Thursday, 28 August 2014

Writers Need to Eat

The World of Books is Changing. 

Established publishers are going into receivership, or being acquired by other publishers, or just ... disappearing. Indie publishers are starting up. Writers are publishing their own work. On-line digital platforms, like Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, stock more titles than any bricks and mortar bookshop could ever do.

Books are available in multiple formats: print, or digital, or audio. They can be streamed. The number of bookstores are declining. Libraries are changing, too; no longer offering just print, they now provide music, games, art, even digital lending.

Writers, who traditionally used to spend their time alone, staring at a typewriter (or out the window) now use computers, and socialise on line with their readers, or with fellow-writers. There are a lot more distractions for a writer!

And the world is a lot more interconnected than it was.

While there's increasing competition for leisure time, especially with the rise of the gaming industry, there has also been an increased connectivity - gamers don't play by themselves. And there's an increased demand for good, believable stories. Now, the best games use narrative, dialogue and plot.

Readers, too, are changing. Reading has always been a solitary pleasure. But book clubs and book social media - Goodreads and the Reading Room are emerging power houses. Word of mouth has always sold books, but now there's a new way to recommend, and that's through reviews. Reviews, it turns out, may be worth more than sales.

In this new landscape of freely available publishing, you'd think it would be easier than ever for a writer to make money. All a writer has to do is to bang a few thousand words onto a page, format it correctly, push the 'publish' button and bang, thousands of eager readers leap forward and voila - a bestseller is born!

Alas, the reality is quite, quite different.

Writers Need to Eat

My first novel, A Necklace of Souls, was received very well critically, even winning Best First Novel at the New Zealand Post Awards. But it has earned me only a teeny, tiny amount. Barely enough to pay for ten weeks of groceries. Unfortunately, I need to eat for more than ten weeks in a year!

My last series of posts was about writing a novel in six months. This was a stretch goal for me. As I work nearly full-time and have a family, I was aware it might not be possible. But I was surprised to find that, not only was it achievable, it was a really great process and produced a seriously good YA novel called Inner Fire. I'm very pleased by the result, and I hope readers are too - Inner Fire will be in online bookstores by Christmas.

Critical success and good craft is just not enough. If I want to write full time - and I think I do - I need to earn more than ten weeks of groceries. I need to earn fifty-two weeks!

So I'm embarking on a new series of posts: How to make money from writing.

How to Make Money From Writing

These posts will be like a diary record of my successes and failures of turning an amazing hobby into a full-time business - that earns me enough that I can afford to write full time.

I'm going to give myself a stretch goal of one year, and just see what happens.

Feel free to join me on this venture. You can contact me through my Facebook page ( or on twitter @rlstedman

Sunday, 3 August 2014

War and Peace

This is a kind of interlude post - a ramble on today's events, before I move into a new series.

Today is the centenary of World War One. The New Zealand Government has poured a great deal of money into its commemoration, funding special exhibitions at Te Papa (the Museum of New Zealand), parades, fly-overs and other state occasions.

My grandfather served in World War One, but not as a combatant. Rather, he went as a conscientious objector - as a stretcher bearer.  Twenty-three when he was called up, he would not fight. Deeply religious, he followed the Bible. And the Bible said - 'You shall not kill.'

I think he would absolutely hate that state money is being spent on commemorating the blood-bath of WW1. I'm sure he would rather that the funding went to schools, hospitals, refugee re-settlement. My uncle, now in a rest home, told my father off for purchasing and wearing a poppy. 'Dad would be turning in his grave to see you wearing that.' It was kind of amusing to see my father look abashed.

Granddad was brave, so brave. At night he stood on the deck of the troop ship, watching the Southern Cross slip below the horizon and wondering would he ever see it again. Yet the other men that went, the men and women who fought and died only because their country demanded it - they were brave, too.

My father wrote a story about his father for my son - which sounds complicated, but really isn't - and I adapted it and sent it to the School Journal. It was published as a short story in 2012, and it's kind of cool to see children reading it and commenting on it online. A refreshing counterweight to the heroic commemorations funded by the state.

You can access teacher notes for this story here: Silas the Stretcher Bearer

When I hear of the conflicts in Gaza, in the Ukraine, in Sudan, I wish there were more people in the world like my Grandad.