Love to write? Want to make money doing it? Both Connor and Brittany have been able to turn their love of writing into careers. Today they share some tips on building a fruitful career as a writer.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: You and I were on a panel together at an event called Fecon. We were, which, Foundation for Economic Education as, an event they put on. In fact, they’ve put on a few times, and I think we’ve done two panels on this topic, over the years. And that is, you know, how to write, how to make money as a writer, how to succeed. And it was fun because those conferences, usually involved or were attended by younger people, kind of like, young adults, maybe some older teenagers looking how to move forward in their life. And on those panels, we talked about, writing and how to make money as a writer. And, so I thought, we could talk about that topic today, because both you and I kind of write for a living, but in quite different ways in some regard. And so let’s maybe share some thoughts because, for those interested, perhaps even the parents as well, who are interested, but also the kids, I think it’s good to know kind of what is out there and what the opportunities are. So maybe I’ll start with book writing and then we can get into all kinds of other, different writing opportunities.
Brittany: Yeah, sounds good.
Connor: So, book writing is very difficult. most authors, make on average about $1 per book sold but what I tell, so I usually about once a week, I end up talking with someone who’s wanting to pick my brain about, you know, how to be a successful author. And I try to always be, you know, generous with my time and willing to kinda share what I’ve learned because I’ve had people in my life who have, shared a lot with me. And so I, end up talking with quite a few people. And what I typically will tell them is that if you wanna be a successful writer, and I think this applies to books, but also to other, forms of writing as well, you need to think of yourself as one-third writer, two-thirds marketer. Hmm. And so it’s important to learn how to write well and write books and so forth, but you also need to be good at marketing. Now, there are exceptions to that. If you’re just a crazy successful author, you get picked up by a really good publishing company, they have a marketing team, they’ll get Oprah to review your book and all that kinda stuff, right? There are some authors that don’t do any marketing, but that is more rare, especially in an age of self-publishing, excuse me, when it’s, easy for anyone to publish their own book. And probably better to do so. I think, generally speaking, it’s gonna be better for most people to publish their own books these days. You get more control over the process, you retain more of the profits, right? Rather than a publishing company only giving you a pennies, and they control most of it. So, generally speaking, self-publishing is great, but what that means is you have to be a marketer. You have to figure out how to get people to read your book. And most people only get, you know, some family and friends and random people who stumble upon your book on Amazon to read it. And do you really wanna put in all that effort, to write that book and put your heart and soul into that to only have 32 people read it? Yep. Right? And so you need to be thinking through how to market, how to get a website, start a podcast, do your social media, right? How to actually develop an email list and do these things. And so that’s gonna come through a lot of study. The internet is full of resources about how to, you know, write books and how to market books. And so you’re gonna want to just read and read and read and learn. but you need to have that shift in mindset, because I know a lot of people who are just thinking, oh, I’ve got this book idea, but they don’t put any thought into how am I gonna get people to read this. And so that it, it’s very critical to think. The other thing I’ll say about book writing, and then I’ll kick it over to you, Brittany, is that oftentimes you don’t make money from the book. A lot of authors don’t make money selling books. What they make money from is the exposure that the book brings. And so, when you are an author, when you become a book author, that kind of changes people’s perception about you. It’s just kind of an interesting thing. It kind of, you’re, you’ve leveled up in life a little bit. An author is kind of a semi, you know, prestigious title. Even with self-publishing, I feel like, when people have written a book, it shows that they’re, you know, a hard worker and a good thinker and, so forth. And so what a lot of people will do is they’ll write a book, but then they’ll use that book as an opportunity to launch a consulting business or a public speaking, tour and make money from public speaking. they might start kind of an online webinar, company. And so there’s a lot of things you can do where if you write a book about something, let’s say it’s a business book or a kind of memoir about your life or whatever you’re gonna write a book about, there are opportunities to then use that for other things as well, that you could write a fiction book, but then use it as an opportunity to launch a course online about how to write fiction books for kids, teaching kids how to write fiction. And the fact that you’re an author shows that you have credibility. So, writing a book can have benefits beyond just the money you get from selling the books. And so you need to think of yourself as a marketer and then also think of what are those other kind of related business opportunities that might be opened up if I write a book.
