Guess what? I found someone who actually makes a living writing! Really, I’m not kidding. And lucky for us, we can learn how to do the same from his new book, Mastering the Business of Writing: How to Earn a Full-Time Living as a Writer. Jason was kind enough to answer some questions and bestow some of his writer wisdom upon us mere mortals. Thanks, Jason!
1.) In addition to being an freelance writer, you’ve also published a travel book, short stories, and from what I hear, penned a young adult novel. Does your passion for writing reside with one more than the others?
It’s more a matter of what I’m passionate about at any given moment. One of the things I love about writing is I can bounce between one project and another as the mood suits me. I have lots (LOTS) of interests and this lets me chase them all down.
2.) You’re also a writing and a martial arts coach. Do you find many similarities between the writing clients and the martial arts clients? Is one group easier to coach than the other?
The process is almost identical for both, even though the details of what I’m coaching change. In both cases, what I’m really teaching is how to take control of your life and support the things that you hold dearest. Martial arts students are way easier to teach, I think because there’s more of a culture of listening and trying something out in the martial arts world. Writers resist more before trying stuff, and they tend to be a little more fragile.
3.) During your years of coaching, what’s the toughest thing to teach writers?
To think of writing as a business. A lot of writers don’t seem to want to do that. Some are afraid of the organization, marketing and self-discipline it takes to run a business. Some don’t want to “sell out.” But I have to ask…what constitutes selling out your talent? Turning out a few hours of work for pay every day, or spending those hours working at Home Depot and writing nothing at all?
4.) You recently e-published two writing books, Mastering the Business of Writing: How to Make a Full-Time Living as a Writer; and 9 Steps of Highly Profitable Writing. Did you learn anything surprising during the process of writing those? And what’s one important thing you hope readers take away from these books?
Full Disclosure: I had a publisher — TKC Publishing out of Hawaii — do the actual e-publishing. Working with them, I learned that promoting an ebook is way more complex than I imagined. But TKC has it to a science — Mastering hit #1 on the Amazon chart for books about writing for a day an a half last week. The most important thing I hope readers take away from either book is that this is the best time to be a writer in the history of the written word. Don’t let Scott Turow or a bunch of scared agents tell you otherwise. The door’s wide open for anybody willing to put in the work. Walk through it, already.
5.) You’ve also written some dark, yet humorous short fiction under a pen name that has received great reviews on Amazon. Wingman in particular is said to be “like [The] Hangover, but funnier.” You’ve proven that writers don’t have to stick to one genre or style of writing; do you find it easy or difficult to keep them separate? Do you recommend it to other writers?
I find it necessary to bounce between genres. Otherwise, I get bored. And being bored does not keep my coat glossy. I recommend it to other writers who feel inspired to write in different areas. If you want to, you should. If not, you shouldn’t. I should also say that the industry says it’s a mistake. You spend energy in areas you don’t already have a following, and have to duplicate a lot of effort. That’s changing with the new face of publishing, but it’s still something to keep in mind.
6.) What do you think is the most common mistake that writers make?
Not treating your writing like a business. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to approach it professionally. If you want to just write a little and publish from time to time, though, it’s probably not that important.
7.) What, in your opinion, are the downsides, as well as the advantages, of digital publishing?
The biggest downside is that print still has all the cache. There’s something to holding the finished book in your hand, or being able to give a copy to a friend, that’s really special. Other than that, digital wins. Selling one copy or 10,000 copies costs you the same amount of money. It’s easy to fix typos as readers point them out to you. And you don’t have to wait a whole damn year between finishing the book and seeing it up on Amazon.
8.) As a busy father of two, how do you make the time to write full-time? (I’m assuming that after twenty years of teaching martial arts you’ve learned to stay focused and disciplined).
First, it’s my full-time job. I write from home, and it takes me only 3 or 4 hours a day to write enough to make my living. That alone gives me 5 hours (plus a couple theoretical commute hours) I wouldn’t have if I punched a clock. The focus thing is sort of true. I did learn how to create and apply systems to keep my time on track, and the martial arts helps me stick to those systems. Being systematic is a huge part of both of my books on writing. It’s an important habit to succeeding in any freelance endeavor.
9.) What’s next for Jason Brick? Or for your alter ego, Jake F. Simons?
Jason Brick has three things in the hopper. My YA book about quantum mechanics and the zombie apocalypse should be finished up in the next few months. I’m also joining up with SEOWiSE, an outfit that teaches writers how to conquer the web to support their careers. But what I’m really most excited about is Precious Cargo. It’s a book I’m working on with some top martial arts, close protection and law enforcement guys where we apply bodyguard doctrine to family safety while traveling. I think it will be important, and it’s really fun to research.
I encourage you to check out Jason’s website that is full of great information about freelance writing, writer’s conferences and more. Thanks again, Jason/Jake! (You can also check out my interview on Jason’s website)