December 4, 2012

Writing about cruising

MANY WORLD CRUISERS, especially the younger ones, start sailing before they have enough money in the cruising kitty. So they’re always looking for ways to earn a dollar or two in a foreign port. Now and then somebody will ask me if it’s possible to write articles and books about cruising, to pay for a round-the-world trip. 

Well, it’s possible. A handful seem to manage it at any one time, but I’d say it’s next to impossible. Lin Pardey, one of the best known modern cruising authors, once told me she reckoned you’d need six or seven books in print before you could live off the proceeds.

If you write a book that sells for, say, $15 you’ll likely receive publisher’s royalties of about 10 percent. A boating best seller in the USA is generally taken to be one that sells 10,000 copies or more. So the most a new author is likely to make, over a number of years, is $15,000 a year. And remember, the field is very crowded with would-be authors willing to accept less than you, just to get their names in print.

Magazine articles are a total crapshoot. I have sent articles to two of the largest sailing magazines in the United States and waited more than a year for a reply. Even though I’m an established professional writer, and even though they’ve used my stuff before, my submissions went into the slush pile.

The payment magazines offer for an article of 2,000 words with pictures varies from $100 to $1,000, depending on the publication’s prestige, circulation, and bankroll.

If I were to set off cruising the world, I’d try to master in advance a marketable skill more likely to produce a cruising income.

Among these skills are the ability to repair diesel engines, fridges, watermakers, SSB and satellite radios, computers, and electronic instruments, together with general yacht repairs, deliveries, sailmaking and canvas work, and even varnishing. Fiberglass repair and rigging skills are always in demand. And here’s a skill not to overlook, says cruiser and author Don Casey — cutting hair for fellow  cruisers.

Today’s Thought
A month of days, a year of months, 20 years of months in the treadmill, is the life that slays everything worthy of the name of life.
— Roy Bedicheck, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

“My girlfriend thinks I'm a stalker."
"Say what? Your girlfriend thinks you’re a stalker?"
"Yeah, well, she's not actually my girlfriend yet."

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)





Tillerman said...

I hear that dentists can make a decent income by offering their services to fellow cruisers.

And these days, some cruisers seem to make a good chunk of change from selling sponsorship and ads on their cruising blogs. Not to mention they can probably obtain quite a lot of useful products and services for free by "reviewing" them on their blogs.

Anonymous said...

John Guzzwell comes to mind as someone that managed to support himself while cruising... And wrote a book or three (mostly after the fact). Of course, his skill set boggles my imagination!


KevinH said...

SKILLS, Skills, skills. You gotta have saleable skills. There's work everywhere but you gotta be able to do it. Legal or otherwise it don't matter. Be a carpenter/welder/electrician/diver/usefull person.- You can support yourself. Just be able to do SOMETHING Dammit.!!

Tillerman said...

Is there any market for the skill of making sarcastic comments on blog posts? If there is I may take up cruising.