Episode 10: The Cost of Being A Writer
Hello, and welcome to About This Writing Thing, a weekly podcast about living the writing life. I'm your host, Sayword B. Eller, writer for women, podcaster, and editor.
Today I want to talk a little about the cost of being a writer. I was ill-prepared for all that comes with the writing life, probably because I wasn't formally trained when I began. If you've been writing for any period of time you've already come to realize how costly it can be. This, as you can imagine, makes the dream of being a full time writer even harder to obtain for some. When I began writing professionally in the early 2000s, the method to get on the path to publishing was to write the book and submit it. At least, that was my understanding. Now, a mere 19 years later we have to write the book, build a following while writing the book, go to workshops to make sure we know how to write the book, attend conferences if we can (news flash: a ton of us can't), get a critique group (great idea), hire an editor to go over the manuscript, do your revisions based on the editor's notes, and then submit the book. I'm only complaining a little here. When you factor in the process for self-publishing it gets even more expensive. This is understandable, though, since all responsibilities for publishing fall on the author.
Not taking into account all the costs involved with publishing, let's just look at the "hidden" costs to being a writer. A few weeks ago I attended a Q&A hosted by the amazing Jane Friedman. If you don't know her, get familiar. She is an authority on the business of writing. During this Q&A Ms. Friedman told us about a service that has a minimal subscription cost of $4 per month. Ordinarily I would have been all over this. However, I already pay monthly for my website and podcast. Yes, I know the website can be yearly. I'm not there yet. And, yes, I'm aware that I don't NEED to have a podcast, but I really enjoy talking to you guys, so I'm keeping it.
Here's what they don't tell you when you get into this business. There are memberships to pay for, conferences to pay for, retreats to pay for, advertising, book covers (if you're indie), editing, etc. I was researching prices for book covers the other night and was stunned to find they're upwards of $800! I know I can make them myself but I want people to buy this book and, despite what we want to tell ourselves, our books are very much judged by their covers. If it look amateurish, chances are the reader will think the writing will be too.
All of these costs can be very problematic for writers who are barely making enough at day jobs to scrape by. If you don't have the money to hire an editor you're going to have problems no matter which type of publishing you're pursuing; traditional or indie.
Currently I am the member of two organizations I pay to be a part of: Women's Fiction Writers Association and The Author's Guild. Both great groups that I will move the earth to stay a part of. Next month I am planning to join at least two more: Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) and the North Carolina Writers Network (NCWN). I'd also like to join the Editorial Freelancer's Association (EFA), but that will push my membership costs to almost $300 per year. For someone working from home with zero income coming in, that's a lot.
You don't NEED to be a part of writing organizations to be a writer. However, these groups offer workshops, classes, retreats, etc. at discounted prices (or free) that are exclusive to their members. For example, since joining the WFWA I have attended several online workshops and webinars. The cost was $10. In early summer I participated in a pitch event to perfect my elevator pitch and it was free. I spent a full week (online) with other members and published authors perfecting the pitch for my book. These programs are invaluable for writers. Why? Because we should always be working to improve our craft. Always.
I'm not dropping all this to discourage anyone from writing or to stop anyone from pursuing their dreams as a writer, but I think you should be prepared. When you become a serious writer this becomes a very expensive business.
This also goes for submitting. There are a number of literary magazines that charge a reading fee now when you submit. This is to help them cover the costs of the magazine to keep it going, so I'm not complaining. Especially since my own magazine, which is launching spring 2020, will be charging a small reading fee. The truth of the matter is, very few literary magazines are making money. Their staff isn't being paid and readership is down. Unfortunately, submission sites like Submittable cost money, so to offset that cost some magazines have implemented these reading fees (usually $3-$5). Yet another hidden cost of being a writer.
So, we're paying for websites, book covers, editors, memberships, and submissions. What's next? Conferences and retreats.
I tend to think of retreats as something you do when you've "made it". However, the conference is a different story altogether. I mentioned that we should always be learning earlier. Writing conferences are a great place for that. I'm planning to go to at least two in 2020. The first one is $200. I'm not sure the cost for the second one yet, but it’s local so I'm hoping it will be under $100. There is a third I'd like to attend, though. In July, in California…Guess how much I'm expecting that one to be. At least $1000. What are the odds I'll be attending? Very, very low. I'm remaining optimistic, though. For now.
That's all I've got for this week. I'm sorry to post late…again, but at least I have a transcript this time! Next week I'm going to talk about how my revision process is going and what I've got coming up in the next several months. I hope you'll join me. If you like this podcast please be sure to say it by pressing the little heart below. If you want to share with your friends I won't be mad at you. If you want to know more about me you can go to saywordbeller.com and you can also find me on Twitter and Instagram using the handle @saybeller.
Thank you so much for listening. Have a great rest of the week and happy writing!