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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Is Writing a Hobby or a Profession for You? Why Either Path Can be a Good Choice.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to become a successfully published author, it's a good idea to consider first what that means to you.

What is your personal definition of success?

Do you want to be a professional writer or a hobbyist?

Before you burst into high dudgeon and say, "Of course I'm a professional! I've finished a whole novel, published a bunch of short stories and won three awards," consider this quote from publishing superstar Hugh Howey:

"Of…hobbyist writers, thousands now make a full-time living from their work. Thousands more pay a huge chunk of their bills from their hobby. These are part time artists who have thousands of fans and hear from readers all over the world. Some of them go on to get offers from agents and publishers and score major deals. All because they are doing something they love."

Writing is one of the best hobbies in the world. It costs almost nothing and keeps your mind alive and active and you get to create worlds—how cool is that?

And in the digital age, you can share that writing with lots of people. The online writing community is huge. On fan fiction sites or sites like Wattpad and Readwave, you can get fans and develop a following. None of it will cost you a thing. 

You can also buy a pre-made cover, trade edits with a friend and upload to Smashwords or self-publish with Amazon, Nook and/or Kobo and be a published author and it won't cost you much more.

And you might even make money. In the electronic age, the line between writing as a hobby and writing as a profession has blurred. To quote Hugh again: 

"There are tens of thousands of authors out there now making $20 or $100 a month doing what they would happily do for nothing."

Some writers, like Hugh, have made the leap from hobby to profession in a spectacular way.

And even though he's now a superstar trad-pubbed author with a big movie deal, Hugh still writes fan fiction. He's written a story, Peace in Amber set in Vonnegut's world of Billy Pilgrim and the Trafalmadorians through Amazon's fan fiction platform. It hasn't even been released yet, but it's already #1 in Kindle Worlds.

If you're not clear on your goals, I recommend this great post Dan Holloway posted on Jane Friedman's blog this week: What Do You Want from Your Writing in 2014? Dan provides exercises for clarifying your writing goals and suggests things like writing a letter to your future self. 

If you decide that for now your goal is to remain a hobbyist, that doesn't mean you can't be a brilliant writer—or that you can't be published.  

As Hugh says, this is the best time ever to be a writer, whether you choose to treat writing as a hobby or a profession.

But hobbyists can be easily ripped off, hurt, or manipulated if they're not clear on their goals.

Overpriced vanity publishers and predatory publishing contracts can turn a fun hobby into a nightmare for the amateur who doesn't know the ropes.

And lots of them get their feelings hurt and even quit writing because they make the mistake of querying agents and publishers.

Every day I see laments in forums and writing groups from writers who feel wounded when an agent or publisher rejects a book solely on the basis that it has already been self-published.

But the rejection doesn't reflect the quality of the book. It comes because they've flagged themselves as amateurs. A professional presents new material and doesn't mention failed projects.

Agents are only interested in working with professionals who can turn out product quickly on a regular schedule, make timely edits, show up for personal appearances, and dedicate a good deal of time to following directives from the marketing department.

This is the reality: no self-published book is going to be taken on by an agent or traditional publisher unless it's phenomenally successful. And for that kind of success, authors need to produce multiple titles and promote them in a well-planned, professional way.

How does the industry define "phenomenally successful"? According to agent Joanna Volpe, "Today, to turn publisher’s heads, that needs to be...50,000 copies in one month, at a $2.99 price point or higher."

Most smaller publishers won't be interested either. They'd like to be your first choice, not your last resort, and they don't want to deal with a book that's already been in the marketplace and failed to sell.

The truth is, you can't make the leap from self-publishing to traditional unless you become a superstar on your own—and then you may not want to make the switch.

Do note: plenty of self-published authors are just as professional as traditionally-published ones, so choosing to self-publish does not mean you've chosen to be a hobbyist.

But don't knock writing as a hobby. There's nothing wrong with hanging on to amateur status.

Keep in mind that Olympic athletes are amateurs.

What defines the hobbyist writer?

1) Hobbyists write for the joy of writing.

If money comes, it's gravythe way winning a money prize at the local club tournament is for a golfer.

2) They can write in any genre.

Or they can happily cross genreswith no worries about the marketplace. They can write memoirs, zombipocalyptic dystopians, Christian romance, and Star Trek fan fiction and still use the same name, or have 47 pen names if that's more fun.

