Becoming an author: the path to self-employment

Becoming an author The path to independence

The dream of making a living from writing is in many authors. Katherina Groth also always wanted one so badly: Become an author. She has managed to do that and has now been living as an independent author for two years. For AuthorWing, she shares her experiences and how she got there to encourage other authors, but also to put the romantic notion of "being an author" into a more realistic light.

Become an author: The beginning of the road

2 years. I’ve been a self-employed author for 2 years now, and I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. And that’s contrary to all the negative voices, such as: If you are not as well known as J.K. Rowling, this is not possible at all. Or else: Writing a book? Become an author? But you can’t live on that. But you can.

I know countless people who also wanted to be an author and are now more famous than I am. Nevertheless I can live from writing. However, it also takes some realism. because no – I don’t own a mansion, but live in a 3-room apartment. There is no Porsche at the door either (although my husband would damn well like one), but a used Skoda. And certainly there are always times when there is still too much month left at the end of money. But that was also true when I was working as a dental assistant. Before I realized my dream "to become an author.

The decision to want to write a book

But let’s start from the beginning. When I decided to earn enough from my writing to become a full-time author? The question is easily answered: Not at all. My life has decided this for me, because when I could no longer practice my profession for health reasons, I was first faced with a big question mark. What do I do now? That was 2015. My first book had just seen the light of day in 2014. In the meantime, I had developed a small following and despite my day job, I never lost sight of my dream of becoming an author. Still, there was something unreal about actually realizing this dream. It was fraught with so many insecurities that I probably never would have taken the leap willingly. Because it was clear: For the joint livelihood of me and my husband, I had to earn at least as much with my books as with my permanent job.

This raised a lot of questions. Can I do? What is necessary for it? So I sat down and wrote down how I could achieve that. Writing helps me in pretty much all aspects of life. I knew if I took the leap, I would need one regular publication rate, Quality and a good marketing. These three things were quickly filtered out, but the implementation was another issue. I am not and never have been a marketing genius. It has always been difficult for me to promote myself and my books. But the will to improve, to expand my knowledge and to write has always been there. So I dared to do it.

In the end, it was probably my husband who was the deciding factor for me to actually do it. He said: What do you have to lose? Now you also have to look for a new job. If you don’t try, you regret it.

Writing a book is not enough

Becoming an author

So I registered with the Kunstlersozialkasse and, thanks to my previous publications, I was able to prove that I had a regular income, so that I could actually be accepted. From 2016 everything was funny. Because otherwise I wrote in the morning at the train stop, during my lunch break, after work until late at night and on weekends. But from now on I could always write my book.
I’ve always been able to do what I love without having to steal time away from the activities that are necessary in life.

That was … no, that is incredible.

But also a challenge. It’s not enough to just write a book. There were expectations of me. I had to make enough each month so we could pay our bills. That was condition, not only from my husband, but also to myself.

My company "Author" and the first valley

For me, that meant first and foremost, of course, writing, writing, writing. But also to develop the awareness that I am now, in the broadest sense, a company owner. And the company "author" needs, just like any other, perseverance and the will to develop. That’s why, in addition to writing, I look at my sales every day, constantly analyze the market and write down ideas for projects.

When things didn’t go my way for a while, I realized that I had to reorganize myself. A project I had worked long and hard on flopped completely. No visibility, no income. To date, I have not earned enough from it to refinance my expenses. This is not only a financial but also a psychological setback, but it can always happen. But it was not possible to bury my head in the sand. There was only me in my small company. I had slipped off the hill into the first valley.

A plan was needed. So I dug the – long dusty – romance projects out of my drawer. I was sure that there had to be something I could do with it. No sooner said than done. I created a pseudonym and at the same time a second mainstay to support myself. Two authors earn more than one. Company growth so to speak. I wrote the first novels, published them and – it worked out. Very well even.

What becoming an author means

I hope I don’t destroy your romantic idea of the dream job of a writer. Or she gets a crack because of me, because I soberly describe how I made which step. Because of course every single one of them was emotional and always connected with new uncertainties. I love writing in every facet, but I’m also a businesswoman. And that means I’m always chasing to improve, expand and break new ground.

I do my accounting myself, because I already did it in my profession for many years. Besides, I am someone who likes to have things in my own hands. As a result, I learn something new every day, stumble every now and then, but so far always catch myself without any major bruises. Because as an artist/author, you can’t afford to stand still. I’m not someone who experiences great success from one moment to the next and is immediately provided for for years. I live from month to month. But I live my dream. And part of that is always having to think again: What can I improve? What can I do differently? How can I renew myself?

