The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

JACK THE HACK: Expat writers, now to deal with fame and fortune … or the lack

JACK THE HACK _writingtipsJack Scott is back with his monthly column for all of you wannabe authors who are hacking away at travelogues-cum-memoirs, or autobiographical novels. After an expat experience in Bodrum, Turkey, that was literally something to write home about, Jack and his partner, Liam, traded in the dream for a less pressured existence back in the UK.

—ML Awanohara

So your labour of love is out there on the virtual shelves (and a few actual shelves with a fair wind and a bit of luck). After an initial flurry, it’s all gone a bit quiet on the sales front and you’re dropping down the Amazon rankings like a stone.

It can be disheartening, depressing even.

We all want a little recognition for our art and a few shillings for our trouble—but don’t let the dream carry you off with the fairies. Let’s face it, very few authors make a decent living from writing and even fewer reach the premier league (if only I had that idea about a boy wizard called Harry).

So don’t expect literary agents to vie for your attention or film moguls to beat a path to your door. Hell might freeze over before that invite to the daytime TV sofa drops on the mat. Nor will you be batting off the paparazzi with a stick—even well-known writers aren’t photo-fodder for the Sunday rags. Instant celebrity is generally reserved for the young and fresh faced.

Writing’s just not that sexy.

Will it even pay the rent?

Sure, writing can provide a useful extra income stream but it’s unlikely to pay the rent.

Unless you’re tapping into that trust-fund set up my your dearly departed maiden aunt (the one everyone knew was a lesbian but no one mentioned it) or have a partner who doesn’t mind indulging you (that’ll be me, then), don’t give up the day job just yet.

Even a book that does well won’t buy you that Maserati. If you’re lucky enough to get a publishing deal, expect a royalty rate of between 10 and 50 percent. This sounds a lot (particularly at the upper end) but remember, that’s a percentage of net sales after pretty much everyone else has taken their cut.

You will be last to be fed.

But, not to despair!

All is not lost. You might be able to supplement your royalties by writing for Websites and magazines because, as a published author, your street cred will improve and you’ll be seen as someone with something interesting to say.

Not to mention the chance to promote your book.

Trouble is, most don’t pay very much or don’t pay at all. Another option is to sell your soul to the Devil by writing general copy for a huge range of internet sites desperate for content. Again, they pay a poor return and you may not get any credit for your words.

Whatever you earn, whether you’re a minnow of a big fish, remember to declare your income to the nasty taxman. You don’t want a stink in the clink, do you?

What’s it all about, Jack?

I don’t know about you, but this isn’t the reason I got into this writing lark. Cherish your writing for what it is, something you enjoy and have a passion for.

Be careful though. It’s very easy to get lost in the scribbling moment (I know, I’ve done it). It’s intoxicating. Suddenly you snap out of it only to realize that you’ve sat by the computer all day long in your nightie, haven’t washed, haven’t brushed your teeth—and you’ve forgotten to pick the kids up from school.

Quick, stick that ready meal in the microwave and get to the kids before social services do.

So, savour the unique voice writing gives you but remember to look up occasionally. A little ambition and self-belief is a good thing. There’s no need to lower you expectations, just keep them in check.

Which leads to—


Be realistic. You never know, you might hit the jackpot. But, until that day comes, write for the right reasons.

* * *

Readers, any comments, further questions for Jack the Hack? He’ll be back next month with some more writing tips…

Jack Scott’s debut book, Perking the Pansies—Jack and Liam move to Turkey, is a bitter-sweet tragi-comedy that recalls the first year of a British gay couple in a Muslim country. For more information on this and Jack’s other titles, go to his author site.

STAY TUNED for next week’s fab posts!

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Images: from top, clockwise: Hand with pen /; Boats in King’s Lynn, Norfolk /; Jack Scott, used with his permission; Turkish boats /

14 responses to “JACK THE HACK: Expat writers, now to deal with fame and fortune … or the lack

  1. Jack Scott August 10, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Of course, I should have written, “Unless you’re tapping into that trust-fund set up BY your dearly departed maiden aunt,” not “MY your maiden aunt.” Perhaps the next article should be on proofing and editing!

  2. Roving Jay August 14, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Good Advice this month. When people find out I’ve written a book, their first question is always about how much money I’ve made so far.

    I get more of a kick out of the emails I receive from people who have read my book, and I’ve changed their lives (in a little way I hasten to add, but my words have nudged them into a new experience they wouldn’t have tried otherwise).

    Those emails are priceless … yes the supplemental income is nice to have, but the real power is the words I receive in response to the hours of toil I spent huddled over my keyboard (in jim-jams not a nightie by the way!)

    If you write for the right reasons you’ll never be disappointed!

  3. Pingback: Don’t Give Up the Day Job | perkingthepansies

  4. petchary August 25, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Great advice. And I have had that experience – sitting unwashed in my nightie in front of the computer all day!

  5. Let's CUT the Crap! August 25, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    I know why I come back here, Jack. You are down-to-earth and have a way with words. Great advice, by the way. Thanks.

  6. Jack Scott August 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you but please forgive the typos. The piece is littered with ’em 😦

  7. Ms.Z. August 26, 2013 at 12:11 am

    That’s a really great advice. It’s too easy to forget the reason for starting to write in the first place. And when that reason is forgotten, passion seems to disappear from the written material. At least in my case.

  8. lizcameron September 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Interested to see your tips – making me think. OK, coming back to PTP after this long hiatus is some sort of karmically-led action. 🙂

  9. C.M.Corcoran December 6, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Hello Jack. I found this so funny and such a tonic. It’s encouraged me to keep going – even with a vocationally induced locked spine – so many blessings to you, my friend!

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