3) They don't need to spend money on advertising or publicity.

Or, if they're fabulously wealthy, they can spend tons and hire a marketing team, even if they only have one book, written in Klingon, with an projected audience of two hundred readers. Hobbyists don't need to look at the bottom line.

4) They don't need expensive websites. 

And they don't have to obsess about branding or platform or spend any more time on social media than is enjoyable. In fact, they can ignore social media entirely and leave their manuscripts on random bus seats, sail them into crowds as paper airplanes, or write them on birch bark and make them into canoes. There is no wrong way.

5) They can give themselves a big old launch party, no matter the cost.

Or they can splurge on a conference or book fair even if it means spending more money than they'll ever make on the book, because parties and conferences are a blast and this is something they do for pleasure.

6) They can write only one book.

Some hobbyists spend decades working on a memoir and never write another word. It's very tough to make money on just one book, but if it's your hobby, that doesn't matter.

7) Hobbyists no longer have to publish with an expensive vanity press.

In the pre-digital age, vanity presses were the only way most hobbyists could get published. These presses charged thousands of dollars to put a few copies of your book into print. But now, even paper copies can be self-published cheaply through CreateSpace, BookBaby, Lulu, or Lightning Source.

Unfortunately, some of the Big 5 Houses have teamed up with the old vanity presses and offer overpriced packages that exploit the uninformed writer's "overnight success" dreams. A smart hobbyist doesn't go there.

They learn the ropes of self-publishing or use reliable, inexpensive self e-publishing assistants like Smashwords, BookBaby, Lulu, and Draft2Digital. These self-publishing companies offer inexpensive services and even keep track of your royalties for you. (Lots of professionals use them too. Smashwords is one of the best ways to get a book into the global marketplace. More on that next week in a guest post from the EBookBargainsUK guys on "Going Global in 2014".)

8) They don't waste agents' time (or their own) on the heartbreaking query-go-round.

A query is a job application for long-term employment in the publishing industry. Don't go there if you don't want the job.

At best, you'll get discouraged by the rejections, and at worst, you could end up signing a cut-throat contract that takes a piece of your rights in perpetuity or hobbles you with a "non-compete clause" that bans you from ever publishing books in your genre, even if the publisher or agent rejects it.

In these days when it's the hybrid author, not the traditionally published author who makes the most money, a non-professional writer who goes the traditional route could end up losing the possibility of making money from a book any time in the future (or even your children's future.)

What defines a professional writer?

We can't say a professional writer must make a living solely from writing, because many of our most lauded literary icons make a living teaching or have some other day job.

"Professionalism" means entering an industry and treating your writing as a business.

Not everybody wants to do that. Don't let anybody push you into it if you're not ready or you don't feel the need. The fact you're not "going pro" doesn't devalue the quality of your work—and it doesn't mean you shouldn't work to make your writing the very best it can be.

Remember those Olympians!

But you should be aware of these things:

  • If your goal is a traditional publishing career, you need to educate yourself in the industry and learn how to present yourself as a professional…and take care of yourself like a professional. (see #12 below) 
  • If you have long-term plans to make writing your primary career, whether you publish with the Big 5, go with a small press, or self-publish, you're more likely to succeed if you approach it as a business. 

That means writing becomes the main focus of your work life, even if you have another job.

How do you become a professional?

No, you don't need an MFA (in fact that won't impress many people in the industry.) But you do need to educate yourself about the business side of publishing.

Here are some things to do if you plan to be a professional author:

1) Learn the basics of the industry: the jargon, the names of big players, important conferences, etc. Read Publishers Lunch and Galley Cat, and subscribe to major industry blogs. Pay attention to what sells and what's overdone and on the way out. Join professional organizations in your genre, like SCBWI and RWA.

2) Keep up with the latest technology, as well as social media and contemporary marketing techniques. Start following business news, especially in the tech industries.

3) Treat your writing as a job.
Show up for work on a regular schedule. Treat it as your #1 job, even if you have others.

4) Lose the magical thinking.
As Porter Anderson says, just lighting a candle to St. Amanda the Hocking won't sell your work. Don't expect your first novel be discovered in a slushpile if you've never published anything outside of the church newsletter. Don't expect a 600,000 word zombie romance time-travel western based on your psilocybin hallucinations that time in Baja to be a million-seller, no matter how many times you Tweet about it.

