Can writing be a full-time career in India?

Published on 23 Sep 2015 . 3 min read

Can writing be a full-time career in India?

It’s been quite a while since I switched careers, from a scientific-academic background to writing. When I chose writing, because I loved it, the road seemed too rocky. I didn’t know anybody. Nobody knew me. I was just a blogger lost amidst a sea of popular bloggers and writers. In the last few years, an overwhelming number of writers have emerged in the Indian English Literary sphere. Each time I spot a new writer, I try to find their background on the web. This has led me to an overwhelming and interesting pool of information.

All Indian writers (in English only, not considering the regional language pool) can be broadly divided into three categories based on their professional backgrounds:

The Moolahwallahs: These are the ones who have a dazzling career behind them – in banking, finance, journalism, software and else. After decades of job and reasonable bank balance later, with mostly a working spouse to fall upon, these authors have begun on a strong foot.

The Strugglers: Not much in sight till now, this bunch is considerably a small one. They’ve quit their jobs or academics early, without much money to bank on, and are mostly quite young. These authors don’t have the connections in publishing or corporate, aren’t influential people and cannot spend a fortune on marketing their book. But most of them are sincere about their writing and want a break to carry forward.

The Safe-players: Enjoying the best of both worlds, this is the dominant lot among our authors now. They have a full time or a part time job to collect the monies and are passionate about writing as well. Not demeaning their efforts at all, as balancing both worlds can be very difficult.

When you compare and analyse all these categories, the inevitable question that arises – Can writing be a full time career in India?

Well, the answer is both YES and NO. For most authors, writing doesn’t pay as good as a salaried job. You write a book, send it to a publisher, wait for your contract and if the book sells moderately well, you get some royalty. One of my friends, who is still a student, had shown me the cheque for her book contract. Coming from a new publisher, it didn’t look too good to even cover her expenses of editing the manuscript. For the Strugglers, it is mighty tough to gather money for pre and post-publishing services if their publishers don’t wish to spend on them. With the rising (and soon falling) trend of self-publishing, you’d be lost in oblivion without proper social media marketing strategies and services.

The avenues for making money through writing seem very narrow and murky yet with the surge of writers in India. You’d be lucky if you manage to write an exceptional book and luckier to find a reputed publisher who’d take care of your marketing. Enjoy the royalty and book sales once you’re through all these processes.

And, leaving a note at the end – I’m in the category of Strugglers too. Pray I find a route to reach more readers and earn something as well. 

Priyanka Roy Banerjee
Priyanka Roy Banerjee is an aspiring author, frequent blogger, book critic and freelance editor. She is an avid reader and writes fiction in both English and Bangla. She blogs at One and a Half Minutes and Moreechikaa. She’s a Ph.D dropout and gorges on all kinds of cinema when she’s not reading or writing.

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