Sunday, February 4, 2018

The most important thing for a writer is...

I'm lucky enough to spend part of the year writing in this place

... not to think of yourself as an artist. Let me rephrase that. While a fiction author is most definitely an artist first, it's probably more important for us to think of ourselves as entrepreneurs first. What I mean is, we're all running a business with accounts receivables and accounts payables. We have electric bills and cell phone bills (exorbitant), and for some of us, child support, and then there's the bar bill. Yeah, that last one can be pretty steep sometimes, especially if you've just nailed a new contract or a Book Bub and you find yourself buying a round for the whole bar. Luckily, the big contracts don't happen all that often (that's a joke. ha ha).

Writing for a living

But authors need to separate the art from the business because otherwise, the bank accounts will dry up and we won't be able to write for a living anymore. It's that simple. The trick, is to live as simply as possible. Here are a few rules that I abide by for my writing "business."

1. Live simply, in an apartment preferably, since household repairs are taken care of for you (heat and hot water are free too).

2. Don't get married (or at the very least, give it a lot of thought before saying "I do") I recall saying this very thing to a journalism class I was guest lecturing for at the State University at Albany. You wanna see some jaws drop. Marriage comes with massive responsibilities, both emotional and financial, and eventually your partner is going to tell you your writing comes first and you just might find yourself on the next episode of Divorce Court.

3. Purchase a vehicle that you can pay off quickly or even in one single payment. Cars are expensive and require constant maintenance. Add to that a monthly car payment and it can sometimes consume the entirety of your month's royalties. I drive a very expensive Jeep Wrangler, the monthly payment of which is more than my rent was, say, fifteen years ago. But I'm paying double payments and soon I will own it outright.

4. If you are an indie writer, DO NOT USE A CREDIT CARD TO PAY FOR ANYTHING PUBLISHING RELATED. Your return on investment (ROI) will most likely be slow, but the interest rate on your credit card will compound fast.

5. Don't hire an assistant until you can afford it. If you live near a college or university, consider taking on an intern. In exchange for assistance, you can help him or her with their writing and you can also provide them with a small stipend.

6. Travel. If you can't afford to head to Europe for a couple of months, or if you don't have enough to cover the flights to Nepal, get in the car and drive. Sam Shepard was always driving his pickup somewhere, and despite his fame, he lived frugally, often staying at the Motel 6 or the Howard Johnson. Jim Harrison, used to drive all over the States as well. He also stayed at cheap roadside motels.

7. Work Saturdays, but try and take Sunday's off if you can. This will help you recharge those precious batteries. I often find myself working Sundays too, but then, I'm a freak.

8. Back to relationships. Some of you are gonna wanna toss a beer bottle at my head, but I'm going to say it anyway. Do not get involved with someone who is too needy, too expensive, and just generally sucks the life out of you. Do not get involved with anyone who will consider your writing business competition for their time and attention. Better that you involve yourself with like-minded individuals who will be supportive of your work, and of the fact that you are always writing even when you're not at your desk. In turn, be just as supportive to them and their work. At the end of the day, pop a cork together, make a nice meal, and talk about one another's day. Then have sex (that's another joke ha ha)

9. For indies and hybrids: Think in terms of scalability. By this I mean, is it more worth it for me to be working on a genre novel that will earn me a passive income long after I'm dust?  Or is it better to spend my time writing an article for a magazine or newspaper for which I'll be paid a one time fee? I'm a firm believer that you could, and should, do both. But I also lean more on the side of writing books and stories that will earn me money for nothing, for a long, long time. Which leads me to...

10. Don't place all your eggs in one basket. Back in the early 2000's I had one contract with one publisher and when it ended, I was shit out of luck. I found myself having to start all over again. Publish traditionally and independently (build up that list of books for the passive income), freelance when necessary or freelance because there's a particular topic that intrigues you.

11. Maintain a blog and monetize it. The Vincent Zandri Vox has thousands of readers, many of whom click on my books and purchase them (Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!). I try and write as many helpful articles for writers as possible at the Vox.

12. Exercise. Sitting at a writing desk makes you fat.

13. Give your books away for free. Seriously. I give away thousands of books a year and in turn, many of those who read them go on to buy other books in the series.

14. Start a YouTube channel. I sort of suck at this, but I'm learning.

 Writers need to work their bottoms off

Okay, so there's just a few rules/advice that I try and abide by for my writing business. These are by no means gospel (you might even find a few of them insulting), but they are definitely something to consider if you're thinking of doing this full-time. Be smart. Be creative. Be a business person. But most of all, work your ass off.




  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. hey, great advice as always but i disagree with one point: i try to use a credit card for all publishing-related expenses -- it makes it easy to track any deductions at tax time so you don't need to hang on to every receipt. also, if you use a card like capitol one, you also earn travel rewards. what's better than that? just try to pay your bill off monthly so it doesn't get away from you. xo

  3. Very good point Elyse. That takes discipline, but it's well worth the effort. I like it.