5) Always think in terms of "Return On Investment". Estimate the income you can realistically expect to make, and factor in ROI when you plan your marketing strategy. Don't pay for expensive marketing until you've got enough titles out there to bring in the income to pay for them. (Remember what I said about launch parties.)

6) Have a career plan. Know where you want to be in a year, and five years, and ten—and budget your time (and money) accordingly. Make getting successfully published and establishing yourself as an author your #1 goal. That means submitting to magazines and contests and getting known in your genre in order to build a solid writing resume.

7) Develop a personal "brand" and platform (yes, platform still matters), and use social media regularly but with care. Keep religion and politics out of your online activity unless it is related to your writing. (For instance if you write Christian romance, it's fine to talk about religion—in a respectful way—or if you write about LGBT issues, promoting marriage equality is good. But don't share every far-right or far-left petition that lands in your inbox: you're eliminating half the market.)

8) Know your genre and realize you'll be expected to stick to it. Some authors do write in multiple genres, but fans don't like it when you switch. If you do, you may have to use a pen name and double your platform building.

9) Pay for professionals to edit, design and format your book unless you know how to do these things on a professional level yourself—or find a traditional publisher.

10) Don't try to publish a first novel or a single title in a genre. Have at least two finished and more in the pipeline before you launch a career. Yes, writers have launched careers with a single book, but writing the second one is tough while you're busy promoting the first—just ask Jay Asher, who got a fierce case of writers block after his first YA novel, Thirteen Reasons Why became a #1 NYT Bestseller.

11) Learn the basics of journalism and content writing. Even if you prefer to write fiction, you'll need to write tons of articles, web content, and blogposts. A professional novelist is expected to write lots of nonfiction.

12) Learn something about contract law or have an intellectual property expert on speed dial. (See #8 above.)

13) Know there's no such thing as "overnight success."


But if you don't choose to be a professional, don't let anybody put you down for it. Does a golfer have to join the PGA tour to make playing the game worthwhile?

Maybe we over-value "professionalism" these days.

Consider this quote from Alexandra A. Palmer, who blogs as "The Happy Amateur"

"I want to engage in life as a favorite pastime, not a profession. I want to remain… a novice who is hungry for knowledge and humble at the same time. I want to be a constant devotee and admirer of life. In other words, I want to be an amateur."

Or this from UK businessman Nick Glaves

"Sometimes a happy amateur can get the better of the over-competitive, self-obsessed and grumpy professional."

I fear I'm a grumpy professional sometimes, and there are things I miss about being a happy amateur. But I was an amateur at a time when that meant nobody but a handful of writer friends and the 50 people who subscribed to an obscure literary magazine would read my work. These days, a hobbyist writer can reach a worldwide audience.

And who's to say that Klingon birch-bark canoe novel based on your 'shroom hallucinations won't be the next Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

That would be some nice gravy.

UPDATE: Jami Gold has written a fantastic post expanding on this subject. She's also made a significant improvement. Instead of using the word "hobbyist", which I got from Hugh Howey, she calls the first path "Artist-Authors" and the second "Professional-Authors". I think the change helps clarify my point, because it avoids the stigma the word "hobby" carries for some people. 


What about you, Scriveners? Are you a grumpy professional or a happy amateur? Or are you a professional who's also having loads of fun?Any other suggestions for people who prefer to keep their amateur status? 

Next Week: The EBUK blokes are back, this time telling us how to "Go Global in 2014". They say this is the year to get your work into the international marketplace. 

Books of the Week

All the Camilla Randall Mysteries are on sale this month! 

No Place Like Home 
99c on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Amazon CA, and Nook

"A warp-speed, lighthearted comedy-mystery"...Abigail Padgett
"A fun, charming novel about the rich and less so" ...Karen Doering
"A cross of dry British humor and American wackiness, and it all adds up to a fun read." ...Deborah Bayles

The Camilla Randall Mysteries 
Boxed Set: 33c per book!!

99c on Amazon US, NOOK, and now £0.77 on Amazon UK and 99c CDN on Amazon CA . $1.03 on Amazon OZ and 49 rupees on Amazon IN, and the equivalent on all Amazon stores.

