Lost Your Job in High Tech? Make Good Money Writing Science Fiction!

by Nancy Jane Moore

In my day job, I’m a reporter, so I get lots of emailed press releases, many of them irrelevant to my work and some just a step above spam.

In the latter category are announcements from a publicist who promotes a lot of books and authors. I suspect the publicist just adds every reporter and editor it can find to its notification list, without any effort to make sure that the list will be valuable to its clients or useful to the journalists.

It’s spam, but it’s harmless spam, easy to delete. And every once in awhile, it’s entertaining. For example, the other day I got an email entitled:

Growing Sci-Fi Market Is A Perfect Fit for Jobless Techies

My first response? ROFLOL

The body of the email was an article offered for free publication. It included a quote from someone in publishing that science fiction was among the fastest growing ebook categories. (That may be true, but I’d guess SF ebooks trail erotica and romance in numbers published, not to mention sales.)

The free article was intended to promote a book and an author. Since I’m still laughing at it, I won’t give the guy’s name and book, but I will say I couldn’t find him in the SFWA directory. He appears to be an indie author.

Now I’m not mocking indie authors. I agree with a lot of what Kelly McClymer said last week on this blog about what’s going on with publishers. While all writers need good editors, the methods of both gatekeeping and distribution are in flux, and I think we’ll get some good books out of it, books that would never have made it past a traditional publisher.

But the idea someone could easily earn enough from writing science fiction to replace the income from a job in high tech is flat absurd, and it’s doubly absurd if that person is a new writer.  Yes, there are established SF writers who make good livings, but there are also a large number of good writers with excellent reputations who eat because they have day jobs or employed spouses, and others who live very close to the bone. SFWA raises money to run an emergency medical fund because many writers can’t afford health insurance.

I do know people making their main living as indie writers, but most of them had a publishing history and a fan base to begin with. And as near as I can tell, the best genre for earning money this way is erotica. Plus none of them are getting rich yet.

If you’ve been laid off from your job and have always wanted to write (or paint or play music or invent things), it’s a great time to try it. It’ll help keep you from getting depressed by the job search, especially during this period Paul Krugman calls the “Lesser Depression” in which jobs can be hard to come by.

If you were already writing (or painting etc.) on the side from your day job, it would certainly make sense to ramp up your artistic career as a response to a lay off, with indie publishing being one good avenue to try.

But even if you’re a very smart techie, don’t assume you can jump into science fiction and make a living if you weren’t a writer already. I hate to break this news to you, but writing fiction is hard work and it takes time to get good at it.

Overnight success in the writing business (traditional or indie) is like being discovered in Hollywood: It’s usually preceded by many years of hard work.

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Flashes of IlluminationFlashes of Illumination, a collection of my short-short fiction, is now available here from Book View Cafe. This 52-story ebook collects the flash fiction I published weekly during the first year of Book View Cafe, and adds in a few later stories as well.

My novella Changeling remains available as an ebook through Book View Cafe. It’s a coming of age story.

Both books are $2.99 and available in four DRM-free formats: mobi, epub, prc, and pdf.

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Lost Your Job in High Tech? Make Good Money Writing Science Fiction! — 5 Comments

  1. Years ago I taught a writing course, and when I did the usual “what do you want to get from this class” intro spiel, one young woman told the class that she was an actress, and wasn’t making enough to live on, so she thought she’d support herself by writing.

    I picked myself up from the floor and told her why she might want to rethink the strategy. I note she did not come back after the break.

  2. Pardon me while I die laughing… I’m a freelance IT writer. I also write fantasy and science fiction. Guess which one pays the bills.

    What makes this even funnier to me is that the other job being touted to all those poor jobless techies is IT writer, for the same reasons. After all, you’ve got the technical knowledge, you don’t need any skill to write about it.

    Writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, is not easy. If you want to succeed you have to approach it as professionally as you would a “real” job because guess what, it IS a real job. But the rewards are well worth it.

  3. Bwahaha! This is hysterical. I am going to share it with my class at the Writers Center. It would be like me saying to Nancy, “We have lost our hi-tech jobs! Let’s go become a quarterback for the Washington Redskins!”

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