Having the Contracts to Quit On

If this sounds ominously like I'm saying you have to sell a book before you quit, that's because I am. Don't quit the day job because you got a killer idea for a series, or because you're sick of work and you think writing would be more fun (it would - but that's not the point) or because you've finished your first book and your friends all love it. For that matter, don't quit the day the editor calls you and tells you that she wants to buy your first book. Don't quit the day you sign the first contract, or the day you receive your first advance. The best book I've read on being a professional writer, The Career Novelist, by agent Donald Maass, has an article describing when you should consider quitting your day job. Buy the book and read that for an in-depth analysis of when you're ready. In brief, though, and from my experience, you're safe to quit when:

1. You're making as much money at writing as you are at the day job.

2. You've made that much money for at least a couple of years, and it isn't all in advances on books that you haven't written yet and won't be able to get to for a while. Most if not all of it should be in royalties, although mine isn't. This fact makes my life a lot hairier than it would be otherwise, but I can't tell you that you can't live off of advances. I can only tell you that you shouldn't.

3. You're getting royalties on at least some of your titles, and at least some of your books are being reprinted.

4. Your agent gets you a deal that will cover your finances for several years and guarantee your work for several books (if you follow the money rules above and don't get crazy).

When you reach that point, it's time for the next big obstacle. Telling your family.

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