Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Am I There Yet?
by Brian Plante

Some of you reading this may look at my bibliography and conclude that I am a professional writer. Oh, how na´ve you are. I look back on the body of work I have produced, and think what a spectacular underachiever I have been.

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Of America, SFWA, of which I am an active member, have a set of rules that determine if a writer is considered a "professional" and thus allowed to become an active member. To be accepted as a pro, the author must have sold one novel or three shorter works at "professional" rates. Currently, the pro rate is three cents a word or better. Once accepted into the ranks of SFWA, the author remains an active member as long as he continues paying the annual dues.

My dictionary tells me a professional is "one who earns a living in a given or implied occupation." Three cents a word is not a lot of money, and a short story writer like me would have to sell an awful lot of stories at that rate to make even a modest living at it.

The better science fiction markets pay a bit more than three cents a word, and a very few pay significantly more. Alas, there are precious few of these markets, and the competition for the slots in these markets is fierce. There are a lot of secondary markets, but most of them pay less than pro rate. Now that I'm a "pro" writer, I only send to the pro markets, and just a few of the secondary markets that interest me.

Of course, I have a day job, and I'd have to be nuts at this point to quit it to write full time. Even if I became much more successful than I am now, the writing income would be quite a bit less than I make working in the computer field.

So writing science fiction, fantasy and horror is more of a avocation than a career at this point. I enjoy writing and wish it were my main source of income, but I am a realist. I have a wife, two children and a mortgage to support. I'm skilled at computer work and it pays a lot better than science fiction. If my writing income ever approaches what I can make at my day job, I might consider going full time, but don't hold your breath. For the foreseeable future, I'm just a working stiff who moonlights occasionally with his word processor.

But some of you reading this are beginning writers and may think I've done pretty well so far. I don't mean to discourage anyone, but success in the science fiction field isn't likely to make you rich or famous outside of a modest circle of dedicated fans and writers. Only a relatively few SF/F/H authors actually make a comfortable living at this.

So, yeah, I'm a "pro" writer, but it's not as impressive as I thought it would be when I first started writing. I have a long way to go before I meet the dictionary definition of "professional."

No, I'm not there yet.

Copyright © 2001 Brian Plante Count=5421

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