By Jay Stringer
I was in two minds about writing this.
I have a big change coming up, and it’s a wee bit scary, so originally I was only intending to share it with a few close friends.
But DSD was founded -back in 2009- on a promise to share details of our careers, and to “pull back the curtain” on publishing. So I’d be breaking the promise if I didn’t let readers in on the decision.
So, come the 1st of November, I’m a full-time writer.
Why the nerves?
Well, it’s a big fucking jump. I know for most writers, it’s always at the back of our minds. It eats away at us. Every day that we’re renting our brainspace to an employer, every hour that we’re doing it, there’s a voice telling us we need to write full time. The same voice talks about setting our own hours, not answering to a boss.
Each time we get in the slightest bit of money from our writing, no matter how small, we have to fight back against the devil on our shoulder saying that now is the time.
“Look, I know it’s only a hundred quid, but hey, take the jump.”
And it gets more and more frustrating having to fight against that voice, while still have space in your head for both your writing and your day job. There have been times when I’ve been desperate to make the jump, but knew I couldn’t risk it. It was only last year when I wrote on here about the mental health issues I was suffering from splitting my life in so many directions. But I held out.
The truth is, most writers need a day job. Most writers will always need a day job. We’ve all seen the clickbait news articles recently about the majority of writers earning below the poverty line. We talk as if this news. We talk as if it represents some change in the publishing industry.
The reality is, twas ever thus. This is how it’s always worked and, most likely, always will.
I’ve gone about this in as patient and pragmatic way as I can, but even still, the most likely outcome of me going full-time in November, is that I’ll be looking for a day job again by June.
Recently I did some maths and, thanks mostly to the hard work of my agent, the people at Thomas & Mercer, my wife Lisa-Marie and, most of all, you crazy good people who’ve bought my books; I have some options.
I have a safety net of a few months. Enough time that it feels like a reasonable decision to make. I also have a new book deal in the works. It's a very thin safety net, though. I won’t be socialising for a while. I won’t be buying much in the way of Christmas or birthday presents. There’s a chance Harrogate might have to be skipped, and Bouchercon is at risk.
Also, I’ll need to figure out my pension. I currently have a private pension, deducted monthly from my payslip. It’s not worth much at present, because I only set it up two years ago, but there’s money there, and I’ll need to figure out how to pay into it from my writing income.
But I figure If I don’t do it now, I never will. Plus, I have no real qualifications, so it’s not like I'm giving up a career. The level of job I have now (until the end of the month) isn’t that different to the level of job I can get next year.
And these are the kinds of decisions that we don’t talk about too often. If we’re to “pull back the curtain,” this is exactly the kind of thing we should be showing. The real financial decisions that we make.
So why was I in two minds about sharing this news?
Well, as I said, the most likely outcome (by far) is that I’ll be running back to a day job again. So making this news public now, really means setting myself up for an embarrassing about-face sometime next year.
But….hell….that’s something you guys should see too, right?
So, here goes nothing.
On a quick side note; On behalf of everyone else at DSD, I’m really proud to welcome Scott Adlerberg and Rennee Asher Pickup to the team. Scott takes the seat on Tuesdays, and Renee already started posting last Friday.
Russel, McFet and myself are still around. We’ll be showing up occasionally, when we have something we need to share with you.