"The Best Revenge, Ghost Writers in the Sky and Sherwood Limited are hysterical. Anne Allen will keep you laughing throughout, but in the meantime she dabbles her fingers in some topics worth some serious thought: sexism, weightism, lechery, murder, duplicity, homelessness & poverty to name a few. If you love to laugh, you'll like these three books. If you love to think, ponder AND laugh, be ready to fall in love"... C.S. Perryess

Opportunity Alerts

FREE HOUSES FOR WRITERS.  Yes, you read that right. With its "Write A House" project, the city of Detroit is giving away houses to writers. If you're a promising writer, AND a responsible homeowner (who's handy with tools) and want to be a proud member of the Motor City intelligentia, check out their website for details. Applicants will be asked to submit a writing sample, a resume, and a brief description of why they think they should receive the Write-a-House award. Applications taken starting in Spring 2014.

Dog Lovers! Here's one for you: AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB FICTION WRITING CONTEST NO ENTRY FEE. Submit one short story, maximum 2,000 words. Entries can be on any subject, but must feature a dog. (But it can't talk) Prizes $500, $240, $100. Deadline January 31.

CRAZYHORSE PRIZES IN FICTION, NONFICTION, POETRY $20 fee (includes subscription). This is a biggie, well worth the fee. This venerable literary magazine has published the likes of John Updike, Raymond Carver and Billy Collins. Winners in each category receive $2,000 and publication. Submit up to 25 pages of prose or three poems. All entries considered for publication. Submissions accepted in the month of January only.

2014 BETHLEHEM WRITERS ROUNDTABLE SHORT STORY AWARD $10 ENTRY FEE. Submit 2,000 words or fewer on the theme of "Food Stories". In addition to a $200 prize, the first place winner's story will be considered for print publication in the Bethlehem Writers Group's next anthology or as a featured story in Bethlehem Writers Roundtable. Their last anthology won Indie Book Awards for Best Anthology and Best Short Fiction. Second place will receive $100 + publication in the BWG Writers Roundtable. Deadline January 15th.

Geist Literary Postcard Contest Canada's favourite writing contest is back! Enter now for your chance at literary fame and fortune! How it works: Send a story and a postcard—the relationship can be as strong or as tangential as you like, so long as there is a clear connection between the story and the image. If you’re not sure where to look for a postcard, you can make your own or visit Wikimedia Commons. The story can be fiction or non-fiction; maximum length is 500 words. For a classic example of a postcard story, read "How to Survive in the Woods" or "Death in the Family." Prizes of $500, $250, and $100 CND $20 fee. Deadline February 1st.

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Blogger Trekelny said...

It's not possible I could be the first to comment, is it? What a great start to the new year!
A FABULOUS post, Anne- my only nitpick is that your Olympic-amateur metaphor is a little leaky (ahm, US Basketball team? Russian Hockey?). But this is spot-on and helps me reaffirm what I've chosen for myself. And I do like the image of games where the rich pros are actually side-by-side with the rank amateurs like me (I prefer the term "dilettante").
I come down about a billion percent on the hobbyist side, of course. I think the main reason I even dabble with marketing my work (SO badly!) is the same as the "why" of seeking representation back when I started: I want feedback. For that, you have to have some readers, and I know I don't have enough. I hoped some of the agents would at least include some remarks on my work. I love positive strokes as much as the next guy, and Anne, you know from 1-star reviews that aren't based on someone reading your book. But deep down, I know I won't improve until I get the insight that comes from lots of readers who have no dog in the fight. So I seek responses, and e-pub has brought me some great ones. Maybe I should do more with "free", or serialization. Still thinking!

January 5, 2014 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger D.G. Hudson said...

Thanks so much for presenting such a wealth of information. I like running through your checklists.
Best wishes for 2014!

January 5, 2014 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

Thanks, Anne, for another fine post. As much as I had hoped - in my earlier years - to end up on the professional end of the pool, I have landed in the hobby end. It's not as though I'm wading around in the shallow end watching my toes get wrinkly while my pate burns in the sun. It's more like the pool's configuration has changed so much in the last few years, & maybe I've changed too, & the hobby end seems to have grown protective trees so my head doesn't burn & changed the chlorine mix so my toes are far happier. May each of our adopted ends of the pool fit us well.