Brittany: Yeah. And I’m glad that we have both of us talking about this, cuz you’re right, we both do such different writing. You know, I, like long-form essays, but the thought of writing a whole book, like gives me anxiety because, it’s so much work and I know how much work I put into what I do, but I wanna talk about the different writings I do. when I decided that I was going to make my living solely as a writer, I realized very quickly that I needed to, diversify what I was doing. If I was just writing, what I call long-form essays about liberty and the free market and, things like that, I can make a decent living. But if I wanted to make a good living, right, if I wanted to turn this into more of an entrepreneurial pursuit, then I was gonna have to learn a lot of different writing. And if you would’ve asked me three years ago if I wanted to ghostwrite, which is when you don’t have the name on a book, so you’re writing for somebody else. And secret most politicians don’t write their own books. I think Mike Lee does. But you’ll know, while we’re reading his books, they’re so dense and Constitution and I love Mike Lee. But like, so a lot of times they will hire writers to write their book for them because they just don’t have that skill. So if you would’ve asked me a couple of years ago if I would be willing to ghostwrite, I would’ve told you no. And I talked about this on our panel. A lot of mistakes young writers make is they’re a little arrogant. They think they know everything. They think that they deserve to be paid, you know, astronomical amounts for their pieces. But you’ve got to earn that. And the one thing I tell people is, one, especially young writers, you’ve gotta start being okay with being edited because there’s no one out there who is not edited. And a lot of times you think of your work as being your baby, right? It’s something that you created and then you get it edited and you’re like, well, that was stupid. Like, you don’t know as much as I know. But learning how to be edited and working with a great editor is one of the best things you can do. The next thing I would tell you to do is write for free as much as you possibly can. it’s like an unpaid internship or you’re gonna get a lot of skills. So for the first start of my career, I had a nine to five, but then I was submitting stuff to the Mises Institute, or I was submitting stuff to FEE and I wasn’t getting paid. But the really cool thing about FEE is eventually they were publishing me so much that I didn’t have to apply for a job. They came to me and said, we want you on our team. And I wanna talk about something else that you kind of mentioned, which is branding, which is marketing. So I created a brand for myself that wasn’t just writing, right? It was social media, it was YouTube, it was all these other mediums where, and I hate to say this, we don’t have a ton of women in the Liberty movement, which worked in my favor. Like, I was really happy with this. So I was, you know, a millennial, female in this space who was able to talk about really complex economic ideas. But since I’m not an economist, I was able to put them in terms that anybody could understand. And that kind of became my brand. And I took that from not only doing these essays, but you know, blogging, I’m even working on script writing now. So for me, in my opinion, to make it as a writer, I wanted to make sure that I could write as many different things as possible. I have spent the last two years working on op-eds, which I’m not gonna lie to you are probably the most boring forms of writing, cuz it’s where you just advocate for like a certain policy and it’s not the most fun. But, now I’m in a job where I get to story, tell, I get to narrate, tell stories about people who’ve been abused by the government, who’ve had to sue the government for some reason or another. And so I’ve learned a whole new skill right now. I’m learning how to story tell. So there’s so many different ways you can use your writing skills, and I definitely recommend not just picking one, you know, Connor doesn’t just write books, he does a bunch of other things like you were saying. So I think the best, you know, example or the best advice I can give to younger writers is don’t be arrogant, be willing to write for free and, and be able to write in a bunch of different ways.
Connor: I, agree, with all of those, especially the last one, you know, as I have written a lot of op-eds or like newspaper articles trying to persuade people over the years, it’s helped me learn about how to quickly and simply explain complex ideas. Yeah, well, when it came time to write Tuttletwins books and take complex ideas and figure out how to write only 60 pages of content that explain complex ideas in a fun way, all of that writing in a completely unrelated field or format, applied to the books. And so I was benefited in my book writing, right, because of the other, type of writing that I had done. And it also helps you figure out the importance of learning who your audience is. Yes. When you write, you’re writing with a purpose, you’re trying to get someone to feel something or think something. And so you need to know who’s reading your material. Is this for, you know, elderly grandmas on living on social security who live in Arkansaw, right? Or is this for, you know, millennial females in the Liberty movement or whatever? You want to figure out how to speak to the intended audience so that you can have your most impact. And so that it resonates with them. If you try and write generally, oh, I want everyone to like this. Yes, I want everyone to read this. You are not gonna get anyone to think or feel differently because you’re not speaking to them. And so by writing in different formats, by doing different, projects, you’re going to increase your ability to focus in because you’re gonna try, as you said, now you’re focused more on storytelling. Yep. You’re gonna gain that experience kind of in different fields. We talked about the gig economy before. You know, a website like Upwork, or even Fiverr, F I V E R R.com, websites like that are great ways to put yourself out there and get little gigs that give you, some experience. You want to build a portfolio, you want to be able to show someone like me who employs, a lot of people say like, here’s my portfolio, here’s examples of how I’ve written, that’s gonna help me when I’m deciding who to hire to say, oh, well now I have some material I can go review. Hey, I really like that. Great. You’re hired for this job. And so you wanna build a portfolio, you wanna have examples, and so you can write your own stuff. But I have found, like back when I was a web developer, I would have my own little website projects, but the best way I learned and improved was having paid work because that, I had a deadline. I had accountability.
Brittany: And an incentive.
Connor: I had, incentive, I had expectations. And so that pushed me to learn how to make much better websites than if I was just dinking around on my own and didn’t really have the incentive and the accountability and the expectations. So find jobs to do. use your parents’ network, see if anyone needs any stuff written for them. you mentioned script-writing, right? everyone wants to have a YouTube channel. Every company needs videos, right? And so maybe team up with someone who does video and you can learn how to write scripts and you can, you know, take, Harmon Brothers University, one of the leading, marketing companies, they literally have an online uni university super cheap and, simple where they teach you how to write, comedic, persuasive video scripts.
