The Path to Fame and Fortune

We have been known to offer unsolicited advice on this site. In this case, it’s advice on writing fiction for fame and fortune.


Yah, I realize that you’re not going to take this advice. Didn’t expect you to. I mention it only so that you don’t blame me if fame and fortune eludes you. The credit if you do make money writing fiction is entirely yours.

Still, there are thousands of authors making a significant amount of money from writing fiction, so it’s not an impossible dream. The thing is that there are tens of thousands who aren’t, not to mention thousands who are spending a significant amount of money in indie publishing chasing that dream and not making the money back. The odds of finding fame and fortune in writing fiction have never been good, and they’re no better today, no matter what path you take.

There may’ve been a time, early in the ebook revolution, when a writer had a better chance of making significant money in indie publishing than in traditional publishing, but those days are long gone. Self publishing has its own gatekeepers now – Amazon’s algorithms that reward the best sellers with visibility, and the best selling authors who protect their turf by spending thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars, promoting their books to potential readers on Amazon and Facebook. You have to be able and willing to pay to play in indie publishing these days for even the chance to make money writing.

The long and short of writing is that you have two equally daunting paths to fame and fortune. This suggests that the path you choose might be best chosen by determining the type of writer you are. Are you a novelist, or a pulpster?

Indie publishing is the pulp market of the 21st century. To be financially successful in indie publishing, you need to be a pulp writer. You need to be a very prolific writer, someone with more story ideas than you’ve time to write them down. And you need to be able to turn those story ideas into stories at 2,000 words, or more, a day, in order to produce three or more novels a year. You will also need to be an entrepreneur. You’ll need to spend money to hire cover artists and editors before your book ever has a chance to earn any of it back. You’ll need to learn the arcane art of efficiently promoting your books and be willing to spend folding money to do so. If you’re good enough, you can find fortune in indie publishing, though probably not fame.

If you’re not a pulp writer and/or an entrepreneur, if you need a year or more to write a novel, then you might be wise to pursue a career in traditional publishing – along with ten thousand other aspiring authors. Traditional publishing has its own arcane knowledge that you’ll need to master – how to do an elevator pitch, write a query letter, and compose a concise synopsis. You need to research agents, and maybe enter pitch contests and the like. Plus, it may well take several novels, hundreds of rejections or no replies, and a decade or more of your life in querying hell to sell a novel, if you’re lucky. On the upside, you don’t have to spend money on postage these days to send out your letters and manuscripts, though you can spend money on coaches and seminars, if you choose to. Both fame and fortune await your success. And there’s always indie publishing if all else fails.

Writing fiction has never been a smart way of making money, though that hasn’t stopped writers from trying their hand at it. And it probably won’t stop you either. But I believe that odds of financial success are pretty even between traditional and indie publishing these days, so that you can confidently pursue the publishing path you’re most comfortable with without looking back over your shoulder at the path not taken.


  1. Well said, Chuck. I think the two options come out about the same financially, but indie publishing is a sure thing for those who just want their writing to be available to readers. It has its own set of options for spending of money and time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chucklitka says:

      I’m certainly not writing for fame and fortune, so Indie publishing has worked for me. That said, if I actually finish my novel-in-progress, and think it’s good, I’m thinking of following my own advice and shopping it around to traditional publishers for a while, just to, you know, see if…

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good for you! I’m so far out of the state of mind needed for that process, it would take a lot to motivate me.


  2. kingmidget says:

    You get a lot of things right in this piece. For instance, it seems the only real way to make any money in indie publishing is to publish. A lot. And also to write in one of the few genres where people accept indie work. Like romance and erotica and, well, genres that I’m not much interested in writing. But, there’s that volume issue. I thought I’d be able to write and publish a novel a year. Well, that didn’t happen and, as you point out, that probably wouldn’t have been enough.

    I never expected to get rich and famous with writing, but I did hope to make at something. Some amount that might pay for a vacation every year or someting like that. It certainly hasn’t worked out that way.

    So, why do I write? Well, that’s an excellent question. A lot of days I’m not sure, which is why I don’t write anywhere near as much as I should, or want. I’m still trying to figure out the answer to that question.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. chucklitka says:

      It does get discouraging. Since I give away my books, when possible, I’m used to moving a fair number of books each month, but none of my newer books do anywhere near the business my older books once did on Smashwords and Amazon. However, thanks to Google, I had my best year yet, so I shouldn’t be complaining, and yet… It just seems that the handwriting is on the wall, especially for new writers. Perhaps talking about expectations and discouragement would be good subject to explore on this site in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

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