Writing As a Career Builder – What Are the Payoffs?

I've been a professional writer for 35 years and have published 15 books, thousands of articles, and a decade of monthly columns. They've been a great career booster, creating a steady stream of clients and invitations to lecture and speak at conferences.

When I was about to start my third book, an old friend came to town – a highly successful man with a stock portfolio as long as your arm. "Tell me," he asked over the expensive lunch he treated me to, "Writing books – is it cost effective?"

Of course, I laughed (somewhat hysterically), and so did the carefully selected friends I repeated it to. However, the question has stuck with me over the years, and it's one you'll want to ponder if you're thinking of doing a book. The unambiguous answer I've come up with, after years of observing the creative process and its results, is, "yes and no."

If you're talking about direct financial payback, no, it's NOT particularly cost effective. The author generally earns less than a dollar royalty per hard copy sold, except for the ones you sell yourself, and there you get 40% of the cover cost but no royalty. If it's a hard copy book from a publisher, the first payment does not arrive until a year or longer after you complete the hard work of writing the book, unless you get an advance on royalties. With an ebook, you get 100% of the royalties if you are marketing it yourself from your own website, or generally 50% if it is marketed elsewhere.

Writing IS extremely cost-effective in other ways, however. There are the indirect rewards of creative self-fulfillment, the pride of seeing your work in print, the sense of contributing to the field, and the satisfaction of knowing that your ideas are reaching and helping people you'll never meet. If it's a good book, you enjoy increased prestige and respect from your collections and readers.

Not bottom line enough? I have also had many more tangible but indirect rewards, although there's no guarantee that everyone who publishes a book will do as well. Because of my publications, I've been invited to speak at conferences and to lead seminars around the world. There have been five all-fee-paid, one-month trips to Europe, three to Brazil, and a month in Australia. Without the books, none of these groups would have heard of me. A well-received work can be an entree into speaking at conferences. It's not the only way-some of our finest and most popular speakers have yet to write a word and are still invited to speak abroad.

And, no, as my wealthy friend would point out, the trips were not cost-effective either, because of the income lost during those months away. However, the chance to travel and to meet astrology lovers all over the world is a priceless reward. Another indirect benefit has been the clients who came after reading my books-satisfying, astrologically sophisticated, insightful folks who were attracted to my way of thinking. Since Healing Pluto Problems was published in 1986, in particular, many astrology and healing clients came because of reading it. Many of them were Plutonians who had suffered the kinds of abuse or trauma it discussed.

If it does not make you rich, why do it? I do it because it's what I must do, because writing is as much a part of me as astrology. I write because I learn so much in the process-ideas come together in new ways, and unexpected insights and understandings spring onto the computer screen and amaze me. Often I write because I am impelled to do so, because there is some message I need to get across to people in my field. If you decide to write books or articles, you might also find that writing challenges you to develop your mind further and to express your experience, wisdom, and beliefs with a new clarity that can not help but spill over into your teaching and client work . First and foremost, writing is communication. Writing can be wonderfully stimulating and self-affirming, a voyage of discovery about yourself and your topic.

Since book advances were never enough to meet living expenses for the many months devoted to writing the books, I've developed pay-as-you-go strategies, so that the work earned money in other ways. The trick is to waste no effort-I make sure each lecture, class, or seminar I develop will fit into a book I am working on. This article, for instance, is part of a book in development on writing for astrological and metaphysical markets. Apart from my advice column in Dell, my rule is to write nothing that does not serve at least two purposes-typically as an article or online offering as well as a chapter in a forthcoming book. This system also provides immediate rewards in terms of both feedback and income, the applause sustaining you through the solvency and often lonely work of writing.

Note: This article is an excerpt from Donna Cunningham's booklet of writing tips, the text for her writing writing seminars for people who want to write about astrology and healing.

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