Brittany: That’s great.
Connor: You can subscribe to masterclass. There’s a lot of garbage from like Paul Krugman and other big government people on masterclass, but there’s a lot of authors on there, who teach you how to write persuasive writing. There’s a lot of great, input out there. so there’s so many resources, but what you want to do is gain practice. You, as you said, diversify, do different projects. I think paid projects are the best way to do that. Yes. And so put yourself out there on fiverr or on Upwork or elsewhere, see what jobs you can get. take random ones. Challenge yourself. Yeah. And, build that portfolio because the faster you build your portfolio, the more successful you’re going to be because you’re gonna be able to demonstrate to each new job how much you’ve written. and you know, still right for leisure, still right for free, right still, right. passion projects. If you, you know, are liberty minded and want to speak out about something, go approach fee or Mises Institute or whoever and say, Hey, I wanna submit this article. Still, do that because you want to be well-rounded and you wanna build, as you said, you wanna build a brand, create your own website, right? Build a website. It’s not hard. There’s so many free and easy tools out there where you can then have your portfolio there and demonstrate some of your best work so that when you know, a future employer or whoever wants to consider giving you a job, you have a quick resource to say, here’s my portfolio. Go check it out. So a few additional ideas.
Brittany: Yeah. and I was just emphasize, again, branding. I know we’ve said that so many times, but my whole career has been a result of my social media presence because I built a brand, I built a following. And when people are looking who to publish, you know, one of the biggest parts of publishing something is distribution. You want people to read what you’re writing. And so if you have this network, if you’ve built this brand and people are really excited to read what you put out, you’re going to create value for whoever you’re writing for. So, I mean, all these little components just really help. I think this was a really fun discussion because this is, you know, what Connor and I do for a living.
Connor: And you know, you don’t need to write well right now to learn how to write better. many people who are professional writers today, were not, once upon a time good writers. And one of them is speaking to you right now, And, it’s not Britney. I did horribly in English class in school. I mean, it was one of my worst subjects. Hated it. Did poorly. in fact, a couple of years ago, my mom was, back in the city where we grew up in San Diego and she actually, ran into my middle school English teacher. And, she remembered my mom, cuz my mom was pretty kind of active in PTA and in the community. And so they got to talking and then she, the teacher, of course, remembered me. Well, I guess not of course, but she did actually remember me years later, how was Connor doing? And at the time, I think I had like 16 books to my name. And so my mom was like, oh yeah, he is doing great and this, that, and the other. And, oh, he’s written 16 books. And this teacher’s eye is almost explicit of what like, of all people in my class to, be a paid, you know, to get paid for writing. I didn’t think it would be Connor. And so let that be kind of a word of, encouragement. Anyone out there who feels like they don’t write super well because look, I didn’t write well, but what I had was passion and I knew I wanted to change people’s minds. And so how did I do it? just in the last few seconds here, very simply, I learned how to write well, not might through English class and all the homework and activities, and learn the past possible subjunctive of like,
Brittany: I, don’t even know what that means. Yeah.
Connor: Like, you don’t need to know the semantics and the structure, like, sentence diagramming. Like that’s apparently a big thing in the past couple of years. My, I saw a teacher wanting, I, was in a Facebook group and someone was talking about, oh, should I, you know, this homeschool curriculum, I’m using, uses sentence diagramming very heavily, you know, and it’s confusing for me, should I make my kids learn it? And like all these parents are chiming it and then I comment and I’m like, I’ve written two dozen books and I have no clue how to do it.
Brittany: It’s hard. I had to learn how to do it. It’s so hard.
Connor: Yeah. And so all these people like the comment, they’re like, I’m so glad to hear this. You know, like, so you don’t need to know like all the details. What you need to know is how to communicate ideas. And so how I learned is not by like English assignments. I learned by reading. I read a, like, especially after college when I had free time to finally do so, it was really after college when I started reading and reading and reading and reading and I started a blog and I would blog and I would write. And at first, it was cruddy. But the more I read, the more I learned and I learned through observation, right? I would be like, oh, hey, that explained that really well. If I were to say something similar in my own way, like then it would also come across well because I observed what someone, what a good writer was doing, and I kind of mimicked and I made it my own. And, so I think that was critical for me. So don’t worry if you’re not good in English class and a sentence, diagramming is awful to you. It is awful for everyone. And, no one needs to learn how to do it. To be a good writer. What you need to do is read a lot, absorb good writing from good writers, and then practice. Start a blog, start, you know, find paid jobs, write for passion and you will improve because I improved. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. So that was actually a really fun topic. We should do more like this, Britney, cuz I think it’s practical advice for a lot of the listeners out there as they’re figuring out what they wanna do. So guys, thanks as always for subscribing, and until next time, Britney, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.