June 27

The Myth of the Wealthy Author


The myth of the wealthy author has existed for many moons. With the dawn of the printing press, authorship suddenly became popularized and widespread rather than exclusive only to bald monks in a dank basement. Charles Dickens, of course, comes to mind as one of the first wealthy authors to appear in modern times. Dostoyevsky might have been wealthy, too, if he hadn’t been bad at managing his money.

Today, we have J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and James Patterson, among other popular authors who have made millions (though arguably some of these authors get great movie royalties, too). In pop culture, there’s also the “Lotto Winning Author” (i.e. Stephanie Meyer). These authors release one book that sells like hot cakes but then can’t replicate its success. They inevitably transition over to being a “producer” or “investor” now that they have all that sweet author lotto money.

With extreme tunnel vision, aspiring authors look at these shining golden examples as the rule rather than the exception. They think, “Well, if Stephanie Meyer can write an awful book and make millions, I can write a good book and make millions, right?” This is the thinking of a deluded gambling junkie. Delusions of grandeur always point toward the high pedestal of success and will blind you to the overwhelming truth – Most authors throughout time and space rest in a pauper’s grave. 

Non-authors know this very well. They see it clear as day. They pity people who think they’ll be a successful writer or author. Think about it, have you ever told someone you’re a “writer” and they gave you a grimace or a weird look? It’s because they know it’s akin to saying, “I’m broke.”

In other words, the myth of the wealthy author is a self-created myth. Aspiring authors conjured it to justify their hobby. Well, maybe one day I’ll be rich and famous off my writing, they think while they’re spending hours every day typing away to finish that novel. That’s the author myth. Yes, some authors do become wealthy from their writing but many, many do not. The odds that you will become wealthy on your writing is very slim.

I can readily admit this was my delusion when I started writing my first novel. I was convinced it was going to be a break-out hit. Even though I saw all these authors around me struggling with their own books, I bought into the lie that I would be different. Of course, I wasn’t. Not by a long shot. I was the same broke author that couldn’t sell a book to a fireplace.

“Well, that’s depressing,” you say, “why are you trying to crush my hopes and dreams?”

For one simple reason – Reality kills writing depression. 

Writing depression is similar to writer’s block, but with one key difference. It keeps you from writing indefinitely. Writer’s block can usually be broken while writer’s depression can’t. This depression is almost always bred from comparing yourself to others and having your head in the clouds. We all know what happens when you fly too close to the Sun.

If you want to keep writing and stave off the author myth, you need to do two things.

Check Your Ego At The Door

I am not a good writer. Anytime you think you’re the best thing since fidget spinners, say this to yourself. Kill that thought immediately. Your ego feeds the author myth until it becomes a plump fat baby monster that has no intent on leaving until it sees you fail miserably and fall into the depths. Kill it before it engorges itself on your pride.

Check Your Expectations At The Door

I will not make money. Tell yourself this when you think you’ll make money on something you write. Chance are you won’t. It might not feel good to think about that but it’s the truth.

Many authors think because they do the work they deserve money. The truth is you don’t deserve anything and your work is only as valuable as people say it is. That’s, unfortunately, how art works. An author isn’t a plumber that provides a service and expects to get paid for it. He’s an artist that puts things out there and shouldn’t expect anything. Only when people say, “This is really good,” will an author maybe get paid for it.

Good, even great, authors live and die broke. Kafka, H.P. Lovecraft, Flannery O’Connor, George MacDonald, and many other authors throughout time didn’t make much of anything on their writing and they’re tremendously gifted authors that influenced future writers. MacDonald influenced J.R.R Tolkien. Lovecraft influenced Stephen King. Kafka pretty much influenced every writer ever.

So, to conclude, the myth of the wealthy author is invented by you to motivate you to keep writing but will only bite you in the ass and thrust you into a horrible, mind-numbing depression of which you might never escape. The only way to stave this off is to get rid of your ego and expectations. Find a new motivation for writing if you want to keep writing because money only leads to the open jaws of a lion.


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