Ditch job, become an author!?

(250 Posts)
Pigsmummy Fri 17-Jan-14 15:18:36

I haven't voiced this in RL, I would love to ditch my well paid job and write some gritty fiction. I read a lot, hundreds of books of different genres, I also really enjoy theatre. I have the outline story of about three books in my head currently and in my day to day life find situations that I would love to write about.

Where do I start? Do I type up my outline and try to enter competitions? Do I write chapters then send them to a publisher? (I work in sales so have developed a thick skin regards rejection). How much might a publishing deal be worth? (kicking myself that I didn't get this nailed before ebooks came along).

I have wanted to write for a long time (most of my adult life) but suppressed the desire, i have a good job, been in this position for 6 years, my colleagues would be astounded by my lack of motivation and enjoyment of my job as i hide it well, I often sit through high level meetings wishing the time away so I can get back to my Kindle.

Is this madness? Has anyone done this?

I am 39, married with one DC btw

98percentchocolate Fri 17-Jan-14 15:46:29

Posted too soon -

Have a look on twitter for agents - follow them for a while and see what they say about pitching. They offer a huge amount of advice that you won't find in the guidebooks. It'll also help when you come to pitching.

Do a creative writing course and get in contact with some authors. Go along to book signings and have a chat. Most are very happy to help out with tips and advice.

Write, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite is the key. Starting with short stories is a good idea so that you learn the technique quickly. Practise finding your voice.

Good luck!

Nancy66 Fri 17-Jan-14 15:46:35

Take it up as a hobby.
Nearly everyone thinks they can write but, in truth, very few can.

It is incredibly hard to get a book published. If you do it won't sell enough to make you rich.

I know a lot of published authors. Some are big names, some have even had their books turned into films but none are rich as a result.

dobedobedo Fri 17-Jan-14 15:53:58

No one gets big advances anymore.
A "successful" novelist earns about £15,000 per year.
You only need to sell a few hundred books to be a best seller.

Don't ditch your job.

In the nicest possible way, everyone thinks they could write a book. Few write anything worth reading!

You can only really make good money if you get a film/tv deal, and even then - they are very very hard to come by.

It's harder to get a reputable agent than to get a publishing deal. You can't get a publishing deal without an agent (99.9% of the time).

If I were you, I'd write in my spare time, self publish and see what interest you get. With kindle and ebooks, anyone can self publish these days without much cost.

trainersandcake Fri 17-Jan-14 15:54:12

I work in book publishing.

For what it is worth, here is my advice:

1) Write every day. Even if it feels like rubbish, get your book done
2) Edit, edit, then edit again
3) Get a copy of the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook and look up literary agents who have published similar books to the genre you want to publish in
4) Write an engaging covering letter. Don't mention the fact Harry Potter was picked up from a slushpile - every other submission says this
5) Check literary agency submission guidelines - don't send them a whole book if they ask for a chapter, don't post copies if they ask for electronic submissions - follow their own guidelines to the letter or your MS will most likely be thrown out
6) Send it to as many agencies as you can and with any luck one or two will get in touch with you
7) Don't contact publishers directly, they virtually never take on unagented authors
8) Don't quit your job. The typical wage for a writer is £4k a year

I hope that helps! Happy to answer any questions anyone might have.

Kerosene Fri 17-Jan-14 15:57:11

I'm an academic, rather than trade, publisher. Nevertheless, I've enough experience that I'll make some suggestions.

Firstly. Don't quit your job. There are a lot of (published, successful) authors who still work full or part time, because being a novelist rarely pays enough to support yourself, let alone your family. Advances are minute, and royalties are a long, long way off. Write in your spare time, such as it is. Weekends and evenings, on your commute or in your lunch break. Write short stories or fanfic - prove to yourself that you can sustain an entertaining and engaging narrative over however many thousand words. Having an idea or outline is good, being able to execute it is a different thing. Being able to execute it skilfully is a talent that takes time and effort to develop.

Once you've got a book (full and finished, not just an outline or first chapter) you can stand to send out, take a look at the submission guidelines of publishers who publish work similar to you, and then go see if you can find a literary agent who covers your area and who is accepting new clients - you can find listings online. Note that publishing moves quite slowly - any manuscripts I receive today won't see print until maybe October, and only then if I harass our production department. Trade publishers have more limitations on their publishing schedule than I do.

Do not give anyone any money at any stage. There are unscrupulous agents and publishing houses who will try and charge you to look at your manuscript. This is not how things work.

