Anyone going into indie publishing with the intention of making enough money to live on needs to consider their course very carefully.
Yes, you can write enough to make enough money to live on.
No, it most likely will not happen over night.
The Bitter Truth
A few writers have crazy sales right out of the box and made a lot of money (or appear to).
But that doesn’t describe most of us.
For most of us, it’s a long, slow process that’s built book-by-book. Every new book increases our presence online. Fans who read the first book will be more likely to take a look at a second book.
Fans who read the second book and liked it may very well look for and buy older books. That’s not guaranteed, of course (nothing is), but the weight of publishing evidence supports the idea that for every new book published, older books experience a little spike in sales.
So What Do I Do?
My personal advice to anyone who wants to turn writing into income is to start where you are and work with dedication, discipline, and persistence toward your goal.
Don’t quit your day job because nothing stifles creativity like overdue bills (trust me… I know!).
Write the best books you can.
Publish the best books you can.
Market them for all they’re worth.
Connect with fans and treat them like people, not numbers, and work on the next book.
When Can I Quit My Day Job?
When you can live on the sales of your books for six months without cashing your pay check, then consider quitting your day job.
But be aware that even if you do become a bestselling author, not every book will be a bestseller. Even John Grisham has a clinker every now and again. There will still be books that under perform.
Go into the world of full time author with your eyes wide open.
At the risk of sounding like Dave Ramsey, here are a few things you can do to make the transition into full time writing easier.
Rainy day fund. Open a saving account. Start wherever you can and build it up to at least $1,000. You’ll be surprised how much comfort that savings account will provide. After all, you’ll have that money for emergencies. Seeing the latest movie or buying the latest iPhone do not count. I’m talking about when your car breaks down. Or the washer. Things like that.
Pay down or eliminate debt. Yep. All of it. It’s not easy, but it can be done. Once you’re not paying credit card companies, auto companies, the bank, the mortgage company (et cetera, et cetera, et cetera), the more disposable income you’ll have for other things. And the sooner you’ll be able to quit your day job and live on your writing.
Spend wisely. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that using money wisely means not spending it. At all. That’s not true. You need to spend money to live unless you eat only what you grow yourself and you use heritage seeds (you don’t have to buy seeds all the time). The key is to spend wisely. Get the most for your money, pay with cash as often as possible, and save for big ticket items like that new computer.
Invest in your business. Roll some of your writing income into your writing business. Set some of it aside to buy things like new computers or software. Spend some of it on things like buying time with BookBub (if you have a book published) or going to a writer’s conference. You’ll know what investment will serve your writing and your writing business best.
Live on what you make. I can hear the protests already!
“It’s impossible to live on what I make!”
“No one could live on what I make!”
“No one lives on what they make!”
Au contraire, good reader. My husband and I have been living on what we make for nearly ten years. We are not the only ones doing it.
No, it most definitely is not easy. Yes, it has most definitely been worth it.
Of course, you’ll have to implement all the previous suggestions in order to live on what you make each month. And you will have to budget your money. But you’re a writer. You’re already budgeting your time in order to write. How much more difficult can it be to budget money? (Yes, that is a tongue in cheek question, but hopefully it makes my point.)
What Is The Point?
The point is that if you want something badly enough, you will do what it takes to work toward making it happen.
If you really want to make enough money writing so that you can quit your day job, there are things you can do to reach that destination. You will have to make sacrifices and some of them might seem huge.
So I’ll repeat what I said earlier. Start where you are and work forward.
Most of us tend to view writing success as being able to stay home and write. No day job. No boss (other than your publisher or readers). No daily commute.
That’s a legitimate dream, if not an easy one. The best advice I can offer in conclusion is to take a long, hard look at your personal life and your writing life. In addition to looking for ways to increase writing income, look for ways to reduce expenses. Doing one or the other will advance you toward your goal.
Doing both together will get you there double-quick or faster.