Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 1, 2012

Do You Write For Love or Money? (Or Both?)

Writers In The Storm welcomes back award-winning author and RWA RITA-nominee, Shannon Donnelly.

Last month she discussed 5 Quick Fixes To Make Readers Love Your Villains.

This month's post is more philosophical. We'll be interested to hear your answer to the title question down in the comments!


Money ~ by Shannon Donnelly

The old joke is that when bankers get together they talk of literature and books, and when writers get together they talk of money. It's funny because there’s some truth in there. But the talk is usually more complaining—as in there’s never enough money.

Writers are actually touchy about mentioning money; too much and you might be accused of selling out, or being a commercial hack, or you might lose your friends, but too little and, well, you’re hardly a professional writer if you’re not making a living writing, now are you?

Too often we measure success by a bank account, not quality or quantity of work. We envy the big deal, the best seller list, and everything that seems attached to the big bucks. But do we really want to do what it takes to make those big bucks? Do we want to put in the hours—and the analytical work—to figure out how to write a best seller? Not really. Or maybe you do.

The trick here is to know what it is you’re willing to do for cash—and what’s on the ‘never gonna happen’ list.

Would you change genres, spend months in research, spend years in revisions?

Would you be willing to take classes, listen to comments from others, be willing to throw out that book and write another?

What would you do? And what won’t you do?

It’s only important to know your limits—they’re different for everyone.

However, one thing I’ve learned—my bank account goes up as fast as it goes down again. And it doesn't really seem to have anything to do with anything else in my life. Bills somehow always get paid—sooner or later. Money comes in and goes out. At the end of the day, for me, I'd rather thumb through a really good book than a stack of greenbacks.

This is not to say that money doesn't matter because a book’s sales can be a good indicator that you've struck a good chord with your readers.

Money is great to have around. It often frees you up to do other things. Awards are also cool, but they’re not the only things that validate the work. The truth is that sometimes good books don’t sell (or don’t sell right away). Sometimes weak books win the awards. It’s just the way things happen.

There are too many factors beyond any writer’s control. So all you can do is your best—and figure out what it is you’re willing to do. What’s going to make you happy at the end of the day? Once you figure that out, then do it again, and again.

And if money is one of those factors that matters to you, it’s really important to know your guidelines for what you’ll sell to get those bucks.

What about you? Do you write for love or money, or both? Feel free to elaborate in the comments section. 🙂


About Shannon:

Shannon’s writing has repeatedly earned 4½ Star Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times Magazine, as well as praise from Booklist and other reviewers, who note: “simply superb”…”wonderfully uplifting”….and “beautifully written.” Her book, Under The Kissing Bough was nominated for a Rita.

Her latest Regency Historical Romance, Paths of Desire, can be found as an ebook, along with her Regency romances, out from Cool Gus Publishing.

Find at Amazon.com
Find at 

DON’T FORGET: Shannon also gives online workshops and is the author of Story Telling; Story Showing, an ebook that compliments her popular online class Show and Tell: An Interactive Workshop.

Find Shannon online at:
Website: www.sd-writer.com

0 comments on “Do You Write For Love or Money? (Or Both?)”

  1. I don't have to make enough to live on, but it is important to me to make money writing. Rightly or wrongly, it lends credibility. If I didn't make any money--which happens way too often--I'd still write, but I wouldn't love it as much. Sigh. Color me shallow. 🙂

    1. Oh, money is good, don't get me wrong. It can be a validation. The trick is to know what you want -- and what you'll do (and won't do) to get it.

  2. Great topic, Shannon - in order to end up happy at the end, I think it's important to decide what the goal is at the start. Then you can monitor your progress toward it.

    My husband doesn't read WITS (what's with that?) so I can tell the truth.
    When it comes to writing, money is only the end result - Nice, but really, it's only a weak gauge of if/how much my books are touching people.

    I want people to read and relate to my writing. That's it. My dream is to be anywhere - a coffee shop, a bus, or doctor's office -- and see someone reading my book. I need to focus on my reader to make that happen - to craft a compelling, unputdownable story.

    Focusing on the money distracts me. It's my, "Oh look, a squirrel!"
    I need to put on blinders while I write!

    Now, no one tell Alpha Dog I said any of that!

  3. Since I've never written anything yet which I have been paid for, I have yet to experience the 'thrill' of receiving a cash incentive for writing what I want to write! I can only image the thrill of it. For now the only thrill that matters is getting my words down on paper. For now that is enough. Presumably if it's ever not enough then it's time to give it up! 🙂 Another great post. Very thought provoking. Thank you.

    1. One trick is to start paying yourself. Put aside some money and when you finish the book let that become your 'anything treat' money -- pay yourself. You'll start to feel validated (it's a cultural thing).

  4. I write because I love to write. I'd be lying, which I never seldom do, to say even a small payday at the end of The End isn't a dream. Perhaps it's the optimist (or, far too much time spent looking at refrigerator magnets) that make me believe in The Power of Expectation; Believe It, You Can Achieve It; Shoot...!

    Contests are validation when judges point out what they like, and when "you're in the finals!" phone calls come. Comments from multiple judges with "I would have liked to see more/less....." -- even ???? -- return contest entry fees PLUS in feedback on what a reader might think.

    The question about "what would you do?" is more complex. Would I ditch a poor novel, take craft classes, and start over with a new manuscript? Yep! Sure would. Sure did. Twice. I have 800 pages -- two dust bunny novels -- on a shelf in my closet. (My dust bunnies can hop, btw. They aren't stacked that high. Yet.)

