My Failure to Make Money…And What I Learned!
The World of Books is Changing
Established publishers are going into receivership, being acquired by other publishers, or just … disappearing. Indie publishers are starting up. Writers are publishing their own work. On-line digital platforms, like Amazon, Smashwords, iBooks, stock more titles than any bricks and mortar bookshop could ever do. Readers, too, are changing. Book social media, like Goodreads and Wattpad are emerging powerhouses. Word of mouth has always sold books, but now there’s a new way to recommend. In this new landscape of freely available publishing, you’d think it would be easier than ever for a writer to make money. All a writer has to do is to bang a few thousand words onto a page, format it correctly, push the ‘publish’ button and bang, thousands of eager readers leap forward and voila – a bestseller is born!
Alas, the reality is quite, quite different.
My first novel, A Necklace of Souls, was received very well critically, even winning Best First Novel at the New Zealand Post Awards. But it earned me only a teeny, tiny amount. Barely enough to pay for ten weeks of groceries. Unfortunately, I need to eat for more than ten weeks a year! Critical success and good craft were just not enough. If I want to write full-time I need to earn more than ten weeks of groceries. I needed to earn fifty-two weeks! So:
In 2014, I set myself a challenge…
Within twelve months, I was going to try to turn a hobby into a full-time business – that earned enough to allow me to eat all year round. I was going to give myself a stretch goal of one year, and just see what happens.
…And in 2017?
Dear reader — I was spectacularly unsuccessful!
However, I learned a lot. AND within twelve months of self-publishing my earnings were as much as my earlier year of being traditionally published. By 2016, I was able to eat for another ten weeks. Nah, don’t worry. I didn’t starve. I have a day-job and a supportive husband.
A Second Tilt at the Windmill?
Over the next few months I’m embarking on a new series of posts: The Business of Writing. I’ll be talking about the publishing industry, market changes, trends and how to use these trends to set yourself up to turn a profit. Some of the things I’ll talk about will be adaptations from an earlier material, which you can find here. I’ll be discussing some of the things I learned from my failure, and how I’m going to do things differently next time. Who knows, perhaps I might even get fifteen weeks of groceries this year!
Feel free to read along.