Do You Want To Make Millions? The Business Of Writing A Novel

January 19, 2008

From marketing letters, writing web pages, to blogging - a large part of a business owners day is often consumed with writing.

Have you ever wanted to use that skill to do something more creative, such as writing a novel?

Novel writing is big business. After JK Rowling soared to success with her first Harry Potter book, it seemed that every other person I met was writing a children’s book. And publishers were flooded with manuscripts for children’s books.

But, is it really all that easy? And do you have the chance to make millions from writing a novel? Or is there a risk that you could spend the best part of your life on a diet of cabbage soup and hand me down clothes?

Check out the following facts to decide whether novel writing is for you:

Can You Make Money From Writing A Novel?

The average advance for a first novel is $7500 (£3750) - You could easily find yourself working for well below the minimum wage.

Many novels don’t sell enough copies to cover the advance - That means you won’t get any additional cash.

Some authors do make millions - JK Rowling, Danielle Steel, John Grisham etc: But as in any other business, it’s the small percentage at the top that make the biggest percentage of the cash.

How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel?

“Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.”
–Richard Curtis

Alexandre Dumas wrote Le Supplice D’Une Femme in an astonishing 3 days.

Donna Tartt took ten years to write The Little Friend. However, she admits that she is a slow writer. Her first novel, The Secret History took her 8 years to write.

Can I take A Novel Writing Course?

In the UK - the Arvon Foundation runs a wide range of excellent courses. Arvon begin taking bookings early January each year, and the courses sell out quickly.

In New York and Online: WritingClasses.Com

Recommended Reading

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
Stein On Writing - Sol Stein
Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
Movies In The Mind - by Colleen Mariah Rae
Becoming A Writer - Dorothea Brande

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21 Responses to “Do You Want To Make Millions? The Business Of Writing A Novel”

  1. Mike Goad on January 19th, 2008 2:18 am

    I figured out a long time ago that writing a novel, or even a non-fiction book, is a lot of work with a lot of competition and small likelihood of getting published. Sure, I’ve thought about it, and even have started writing a couple of times. However, I didn’t have the dedication to get it done. I’m too easily distracted by other things, plus, I had the disadvantage of having a job where I made a comfortable living. No regrets here, though, especially now that I can write all that I want to and even have a few regular readers!

    Mike Goad’s last blog post..Quilt top just about ready to go on the quilting frame

  2. Mrs. Micah on January 19th, 2008 2:38 am

    I’d like to do this, but it’ll have to be either over a long time because I don’t have the time to concentrate on it, over a really short time like Dumas, or later in my life when I’m more financially free. Hopefully I’ll at least get started soon.

    I don’t plan to earn a lot, but I’d love to get into it… :)

  3. cathlawson on January 19th, 2008 2:38 am
    Hi Mike - very true, there is so much competition. But, I think it’s like that in any profession - it’s only the top few that make much.

    That’s what I like about the internet too - instant publication. It’s sort of like having your own mini magazine isn’t it?

  4. cathlawson on January 19th, 2008 2:41 am
    Mrs M - at the speed you write, not to mention the quality of some of your posts, I have a feeling you could write just as quickly as Dumas.

    I have written a few novels in the past, but I didn’t feel they were worthy of publishing. I enjoyed practising though.

  5. Ian Denny on January 19th, 2008 6:44 am

    I am tempted to write a book.

    But suspect I like the discipline to see it through. I get too easily distracted by writing.

    Perhaps blogs are the refuge of frustrated writers? Those who want the gratification from writing, but are put off by the length and frustration of finding and waiting for a publisher?

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Stumbled Upon Insight: The Life-Raft Of Business Turnaround Or Short Cut To A Better Ship?

  6. cathlawson on January 19th, 2008 9:24 am
    Hi Ian - I tried to email you yesterday, but aol mail just kept - not responding. Will catch you later.

    I think you are right - and many people probably do blog because they genuinely like writing.

    And I should imagine many people would be put off trying to find a publisher - I suppose a lot of it is to do with the rejection part.

    Also, I suppose writing a novel is a long process. In my previous attempts, I wound up losing interest in the story. Apparently that happens a lot.

    Talking of books though Ian - did you mean a novel or a non-fiction book?

    If it’s non-fiction - you don’t have to write the whole book before you approach publishers, which saves a lot of time.

    By the way - I have had a change of heart about our friends slamming blog. The guy who got slammed this morning really deserved it.

    Honestly, he was the type of person who should be shot at birth. If it was me - I would have given him a far harder slamming.

    I bet you will agree when you see his site.

  7. Ian Denny on January 19th, 2008 9:50 am

    I’d probably write about small business issues - starting, marketing, finance, planning, managing staff, outsourcing, coping with it etc.

    But I’m sure you’ve already written if you cut and paste your blog posts together!

    I’ll take a look at the other blog later. You’re probably right to have changed your mind about the slamming bloke - does appear to have a fun element.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Stumbled Upon Insight: The Life-Raft Of Business Turnaround Or Short Cut To A Better Ship?

  8. John on January 19th, 2008 1:54 pm

    Excellent advice. I am considering writing the next great American novel when I find some time.

