Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dollars & Sense for Writers—Guidelines on Where & When to Spend Your Money—Part One

by Edie Melson

I remember what it was like when I was just starting out as a writer. I thought it was something I wanted to do. I even felt like it was something God called me to do. It’s an exciting time—a time when we’re trying on the moniker of writer.

It’s also a time when we’re deciding exactly how big a commitment we’re going to make. We evaluate how much time we’ll spend an how much money we’ll invest. And it’s rarely an all-ahead-full sort of decision. I took it one step at a time. I would try something, evaluate the results and then readjust.

It was about the time of my first few forays into the writing world that I discovered this writing thing can get expensive . . . fast. 

There are books to buy, organizations to join, classes and workshops to take, even conferences to attend—all without a single bit of profit to support these investments. My budget was limited and I had to make some judgments about where to spend my money.

Today, after many years in the business, I’d like to offer some guidelines on where and when to spend your money. It’s not always a straight-forward answer, but I’m going to try to cover most situations.

Which Organizations Should I join and Why
I’d say one of the most valuable ways to learn about writing specifically and the publishing industry in general is by joining organizations. It’s important that you don’t just concentrate on learning to write, but you also need to know the process of publication so you can begin to earn money. Here is what I suggest.

1. Find a local group. Good places to look are local libraries and bookstores. They will often have a listing of any local writing groups. You can also do a search online. I know it’s not always possible to find a local group, but that’s where I always recommend you start.

2. Find an online group. There are many excellent national groups that have an online presence. I’m a member of several. Here are some I can recommend:

  • ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers): is for Christian fiction writers. The membership is reasonable, starting at $50 per year. It also offers lots of benefits to members, including free online classes from publishing professionals, a national conference, and an email loop where you can ask writing related questions.
  • My Book Therapy: This is another fiction group, specializing in Christian fiction. It’s a bit smaller and there is a free membership option. That’s good to give you a chance to try it out before you invest money.
  • Word Weavers International: This is a great critique group option. They have local groups, as well as an online presence. This group was developed over years of experience in what works to help new and even more advanced writers.
  • NWU (Nationa WritersUnion): I’m not a member of the national freelance writers group, but it’s a reputable group and I hear good things about it.
So which of these choices should you make? It depends, in a large part, on what you want to write and where you want your career to go. I recommend you start local, if possible, and look for recommendations.

If you don’t have a local group, you can often find communities of writers through writing blogs. There are a large number of regular readers here on my site and they will be more than happy to give recommendations about this sort of thing.

I’m out of room for today’s post, but below are the topics I’ll be sharing in subsequent posts:

  • Which Books Should I Own and Which Should I Get at the Library—and What About Magazines, are They Still Relevant?
  • How Do I Evaluate Which Classes I Need or Could Benefit From
  • Conferences—When Am I Ready for One and Which One Should I choose
  • Website—When Should I Spend the Money? 
  • When & How to Hire a Freelance Editor?
Now it’s your turn. What questions do you have about organizations and what other things would you like to see covered in this series? Be sure to leave your thoughts below.

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. I know this series is directed to a new writer -- and it's going to be a good one, Edie. But as an "old" writer, this question of where to spend money continues to be one that needs to be answered.

    1. Beth, you are so right! I'm constantly trying to weigh all the opportunities available. I'll add that to the list! Blessings, E

  2. The problem with writing is that there's no guarantee of even a single sale. If you're starting you're own coffee shop, you can at least count on a few regulars and build from that. So you can justify a $100k investment. A writer, however, has to take a bigger risk. So the investment is much smaller. In fact, it should be considered a hobby until there's some certainty of success. Your expenses should fall into that budget category (and you should have a budget!). It will be different for each of us, depending on income and other expenses. You may have to displace another expense to make it work (hopefully not food and certainly not debt payoff). If you come up with $500 per year, then the big conferences are out. But you can start a free blog, buy some books, etc. Be honest with your budge. I don't care how many books you publish, if you spend your entire career paying off credit card debt, you're not a success. By the way, seeking out financial help from relatives who believe in your talent is not out of the question. It's worked for me!

    1. Ron, there are definitely lots of choices we have to make without the promise of income. Thanks for sharing! Blessings, E

  3. I would add, when is it time to hire a professional editor.

    1. Ellen, that's excellent! I'll add it to the list. Blessings, E

  4. Great topic and very timely...Thanks. Any mistakes I don't have to make is appreciated.

    1. Time, glad to help. Personally I hate having to reinvent the wheel! Blessings, E

  5. I'm so glad to see that you'll be writing a post about spending money on a website. I'm mulling that over as well as changing the name of my ministry. I thought I'd do them both at the same time, if I do them at all. Thanks for all the good info, Edie. I appreciate you!

  6. Great post and I look forward to more info, Edie.

  7. Thank you Edie! As Tim said, a very timely topic indeed! Can hardly wait to catch up on today's post...okay, I'm a day behind, I admit it...:/ Heading over there now! :)