Tag Archives: the day job

Writing for a living

Over the weekend I attended a house warming barbeque and I got talking to cousin I haven’t spoken to in a while. They were telling me about an in-law who has recently moved back to Ireland and has yet to get a job and start supporting themselves. One of their alternatives to employment my cousin told me, was to instead write a book. I was not supportive. In fact I was even less supportive of the idea than my cousin is.

Hard information on how the average writer does in financial terms from their work is hard to come by. Based on the occasional article I’ve read and other anecdotal information, I believe this is where I fall on the old bell curve.

Bell curve

I published my first work in July of 2011 and since then I have sold a combined total of twenty seven and a half thousand copies. Of this twelve and a half thousand are the Nameless War, a little under eight thousand the Landfall Campaign, five and a half the Last Charge, with the balance covered by the Job Offer novella and the two tech manuals. What has this amount to financially? Well in three years after expenses and taxes I’ve made about the equivalent of one year of the take home pay from my day job. As a supplement, that’s really good. As an actual primary income, not so good.

In fact the situation is worse than that. The Last Charge was about my most efficient book; it took two years and about a thousand man hours to get it from the first word to the finished product. I have no idea how many man hours the Nameless War took but to say many, many thousands is probably no word of a lie. Of course all the expenses from living costs, editing, cover art, etc are all front loaded. You will have to pay these out months or years before you can hope to see a penny come back.

Okay but that’s self publishing, what about traditional publishing? I have never gone down the traditionally published road so what follows is deeply anecdotal.

Assuming you’re first time writer, based on what I’ve read, advances on a first book are likely at best single digit thousands, with little likelihood that there will be anything beyond that*. This is to be expected, there aren’t many lines of work out there where you immediately walk into the top job, you have to prove yourself and writing is no different. Also once again even with traditional publishing, that first book is going to have to be written before you approach a publisher, so you’re front loading the living costs while you write.

Does this mean I’m saying you shouldn’t even try? No, definitely not. What I am saying is that even you’re a really good writer with a compelling story to tell, writing is difficult way to earn money and if you get to the point where you earn minimum wage through writing, you are doing very well. Certainly for several years something else is going to have to meet the bills. It is worth remembering that even the boys and girls who’ve made it big in publishing were often several books in before they started to see major money.

So in conclusion writing as a means of earning a living. Possible? Yes. Easy? No. Fast? Definitely no.



* If any readers can offer better information I would certainly welcome hearing from you.


Filed under Random Rants, Self Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Writing

I QUIT – No actually I don’t

Something I came across recently which felt was worth sharing with my two cents:

Last month, an author I’d not spoken to in a while came to mind. She was someone I’d spoken with professionally, we’d read each other’s blogs, and I truly enjoyed her books. I began to wonder if I’d somehow lost another colleague’s posts in the sea of social networking I do every month. (Sadly, it happens.) So, I decided to look her up and find out if she had any new books out.

I couldn’t find her Facebook page or profile.

Her website had been deleted.

Her books were no longer on Amazon.

I started to doubt my recollection. I hadn’t spoken to her in a few months. Did I have her name confused with someone else’s? Had I written her blog address down wrong?

She wrote back the same day. She’d quit writing completely, unpublished her books, let her website expire, and gotten the hell out of Dodge. I was stunned. She was a talented author. She paid for wonderful cover art, gotten professional editing, and went about social networking like a pro. She’d even successfully signed with an agent.

Her reasons for quitting were varied: home issues, time constraints, poor sales, a few unsupportive indie colleagues, a couple of stinging reviews, and feeling like her books didn’t fit into any recognisable niche. She said to me: “It was an experiment, and it failed.”


She said thinking about her writing made her literally sick. Ouch.

I felt incredibly sad at her story, but in truth, I understand. Being a writer is hard. Self-publishing is even harder. We indies have to know a bit of everything, be a bit of everything. We rarely take enough time off. We often spend too much time watching the rankings, checking our stats, feeling elated when our books sell, but no matter the number, we secretly feel disappointed we don’t sell more.


The full article by India Drummond can be found here.

I’ve been self publishing now for approaching two years, I got aboard really just as the whole self publishing thing began to take off, so I can understand where this comes from but I think it is worth a couple of other points.

One of the problems with writing in general but self publishing in particular is that you are on your own. Starting off you think that means deciding when your work is as good as you can possibly get it, how to release, finding an editor and all the rest of the steps of the creative process. But there is more to it than that.

I spent most of last Sunday and will probably a good chunk of the next working out my tax bill, which is not part of any creative process (no sniggering please) but it is part of self publishing requirements. In effect becoming a self publisher means running a small business with all the complications there of. As I may have mentioned before my own education and employment background is in accounts, something that has been an absolute boon to my writing career. It has allowed me to navigate my own way through the various steps necessary to deal with both the Irish and American Tax Man. Without that background I would likely have to hand over to an accountant and further reduce the profit on my work.

When you consider that the average indie author doesn’t earn much from their work, it isn’t hard to understand how people can burn out, which is a tragedy when it happens. The Indie millionaires are much like the their traditionally published counterparts, the aberrations, for the majority writing is a hard way to earn an honest buck.  The solution at least for me is to keep your expectations real, try to aware of the possible problems before they come up and know when to step back to recharge your batteries.



Filed under Self Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Writing