Yes, some self-published authors earn enough to write full-time. But even the top authors—self-published or otherwise—typically keep their day job before making publishing their sole career.
High-quality self-publishing requires investment up front, both money and time. Bestselling self-published authors hire other professionals to put out books that compete with traditional publishers, which means paying for editing, layout, design, and other services.
Finances aside, writing a book is a time-consuming affair, time that an author takes away from a career or leisure activities. On top of that, a debut book rarely earns enough money to sustain its author full-time. The top-earning self-published authors build up a catalog of titles, eventually building enough of a backlog to achieve full-time earnings.
So, unless you have another way of financially sustaining yourself—such as having a working partner or hefty savings—you may not want to quit your day job yet.
That said, you don’t have to view your day job as adversarial to your self-publishing job. Instead, you can see your day job as supplementing your publishing in both craft and business.
With this in mind, here are the common skills that many writers develop in other professions, then transfer to their writing.
Writing and communication
Yes, writing skills are a no-brainer for a writer, but not just for the typical reasons.
The obvious reason is that writing in any form improves novel writing. For instance, a journalist frequently incorporates storytelling into articles. The skill set to report a feature story about real-life daily events can be easily employed in a longer form, like a novel or memoir.
And even more technical types of writing can help one’s creativity. For example, a software documentation writer must learn how to convey clear information to the reader. Clarity helps tremendously with nonfiction and fiction.
And the skill of writing goes beyond the book. In most books, you learn how to communicate professionally with others, whether that’s coworkers or customers. That’s useful when you’re explaining to a freelance designer the exact cover you want or convincing a potential reader to buy your book.
If your day job involves planning out and following a complex line of steps to completion, then formally or otherwise, you’ve practiced being a project manager. A self-published novel being a project, that type of management comes to good use.
Like any entrepreneur, a career author must use project management to bring a novel to publication. Project management is integral to getting a book to a timely and thorough publication, whether creating the actual plan, carrying out the tasks, adjusting for unexpected events, or even coordinating with collaborators.
I have a more in-depth article on self-publishing marketing, so I’ll keep this section brief.
What’s handy about marketing is that the tools for promoting a project are universal. The same techniques you may use to sell a software solution to a business client will come to use for promoting your book to readers.
Layout and cover design
Most authors don’t have all the skills required to produce a book, so they must outsource those responsibilities. Fortunately, if you’re already professionally proficient with one of those skills, you can save money and even be more precise with your vision.
For instance, if you illustrate or design art for a living, you could create your own cover. Similarly, you can take other production competencies like layout or typography to give your book that extra shine. If you do professional voiceovers, you could even narrate your own audiobook!
Even if you intend to pay for a layout or cover designer, at least it’s useful to have a fundamental understanding of these areas. Knowing what’s possible and realistic about these production elements will help you better communicate with your collaborators and improve your chances of getting the desired results.
Many writers mine their real-life experiences for story material. It’s near-impossible to write genuine stories if you don’t have life experience, while a nonfiction writer ideally needs firsthand expertise with a nonfiction book topic.
If you have an interesting day job, it’s an excellent opportunity to write a story or nonfiction book about your profession. But even if you consider your work relatively mundane, there’s still much to mine from your life.
Even a pinch of verisimilitude makes a novel feel real, and even the most tedious jobs may bring you a memorable experience that becomes the origin of a pivotal scene.
And so forth . . .
I can continue to enumerate many other skills that you can bring over from your day job, but I hope you get the point.
Make the most of your experiences, and your writing and publishing endeavors will be all the more richer.
Over to you: What is your day job? What are some skills that you learn in your occupation that you can transfer to self-publishing?
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.