Millions dream of quitting the grind and replacing their income through a rewarding, creative endeavor.
And what could be simpler – and more glamorous – than writing a bestselling novel?
After years of not knowing how the next month’s bill would be paid, thriller writer Mark Edwards is among a new and growing elite of high-earning authors who broke away from traditional publishing routes and self-published online.
His seventh solo book, The Lucky Ones, realized this week, comes five years after he walked out the last in a succession of dead-end jobs that included manning customer complaints line for a rail company.
The average British author earns just £12,500 a year, according to the Society of Editors, while Mr Edwards now takes home a comfortable five-figure income.
And the advent of ebooks played a major part in his success.
“When I started writing at 23 and trying to get published, no-one had heard of Amazon”, says Mr Edwards, now 46.
“I wrote four or five novels over the next five years and spent all that time trying to get an agent. The internet barely existed. You had to buy the Writers’ and Artists’ Handbook and write to every agent with a synopsis and the first three chapters with a stamped address envelope.
“You be constantly getting these brown envelopes coming back, thudding onto your doorstep with rejection slips.”
Then, as today, writers need agents to put their work in front of the publishers who hold the keys to bookshops. He eventually got an agent in the late Nineties but it was the first of many false dawns. By 2001 he still didn’t have a book deal, had been “dumped” by the agent and was back to square one.
But his luck looked to have turned when the BBC bought the “option” on Killing Cupid, a new novel he’d co-written with Louise Voss, a long-time collaborator. This meant the broadcaster had the rights to turn the book into a television drama.
“They paid us a small amount, about £2,000, but it was the first money I’d ever earned from writing”, he says.
“But the BBC option never came to anything, as happens to 99pc of these things.”
All this time Mr Edwards was juggling writing in his spare time with a full-time job. First at the Child Support Agency – a now defunct Government body that dealt with child maintenance – and then at Connex, the predecessor to the South Eastern rail franchise.
“I was working on customer services, it was dreadful”, he remembers.
“I was on the phone all day being shouted at by commuters and answering complaint letters which always contained the phrase ‘beyond the wit of man’”.
“But the thing was these were the kind of jobs where you didn’t take it home with you. When I finished for the day I didn’t think about it. I was able to completely separate work and writing time. It also drove me on, I thought there must be something better than this.”
Eventually he got a job he actually liked, at a publisher in London, which presented another problem. More happy at work, he was quickly promoted and spent gradually less and less time writing.