I rarely post on writing, but with the advent of easy self-publishing, I'm seeing a lot of authors put their work out there that isn't ready to be published. It's either not edited, or not a story with a character arc and/or a point. The problem is with so many "free" options available for book downloads, I'm also seeing readers who have cluttered their Kindles and Nooks with books they can't read. There is no better way to halt a writing career than to have a record of poor sales.
FYI: There are good books available for free. For one thing, you can download most of the classics in PDF form. This is my advice if you've been burned by the "free" books. Or take recommendations from authors you trust. When they link to a free book via their Twitter accounts, etc.
Back to getting paid. In Donald Maass' fabulous book, "Writing the Breakout Novel" he says that passion comes from an author's deep desire to make you understand their message. It does not come from a need to see yourself published. If you're trying to get published to build your ego, save your time. It won't work that way. I don't care how wonderful your book is, someone will hate it. And they'll be vocal about it. So don't write for accolades. You may get some, but you'll focus on the ugly reviews. It's human nature.
In my writing, I have always equated myself with Salieri -- the teacher of Beethoven and the rival of Mozart. Mozart was younger, without discipline and vastly more talented. Salieri was good enough to know he would never have the genius of Mozart.
I am good enough at writing to know that I will never be Shakespeare. Or Jane Austen. Or even an English teacher. But I know where I belong. I know what I CAN write, and that's my "secret" for getting published and getting paid. Know where you can fit in and write to that market. Most likely, you're not a genius like Mozart who doesn't have to play by the rules.
In my years as an author, I've seen a lot of people who feel "too good" to write romance. Writing to a market like this takes a lot of talent and with the romance market, publishers know how to sell books. You will be starting with decent sales numbers that you probably won't have writing the great American novel on your own. It takes great discipline to write within the rules and most of those authors are making a lot more than someone who has put out the great literary message of our time.
If you want to get paid to write, know who you are. Know what your message is and what you're passionate about. If you had dying words that you wanted someone to hear, what would they be? Now, can you be really creative and put that message into a suspense story? A romance? What's the best salable vehicle for your message?
Maybe you are a genius like J.K. Rowling and you can put everything on the line to write your novel. If that's you, there will be a passion within you that won't let you do anything else, and you'll be willing to sacrifice to make it happen. It won't come easily. It never does.
Word to the wise: most of us are Salieri and that's okay. Embrace who you are as a writer and humble yourself to the message. Even Dickens got paid by the word and didn't preach at us about child labor, he worked his message into story. But he wasn't above selling books first.
Let me put it this way, if you think you're a genius, that's a bad sign. Geniuses nearly always run on fear that their work isn't good enough, but they keep going because they can't stop.
If you can recognize great writing and feel ill-prepared to compete, there's work out there for you. Embrace your inner-Salieri. Don't be "above" the work and listen to criticism. It may be hard to take, but it's part of writing. The criticism will come afterwards regardless. You have to believe in your message enough to know you can take the barbs.