Authors and Time

I was talking to a friend of mine about writing last night. He’d read a blog where the author stated that the amount of time we spend writing compared to the amount of money we recieved makes our word counts worth $0.00. It’s a hard fact to acknowledge.

I’m struggling to make any sort of money from it at all. In fact, I’m way in debt ¬†when looking at writing lessons, covers, illustrations, ISBN numbers (heads up if you go into self-publishing: ISBN numbers are a huge expense), advertising, blog and website maintanance fees and so on.

I keep waiting for it to all pay off monetarily. I think my persistence is a great asset, but every author is persistent. It doesn’t make me unique or stand out in the writing world.

As far as talent goes, I’m right in the middle. Not good enough to write a Hugo award winning story or even in the style of previous Hugo award winners, but I think I’m a better writer than the Fifty Shades of Grey author. In the middle doesn’t seem to make money either.

My husband says to keep putting books out there and name recognition will kick in. I hope he’s right because otherwise I’m running out of ideas.

My one idea I have left is to go back to submitting short stories, but not as many as I was. Getting that Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest got this blog noticed for a day or two. I’d like to submit a story to Writer’s of the Future, one to Beneath Ceasless Skies and one to Unidentified Funny Objects before the end of March. It’s hard to make short stories a priorities when I’m setting deadlines for publishing novels, but maybe I can get one out of three in.

4 thoughts on “Authors and Time

  1. Your husband is a wise man.

    One of the things you learn, working in a writers centre that deals with writers at all levels of experience, is that the majority of people think about writing and money the wrong way. That is, they think of it as a job. And because they think of it as a job, with everything that a job entails (having a boss, earning a living wage, etc), they make mistakes really quickly.

    When you talk to experienced writers – people who have actually made their living doing this – they’ve got the mindset that what they’ve been doing is building a small business. Sure, they make a loss some years, but they create products that *do not go out of date*, particularly now that epublishing is a thing.

    Sure, you’re not making a viable income after your first book or two – but that’s rather like kicking off a business as a plumber, say, and expecting to break even after the first two jobs. It takes time to build up a client base (or, in a writer’s case, a regular readership), but once that’s done, the back-catalogue of things you’ve had out there that weren’t selling suddenly become a huge asset. Every book you write is an advertisement for the other books you’ve written.

    In traditional publishing terms, the number where you’re assumed to have a readership hovers between five and ten books (assuming you write in the same genre and build a following there). In indie publishing terms, the number tends to be a bit higher – I’ve got a friend who just white his day job to publish who noticed things started picking up when he hit twenty-three books or so (my experience in indie game publishing, way back when, seems to support this).

    If you’re jumping around in a lot of different genres, multiply those numbers out.

    As for the short stories – the way to think about them, if you need to justify the time, is that they’re *advertising people pay you for.*

    Data from Goodreads (and I’m doing this from memory, so I may get it slightly wrong) tends to show that we need between four and fourteen points of contact with a book before we make the decision to buy it, depending on how trusted the source is. Trusted reviewers/book bloggers/friends opinions obviously require less points of contact than seeing your novel title mentioned in a short story bio, but no-one is paying you to run a review. They will pay you for a four thousand word short-story that runs in a major market, and you have the added bonus of people who enjoyed the story coming to look for more of your work.

    All of which is a long way of saying “writing is a long term gig.” The rewards come later – often much later – but they are there. I’m actually running a course on how to think of the writing business model through work later this month – basically an expansion on all of the above and how to apply it to your career – if you drop me an email in early March and remind me, I’ll send you through the notes.

  2. Wow, what a great response, Peter. As a neophyte in this field, I can’t add anything to that. Other than, as long as you enjoy the creative process you are doing it right. And it does seem like an author’s back catalog is the compound interest of your career. The more stories you log over the years, the more they will reward you in the future.

  3. Good advice here! Your husband is correct.

    And you are a seriously better writer than the Fifty Shades author. Really. By a lot.

    I too think if you’re enjoying it, then please keep doing it!

    It’s a strange world that the money often doesn’t match the effort or talent. Perhaps your efforts are accumulating some huge stack of gold in an alternate universe where your alter-self has written a hugely popular but poorly written book with mediocre characters.

    At some point I think the money will catch up here too.

  4. Thanks so much! I really appreciate all the help and thoughts. I’m not feeling so maudlin this week. I think I was suffering from too much caffiene. It doesn’t always quite hit me the way it does normal people.

    I think I will always write. I’m too obsessed.