The third pillar

To write a book

With my pseudonym I had built up a second income stream. Nevertheless, I decided to build up a third pillar in addition to writing books. So I made the decision to additionally offer my work as an editor. Actually, that was born more out of a coincidence when I went through her text for a colleague and friend and shared my previous knowledge with her. She liked what I did and was joined by other authors. At some point the decision was made. Since then, I’ve been working for several publishers and indie authors, and I enjoy the work immensely! Just like that. Another new company member. Three pillars for my future.

I started out as a self-publisher, but in the meantime I’ve also found a publisher, and both ways secure my income. I enjoy having everything in my hands as a self-publisher, just as I love having the publisher at my back to nudge me in the right direction every now and then as a published author. That’s good. No, it is even wonderful.

The dream of writing

I don’t know what will happen in a year. Or in two. If I’m honest, I don’t even know what’s going to be three months from now. Being a self-employed writer is different from being in a permanent position. But I will always do what I can to keep my little "company" going. In most cases, making a living from writing does not mean being "famous". It also doesn’t mean sitting in front of the PC with a cup of coffee every day, writing for two hours, and then winding down the day on Netflix – even though I’d really like to do that sometimes! &

I work 8 – 12 hours every day and that doesn’t even count the time I spend maintaining my social networks. There is no one who can guarantee me if my next book will be successful. There is no one to assure me that I will recoup my expenses. No one who can promise me that all my work was not for nothing.

And still I can’t think of anything better.

Can you make a living from writing books? Yes. Can. It’s damn hard work to keep the company "author" alive. But at the same time it is the greatest and most beautiful profession I can imagine.

About the author

Become an author

Katharina Groth was born and raised in 1987, in the southern part of Lower Saxony, Germany. Influenced by her mother, who loves the written word as much as she does, writing has accompanied her throughout her life. Since 2014 she has been publishing in the genre of science fiction/dystopia and high fantasy.

Visit Katharina on Facebook and Instagram.

I find this neutral and realistic presentation very well done. It shows that there is so much more to being a full-time writer than "just" writing. Still, I hope it’s motivating, to the scribblers out there.

Hi Denise, thank you for your comment! &
Oh yes, it’s a real craft and a sometimes quite exhausting job – especially if you do it as a full-time job. I also think it’s great that Katharina is so open about it! &

Hello Denise,
thank you, that makes me very happy!
It seemed almost too matter-of-fact to me myself in between writing the article, and I’m reassured that you didn’t perceive it that way!
I would also be very happy if it motivates one or the other to take the step and he/she does not let the negative voices stop him/her from doing so. &

Very dear greetings

thank you so much for your detailed article about your company "author". It was exciting to read what kind of experiences you had with it. I hope that I can realize my dream "to become an author" one day too.

I am in a similar situation as you were right now and can no longer do my learned profession due to health issues. At least not at the moment (what the future will bring is up in the air). Actually, this would be the perfect moment for me to make my dream of being an author come true. And yet I have cold feet and trust myself far too little. My inner critic, this little poisonous dwarf, has me well under control and constantly whispers to me things like "You’ll never make it anyway." or "You are not good enough. Let it be better."

However, your report has given me new courage and maybe I will somehow manage to jump over my shadow.

Kindest regards

Hello Myna, thank you for sharing this with us! & I wish you much success in realizing your wishes and dreams.

Best regards, Alice

many many thanks, if I could give you some courage with it, the article was worth twice and three times itself. &
I myself am also a person who loves security, that has always been the case. And at that time it was clear to me: if the admission to the Kunstlersozialkasse should fail, I have to move my dream to the back of the line. Why? The monthly social contributions are quite expensive and the KSK relieves one as an employer would do (50% author, 50% KSK). So this step was essential for me to start my own business. Maybe this is one way to make it easier for you? You could inform yourself at the KSK about the admission modalities and see if that comes into question for you. If so, maybe it’s already easier for you inside to take the step. At least that’s how it was for me. &

Kind regards

Thanks for the great article. Especially your additions about KSK I found important. After all, it’s not only the costs of the book that need to be covered, but also the legally necessary ones. I’ve been thinking about taking this step for a long time, even revising my first 3 books so they go up in quality. And yet the fear is too great not to have the minimum necessary success with it. The gap between what’s already coming in and what it should be is just huge. Let’s see, what the future still holds for me so ready.
Thank you!

Hello Andreas, thanks for your comment! &
And I can absolutely understand your fears, I am the same way. If you have a permanent job, at least you know what roughly comes in (and hope it will always stay with you *g*), if you are self-employed, you have to take care of it yourself. That’s why I’m also building something on the side, so that I at least have a foundation to build on when the time comes. &

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