Is it possible to make a full time living writing for magazines? If so, how?
I started writing for womags after joining an Adult Education class called Writing for Profit and Pleasure. The teacher was Jean Dynes (she writes as Barbara Dynes – see her column in Writers’ Forum.) In that first class, back in September 1987, Jean asked if there was any news.
A girl in the row in front, put up her hand and said, ‘I’ve just sold my 27th story this year to Loving Magazine.’
Wow, I thought. I want to sell a story. Just one would do. (ho ho, little did I know how addictive it was). But how was it done?
By researching the markets, I learned, which meant reading the magazine. So off I went to buy a copy of Loving, which I read from cover to cover, several times. They bought the 3rd story I sent. Then the 4th, then the 5th. I was on the verge of giving up the day job when they rejected the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th.
We all know how it works. There are far more rejections in this business than successes
It’s always been like that for me. It still is. And blimey the market is much harder than it was. Back in 1987 there were 100 plus womags that carried fiction. In 2000, which was when I did finally give up the day job to write full time, there were 21 markets. Everyone said it was impossible to write short stories for a living.
It wasn’t! But back to my original question.
Is it impossible now? When there are a handful of magazines that still take stories from writers (who aren’t on their list). I think sadly that it may be. There are just too many of us out here. I know so many fabulous writers who get their stories rejected because there are only so many slots. So can we still follow the dream of being a full time writer?
I once heard a brilliant quote from Linda O Byrne, who at the time was fiction editor of Bella magazine. She said, ‘Don’t give up. There is always a market for excellence.’
The truth is, I came on to Womag today, thank you, Patsy, to talk about my novel, The Reading Group, which is out in paperback, audio and kindle on 2nd November. But I find myself being sidetracked because I feel so passionately about writing.
I’ve been a full time writer for 17 years. Here’s how I do it. I write short stories for the remaining markets. I am the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. I have several self published books on Amazon which earn me £200 plus a month. I do some journalism. I do the odd spot of teaching. The Reading Group is coming out with a huge publisher (Quercus is part of the Hachette Group) but I wasn’t paid a living wage (advance) to write it. In short, I diversify. My income is made up of lots of bits of writing related work.
I live in hope of having a best selling novel that will mean I don’t have to worry about money so much.
The bottom line is that I love writing. I can’t stop. I won’t stop. I think Linda O Byrne’s advice still holds true. Don’t give up. There is always a market for excellence. I don’t think I’ve quite reached excellence yet – but I shall never, ever give up aiming for it.
The Reading Group is published by Quercus. Click here to buy/find out more.
£7.99 (paperback) £3.99 (kindle)