Reader Mary asked a good question while I was out of town. At first, I read it and thought, “That’s the silliest question ever, of course I don’t care!” Then I realized that I was just thinking myopically…and that some writers may not realize that I don’t care, duh, and that you aren’t all mind readers. So it turned into the perfect question for a post!
Do agents sign authors who have other day jobs (and always will), or only full-time authors, or authors with day jobs aspiring to be full-time?
And here’s the answer that I thought was so obvious, but clearly isn’t.
Few published authors make their living as book authors. And it’s very rare to be a full-time author before you publish a book (since a lot of the lucrative book deals, the ones that allow writers to become full-time authors, are orchestrated by agents who work with large publishers).
So when people are looking for an agent, there’s only a very small chance that they’re already a full-time author. What a writer does with their days or what their day job is — unless it directly relates to the project they’ve written and I can use that factoid to help them build a platform — is of very little concern to me. I have clients who are doctors, who are stay-at-home-moms, who are teachers, who are grad school students. When I signed them up, a question about their job usually came as an afterthought in the initial phone call, the “getting to know you” small talk.
Most well-published authors still work full time jobs. A lot have jobs that are tied to their other careers as published authors, such as speaker or university professor or editor or magazine writer or English teacher or bookseller, but a lot still have either the drive or the financial need to work at more than full-time writing.
In fact, I think writers who have to find time to write because of other obligations are often more committed to their writing work. When you have all day to do something, you usually figure out a way to take all day to do it (the constant drama of someone who works at home and can’t afford to take a whole day to do one simple thing). A task stretches to fill the time allotted for it. But when you have to extract rare writing time from a busy work day, it becomes precious, like gold extracted from base metal in the ancient pursuit of alchemy. You focus more, you value your writing time more, you get more done.
This isn’t universal, by any means, but I do find that some writers who have to struggle to find time to write, even if it’s just at the beginning of their careers, come out a little heartier for it. So no, I don’t care what your day job is. But I respect you all the more for balancing a job, a family, and your writing life as part of the daily grind.