The Economics of Being a Fantasy Writer by Jeff Wheeler

With the economics not necessarily being in my favor, why do I write stories? Why do I write novels? Is a $1250 check really the reward I want? Or is it to have a reader tell me that they loved my story and want to see more of my work? Being a researcher by profession, I decided to ask my fellow writing colleages: What is your carrot?What is it that really keeps you writing? Are we all standing out in a lightning storm and holding up our bottles? I doubted that any of us were truly expecting to be the next Rowling. But I was willing to accept that it was a wrong assumption and thought I should ask before coming up with any of my own conclusions. I wanted to know if they had ever considered that the reality of being a published author might not be enough to turn it into a day job. For those who are interested, here are the results:

Writing is my (pick one): addiction/mental disorder/God-complex: 7
Writing makes me happy: 6
Writing for others to read my work: 2
Writing is my career: 1
Writing for my own entertainment: 1
The conclusion was pretty clear. Most of us who write do so because of some inherent satisfaction we get from it. It is not because it is a promising source of income, fame, or sanity. For many, it seems to be an obsessive-compulsive behavior. But be that as it may, you are reading this e-zine (or have been) because of the works authors like these have brought you. I would like to ask you for a personal favor.

Yes, you – the one reading this page right now. I ask for this favor as one of the publishers of an e-zine, not as one of its authors. E-zines like DEEP MAGIC and others would like to attract the best talent imaginable. Readers aren’t paying us, so we can’t pay the authors. But there is something you can give that will help all of us to attract and retain good writers. What I want from you is your applause.

Have you ever gone to see a Broadway production (like Phantom of the Opera, or Les Miserables, or Miss Saigon) or a concert? At the end of the show, the audience gives a round of applause. Sometimes, if the clapping is so loud, we get an encore by the performer. I have seen that happen. It’s exhilarating. This is what I want you to do.

I would like you to take a few minutes at the end of reading a cool fantasy or sci-fi story on the web and send an e-mail with a few words of praise to the author or editors. I believe that if you do this, e-zines like DEEP MAGIC will have no trouble getting authors to write for you. Good authors…the best authors. It won’t cost you anything more than a few minutes. If all of you do this, then your words become something we can give our contributing authors that the big 8-cent per word magazine publishers don’t give theirs. And maybe your applause will bring our best authors back with more stories. Again, I’m not asking you to comment on every story. Just your favorites. Believe it or not, those few comments of positive feedback are incredibly powerful and motivating. And I’ll say that as a fantasy writer.

About the Author:
A writer since high school, Jeff Wheeler published a fantasy children’s story, The Wishing Lantern, in 1999 and his first fantasy novel, Landmoor, is coming in June 2003. He was born in New Jersey but grew up in Silicon Valley in California. He attended San Jose State University and graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in medieval History. He completed an MBA in 2001. He is one of the founders of Deep Magic: the e-zine of high fantasy and science fiction ( He welcomes reader feedback at:

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