    Would I change my "voice" and my Contemporary Romantic Comedy/Steamy/Suspense genre mix to fit the market? No. I wouldn't. More to the point, I can't do that and love what I write. I invent the characters and they doodle around in my noggin plotting their next shenanigans. Thanks for a great topic to start this writer's week.

    Off now to write a steamy scene with comedic elements. Woot!

  5. I write because I love writing, and I write the stories I love to write. I wouldn't be prepared to change genre, or the overall premise of a story, to get better sales, but I am willing to change details and improve characters etc.

    I'd still write if I didn't make money (which I don't, yet), but it's much easier to carve out time for something that you're making money on.

  6. Money is a good thing . . . but it doesn't rule my writing. If I was only in this for the paycheck, I would change my book titles. (Texas combined with Druids makes some folks scratch their heads.) But the titles fit, so they stay. I could also write faster and crank out more books if I wasn't so determined to get historical details accurate (research takes much of my time) and make every sentence, every word, the best I possibly can. Story, craft, and fans who say they love my work are more important than big bucks. With that said, sales are an incentive to keep writing and -- that dirty word -- promoting.

    Thanks for this debatable, often avoided topic!

    1. I actually don't believe more equates to more money -- quality can more that substitute for quantity (as in Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mocking Bird, and a dozen other examples of one great book).

  7. I would love to be paid to write, but I write and am driven to write regardless of income. If I'm paid, I'll write, and if I'm not paid I'll still write. The money isn't why I write, but it sure would be nice!

    I'm generally unwilling to change genre though, so maybe I'm not cut out to be a best seller. 🙂

    I agree with most of what Gloria said, and she said it better than I!

  8. If most writers wrote for money the world would be shy a lot of great books. 🙂 I agree a little extra cash is great and I want to paid for my time and effort as any professional should. But for me it's not entirely about the money. I can think of a lot jobs that are easier than writing and the coresponding paychecks are more dependable too.

    The royalties check is validation, that is, others believe my babies are as beautiful as I do.

  9. I write because it keeps me sane. Someday soon I would love to be published, and would absolutely take suggestions from an agent or publisher. Would I change my voice? I don't think I can. I'm not even sure I could alter the genre, unless it stretches my abilities and helps me to become a better writer. Agreed, great post with a lot of food for thought!

    1. It's actually amazing how little things can change your voice -- you have to be very careful with any suggestion (your name goes on that book), and make sure it's something you really, really agree with.

  10. I've written essays/articles for pay and no pay, nonfiction books for pay, but I'm writing fiction because I want to share my stories. I want to bring history to life, so I spend a good deal of time researching details and facts to make sure those are correct and that the story reflects them. What are my limits? I won't change the heat level to be appropriate for inspirational, one question asked recently. That wouldn't be true to the characters themselves. I hope I find out what my other limits are as my agent starts shopping the manuscript(s) around.

  11. This is an interesting post for me as a writer who is published but only just beginning to get paid for articles. I've drafted a few books ready for publication but yet to get one out myself or one picked up by a publisher or agent. Oddly, I don't feel a great need for validation. I write a blog and various academic papers and have a following - none of which bring in money but do have people enjoying my writing. So, whilst I am always developing and learning my craft, I feel confident I have something to say and an audience to say it to. I'm no anguished author!

    I never do competitions because I don't feel the need for that kind of recognition or 'easy money' as it were but I do love to write on a variety of subjects and in almost every style EXCEPT poetry (which I really can't do!). I'm happy to write educational, self-help, historical, fiction, novels, short stories, scripts - you name it! But the urge to get money out of it all is not very strong.

    But, on the flip-side, I would really like to be able to write full-time and not have to leave half-finished projects for weeks at a time because I'm too busy teaching or completing assignments - but that means making money and really that means getting a book deal and a certain amount of money as an advance. Yeah I'm not going to get rich as a writer, but then I was never going to get rich as a teacher either! But earning enough to be able to concentrate fully on writing -THAT'S my dream!

    So, I have a real love/hate relationship with the whole question of money-making!

    1. Actually, I think writing poetry (even really bad poetry) is a great way to develop your writing voice. And you may want to look at that love/hate thing -- why hate the money (or love it? It's just there. So why the love/hate? What does it represent that it stirs up such feelings?

      1. I'll pass on the poetry! I think it is merely the distrust of money. Once you start writing with money in mind, you start craving the money rather than giving yourself into the writing. That said, if I could earn money from my writing, then I could devote more time to doing the writing - something I would love more than anything else!

    1. The question then becomes what's better? That's a subjective word in many ways. One of the things I try to do is practice a new technique with each book (focus on dialogue, or on pacing, or on description). Better leaves you a whole lot of wiggle room since it covers way too much ground.

  12. I write for love. I write because it's part of who I am and what makes me whole. I write because I must. I would write even if I had never published a word, and thank God every day that I have, so I can share the people who talk to me in my sleep. I am a storyteller. This is a pet peeve for me. I can't understand writers who only write for money, and I don't want to.

    1. Money can be a trap, or it can be a necessity--I have friends who are utterly unemployable (as in even a temp agency can't help them) and if they didn't write, they would starve (and they're good writers). But I don't think it's ever entirely about the money--well, maybe it is when you're doing technical writing (which I've done). But the key here, in my mind, is to know what you'd do for the money. It's a question we all have to face at some point, or we do once money comes into the equation.

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