Writing as a full-time profession

Riley Blue

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The following is based on an interview with Anshul Jain, one of India's well-known traditionally published authors.

Anshul is a software developer by profession who feels it requires a certain level of commitment, desire and determination to live this life of duality. According to him, the major challenge is not trying to do two things at the same time, but, doing those things while living independently and taking care of everything in the house. When asked for a tip on managing time wisely, here is what Anshul had to say-

Always remember that you are not only earning your salary, but weekends as well; use your weekends wisely.

When I asked him if it was possible to consider being a full-time author in India someday, Anshul’s reply wasn’t very encouraging.

Personally, I do not believe that becoming a full-time author is a good idea unless you are super successful to the point where your books sell just by your name.

I second that. Relying on book sales alone to make a living is not very practical. However, I believe that quitting one’s job can be considered a possibility if one has multiple streams of income (blogging, podcasts, seminars, invited talks, etc.).

The writing process

Finally, I asked Anshul about what goes into the making of a masterpiece like Ashok and the Nine Unknown. This is what he said-

In my book, I have tried to explore the character of one of the world’s most influential ruler, Emperor Ashok, and a popular legend about a secret society of nine people, often associated with him. I have also tried to amalgamate Indian history with Egyptian mythology! When I was writing it, making that connection was definitely a long shot but now I believe that it bought a certain novelty and a unique nuance to the story.

That sounded super interesting, so, I prodded more. Anshul didn’t disappoint.

I include real history in my writings and subtly fill the gaps with fantasy, politics and mystery. This writing style involves a lot of research. I read books on Indian history, accounts of Greek and Chinese travellers, accounts of voyages of ancient seafarers and then when I find something interesting, I try to connect the story in my mind to those interesting historical events.
I am fascinated by the topic of interaction between India and the ancient world.

Writing tips

Straight from Anshul’s pen, here is a writing tip that changed his life:

Always know the ending, even before you have written a word of the story.

Knowing the ending would help you create enough twists and turns to reach there from the beginning. There is another tip which genuinely resonated with Anshul, which I am sure would be helpful to other writers as well-

Write, not because you want to be famous or earn money or because you must but because that’s your medium of expression. Write because that’s how you convey your thoughts, ideas and emotions.

Final thoughts

Before talking to Anshul, I was under the impression that traditional publishing, especially by a “big” publishing house like Rupa, would be the end to all my woes. However, the chat we had made me realise certain essential facts about traditional publishing, summed up below:

  1. You might be super talented, and your work might have great potential, but, to be published by major publishing houses, some luck is needed, especially considering the number of submissions they receive daily.
  2. The most significant advantage a publishing house can give an author is their supply chain network, which makes sure the book reaches to a wider audience all over the world.
  3. However, the onus of marketing falls upon the authors. Publishing houses will not spend money on authors whose work they believe isn’t sellable.
  4. The best way to promote your work is by being consistent on social media and connecting with the readers so they are willing to buy any new release from you.
  5. Writing as a full-time profession might be difficult if you only rely on book sales. However, it might be possible if you can manage to create and sustain multiple sources of income.

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