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When passion turns into potential profit: Love of writing leads to side-hustle book deal
By Elaine Simon

Many people regard side hustles as quick ways to make a little extra money or to fill some spare time. Maybe your hobby is a drain on your bank account and you’re looking for a way to reverse the trend.

Rosalyn Ransaw’s side hustle, however, is by no means a way to merely pad her 401(k)—it’s a passion project built on her lifelong love of writing. The Columbus, Ohio-based marketing manager (and former Red Roof team member), will publish her first book, “Smoke & Mirrors,” in spring 2025.

Ransaw took some time to discuss her side-hustle journey with SHE, inspired by Red Roof.

First of all, tell us what “Smoke & Mirrors” is about.

“‘Smoke & Mirrors’ (Abrams/Amulet) is a middle-grade mystery that follows Andy, a young black boy, who is accused of burning down an old man’s barn. To make amends, Andy has to help fix-up an old mansion belonging to the neighborhood curmudgeon, Mr. Gilbert, who’s obsessed with the mansion’s former owner, the Red Nave. The Red Nave was an incredible magician who was accused of murder and disappeared. Everyone in town assumes the Red Nave was guilty, but Andy knows a thing or two about being wrongfully accused, so he makes a deal with Mr. Gilbert: if Andy can prove the Red Nave was innocent, he can get out of his punishment. As Andy seeks the truth, he starts to doubt whether people's beliefs are based more on their own opinions than on facts, realizing that preconceived biases can shape how people see things, including the story of the Red Nave and Andy himself.”

When did you realize you enjoyed writing?

“I’ve always loved writing. When I was younger, I thought I wanted to be a journalist. I was always working on little stories and poems in my spare time but it took me until I was much older to realize there were opportunities out there to get published and make money from writing.”

When did you start writing for yourself, not school/work?

“[After college] I started picking up old stories I had worked on. It took me about two years to finish my first manuscript (which didn’t get picked up!) and another year and a half to write something good enough to be published.”

At what point did this lead to thoughts of turning writing into a side hustle or something more?

“Most people who write professionally do it at some level for a love of the craft as publishing is notorious for not being the most lucrative creative pursuit. For me, I love to see how far I can take projects I’m working on and how much I can grow my skills in different areas. So, after I felt like I had gotten my writing project to the best place I could, it was time to get feedback and pursue getting a literary agent. It was much more about getting past the next hurdle and writing the best book I was capable of as opposed to making money.”

How did you take that next step?

“Once I began researching the publishing industry, I dove in pretty quickly. Publishing is a very confusing industry where most of the ‘important people’ seem to be on [X, formerly Twitter], so that’s where I spent a lot of my time engaging with the writing community. There are a lot of hurdles to jump when trying to get published, so it was nice to have a community to share successes and woes with.

“On [X, formerly Twitter], there are writing pitch contests that take place from time to time where you pitch your book in a single tweet and literary agents and editors will like your pitch if they want to read it. Most people end up getting agents the old-fashioned way through the slush pile (where you cold email your pitch to agents), but I got lucky and found my agent through one of these pitch contests!”

Is your goal to make your side hustle your full-time job?

“I’d love to someday write full-time (while living in a cottage in a coastal town with lots of coffee) but as of right now I’m content with writing being a side hustle alongside my full-time marketing work. It helps reduce the pressure of needing to sell another book and keeps writing fun!”

How will you know when it’s the right time to make that a reality?

“For me, the decision will be mostly financial. If the publishing gods want to smile down on me and my full-time work begins to cut into potential income from my side hustle, then I would consider making the jump. I’m a pretty risk-averse person, so it would take a big shift for me to leave my 9-5 for the self-employed life, but never say never!”

What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them/are you overcoming them?

“Writing professionally means a lot of rejection. I easily racked up dozens upon dozens of rejections between finding an agent and getting a book deal. I still struggle with imposter syndrome and the fear that people won’t like my work. What has helped me is separating the project that I set out to create from the project that people will respond to. Once the book comes out, it’s out of my hands how people will react and perceive it – which is kind of freeing in a way!”

What advice can you offer others who might be interested in either starting a side hustle or making their side hustle something more?

“If I could give advice, it would be to start today, even if it’s the smallest step possible. You’d be surprised how big projects that seem impossible to get from A to Z can gain momentum once you’ve taken the first few steps. In most areas, but particularly with writing, output and determination will outpace talent.”

What is next for you?

“I’m currently mapping out what my next middle-grade novel might be, as well as exploring some opportunities in other age categories with my agent! Like most writers, my issue is too many ideas and not enough time to pursue them.”

You can keep up to date with Rosalyn’s book news and sign up for her newsletter at https://www.rosalynransawbooks.com/.

Visit she-leads.com for more on SHE, inspired by Red Roof as well as articles and profiles that highlight how to Support, Help and Elevate women.

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