Making Money Writing Fiction
by Ron Kurtus (revised 17 May 2012)
Although many people like to write fiction, few are able to get paid for their efforts.
Fiction writing includes the writing of short stories, novels, screenplays, television stories and stage plays. Besides being creative and having good writing skills, as well as having the perseverance to complete a work of fiction, you must be able to find places to get your work published. Your work also should be of sufficient value to the publisher that you will get paid for your work.
In order to make money selling fiction, your work must show potential to make money to a publisher or producer, in order for them to invest in the project.
Having potential means it must be something that will not only appeal to the audience, but it will also be engrossing to them. In the 1960s, stories, TV shows and movies about the Old West were sellers. Today, no one is interested. Also, some fiction is so well-written that it is called a "page-turner" in that once you start reading, you can't stop.
A fiction writer can sell his or her work independently, or in some cases can get a staff job as a writer.
Questions you may have include:
- What is creating value in fiction?
- What markets are there for independent fiction writers?
- Where can I get a job writing fiction?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Publishing is a business. Publishers, as well as TV and screen producers want to make money.
Before you start to write fiction for money, you must realize that the material must be good enough that someone would want to pay for the chance to read it. You should ask yourself, "Is this good enough that a publisher (or producer) would spend thousands or dollars to publish?"
A book publisher is taking a risk of spending a considerable amount of money to publish a piece of fiction that may not sell. They make money on less than 25% of the books they publish. A movie producer may be spending $10 million on a movie based on someone's script.
So, your material must be good and have value before someone will take a chance at spending money to publish it.
A story that the reader can't put down is one that could inspire a publisher to see the potential book sales. The same must be true for a script. Sometimes the writer must pitch the idea to get the publisher, agent or producer excited about the potential of the work.
Markets for independent writers
Most fiction writers work independently or freelance. Buyers of fiction typically include magazines, book publishers and movie studios. There are also some new Internet options where you can sell your fiction.
Television production companies will look at original scripts for their shows, but they seldom--if ever--purchase such material.
Some writers have tried self-publishing books or pamphlets. Poets have been the most successful in this method. I don't know of any self-published fictional books that have made money.
Horror writer Steven King recently released a book on the Internet. There was a small charge for his e-book, and it did seem somewhat successful.
Getting hired to write fiction
Some magazines have a staff of fiction writers. Movie production companies often hire writers to re-work original scripts. Television production companies all use staff writers to write their shows.
You can sell your fiction to publishers and producers or try to self-publish, if you want to be an independent fiction writer. There are jobs available as a staff writer at magazines and at movie and TV studios.
Get what you want by helping others get what they want
Resources and references
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