January 5, 2014 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That lays it out so well for both, and each choice can be a good one.
Except for number two, I actually fall into the hobbyist writer category, even with three books. I have traits of the professional, but I never want it to be my only profession. (So much pressure - the horror!) I've blogged because it's fun and never spent any money on advertising. That I've sold a bunch of books has been gravy!

January 5, 2014 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Trekelny--Congrats. You even beat Alex J. Cavanaugh, who's always first. (I have no idea how he does that :-))

It's true that people find ways to get around the amateur rule in the Olympics, but I think my analogy holds: "amateur" does not equal "low skill".

You sound like a happy amateur indeed. Good for you to fight the pressure to "go pro."

You hit on a very important point about getting feedback. Agents are NOT the people to give you feedback. 1) They don't have time. 2) It's not their job 3) Their opinion is based only on what they personally can sell that week, not the quality of your work. Getting feedback from critique groups or putting your work on writing-sharing sites like Wattpad can be much more useful.

DG--I hope 2014 will be a great year for all of us struggling writers!

CS--You're right about that pool: the configuration has changed dramatically. This is the era of the hobbyist. When most professional writers can't make a living at it, why not treat it as a hobby you really enjoy? You can make a little money,as you do with audiobook narration, and you might even win a big money prize, the way you did with the Ingrid Reti prize--as much as many authors get for an advance. And you didn't have to do any marketing or spend a dime.

Alex--I think you're one of the rare writers who straddles the two camps. You're a thoroughly professional traditionally published author, but you also have another profession you enjoy, which means you can avoid the pressure to do heavy duty marketing and advertising.

January 5, 2014 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Tamara Marnell said...

This post is spot on, but it's a sad state of affairs, isn't it? It's a cold, hard reality that publishers exist to make money, so of course they want writers who can reliably produce books to a formula that sells. But it's still pretty depressing that the only two alternatives for a modern writer are to become a one-person book factory or to write as a hobby without the expectation of people ever reading your work.

My goal in writing is not to make money or get famous (though money and fame would be nice :p), but to create something that other people will enjoy and possibly learn from. But people can't enjoy it if they don't find it, and they won't likely find it if it's self-published by an unknown amateur.

January 5, 2014 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Tamara--I didn't mean for this post to be depressing at all. This is the best time ever to be a writer because we have so many choices. It used to be that an amateur couldn't develop a following, but these days, they're doing it every day. And making money at it!

On places like Wattpad and Readwave, you can post your work chapter by chapter and get feedback and fans panting for the next installment.

Or you can self-publish and become a superstar the way Hugh Howey (and Amanda Hocking and so many others) have done. Thousands of self-published authors are making big money these days--and lots more are making a nice living.

But you have to commit to it and treat it as a profession if you want to make it your primary business.

There never was a time when publishers came to an unknown author's house and begged them to write something. Breaking into traditional publishing has always been tough. But it can be done, as long as you're willing to play by their rules (as has always been the case.) You can still take the query route and become traditionally published.

But you need to write more than one book. If you only feel you have one book in you, then self-publish and you can reach readers through social media and blogs and forums. None of that was possible 10 years ago. This is the best time ever to be a writer!

January 5, 2014 at 12:04 PM  
Blogger Linda Adams said...

I don't agree with sticking with one genre. Multi-genre is a great opportunity for a writer looking for a fulltime career because it greatly widens the range of readers and markets. Especially, it doesn't make sense to me because I read all the genres, and I don't get why writers have to be pigeon-holed into picking just one or having to hide behind a pen name.

I did succumb to it a few years back because I kept hearing writers repeating it and thought I was broken because I was so diverse (I've written in 9 genres). But I was not happy with being so limited and not being able to follow where the story took me. With big house publishers, it was a problem being diverse because they were so risk adverse, but indie's changed the playing field.

January 5, 2014 at 12:29 PM  
Blogger The Happy Amateur said...

Anne, you've made my day! I was happily reading your post and then - wait a minute, I know this name...oh, it's me! Thank you so much for quoting me and linking to my blog, it's very kind of you.
I thought it was a very uplifting post. Your blog is never short on solid advice, encouragement and positive energy. Thank you again.
Alexandra (a.k.a. The Happy Amateur)

January 5, 2014 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger G. B. Miller said...

I'm probably classified as a happy amateur. I tried the professional way and even succeeded to a very small degree, but for the time being, I'm happy moving at my own speed. I do have two books in the pipelines, so to speak (and writing a 3rd) and as soon as I can get few monetary issues squared away, I'll jump back in the self-publishing game (money won't be for actually publishing the book but for buying good quality covers).

