Richard Lane Church, Author

Use Your Writing Talent to Make Money

Copywriting * Content Writing * Fiction

Are you longing to earn money writing fiction? Some authors are content to create characters to populate the stories in their heads, while others see the millions of dollars that famous authors are earning. Most of us are somewhere in between.

There is no right or wrong way to be an author in this case. My own belief is that being a starving artist is so last century. There is no reason for it. My suggestion (which I take to heart) is to develop yourself into the best writer you can be and produce a lot of work. Rich novelists who are household names–Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Michael Connely, and John Updike–spent many hours and years earning their places in the literary world.

And many authors, like Earnest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck, and Henry Miller, wrote novels and short stories. Some also worked as journalists, at least part of the time. Others had jobs as doctors, lawyers, and military personnel, insurance agents. Some sci-fi writers are actual scientists. The point is, to make money writing fiction; one must learn to write well and create a large body of work. And it may take some time to do it.

Sharing your fiction

If you want to write for yourself, that’s a hobby. Nothing shameful about having a job to put food on the table. It’s like people who like to play guitar and sing for personal enjoyment. Fine. If I write a story, I want others to read it. And if I can get paid–that’s icing on the cake.

If you don’t care about earning a living or extra income with your writing talents and want others to read your work, find a venue to display it. I know a woman who posts prose fragments, poems, and beautiful photos of nightscapes on social media. You can also create a website and put your work there. Flash fiction (under 1,000 words) may be posted on your social media profile, fan page, or blog. The main thing is to get your stories read. You may realize as you gain loyal fans that you can earn from your stories.

Woman creating ad on laptop
New computers, some as slim as a magazine, are great for writing in coffee shops, and at home.

Finish your story and publish it somewhere

You can sell your short stories to online literary journals by Googling sell short stories. With a blog or website of devoted fans, you can set aside a members-only section and charge a membership fee to access the stories within. You can also independently publish your book online. My first novel, The Night the Cats Left Socorro, was independently published on Amazon.

Amazon gives writers a place to show their work on a professional platform while offering commissions up to 70%. You can choose to publish as a Kindle ebook, paperback, and/or hardcover. You must format your book to their specifications and book cover image. I hired people from fiverr.com to do this for me. You must format your cover art and write a back cover blurb for the paperback and hardback print-on-demand versions if you want them; for the Kindle ebook, you need only to upload the image.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing

You keep all the rights to your creative work when you publish it on Amazon. The royalties are high. The only drawback is they do very little to help you market your book in the way of advertising. I will give more detail in a post; basically, you need to promote your book yourself via social media, email, networking (physical and digital gatherings), and more.

However, being able to give out the URL to your product page on Amazon is priceless! One last thing: the paperback and hardcover versions of your book can be offered by other online vendors like Barnes & Noble. And you can buy your own books to sell at cost plus shipping.

Many authors have literary agents and publish through well-known publishing houses. Currently, I have zero experience with taking this route. However, I’ve read that many best-selling authors self-publish some of their own works.

Writing what you know

What are your strengths and current field of knowledge? Are you an expert in anything? What have your experiences taught you about people, relationships, and life? Part of being a good writer is being a good observer. Steinbeck, one of my favorite authors, could write great descriptive passages because he was a great observer. He also created characters that concerned me deeply because he was such a compassionate person.

An author needs to have a rich inner life to understand his characters. Do all of your characters need to be like you? Yes and no. Dean Koontz and Stephen King are not monsters, but they certainly have created some of the scariest. In many romance novels, there is a guy who starts out a jerk (some who stay that way) and a lovely, compassionate, capable woman. The same author creates both of these people. You must learn to project yourself into each of your characters to make them realistic enough to hold the reader’s attention. It’s also helpful for each character to speak differently (watch Angels in America by Tony Kushner, a master playwright) and needs to have their own quirks and defining set of beliefs.

Famous Authors Writing from Their Training and Experience

Back to the subject of using what you know. John Grisham is a lawyer, which gives him great insight into courtrooms and legal proceedings. Yet, what makes his books so exciting is the thought processes, actions and struggles of his characters. Many newer combat and spy novels seem to be coming from writers with actual military and intelligence experience. Charles Dickens spent time as a child in one of London’s workhouses.

However, you can use what you know and learn or invent the rest. Tom Clancy, author of Hunt for Red October and other best-selling military novels, had never been on a submarine. He was an insurance salesman for most of his adult life before publishing. As far as I know, no one has fought or befriended space aliens, vampires, or werewolves. Creative authors vary vastly on the powers and vulnerabilities of these creatures.

Always be learning. Nowadays, we have little excuse for not knowing many details: with a few typed characters and a click or two, we can learn what we need to know. If your plot occurs in a certain locale, try to visit. If you are unable to, find out all you can from the search engines. Often websites for the local Chamber of Commerce, hotels, recreation, and historical groups have valuable information. And don’t forget to look at the photos and maps.