When does writing move from a hobby to a career?
First and most simply we could just let the IRS answer this for us. They consider it a hobby if you haven’t made a profit after five years (or something like that, I’m not a tax man.) But for now, we’re going to ignore the government’s definition and concentrate on what the author and her readers want.
The author’s goals are probably the biggest definer of this. Many authors are happy to write and publish just for their friends and family. They don’t care if their book(s) ever makes money or is held by the hands of a stranger. The rest of us want all the strangers to pick up our book(s) and read. We want fan mail telling us how our book changed their lives or helped them heal or some other life affirming thing. We want fans asking when the next book comes out. We want fans posting drawings of our characters on Deviant Art. Writing fanfiction on Watt Pad. Using our character as their user name.
I’m nowhere near that level of career. Yet. I still hope that one of my books will hit it big and readers will fall madly in love and do all those things I mentioned and then discover all of the books I’ve already written and start buying those too and that one day I’ll make some money at this. A decent enough amount of money for me to only need one part time job. Or better yet, to write full time again. Mentally, I’m ready to go back to writing full time, but financially I’m nowhere close. Taking a year off of writing killed my career and I’ve complicated it by adding a second pen name, so now I have two personas to maintain, which isn’t hard once they are both rolling, but is quite a challenge getting them there.
The reader’s goals factor into this also. When a reader really loves an author and clambers for more from her, they are helping to push that author into the career field from the hobby field. Most authors have lives outside of writing. They are spouses and parents and employees. Friends, sons or daughters, siblings. They have to attend band concerts, or throw birthday parties, or go on work trips or care for sick parents. When life gets busy and their books are just hanging out not really selling much…guess what? Writing takes a backseat. It can even go away completely if no one seems to care. All the while, Suzy Reader is sitting at home thinking, “I wonder why we haven’t seen the last book in the series from Wonderful Author.” Or, “I wonder whatever happened to Wonderful Author. She published those two books and then…nothing.” Readers can really boost authors by sharing their work online, giving favorite books as gifts, constantly recommending their favorite books to others. Keep Wonderful Author in front of others and you will help inspire her to keep writing – and you may pad her change purse too, which probably assists even more.
Even though I have two part time jobs outside the house, I consider writing my career. I’m devoted and focused and I work really, really hard at it. The IRS will surely tell me it’s just a hobby one of these years, but we’ll know better – won’t we?
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