The one caveat I would add to the "happy amateur" aspect is that I do try to run my writing as a business, which requires the usual state and federal tax headaches to be performed 5 times a year, which if you can believe it, was the only good thing to come out of my disastrous experience with ASI.

We live and learn, although we've succeeded in turning a negative into a positive.

January 5, 2014 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

From your list I will probably do a little of both from each list. I would like to make a career writing as an Indie and I know you have to treat it like a job and that's what I plan on doing.
I'm looking forward to it and will remember not to put any pressure on myself but concentrate on building my library up and getting into the hands of readers.

January 5, 2014 at 1:14 PM  
Blogger Vera Soroka said...

I forgot to mention that I also consider myself a multiple genre writer as well. I will use pen names to separate them and I won't worry about platform until I have a body of work out from each of them. Some of them will definitely be hobby. They're just too weird!
Great post!

January 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger mindprinter said...

I'm a hobbyist and love it. And I love Charlie's analogy of the swimming pool. He said it much better than I ever could. Thanks, Charlie. And thanks, Anne, for such a wonderful "post to ponder" in the new year. And most of all, Happy New Year to you and to us all.


January 5, 2014 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Judith Mercado said...

I'll accept hobby status, but I will act like a professional.

January 5, 2014 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Linda--Of course it's possible to be a multi-genre professional author (look at Neil Gaiman) but as you've probably found out, it's harder to brand yourself and build a firm fan base of readers who want each of your books as they come out.

But you're right that indie authors are succeeding with this. They usually use a different pen name for each genre. Super-prolific writer Dean Wesley Smith actually advises multiple brands and pen names. If you can turn out books as fast as he can, that's fantastic. Each "brand" multiplies your appeal. (Although it also can multiply your work.)

Another way to cross genres is having a distinctive style. If you're a humor writer, you can write mysteries, mainstream, and YA adventure, like Carl Hiaassen and Chris Moore, and have a seamless crossover for your fans.

Happy--I'm so glad to see you here, Alexandra! Your blog is partly what inspired this post. We need to learn to value amateurs again. Not everything has to be "serious business."

G.B--Good point about taxes. Even if you're a happy amateur, you have to pay taxes like a pro. :-( I'm glad to hear you're enjoying being an amateur for now.

Vera--It sounds as if you're approaching things as a professional. Multiple pen names solve the problem of genre cross-overs. And there's nothing wrong with writing both "hobby books" and "professional books" After all, that's basically what Hugh Howey is doing with his fan fiction.

Mindprinter--You're proof that an "amateur" writer can be prolific. I think you come out with a new book every month. I like Charlie's metaphor, too. Amateur status has changed. So many more choices than than there used to be.

Happy 2014 to you, too!

January 5, 2014 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judith--Good plan!

January 5, 2014 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Christine Monson said...

Great post. Love the tips and the lists defining the difference between profession and hobby. Jane Friedman's post is a real eye-opener. I wrote out my list of reasons and narrowed it down to the one sentence for why I write along with my definitions of success for me.

January 5, 2014 at 1:50 PM  
OpenID redclayandroses1 said...

Great post! I love what you say and how you say it. I feel as if I have been validated! I have been an RN for 30+ years, but I don't want another professional career...my writing is still very good. I have one published book and if I develop another career I will be a very old woman when that occurs. I will gladly carry that Olympian Torch!

January 5, 2014 at 2:00 PM  
Blogger Rosi said...

Lots of food for thought here, Anne. Thanks for such a meaty post. Happy New Year to you.

January 5, 2014 at 3:16 PM  
OpenID fornow said...

Thanks, Anne. While I already knew all this, you put it in a black and white way that made the difference very clear.

I quite enjoy writing and sharing but really don't want to play the traditional (or vanity) publishing game. Nor do I have the kind of skills or orientation that would make me good at it. I have taken only a peripheral business approach to it because I know there is little ROI. My market is very niche.

While I enjoy calling myself an "author", it's good to not have any delusions about the kind I am. ;-)

January 5, 2014 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--I wish I'd seen something like Dan's post on Jane's blog when I was starting out. I wasted years flailing around. Knowing what we want is so crucial, but often we don't take the time to analyze that.

redclay--I'm so glad you felt validated. That's what I was trying to do--not make anybody sad about being an amateur. It's a wonderful thing to be. You get the best of both worlds. And thanks for being an RN all those years. It's a tough profession and you don't get thanked enough for all you do.

