There was a great discussion in one of my forums about the cost of being an author. There were so many responses that it made me feel not quite so alone with this writing gig.
If you spend a lot of time on social media and follow authors, you’ll get the impression a lot of them are making tons and tons of money. Like it’s literally falling from the sky and landing in their pocketbooks from all the sales they’re getting with their books. When people at work find out I’m a writer and have published books, their first question is usually, “Why are you working here?” It’s a common misconception.
Writing full time and supporting the household bills may work out for some, but the reality is that a lot of us don’t make a living writing. A lot of us have a day job. A lot of us work our asses off to produce books, work full time, raise kids, stay married, and basically try to live without working ourselves into an early grave from working nonstop evenings, weekends, holidays.
Last month with my combined sales at all channels, I didn’t make enough to pay my monthly Sling TV bill. It’s the reality of book sales.
Even the best author marketers are working their assess of to make what they make. A lot of us don’t break even with our royalties vs. the cost of publishing a book. Most of us have day jobs. Most of us use “other money” to pay for producing a book. Some full-time writers have a spouse who provides a steady income with benefits. I’m a middle-class American with credit card debt and a kid in high school about to go into college. I don’t have the luxury of quitting my day job to write full time while my husband supports the household. I don’t think it’s fair to him and I can’t ask him to do that so I can follow a dream that may or may not pan out.
Could I produce more books if I wrote full time? Possibly. Would I make more money if I spent 40 hours a week behind the keyboard writing/marketing/trying to scrape together a living? Probably. Do I want that kind of stress in in my life? Nope.
I had a reader email me and ask why IN THE TOWER OF THE WIZARD KING wasn’t free.
I nearly lost my mind over that email. The Age of Wizards is a two-book series. That’s it. I’m not planning to write any more (at this juncture – that could change), so why would I give away that first book for free? This person clarified the email by saying most authors give away the first book in a series for free so readers can see if they like the book. Yeah? So? This book isn’t free.
The book in question took me 18 months to write when I thought I wasn’t going to write any more. Ever. It was a labor of love and a book I’m proud of. A book I thought was probably one of my best books yet.
Once I finished the book, I spent months editing it.
Professional editors cost me nearly $1,000.
I paid for cover art at around $300.
I paid for marketing materials and advertising upwards of $800.
ALL out of my own pocket. Not royalties.
I spent hours and hours AND HOURS listening to the audio version to produce it with my narrator.
I spent hours formatting both the eBook version and the print version to produce it.
And this reader wants to know why it isn’t free?
I put over $2,000 into that book, not to mention all the countless hours I spent behind the computer working on it. Time away from my family. Lunch hours I gave up writing. Blood. Sweat. Tears.
That’s why it’s not free.
And THAT is the reality of what it costs to be an author.
I’m making a promise to myself right here, right now. When I get upset about not making money writing books, I’m going to remember all the other writers out there who are also struggling trying to break even with their books. I’m going to remember I have a good job with great pay and benefits that funds my writing venture. And maybe someday my books will hit a list and they’ll be in bookstores.
That dream isn’t dead yet.