By the Way, I Have

RECENTLY BEEN PUSHING as a source of authority author/publisher/editor Dean Wesley Smith. I have to admit, before I read of him in Sarah Hoyt’s blog posts, I’d never heard of him. However, once referred, I went and saw for myself. (So should you.) And I got sucked in.

Part of it, I’m sure is due to confirmation bias. DWS is saying things — and dissecting old publishing shibboleths — that I have thought for years.

Back when I was involved as a sysop on CompuServe, I worked with the science fiction author Jack L. Chalker, who filled me up with a lot of lore about the writing and publishing game, including the canard that there were no more than 3,000 (number varies) fiction writers in the U.S. who earned a full-time living at it. I’ve heard that one retailed many, many times since.

This myth “You can’t make a living writing fiction” is so clearly hogwash, I shouldn’t have to include it as a chapter in this book. All anyone has to do is look at a certain fantasy writer in England being richer than the Queen. And the number of fiction writers on the Forbes List every year. And that’s not counting all the writers publishing their sales numbers each month just from Kindle alone.

So what about when you hear this myth spouted by a big name bestseller? I heard a New York Times bestseller in a keynote speech once tell 500 people there were only two hundred people in the nation making a living at fiction. Kris and I almost fell out of our chairs laughing, but we were just about the only people in the room laughing. Everyone else thought he was right. As it happens, I’m sitting next to him on a panel the very next hour, so as we were talking, I turned to him and said, “You know that 200 number is totally wrong.”

He look sort of stunned and said, “That’s what I had always heard.” (The myth hits again and is repeated by big-name writer who is making millions.)

I said, “If that’s the case, then don’t you find it pretty amazing that there are seven of the two hundred on this one panel?”

He looked down the panel at the seven of us, all full-time fiction writers sitting on the panel. Then I asked the 100 people in the room how many were writers making at least $80,000 per year with their fiction writing. Five more people, two of whom I recognized, raised their hands. Twelve of us in the same room at a writer’s convention. That stunned the keynote speaker, let me tell you, and we ended up spending the entire panel talking about this myth. And where that 200 number came from in the myth.

– DWS, from Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing

Which is all very well, but, since — as I said in this post — it’s raining soup, how do you get your hands on a bucket?

And — here’s my point — DWS is out to tell you at the very least how to figure that out. He’s writing a book, and posting it free on his blog. It starts here. RTWT. Or, not — at your own peril.

Cross-posted at Musings of an Indie Writer.

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