Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Short, Sharp Dose of Reality

Last week I got my first real quarterly royalties cheque. At the princely sum of $84 I think the appropriate comment is “ouch!”

Oh well, we can’t all be Joe Konrath or Amanda Hocking.

If I take the perspective of wanting to be a full-time writer, it's fairly terrible. There's no way I'd ever be able to live off that.

Thankfully, I don't have to take to take that perspective. I'm fortunate enough to already have a full-time job, one I enjoy and is relatively well paid. I can take the other perspective. I'm doing something I like (writing stories) and receiving money for it.

$84 is still $84. That's the second half of the kindle I already bought with money from a Literotica contest plus some books to load it up with. It's more than I ever picked up trying to slog through the old fashioned route of submitting to horror/sci fi magazines and certainly $84 more than the manuscript would have got languishing forgotten on a slush pile somewhere.

It's not all. My first book is still out there, still picking up the same trickle of sales. That means in another three months I'm going to get another $84 or so. Actually, there's two months of the second book's sales on top of that, so it's probably going to be more than eighty bucks. And then later in the year I have a third book coming out. It's easy to see how it can start to mount up. I can't live off it, but on top of my regular salary it's a nice extra to put towards a vacation, or a new TV.

One of the points I've seen raised is the current explosion of self publishing and 'race to the bottom' in terms of pricing will kill writing as a viable profession for all but the already wealthy. I don't really see this. A lot of authors had to start off juggling other jobs with their writing until they made enough to leave the day job behind. An advance can help with this sure, but it can backfire horribly if the first book tanks and they aren't picked up for a second. This is even assuming they make it through the gatekeepers. The vast majority don't and won't ever see a single dime for the manuscript they spent a year or two lovingly putting together.

With self publishing a writer can start to see a return as soon as the book is finished and use this to tailor their life accordingly. I go into work every morning and I write on my spare time. I won't need to think about changing this unless my income from book sales starts to outweigh my regular salary, or my spare time suddenly becomes a lot less spare. And of course, even being comparatively unsuccessful in the meantime still generates a bit of extra cash for a few luxuries.

I enjoy writing and it makes me a bit of extra money. Can't really complain about that.

And I even got my post in on the 17th this time.

M.E. Hydra


  1. You're absolutely right M.E.!! I've done the indie thing before with music. Own my own label and whatnot and I remind myself that I do it because I love it. It's the same way I'm looking at this writing thing. I'm a creative person, I like helping other creative people. So what if I don't make a kazillion dollars, there's a lot of fun in crafting my own stories! And Kudos for getting your post in on time :)

  2. My first royalties from Kindle sales were something like $10 (we won't even talk about the Barnes & Noble deposit). Of course I was new, and it took about six months for my first book to really start selling. I was really, really proud of that $10 though. People bought my book! It's an incredible feeling. :-)

    $84 dollars in what...4 months? That's actually a really good start, I think. Far better than I did in that amount of time.

    Congrats on your first royalty check, and here's hoping for a steady increase with every book you publish... :-)

  3. Even though your genre is fairly esoteric, you should continue to try and submit to traditional publishers. Even if you get a $5000 sign on, that would be equal to 60 royalty checks at 84 bucks. and who knows, you could be the next Jodi Picoult (who has made over 21 million dollars in publishing alone, let alone the movies).

    Why not try...costs little to try. I know you did, but keep trying.

  4. I like your way of thinking (as I share it). I actually bought a Kindle with a royalty check I received for writing for Psychology Today. Also, many authors will never see $84. To make that much indicates that not only can you make money from your writing but you will probably start to make a lot more. I like to say if you can make $50 then you can make $100. If you can...

    Like you, I am well employed (Professor). As a result my royalties from e-book publishing has been like icing on a cake.

    Continued success!