Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Is it worth it?

When the lovely and indomitable Tracy Barrett asked me to write a post for her blog about giving up your day job to write full time…well…I had a number of first thoughts.

The first being…give up? Give up my day job? I didn’t give up my day job. I left it at a run, cheering my head off. Quitting my corporate (soul sucking drudgery) day job (as a UI Web Development Manager for AT&T Labs) was the best thing I ever did. Okay, maybe not the very best thing as that sacred spot should be reserved for things like marriage and having a child, but definitely one of the best things. Ever.

Except, you know, for the paycheck thing.

I had been around the industry enough through my years doing occasional freelance work and founding YA Books Central that I knew writing was not the fast or easy way to the big bucks. That, in fact, the big bucks more than likely would never come even if I did get published. My modest hope was that I could make enough from my writing that I could justify continuing to write—perhaps not just to myself, but to my husband. After all, it was only through his largesse (and good job) that I was able to write full time anyway.

Well, fast forward roughly five years later and I’ve had two books published with a third on the way (Cat Girl’s Day Off, Spring 2012). We’ve also moved three times, including last year’s international move to London, England. And we had a baby, who is now most definitely a little boy—he’s started school (okay, it’s more like nursery and it’s just half days…he is only three and a half, but it’s still like writing time on a platter)!

My first two books have been translated into multiple languages (Spanish, Czech, Croatian, and French). They’ve been awarded some nice honors (like a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers). I get some (amazingly lovely) fan mail pretty much every day from all over the world. I’m on my third agent (having sold the first book without one at all) and I’m working on an entirely new YA (not funny, but kind of a creepy paranormal) novel now.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

But the big bucks? Um.

It’s depressing, but I have to admit that I’m still making less as an author than I did on my first (rather crappy) job out of college. Actually, I might be making less than my first job during college. And a lot of writers are in that same boat.  It’s definitely not unusual, especially when you get paid so infrequently, not to mention we’re in the middle of a huge change in the market. E-books, E-readers, Indie Authors Everywhere….Oh my!

So, for those of you reading this and wondering if you should take the plunge…yes, it can absolutely be the best thing in the world. But plan for it to take a long time before you are earning a comfortable amount of money (or have a really great spouse who makes enough to support the family). Me, I probably really did it backwards by quitting before getting established. It’s a hard choice as you obviously have more time to write without the day job (though time has a mysterious way of disappearing once you have a child…in fact, I should probably say I’m a full-time mother and part-time author if I’m being honest because there’s really no alternative when you have a toddler in the house).

Ultimately, I don’t regret it and would still leave my (high paying *sniff*) day job in a minute. Should you do the same? Only you can answer that.

P.S. I really hope I don’t sound too doom and gloom. Being a writer is the best thing ever (okay, after marriage and having a baby).

Kimberly Pauley is the author of the award-winning Sucks to Be Me, which was honored on the YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. The sequel, Still Sucks to Be Me, was listed on the VOYA Best Science Fiction Fantasy List of 2010. Born in California, she has lived everywhere from Florida to Chicago and has now gone international to live in London with her husband (a numbers man) and the cutest little boy on any continent (The Max). She wrote Cat Girl’s Day Off because she wanted to share what cats really think with the world. Visit her online.


  1. I should, uh, probably mention how I do miss the lovely folks I used to work with...

  2. Fun to read your post, Kimberly. I haven't read any of your books yet, since pbs and mgs tend to be my focus, but it's clear from your post that you've got the writing talent, so I'll have to see if I can find them. Treasure these days with your toddler. They grow up fast. Then, of course, you can look forward to grandchildren. I'm expecting my first at Christmas. :)

  3. Great post, and true. So true. Thanks, Kimberly and Tracy!