Very, very, very few people sell their first novel. TBH, they're usually very bad.

There's a Scottish author called Charlie Stross - take a look at his blogposts on the publishing industry, as they can be quite informative.

BookroomRed Fri 17-Jan-14 16:07:59

I write novels, but I also have an academic job. So do almost all my writer friends, including some quite successful people who had a 'breakout' novel after publishing twenty or so previous books.

Also want to know why you aren't already writing - if you want to make a go of this, you will have to write late at night, get up early in the morning to make time etc.

Pigsmummy Fri 17-Jan-14 16:08:04

Thanks for the replies, yes I have done some writing and developed characters. Over the years have done various creative things including stand up comedy.

I haven't done this before as I really threw myself into the corporate world, I didn't have the opportunity to go to University so started at 16 and worked my way from there. I am tenacious and disciplined, I work from home when not in front of customers. I will set some formal time aside to write and use spare time for writing rather than reading.

newyearhere Fri 17-Jan-14 16:15:58

Make sure you can fund yourself as you have no guarantee of any income from writing. And even if you have some success you still don't know what's round the corner. Don't burn your bridges with the well paid job. Can you work part time while you write?

newyearhere Fri 17-Jan-14 16:17:02

And I agree you need to be sending out complete work to publishers, not just a couple of chapters or a synopsis. They'll already have enough people sending in completed books so don't need to gamble on unfinished work from someone unknown.

Nancy66 Fri 17-Jan-14 16:20:27

Do you have the sort of job where you can take a sabbatical or extended leave? Might be an idea to do that and see how you go. You may find you don't even enjoy writing that much

ProfondoRosso Fri 17-Jan-14 16:22:08

I would echo everyone else and say don't give up your job.

My DF is a writer and, though he did pretty well when his books were first published and they've not been out of print since, he could never have lived on that income. And that's counting my DM's salary as a teacher too. He does freelance lexicography and proofreading and it can be pretty stressful (uncertainty over where the next paycheck is coming from).

If you want to write then do it and enjoy it smile But keep it for your spare time right now. Who knows, you might hit the big time and be able to jack in your job one day, but don't leave yourself in an insecure position before that happens!

Waitingforflo Fri 17-Jan-14 16:28:06

You're getting very good advice here - keep your job, and write as a hobby. Only when you make enough to give up the job should you do so. There is money to make - not all of it is at JKR level, but it's not all £15k a year either.

KissesBreakingWave Fri 17-Jan-14 16:28:20

I'm actually an author. Two novels out, under contract for more. Don't give up the day job until you've had a couple of years of royalty cheques. NOT advances, royalty cheques. And for more than one book, at that.

Becoming a writer to make a living is like becoming a vicar to meet hot members of the appropriate sex. Technically possible, but unusual. And generally only available to specialist members of said profession.

Nancy66 Fri 17-Jan-14 16:32:00

That's a good analogy KissesBreakingWave

Waitingforflo Fri 17-Jan-14 16:34:03

I'm not sure Kisses - I write for advances not royalties and, fi you're just starting, that's what would allow you to leave a job you hate.

Waitingforflo Fri 17-Jan-14 16:34:50

Fantastic typo in there just to prove I do this for a living hmm . . . MN is where I can just let it all flow wink.

FrauMoose Fri 17-Jan-14 16:35:29

It's obviously an emotive topic. I don't know what I'd want if I was the Original Poster's shoes. (For there not to be a new girlfriend? For the girlfriend not to meet the children yet? For the girlfriend to be somebody who is pleasant and kind to the children?) I would probably want all sorts of different and conflicting things.

When my partner first introduced me to his children, we had not been going out that long. However I was very pleased to get a chance to meet the two children who were such an important part of his life. I also sensed that if we didn't all get on well together, it's unlikely that this new relationship would last. His ex-wife was - quite understandably - rather wary about us all meeting. It's to her credit that she didn't attempt to put up obstacles. (Though it was reported to me that she'd declared I would be the first in a string of unsuitable girlfriends.)

As it happens my partner and I have now been together eighteen years.

You just can't now how things will/won't work out, would be my only thought...

Waitingforflo Fri 17-Jan-14 16:37:06

So true - a novel perhaps? grin

harrietspy Fri 17-Jan-14 16:42:30

I'm also a published fiction writer/academic, like BookroomRed. I tried being a "full-time writer" but I was (a) really broke and (b) really unproductive. When I started writing seriously, I wrote on the bus on the way to work, gave up telly, wrote on holiday, bought myself a few hours by paying for a babysitter, etc. I've been complaining recently that I haven't had time to write, but this thread is reminding me that I need to make the time.

