In his excellent book on the craft of writing, On Writing, Stephen King posits that just five percent of writers are able to support themselves and their families via their writing.
Notably, King does not define what he means by “writer.” In the larger context of his book, I believe he means people who have written book-length manuscripts. This narrows the group a bit and keeps the focus on writers of books, not writers of newspaper or magazine articles, advertising copy, corporate or political speeches, and the like.
To boost one’s chances of making it as a writer, financially speaking, King suggests that writers seeking to become authors acquire a keen interest in the publishing industry. Makes sense to me.
According to IBIS World, book publishing is a $33 billion industry with 2,295 businesses and 68,318 people making and selling books. Now, which of these publishing houses is most likely to take an interest in my manuscript or yours? To answer the question properly takes research, something many of us already value and know how to pursue.
Books like Writer’s Market, now in its 100th edition, are a good place to begin, says King.
On a related note, writer Hannah Guy recently argued for the intrinsic value of the written product (something that King also trumpets).
…most of the flak writers and authors receive is for choosing a profession that isn’t considered as stable or lucrative by society’s standards. It isn’t so much that we write, it’s that we’re failing to monetize our craft in a manner considered acceptable by society and even ourselves. Why would anyone choose to live this way without a guarantee that they’ll be moderately successful? And how dare we?
Yes. How dare we, or anyone else, take the time to dream? How dare we find our voice and use it to reach and move other human beings? The inverse can also be well argued. How dare our culture deny the great majority of artists and writers access to capital?
David Burn writes poems, stories, news, advertising, and opinion. He lives near the Colorado River in Central Texas with his wife, Darby, and dog, Lucy Spotted Tongue. David is currently working on a collection of new poems and a collection of new stories, as well.