Let me start out by saying that FYI always sounds mean. It always sounds like it’s going to precede something bitchy. I mean, have you ever heard someone say, “FYI, I left a plate of cookies in the dining room, help yourself.” No, it’s always something like, “FYI, your dog is not allowed in my yard, Marcus!”
I think I’ve mentioned this once or twice (or a freaking million times) that my first novel came out in December. I also self published three other books. Two are free, yeah, but the third one does cost some money.
That’s right, my life goal has been achieved by 30! (Thank you, Jenny Breeden of Devil’s Panties.)
With my book on the market, I have some shocking news for you.
I’m not rich! In fact, I haven’t even broken even yet. I still have my day job and I’m sure that I will for several years.
With that shocking wake up call in mind, here are some really unfortunate facts.
Making actual money as a writer is freaking hard. I make a percentage of what the publisher sells. For my indie book, I get the majority of the sales, but Amazon does take a percentage. I’m not going to go into details, but let me assure you that it’s not covering a cup of coffee right now.
The market is really saturated. I’m not kidding. There are thousands upon thousands of books, with new ones coming out every day. I love that as a reader, because I’ve got a never ending list of books to read. As a writer competing for attention, it’s challenging. Not bad, but challenging.
People are for the most part broke, and large price tags upset them. For real, my favorite writer’s recent book was almost $30. I’m going to buy it, but it will probably be the only book I buy that month. I buy one book, and thousands are coming out.
Getting your name out is difficult and expensive. It really is. That $30 book I bought was by a household name author. Philippa Gregory, if you want to know. I am not a house hold name author. Most people on a budget (all of us) are only going to buy one or two books a month, if that. It’s probably going to be someone you really like. I hope that’s me. But I’m probably not going to be.
And that yet is kind of important.
I didn’t say all of that to discourage you, or make you give up on your writing dreams. I told you all that for two reasons. 1. It’s all true and we just need to accept the reality of it. 2. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m doing better than I am and comparing themselves to me.
Here’s the good news.
Looking at what I haven’t done yet and don’t have is always going to be depressing. But hell, looking back at where I’ve come from is pretty amazing. The same is probably true of you, my friend.
I didn’t quit writing my book. I finished the damn thing. If you can do that, you’re in better shape than the vast majority of people who want to write.
I didn’t quit looking for a publisher until I found one. If you can do that, you’re in better shape than most people who have finished their books. If you’ve decided to self publish, you are also doing better than most. That’s an intense amount of work and commitment.
Now people can find my book online and read it. People are reading my book!
Here’s something else to keep in mind. Elizabeth Gilbert, writer of Big Magic, had a full time job until Eat, Pray, Love made it big.
Here’s something else. If we compare being a successful author to running a small business (and there are a lot of similarities) then I should be feeling pretty optimistic. Most small businesses lose money for the first five years. Let me say it again for the people in the back Most small businesses lose money for the first five years! I even wrote this in the back of my YBY planner. I am on year two.
Year two, that’s it. I am probably going to lose money this year, next year and the year after that.
So no, I’m not rich. I’m not quitting my day job anytime soon. But I do love my life, and I’m so grateful for what I have.
My newest book, Spook, is available now. It includes twelve short horror stories. Meet a dog that won’t stop barking, a man who just wanted some Chinese food, and a little girl who just can’t stop her bad luck. Get it now for free.
Loved your article, thanks for being ‘real’ for those of us who are still in the beginning stages of our writing dreams.