Skip to main content

Funding your writing

I now earn something most months from my writing. (Huzzah!) But it's often not very much (writers meet lots for coffees - it possibly covers that, now...) and my writing takes up an inordinate amount of my time. Therefore, I still have a day job.

I will, hand on heart, admit I've started to struggle a little in the last 6 months, for time, and for a balance in my writing-work-life triangle. Which led me to start asking questions of how I could even things out a little. As far as I can see there are four main funding streams for writers:

1. Sell enough books to earn a wage. Which would be lovely and is, of course, my aim. Of the hundreds of writers I know less than 20 in that position. Most are supplementing their earnings with editing, or coaching, or training, or serving coffees in Starbucks.

Most books sold earn the writer a pound or two at most - to earn anything coming up to a wage means sales of 1000+ every month - and writers need time to produce, so to get to that sort of sum, reliably, takes time.

2. Get a lovely big advance. Two things with this one - firstly, most publishers do not pay advances. Not anymore. Even those that do normally pay in increments. And, since most writers who get such a wonderful thing are agented, 15% of the advance amount is lost to the agency. Which, unless you're into five figures, suddenly makes an advance look less like the golden bullet it sounds like, especially when you think the book won't be out for perhaps a year and the author will earn nothing else from that book until the advance has been earned out (and we're back to the couple of quid per copy connundrum - most advances, especially for new writer, never earn out.)

3. Crowdfund. This it the new buzz area. Set up a GoFundMe, a Kickstarter, or a Patreon account and watch the money roll in.

Done well, it's a great model. Done poorly, it's hard to see any money from. To do it well, the writer needs to produce content for it, and provide rewards. It's a lot of work - and guess what you won't have time for when you're doing all that work. For me, whilst I am in awe of writers who can use this model, it's not the one for me. Not time-poor as I am.

Which leaves a fourth option, one I rarely hear talked about, and one which I feel in underutilised in SFF (perhaps because we think our weird stuff won't be considered.)

4. Seek funding. (Note, I have no idea how anywhere outside the UK works for this - but some research might be good. Or someone might pop up a useful comment.)

One big caveat is that funders do seem to favour the traditional model over self publishing - so this may be a barrier for anyone self published. 

Where from? Arts Councils have funding available from both the government and the National Lottery. They have an application process (currently happening, at least over here). The Authors' Foundation provide funding nationwide - including a specific award for SFF. There are many organisations and trusts set up to provide support - and some local councils also have funds available for creative projects. I had a great writing week this year on a bursary from the John Hewitt society which has impacted my writing in all sorts of way.

Some funds cover travel expenses. I travelled last year to Eastercon at my own expense - I think, looking at the funding, I could have had some of that covered, which would have been a great help - and maybe allowed me to attend another convention. 

Applying is time consuming, at least at first. However, a good synopsis and a project costing done once can be spread through a number of funding arrangements. Mostly the pots are small - £3-5,000 so it won't be a case of giving up the day job (although some are bigger - my local Arts Council does offer Major awards which would go a long way to giving a writer a year or two's grace). But it is out there, it is for all writers and, I think, for those struggling to balance everything, worth researching in your area.


Anya Kimlin said…
I've found this quite helpful.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Fab, cheers Anya. :