Rosi--Thanks! Happy New Year to you too!

fornow--I think people tiptoe around this as if not "going pro" is something to be ashamed of. But it isn't. If you've written a book you're definitely an author. Isn't somebody who plays golf a golfer--even if he's not on the PGA tour? Nobody who chooses to write for the joy of it should be ashamed to say so.

January 5, 2014 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm a writing professional though I'm only paying a few bills with it. I started as a hobby though and think the biggest difference is the amount of hours and work I put into it now.

January 6, 2014 at 7:59 AM  
Blogger Tam Francis said...

This is great. I've been thinking about a lot of these things for a while. I think I am halfway between professional writer and hobbyist and I'm okay with that. Thank you for the lists and the differentiation. I am taking the path to become the path.

January 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Susan--Often the decision to "go pro" is something that happens in our heads first and then begins to manifest in other behaviors (and sometimes cashflow :-)) But it's about making that conscious decision you have obviously made.

Tam--There's definitely a journey involved in moving from one to the other. If you've decided to move to the "pro" side, the other things will follow.

January 6, 2014 at 11:01 AM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great post, as usual. So much to ponder. I'm sending out agent queries now and, I'm not even sure why. I guess I want someone in my court. But, not getting an agent won't stop me from doing the writing or publishing. I have established a time limit for that search. If no agent by the time I finish the third book of my trilogy I am going indie, on my own, I can do it, bite the bullet, do what it takes...

January 6, 2014 at 11:32 AM  
OpenID joanneguidoccio.com said...

Like some of the other commenters, I'm not really certain where I belong on the hobbyist/Pro continuum.

After retiring from a 31-year teaching career, I was determined not to have that level of intensity again. But I'm not too thrilled when friends ask about my writing hobby.

In my bio, I talk about "devoting mys second act to writing." A bit of waffling, but one thing I know for sure: I'm enjoying the journey.

January 6, 2014 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Christine--If you do get that agent, your life will change, because you'll have a "boss" of sorts and it will definitely be another part-time job.(Although it could become full-time.) You may find you love the rush of it, or you may find you'd prefer to pull back and work at your own pace again.

Joanne--"Level of intensity" is a good phrase. When I decided to make writing my profession, the intensity increased dramatically. I had to cut a whole lot of other stuff from my life. I don't regret it, but I do miss having a simpler life. I think there's a happy medium--Hugh Howey's definition of the money-making "hobbyist". But I know how it feels when friends use the word, and you can feel the condescension. You want to scream that this is real work, not like taking up crochet. Maybe if you tell them you're an amateur "like an Olympic athlete", that will help. :-) I like the idea of "devoting your second act to writing."

January 6, 2014 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Shelly Asylum said...

Very nice post! Lots of helpful info. I thought that it was very uplifting. I saved it to read again later. ;)

January 6, 2014 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

I guess I'm in between.

I'm coming up on a year of freelance writing, and I realize how valuable that experience is for my own work.

Right now I make more writing for others than I do for myself, but hopefully one day that will change.

Still, at least writing alone pays the bills and I don't have to teach anymore.

January 7, 2014 at 1:52 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Shelley--I'm so glad you got a positive message from it. That's what I intended. Whatever path you take is the right one.

Greg--It sounds as if you're a professional freelancer who writes fiction as a hobby. Nothing wrong with that--at least for now. Congrats on making a living as a writer. That's an accomplishment. I know it's very hard for teachers to find time to write. Teaching is a more than full-time job. Most people don't realize that.

January 7, 2014 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Donelle Lacy said...

This post really left me with a lot to think about. I appreciate all the info in it. Thanks!

That said, it also scared the snot out of me. Budding authors with the magic glasses on often see obtaining an agent as the holy grail that will launch their writing career. They've been told so many times that they need to have at least one book finished, polished, beta-read and whatnot, and one wonderful query in the same fashion, and the rest will be up to the agent. This is where your point about time to write your second book is so important, and your points about knowing the industry and not getting taken are invaluable. I've heard some unpleasant stories once the magic glasses have come off, agent or no. It's simply a matter of the new author not having enough information and not realizing what it takes to reach their goal. It really IS work and it IS serious if you want to 'go pro'. Though all the info at once is intimidating, I have way too many points on the 'pro' side not to give it a shot.

