Sunday, June 30, 2019

What is it REALLY Like to be a Full Time Author?

Oh, the glamorous life of an author! Meeting with the intellectual and artistic elite in the cafés of Paris, dining with the rich and famous, the vacations on the Riviera, the wild champagne-fueled parties… and of course, running around solving murders like Richard Castle and Jessica Fletcher…

Not exactly.

I don’t know how those famous writers had time to get up to all those antics in the past (or even in fiction.)

But most writers today have no time to do any of that stuff.

Well, okay, my friend Catherine Ryan Hyde did fly off to Lapland a couple of years ago to have an adventure driving a dogsled and seeing the northern lights. But that was just for a week. Mostly she works a lot of hours and has her adventures on paper.

Just like me.

It's amazing how many people think authors have a lot of free time. Well, if they'd watched Castle or Murder She Wrote, they could be excused for thinking that. 

But the truth is my life is all about butt-in-chair in my office at 8 AM every morning (after stretching and eating a sensible breakfast.) I break for lunch and exercise at noon and work again from 2-5 and if I’m working on a deadline, probably back to work from 7-9. I try not to work past nine, or my brain is still generating ideas when I’m trying to sleep…not a good plan.

That’s seven days a week. Yes, I do take off time on weekends to be with other humans and sometimes go out and play. Catherine and I meet for Thai food at regular intervals and I get together with other writers in the local Sisters in Crime chapter and our local Nightwriters Club.
Jessica Fletcher only typed during the opening credits
Of course there are always the medical appointments and investment decisions and cleaning and cooking and shopping and other things that people do to keep ourselves alive in this increasingly complex world.

But mostly I work. A lot of that work is marketing: social media, answering emails (endless emails: when you have a popular blog, everybody on the planet wants something from you.) Then there’s writing posts for my two blogs, answering comments, and composing guest blogposts.

And some authors put out newsletters too. I draw the line there. I hate getting newsletters, so I don’t inflict them on my readers. It’s just as easy to subscribe to a blog, and a blog draws new readers, too.

And don’t forget personal appearances. And bookstore events and other local sales opportunities. Plus presentations at writers’ conferences and other workshops, which require a lot of preparation.

Then there’s the desperate slog of trying to get reviews…no, I don’t even want to go there. I’ve recently seen the statistic that most writers get one review for every 1500 sales. Sounds about right. Ack!

And then, of course we’re pressured to put out at least two books a year. I know some writers who put out six or seven.

But when I sit down to write, and characters and stories start to flow onto the page and the magic happens…then I realize it’s all worth it. It’s still one of the best jobs in the world.

Even without the Paris cafés.

What about you? Are you a full time writer? Do you hope to be one someday? 

Okay, I didn't tell the truth entirely. I did have some sort of exciting adventures as a writer. When I went to England to promote my book with my first publisher. Pretty wacky. I used the experience as fodder for the second Camilla book, Sherwood, Ltd


SHERWOOD, LTD: Camilla Mystery #2

Suddenly-homeless American manners expert Camilla Randall becomes a 21st century Maid Marian—living rough near the real Sherwood Forest with a band of outlaw English erotica publishers—led by a charming, self-styled Robin Hood who unfortunately may intend to kill her. When Camilla is invited to publish a book of her columns with UK publisher Peter Sherwood, she lands in a gritty criminal world—far from the Merrie Olde England she envisions. The staff are ex-cons and the erotica is kinky. Hungry and penniless, she camps in a Wendy House built from pallets of porn while battling an epic flood, a mendacious American Renfaire wench, and the mysterious killer who may be Peter himself.

Sherwood, Ltd. is available in ebook from all the Amazons and SmashwordsAnd in paper from Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Sample Reviews:

"A wily tale of murder, deceit, and intrigue that can stand with the best of them. Her characters are all too real and her dialogue took me from laughter to chills" David Keith on Smashwords

"Smartly written and nearly impossible to put down, I found myself counting the hours until I could leave work and get back to reading! Well done!" T.L. Ingham on Smashwords

I've just finished Sherwood Ltd and I loved every scabrous word. It's an hilarious lampoon of crime fiction, publishing and the British in general. Anne Allen gets our Brit idioms and absurdities dead to rights. Whether you enjoy crime suspense, comedy or satire - or all of them together - you'll have enormous fun with this cleverly structured romp. Highly recommended!...Dr. John Yeoman

This piece, in slightly different form, first appeared on the blog of South African author Ronel Vanse Van Vuuren in April 2018.


  1. Boy, could I relate, Anne! I'm at my desk seven days per week. I take breaks from social media here and there, but that's because I'm focused on something else (blogging, writing, research). I do, however, shutdown every day at six p.m. to spend time with the hubby. I wish working writers had even half the glamorous life folks think we have!

    1. Sue--I think most successful authors have planned "downtime" when we socialize and do the peopley things that people need to do. Writers who try to follow the "rules" that now say we should turn out a book every two months burn out in a pretty short time.

      Even so, there's very little time for flying to Paris and sitting around in cafes looking fabulous. I figure I make about 2c an hour if you really factor in all the time I put into my writing career. But hey, it's still worth it, isn't it?

  2. Here's a comment from Ruth Harris. Unfortunately, Blogger is blocking comments from people who have Blogger blogs. Some kind of weird glitch that may kill off this platform entirely. Very sad.

    "So fab! So glam! lol

    My schedule is a lot like yours.

    Except that, like Sue, I stop at 6PM. For the same reason—and because
    it takes me that long to wind down. Even so, I wake at 2AM with plot &
    characters spilling through my mind.

    Yep. Seven days a week. Champagne and bonbons all the way!"

    Ruth Harris