Fame and Fortune from Writing

“There is no telling how many miles you will have to run while chasing a dream.”  But the inspirational quote makes no mention of how much chasing a dream might cost in pounds and pennies. Like the dress stashed at the back of the wardrobe (it was a bargain, and I’ll get lots of wear out it, honestly!), sometimes it’s best not to admit to the true cost of spending money on something you love.  And I’m all for listening to Jessie J’s advice, “It’s not about the money, money, money… Forget about the price tag.”

But it was still a great feeling this week to receive the first cheque I’ve ever been given for writing.  Woo Hoo! I won 2nd place in the Roy Wood Short Story Memorial Competition run by Alloa Writers group.

You can read my story, ‘Practice Makes Perfect’, here.

And my picture  was in, drum roll please, the Alloa Advertiser (okay it’s not the Arts section of the Glasgow Herald but I’m all for keeping it real and supporting local newspapers striving to report what matters most in the community, e.g. page 3 has the headline, ‘Bin torched in Alloa’ and page 5 ‘Lamb bitten’ yes, these are actual news story, even as a fiction writer, I couldn’t make them up).

So over and above being a media star in Clackmannanshire (I daren’t go near the Hillfoots in case I’m mobbed for autographs), the £50 was most welcome as a very small step towards offsetting the thousands of pounds I’ve spent  on following my writing ambitions.  To date, there’s been Arvon residential courses x 2, numerous day courses/conferences/workshops, author events, books, not to mention the biggies giving up the day job to do the MLitt course. If I added up the cost, eh, well… let’s not go there! I don’t think hubby would want to see the actual figure in black and white.

On Twitter this week, lots of folk I follow made me laugh with the hashtag #thingsnottosaytoawriter and one of the most common phrases was a variation on “So what do you do for money?” I could relate to that, especially after ignoring the voice of reason and giving up my day job.

But once I’m a successful writer, I’ll be able bask in my fame and fortune, right? And I don’t need to worry about bagging that rare elusive beast-a traditional publishing deal; I can always self-publish and cut out the middle man.  The phenomenal commercial success of trash books like Fifty Shades of Grey should surely spur me on (or turn me on if the ‘mummy porn’ hype is true).

So what am I waiting on? I could upload the two books I’ve already written today, sit back and rake in the profits…

EL James is making more than $million EVERY WEEK!!!

Maybe not, in fact it’s highly unlikely that I would become rich by going down the self-publishing route. A recent article in the Guardian, ‘Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500’ made it very clear that the millions of dollars made by the likes of EL James and Amanda Hocking are the exceptions.  If you’re like me and want to be a writer, you’re not in it for the money (although as Tesco says, every little helps).

12 thoughts on “Fame and Fortune from Writing

    • Thanks Josephine. I wouldn’t knock anyone for trying the self-publishing option but I’m still hanging on in there with the hope that I’ll beat the odds and get a ‘traditional’ publisher…

  1. Many congrats on the win – and cheque!
    As regards the self publishing earning money, I know a number of the self pubbed who no, don’t make millions but do make a modest or comfortable living. Half of the people in the survey made little – but how much have the rest made? Bear in mind the AVERAGE income of the traditionally published author (via writing) is just £4k…who can live in just that?

    • Another interesting piece, Helen, and fantastic news about your winnings! What I find interesting as a new witer who knows almost no published authors, is the absence of meaningful figures. The only information I have seen is the recent survey of 1000 self-published authors in the Guardian referenced by Helen, and the survey of 3-400 traditionally published authors by the Writers’ Workshop
      Outside of that I see words like ‘comfortable’ used and I think ‘I wonder what that means?’ One thing that is clear on the available evidence is that the chances of making an average living via either route are very slim – if we take even the national average wage of circa £20k as a benchmark.

      • Thanks for your best wishes Susan and for your interesting comment re earnings. I agree that there is a lot of vagueness around terms like ‘comfortable’ . I suppose it’s all relative, what’s ‘comfortable’ for one person might be totally inadequate for another. I found various websites quoting approx £5k as an average which comes nowhere near the £20k national average wage. Such a shame that most writers don’t seem to be paid fairly.

  2. Congrats to you!

    I know how you feel; my first check for writing filled me with a happy, warm, squishy feeling.

    I’m certainly not rich — and doubt I ever will be — but I do earn a pretty good living doing this writing thingamabob. I’m living proof that it’s possible. Good luck!

    All the best,


  3. I’m way behind you Helen though I know what you mean about the outlays. I feel like a gambler and I’ve never gambled in my life. Each time I decide to invest in another course, I think this time I’ll win the jackpot (or rather meet the person who’ll see the potential and take me under his/her wing). My successes: a couple of poems published on Poetry Scotland and second prize in Peirene Press comp last year, came without cash but the all illusive publication http://www.peirenepress.com/about_us/competition/1st_runner_up. Off to my first Arvon course next month. Looking forward to it immensely. Truly I am an addict. See my favourite places http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/myfavouriteplace/stories/the-scottish-poetry-library


    • Hi Ingrid, Yes, chasing a dream can be a pricey business! Some of the competition fees are £10 a pop and it can really mount up so it’s hard to justify the continual outgoings if there’s nothing coming back in. Congrats on getting your poems published and your Brussels short story- I loved the line, “Her face is swollen with grief.” You’ll LOVE Arvon, I can’t recommend the courses highly enough. I was wary at first, it felt like being on the set of a literary themed Big Brother but the whole experience was brilliant,

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