base us on are the big name bestselling authors. Fifty books is an amazing accomplishment! You clearly love what you do. Thanks for chiming in and sharing your experiences.
      And continue to share what you love doing with the world. That’s what it’s all about! 🙂


  3. Interesting thing, my hubs and I were talking about this a couple weeks ago. I told him (as I always have) writers don’t make a living doing it unless their name is Patterson, Roberts, Sandford, or Rowling. I was listing off the writerly stuff I’m going to be doing (conferences, book fairs, etc.). He asked how much time I put into it for the payback.

    It isn’t because of the work/payback ratio. It’s because I’m a writer, and I have to write. I might as well share it with other people, and bonus if I make some money in the end. Writing was never about money (but hey, it’d be nice to be able to afford an island that is bigger than a card table in a location where shorts and t-shirts are warm enough all year round, right?)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Writers get it–we write because we love it. Other people think we write to be famous and make money. If either of those things happen, they’re secondary to what drives us. Thanks for cementing exactly what I believe, Julie.
      An well, daydreaming about that island may just produce story fodder, LOL!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For me, any supplemental retirement income would be a bonus. (Still have a few years to go.) If I could make a living at writing, believe me, I would. But I write because I enjoy it. Any money is just a bonus. Oh, and buying that island? Works for me! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Mae,
    Everyone has a dream and my dream when I retired was to play golf and travel. I never—EVER—thought about writing. As a Budget Director for the county, I wrote analysis presentations and budget documents. My boss would review them and tease me about my poor English usage, etc. When my health kept me from playing golf, I took up writing as a challenge to tell my life story. Five years later, I still don’t call myself an author, rather a writer who was bold enough to self-publish three books. An island? Not in my lifetime either. I take my husband to dinner once a month with my royalties. 😎 Great Post. HUGS

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, it sounds like we’re all still waiting for our ship (or island) to roll in when it comes to writing royalties. I think more than anything it’s the idea of being able to do what we love full-time more than the $$$ and the fame that come with a lucrative writing career.
      I’m sorry you suffered a setback with your health, Chuck, but very glad you found your call in writing. And dinner out with your husband is a nice way to celebrate! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I had to laugh at those who say they should write a book too. I always ask, “what’s stopping you?” The excuse is usually “no time.” Yeah right. The only time someone made an inference that I was rolling in dough was at a charity fundraiser. Never was shamed into bidding on the dream island vacation that went for $15,000. Fun post, Mae.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I write because I enjoy it. I publish because with two kids in college, any extra income is useful. I’ll never earn enough for that private island, either. But it might be fun to write about someone who did!

    Hope you had fun at your family reunion.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My dream has always been to supplement the retirement I’m building with State employment. It isn’t happening, but I have a few years to go, and that means a few more published projects. Right now I couldn’t buy an island in the arctic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh gosh, I don’t have the problem that I’m supposed to be rolling in money as I’m a writer. I have the problem that everyone thinks writing is my little hobby, even though I write (or work on my writer business) full-time. Haters gonna hate, right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • D.E., that’s a bad one, too–others thinking of writing as a hobby. I don’t get that much anymore, but I still get appalled stares when I have to turn down a social commitment because of a looming deadline. If I were going to an office job, or playing a gig in a band, no one would think twice. But staying home to write when I could be going to a party? That’s still a rough one for friends and relatives to swallow. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen all that often.

      I hope you’re kicking butt on your full-time writing business!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve had some – not a lot – of success. My wife finally stopped thinking of my writing as a hobby. Now she thinks of it as an opportunity. Uh, I doubt that but she’ll learn it’s just part-time money at best.


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