I like a challenge. I sometimes need a 'boss', and I love someone in my court driving me on (with a whip, if need be). I do have time management trouble and a few other things I fall short in, but what writer doesn't?

My question with your list right now is, do I go pro as a writer or as an illustrator? And what agents do I pursue if I want to do both? That'll be what I determine in 2014, besides revising my current YA novel (first in a series). At least I already have the SCBWI membership covered.

Wonderful post!

January 7, 2014 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Donelle--I'm not a children's book writer, so I'm probably not the one to ask, but I just read on an industry blog that writer-illustrators are becoming much more in demand. It used to be that you had to be one or the other, but that seems to be changing, so keep your options open.

Enhanced ebooks for tablets are going to be the big thing for kids' books in the next few years and you'll have all the skills required.

So don't jump the gun with a deal for just the text now, when if you wait until you have a body of work, your combined skills will be much more valuable. I'd advise you to query only forward-ooking agents, not the ones who do business like it's 1999. :-)

In March, we'll have a post from an agent who reps kids books and is very "Foreword" looking--she's at Foreword Literary Agency. She may be able to help. She says the rules are changing fast.

Remember the #1 mistake new writer make is querying too soon. You may be getting out of date information and pressure from uninformed writers to "send it out," so hang on until you educate yourself about the new paradigm.

January 7, 2014 at 9:32 PM  
Blogger Bethie Jade said...

I always thought one day when I wrote a novel, I'd get it published traditionally, but from this post, the publishing industry sounds rather daunting, and it sounds like way more pressure than I imagined. Besides, I've been posting stories online since I was thirteen (nearly five years).

January 8, 2014 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Bethie--If you haven't written a novel yet, the publishing industry will have changed considerably by the time you're ready to publish one. It changes daily. But the biggest change the ebook era has brought is that it's possible to publish successfully as an amateur.

Entering any industry is hard work. Becoming a professional author is like becoming a lawyer, actuary, or accountant. You need a lot of training and some serious commitment. But if you want to keep writing as a hobby, you can do it any way you please.

January 8, 2014 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Nina Badzin said...

I think I'm stuck somewhere in the middle for now while my kids are young and I don't have as much as I'd need to get truly serious. I suppose I'm a successful, happy hobbyist planting the seeds for a more professional career later. That sounds about right!

January 10, 2014 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Nina--I see you more as a part-time professional freelancer, because you write for well-known magazines and blogs and you have a very professional blog of your own. Definitely the "seeds" of a future full time professional career.

January 10, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger John Wiswell said...

Reading the lists of strengths between the two categories, I wondered: which category do you place Harper Lee in? She only ever wrote the one novel for publication.

Regardless, though, I try to embrace both schools of approach. Whatever fulfills people. Most won't make a living, and it's not up to me to block them from competition. Some great works come from briefer touches, while others require full time devotion.

January 10, 2014 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

John--The publishing industry is a whole different animal from what is was when Harper Lee was submitting her ms. in the 1950s (or Margaret Mitchell was sending out Gone with the Wind in the 1930s.) In those days, publishers were looking for books, not "content providers" and "brands". The old paradigm allowed for a lot more artistic freedom. And a writer could make a career out of just one book. It's just not the case now. Now most people have to decide between corporate servitude or living on a very scary edge.

January 10, 2014 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Julie Valerie said...

Any plans to write a post about Wattpad and Readwave?

January 10, 2014 at 7:34 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Julie--I probably should. I know that Wattpad is the #1 discovery site for a lot of readers outside the US. I've joined, but I haven't done much with it. And Readwave is pretty new, but it's offering a great venue for stories. When I get more info, I'll write more about them. Good suggestion!

January 10, 2014 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

As always a thought provoking post, Anne. Hmmm. There's a lot to consider here, I'm going to have to print it out and re-read it. And tweet it, of course!

January 11, 2014 at 12:36 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Judy--Thanks much for the tweet! Funny how some of us older readers like to print something out to "really read it." I do that sometimes too. I think people in their teens and twenties would be mystified to hear we do that.

January 11, 2014 at 9:47 AM  

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