Diversify, urges Graham Joyce

Novelist, Graham Joyce, gave the closing address at this year’s Birmingham Writers’ Toolkit event.  Graham Joyce - authorHe stressed the need for writers today to have several streams of income, especially as publishing is moving away from traditional books towards e-publishing. He suggested the following areas from which writers could source their income:

  • The traditional advance on a book – however this type of payment is becoming smaller and less common
  • Digital downloads – writers can sell their own work directly via their website thus bypassing publishers
  • Teaching creative and other types of writing
  • Performing their work
  • Giving talks – schools love writers to come into the classroom or try the after dinner/lunch circuit
  • Writing non-fiction
  • Screen development of their work – funding is often available for this (although not for actually producing the film)
  • On-line drama – ‘Kate Modern’, which was linked to BeBo, is an example of this type of drama which can be simply filmed by the author
  • Computer games – these now require more narrative and emotional content. Farmville is an example of this and,surprisingly, the average player is a 47-year-old female.  

By diversifying and marketing themselves and their work independently, writers can continue to work even if the fickle publishing world turns against them.

It is worth taking note of this if you are trying to build up a writing career. It shows that it may be possible to earn a living as a writer without being picked up by a major publisher – if you are willing to think laterally, become digital savvy and go out there and sell yourself.

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  1. #1 by Helen Yendall on December 1, 2010 - 12:51 pm

    thanks for this interesting Post. I absolutely agree that writers (unless they are J K Rowling!) have to diversify in order to make a living but as for teaching creative writing, I think, unless you are a published and well-known writer and can work full-time in HE institutions (eg: Creative Writing courses at universities), that’s a tough call. I teach a creative writing evening class once a week and do it more for the pleasure/interest than the money. I can make more money selling one short story than I get from a whole term’s work (which is 20 hours teaching + at least that again in preparation/marking). Sorry if that sounds a bit negative, but it’s the truth! Helen

  2. #2 by Helen Yendall on December 1, 2010 - 12:59 pm

    Me again – sorry, maths not being my strong point I didn’t get that quite right – it’s more like TWO short story sales that equates to one term’s pay from the college – but you get my point, I’m sure!

  3. #3 by Sally Jenkins on December 1, 2010 - 6:10 pm

    Helen – thanks for making the point about teaching evening classes not paying particularly well. However, I know some writers run whole day courses on their particular specialism, such as short fiction for women’s magazines, and can then set their own fees and make this sort of activity cost effective.
    I would hate to see evening classes in writing die out though – it is so often a way into writing for a lot of people.

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