Treat yourself to a subscription to Mslexia. It's a brilliant writing magazine with lots of practical advice about how to get published and a directory of competitions and calls for submissions, so there's plenty of opportunity to get your writing out there.

exexpat Fri 17-Jan-14 17:04:25

Most writers I know still have a day job, even ones who have won/been shortlisted for major awards, had books adapted for film and TV etc. Some of the day jobs are writing-related, eg teaching creative writing or writing reviews for the papers, but they still need that extra income.

This Guardian article today makes sobering reading for anyone hoping to make money from writing.

Some creative writing courses have a good reputation and track record in getting people through to the stage of finding agents and getting published, but of course plenty of people also do it on their own, through sheer persistence and refusal to be worn down by constant rejection.

raggedymum Fri 17-Jan-14 17:27:00

This is my dream too. You've gotten a lot of good advice above - learn about the writing world. Read writers' and agents' blogs.

A typical pattern is: Write your novel, and then give it to someone (or many someones) who will give you honest feedback (you may have to meet these through a writers' group), revise your novel based on that feedback, then submit it to agents. Get started on your next novel. Repeat. Most people write multiple novels before selling one, so don't get stuck on number one.

There is also the world of self-publishing, contents, pitches at literary conferences, etc.

You may wish to get started in the short form, which has quicker turnaround on feedback, but is a different style then novel writing. It is a good way to hone the craft of writing. I wrote exclusively short stories for years, sold a number of them, and have now been working on novels for 4 years.

Although don't stop reading! You learn as you read. Read many different styles. As you progress in your writing skills, you'll start seeing things in stuff you read that make feedback you get on your own writing make sense.

kungfupannda Fri 17-Jan-14 17:27:09

Don't even think about ditching your job until such time as you have a steady and reliable income. Assuming that time ever comes.

I am about 3 years down the road from where you are. I have won/placed in several competitions and I have an agent. I have 2 completed novels and a third underway. We've had some very near misses with book 1, and book 2 is about to go out to editors. I also do freelance article work and have had both fiction and non-fiction published in national magazines.

I am still absolutely nowhere near being able to give up the day job, although I may be about to cut my hours down fairly soon - mainly off the back of the article work. My agent also strongly advises against giving up work to write - she says she finds that her authors tend to write better if they are doing something other than writing as well.

If this second book sells for about average 1st time novelist money, I might, just about, be in the position where I could manage if the day job goes tits up - which it might, given the massive legal aid cuts that are coming. I certainly won't be in a position where I would give up by choice.

If you want to write novels, then you need to complete a novel and edit it until you are sure it is as good as it can possibly be. Then you need to put together as professional a pitch "package" as possible - really slick synopsis and covering letter. You can then start submitting, or you might want to think about going to one of the writing events which offer one-to-one sessions with agents/editors to see if there is any interest, and to get a feel for the industry.

Short fiction is a good way to test the waters. There are loads of competitions and getting onto a long list or shortlist is a decent indicator of basic ability.

BsshBossh Fri 17-Jan-14 17:40:27

You've had terrific advice so far; I especially think trainersandcake's is spot on. Finish the novel first and buy Writers and Artists Yearbook - edit edit edit and follow the Yearbook's advice. There's a good active Creative Writing chat forum on Mumsnet.

wordfactory Fri 17-Jan-14 17:42:15

Ok - so I am a writer who makes a decent living out of it. So it can be done. However, I have eight novels published in many languages and have sold options on a lot over the years around the world. This is very very unusual and I still do other stuff besides write because it could all go tits up tomorrow. What should you do? Write a book! No point thinking about owt else til you've done that.

Ehhn Fri 17-Jan-14 17:50:01

My dad has become a mildly successful minor author. After 20 years of touring endless book signings across the country, staying in cheap b n bs and spending hours in shops and at book fairs, a continual social media campaign for the past 5 years and roping in his family to help for free with admin on orders... And for favourable amazon reviews (not by me I should add!) After everyone else has taken their cut (websites, publisher, etc etc) he earns between £9000 and £11 000 a year. Fortunately, his wife has a good normal job and raised the children (not me - I'm the product of a fling he had with my mum, who thought he was divorced- because as well as being a great story teller, he was a great liar).

Beware embarking on this life.

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