Making a living: To write or not to write?


You are ready to move on to your next project. You look through your files of story ideas and outlines, and you find one that strikes you with enough motivation to give it a try.


Reading through your old notes, you make a few corrections and start brainstorming how to improve upon the concept.


Then comes the dreaded question:


can I sell this???


Purists would tell beginning writers to never let this thought come in to their minds.


“All a writer need do is allow the muse to take control of their body and produce a fantastic manuscript.”


That’s all well and good for some, but for the professional writer trying to make a living, marketability is a definite factor.


If your name is not well-known in literary circles, then chances are you don’t have enough power or connections to get all of your stories printed for the world to see. Therefore, you, like every other writer, have to play the game of balancing out what you want to write with what you can get paid to write.


Doing some serious market research is your first step.


Read trade magazines about writing that offer suggestions on improving your work as well as sound business advice for getting the highest payment for your writing. You should also read the magazines you are planning to submit your work to and find out what themes, topics, and styles they are currently publishing.


No matter how good an idea you have may be, if there isn’t a current market for it then it may not be profitable for you to spend your time writing the story.


When deciding whether you should devote your time towards writing a story that you want to sell, you need to first define “profitable” as not only monetary compensation, but also as an equation that includes the time it takes to write the piece, polish the piece, and search out potential publishers. If the equation shows it will take too much time without yielding a high enough payout, then the story idea is not presently profitable.


While there are hundreds of markets out there, certain taboo topics can lead to a definite rejection letter. It’s not that there isn’t a market for any of these topics, but there isn’t much of a profitable market for them either.


Keeping “profitability” in mind will help writers decide what they should devote their precious time towards.


Balance your time between researching what editors want, and then on writing the stories that are more likely to sell. Don’t throw an idea away just because it doesn’t currently have a high profitability factor. Instead, make basic notes and an outline on the idea and file it away for a later time. Since the market is always changing, you never know what new stories editors will crave in the literary marketplace.


4 thoughts on “Making a living: To write or not to write?

  1. Eek! Realism invades romanticism! Yep, ya gotta make sure what you write will sell, or you’ll never make a living at this.

    But even if I couldn’t make a living, I’d still write . . .

    1. Your welcome, Daniel.

      It’s a good trade to get into, but it does take time and perseverance. Have you already started freelancing, or are you still not sure? If you’re looking for working for a supplemental income, you should read this post from “I’ve Tried That”

      It has some good insight to different sites that are a place to start and build up a portfolio.

      Best of luck,

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