Sunday, December 18, 2011

Financial Feasibility of Writing

When you're young, you have pretty wild ideas of what you want to be when you grow up.  Of course, if everyone stuck with their original ideas, the world would be full of nothing but astronauts, firemen, and police officers.  Well, and three ninjas.  All things considered, probably not all that bad of a world.

Around my middle school years, shortly after arriving in the United States, I took a shine to writing.  Most of my work was amateurish - the written word version of Weird Al.  By my high school years, the writing had developed.  Not improved, mind you, but at least my desire to write had matured to novel work instead of just parody.  Finally, by the time I was in college, I dove into writing with a true passion.

And it was horrible.

Don't believe me?  Just ask my mom.

The dialogue was unbelievable.  There was no character development.  And the story became so painfully difficult to follow, it was rubbish.  I gave my mom a copy of the novel I was working on "EYES IN THE NUTHOUSE", without directions to read it or to not read it.  She did.  She politely didn't inform me for years that if I had personally handed her the money to buy my novel, she would have rather spent it on a grossly overpriced cup of coffee.

For nearly five years after college, I just didn't give my writing much more thought.  I came up with some story ideas, for which I mapped out the storyline.  Then, I simply filed them away on the computer for some unforeseen future use.  Then, I deployed to Iraq for my second time.  I was stuck in Baghdad for 16-months, without much to do after my convoys or paperwork.  At the prompting of some of my coworkers, I started writing a story arc that had been bouncing around in my head.  16 months later, the Brink of Distinction series was complete (as much to my surprise as anyone else's).

Yes, I sent it to my mother.

Yes, she liked it this time.

And so I began stage two of my work: getting published.  This is the crux of this entire post.  Is it financially sound to make a living out of writing?  If you read my first blog post, you'll know that I firmly believe in transparency.  That's why, today, I'm going to throw out some numbers for you and show why this could never be anything more than a hobby.

In 2008, I found an agent/editor.  For anyone who has done any writing, you know that a combination like that will end horribly for the writer.  Any agency that asks for money from you before they plan on taking it to publishers does not have your best interest at heart.  They have their's.  And their interest is money.

I paid them way more than I should have for editing that was subpar.  Following that, I decided to go the self-publishing route.  There's a pretty great agency that works with that helps you self-publish.  I paid for one of their big packages, which produced a real quality novel... but put me even further in the hole financially.

So what does my finances look like just for book one of the trilogy?  Let's take a look:

Professional (subpar) editing: $2600
Cover artwork: $75
Professional publishing package: $800

Taking nothing else into consideration (such as advertising), I was $3475 in the hole, before I started making a single dime off the books.

So what does my net gain look like so far?  Let's take a look:

Kindle sales ($2.06 per book x 104 copies sold): $214.24
Paperback sales ($2.30 per book x 9 copies sold): $20.70

Total royalties so far?  Approximately $235.  I'm not a math major, but that still leaves me roughly $3240 in the hole financially.

I don't want anyone to miss the purpose of this posting.  I'm not trying to discourage anyone from writing.  However, I started my writing career reading a blog by John Scalzi, who I will admit is a exception rather than a rule to publishing.  Within three years of being published, he was bringing in over $64,000 a year just off his science fiction work.  He is a remarkable writer, but I can't tell people that you will make that kind of money off the bat.

The truth is, by the second book, I had learned my lesson.  Here's the full breakdown for book two in the trilogy "FALL OF ICARUS":

Edited by friends: $0
Cover art: $100
Self created cover and interior: $0
LCCN and Pro Package through the publisher: $80
Total: $180

Kindle sales ($2.06 per book x 110 copies sold): $226.60
Paperback sales ($2.30 per book x 9 copies sold): $20.70
Total: $247.30

So what's the point?  The point is that I've learned to publish my own work, edited by friends that care about the writing I do, and make the smallest margin of profits.  $60 doesn't seem like much, and it's not worth quitting your day job over.

So if it's not for the money, then why do I write?

Because behind me on my bookshelf, there are currently two paperback novels with my name on them.  Because at the end of the day, even though it was self-published and hardly for a great profit, I'm a published author.

That's why.

Check out BURDEN OF SISPYHUS (Book One) for Kindle:

Check out FALL OF ICARUS (Book Two) for Kindle:

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