Friday, December 19, 2014

Why I write if it doesn't pay the bills

A couple of weeks ago I received an interview request from Bob Clary, marketing manager at Webucator: Expert Instructors Blogging asking me to answer a few questions about why I write, what got me started, and what keeps me going.  It appears that most of the other authors interviewed did so in honor of National Novel Writing Month, a.k.a  NaNoWriMo, something I've only participated in once several years ago and found not to my liking. Mainly because I'm a very slow and meticulous writer and don't do well when I'm pressured to get an insane number of words down in a month (Even if I'm the one who chose the goal).

Anyway, if you are an aspiring writer, published author, or just someone interested in the publishing industry, I hope you find my answers below interesting, instructive and encouraging.

What were your goals when you started writing

When I started writing seriously ten years ago, I actually did it purely for enjoyment. I have always loved to write and often wrote as a child growing up, but then life got in the way. I went to college, got married, got a job, had kids, and the writing fell by the wayside. After most of the kids were off on their own, I finally found a moment to think about maybe putting pen to paper again. At the time, there was a story rattling around in my head that I desperately needed to get out. Still, I had no aspirations of ever being published. A year and a half later, after I finished the book, one thing led to another, and I got an agent and then was offered a contract for three books! Afterward, that same publisher published another twelve of my books. It doesn't usually happen that fast and never with an author's first book, and I truly give God all the credit.

What are your goals now?

After writing over fifteen books, all I want to do is keep writing and putting out quality books that entertain and encourage my readers. And of course, like anyone who works hard in a profession, it would be nice to be paid well for what I do. Ultimately I would love to make at least as much as I made when I was working as a software engineer. 

What pays the bills?

I'm blessed to have a husband who has a great job and who works hard. If not for his salary, there's no way we could live here in the Bay Area on what I make as an author. 

Assuming writing doesn't pay the bills, what motivates you to keep writing?

Two things motivate me to keep writing.

  1. I don't think I could ever stop writing. Stories are as much a part of me as breathing and eating.  Even if I never make a fortune or hit the NY Times Best-seller list, I will always write.
  2. My stories aren't just romantic adventures, they each contain spiritual truths and lessons I've learned in my walk with God. Therefore helping people see how much God loves them is a big part of why I keep writing.

What advice would you give young authors hoping to make a career out of writing?

Like any career, writing requires hard work and discipline. There are no quick get-rich schemes to make it to the NY Times best seller list or make a gazillion dollars like Stephanie Meyer.  You may have natural talent, but you have to learn the craft, take courses, read good books on writing. Then write, write, write! Practice makes perfect, my Mom always said!  Also read good, best-selling books in the genre you want to write in, analyze them, study them, see what makes them tick.
Then when you're ready and you think you've produced your best work, seek an agent and pray!

Honestly, most authors don't make a fabulous living at writing fiction. Some may be able to pay the bills, but most need to rely on a supplemental income. Very few hit it big. I have several author friends who hire themselves out as editors or write columns for magazines or do technical writing for software companies. They may not be writing what they love, but they are paying the bills so they can write what they love.  But don't let that discourage you. Keep at it, work hard, and enjoy yourself along the way.  The publishing business is changing and many authors are finding a way to pay the bills by self-publishing because they get to keep most of the profits instead of sign them away to a publisher.

I wish much success to my fellow authors out there!! It's a hard job, but it is well worth it.



  1. Enjoyed the interview, MaryLu - thank you!!

    And thank you for writing those beautiful books to inspire us and draw us closer to Him!!

    Prayers, love and hugs!!

    Shared post!!