    John’s last blog post..Day 12 of Our Friendly Wager?

  9. cathlawson on January 19th, 2008 5:23 pm
    Hi Ian - I think you mentioned that before, but I’d feel a bit of a cheat just using all my blog posts. And I had written quite a lot of it already - then I decided I didn’t like the angle I’d approached it from!

    Just do a query and synopsis and try to get an agent to read your first three chapters. Really - you don’t even need to start writing the three chapters until you get a reply. But, I suppose you could wind up putting yourself under a lot of pressure.

    Hi John - Thanks for dropping by. You also seem to have written quite a bit of stuff in the past, then abandoned it.

    I love the lines you have written here:

  10. Amy Sterling Casil on January 19th, 2008 9:59 pm

    I’d like to enable CommentLuv! I’ll be looking for how to do it this evening.

    This is an excellent blog, Catherine! I just wanted to say that I’ve been writing for ten years now professionally. I’ve only recently begun to take my fiction writing seriously, using the skills I’ve gathered in a successful business career. Thanks for the input and guidance. Keep up the great work!

    Amy Sterling Casil’s last blog post..If the Teepee’s A-Rockin’ . . . Cassie Edwards’ Mistake

  11. cathlawson on January 19th, 2008 11:25 pm
    Hi Amy - Thanks for dropping by. If you didn’t manage to find Comment Luv, you can get the plug in from:

    Thank you very much for the kind comments.

    I’m glad that you are now enjoying writing fiction. Fiction is so much harder than non-fiction isn’t it? It requires so much more editing.

  12. on January 20th, 2008 4:18 am

    Writing is a fascinating art form allowing people to share various cultures, ideas, testimonies, fiction, fact, etc.! It’s basically what keeps history going! I love to write more than I ever did as a youngster. I believe that great writers can summons their art form at will without any institutionalized training. Why? Because most people who can write kick ass novels read many books at lightning speeds and therefor are consumed with authoring.’s last blog post..Russian movie viewers can now flock to Moscow Flix website for renting russian DVD’s

  13. cathlawson on January 20th, 2008 2:31 pm
    Hi Dwayne - I wish I could write fiction quickly. It amazes me how some people can churn out a novel at lightening speed - but I’m guessing they are quite rare.

    I seem to spend more time editing the same paragraphs over and over. But I like doing that as you can have fun experimenting.

    The trouble is many people read a book and assume that all those wonderful sentences flowed freely out of the authors imagination onto paper like magic. But the truth is, most of them need to edit their work several times.

    Not all great writers attend courses. But, at the Arvon ones I mentioned, all the tutors are published writers. And this year, over 40 of the tutors are former Arvon students, so they must be doing something right.

  14. Barbara on January 21st, 2008 5:23 am

    Hi Catherine,

    Hmmmmmmm! A book? Years ago a friend and I challenged each other on writing. She ended up finishing a rough manuscript, me……a couple of chapters. It was fun, but then life took me down a different path.

    What about ebooks? Is there any money in those? Or are they too easy to pass on/forward? I would guess they would take less money to “publish”…or is that the word for the release of an ebook?

    Barbara’s last blog post..Wife Sues Husband’s Blog For Alienation of Affection

  15. cathlawson on January 21st, 2008 6:04 am
    Hi Barbara. I think ebooks are great for non-fiction, but I’ve never read a novel in ebook form.

    I suppose anyone can publish an ebook - it is faster and cheap to do.

    It’s funny you should mention this, but Problogger just interviewed some ebook writers. I think the title was something like How To Be A Rock Star Elancer.

    They gave some rough figures on the sum they had made from the book so far and they seem to be doing well.

    The passing on/forwarding thing is an interesting question. There is the danger that people would share an ebook instead of buying there own copy, but I did see some software over on marketing tips that would prevent people from doing so.

    Now - I’m not sure if publishing is the right word for an ebook or not. I guess, I would call it a “release” but I may be wrong.

  16. Adword Affiliate on February 24th, 2008 2:56 am

    Writing, Blogging etc is like everything in life unless you come up with a real unique concept it’s hard to make a lot of money straight off the bat….

    It does take hard work, the ability to build up a brand (or in the case of a novelist a character or series). But it’ll pay off eventually.

    Adword Affiliate’s last blog post..Profit Lance Review

  17. Junior on April 20th, 2008 9:41 pm

    Is there a prerequisite to writing a novel?

    Junior’s last blog post..What to Look for in an Affiliate Program before Joining

  18. Eligio on June 11th, 2008 1:24 am

    writing a children’s book is the easiest, they can appreciate any fairytale, animals, magic, adventure type of books, etc. Novel is different path which more serious and it need a lot of brainstorming idea.

  19. cathlawson on June 11th, 2008 4:40 am

    Hi Eligio - Did you know that publishers are inundated with poorly written childrens books because people think that writing them is easy?

    When I think of some of the excellent children’s books I’ve read, I often wonder how the authors got their amazing ideas. And I’m betting that most adults just wouldn’t have the imagination to write a good one.

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