The Long Run

You know what I like? Money.

Really I do. I think it’s likely that some of you do too. But it’s hard to come out and say it sometimes isn’t it? Because we want people to believe that our motives are pure, untarnished by such a vulgar thing as money.

So we beat around the bush. We say things like, “Money isn’t everything in life,” and “I would rather be happy than rich,” and while there isn’t anything wrong with these statements I think in some small way they’re really our way of saying, “I’m not rich, and so I’m going to justify my relative poverty through moral superiority.”

But let me tell you, I get kinda sick of shopping the discount bread rack at the grocery store, or doing the math in my head to see if I can afford to fill my gas tank all the way up. I’m not telling you this because I want you to feel sorry for me. I have a house, two cars, two televisions (that I’m currently trying to convince my wife we should really get rid of) and I eat well enough that I’ve started back into exercising to shed those extra pounds. I’m not hurting.

But I wouldn’t say no to more.

Which is why, when someone commented on this blog yesterday, asking how many self-published authors made a profit, it got me to thinking and thinking hard. Because while I can honestly say I write because I love it, and would continue to do it whether I got paid or not, you had better believe that one day, I’d like to make some money with this writing thing.

Here’s what I think about the prospects of making money as a self-published author: it can be done, but it won’t be fast (or easy).

I’ve been reading Bob Mayer’s blog on and off recently, and one of the things he loves to hate on is the fact that Amazon’s sales tracker lets self-published authors check their numbers in real time. In his eyes, this is symptomatic of a get-rich-quick, show-me-the-money-now kind of mentality that plagues the majority of the self-published authors out there in the world.

And while I mentioned yesterday, that I myself check my sales numbers far too often for Mr. Mayer’s taste, I agree with the general assertion he’s making about the industry.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Self-publishing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. I’ve been following several authors who have released self published books recently, hard working people who I admire as writers and who seem to be doing everything right.

But the numbers just aren’t there. The general pattern is: sales start pretty well at first, but as the author reaches the outer limits of his internet audience, those sales start to drop off pretty quickly. Because let’s be real, the odds of some stranger finding your work at random amidst the piles and piles of other self-published books out there and buying it are way lower than we’d like to think about.

Bummer right? Well, yes and no. Like I said, this isn’t a short term game. These lackluster numbers are coming from authors still working to establish a presence in this crazy world of digital publishing.  And that takes time. Amanda Hocking, the personified holy grail of self-publishing, wrote seventeen books before she started self-publishing them. That’s a lot of hours spent in front of a screen leading up to what seemed like an “overnight success.”

So here’s my advice to you authors hoping to someday may a profit. Don’t think about next week or next month, or even next year. Think about where you’ll be a decade from now. Are you willing to stick with it for that long? Are you willing to keep writing, and keep putting your work out there even when it seems like it’s going nowhere?

Because that’s what it’s going to take. I’m not saying you’ll get rich like Amanda Hocking, but if you stick with it for the long haul and give it your all, I believe it is possible to make this writing thing profitable. That’s my plan anyway, and I’m sticking with it.

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8 responses to “The Long Run

  1. I’m with you, Al! Yes, I’d love to make a million, I’d even take a few thousand the first year. I know that having more than one book, preferably 5 according to some, gives you a better chance at making enough to quit your day job. I’ll just write anyway, with or without the extra cash.

  2. Good stuff. I really hope you can be a professional writer someday, man. You’re a writer that I’m rooting for.

    • I hope so too. And I appreciate your support. You’ve given of yourself to help me in so many ways. No thank you could ever be big enough to express the gratitude I have for you.

  3. Great post Albert. It may have been me who asked the question about self-published authors making a profit 🙂 I did have my first book published in 2003 and did very well for awhile…and great feedback. I no longer work with that publisher. However, while slowly working on book 2 I write the occasional poem and started my own blog last September.
    There are times I have thought about keeping my writing to myself, but I realized that although I may not get paid for my writing, I am gifted with the people I meet through writing and reading other writers.

    • It WAS your comment actually. Thanks for inspiring me to talk about this. This is a topic that’s been germinating in my brain for a while, and you provided the catalyst to bring it all together.

  4. You are welcome. I could really use the money and it would be great to spend more time thinking about, learning about, and writing; but I do have to look for paying work.
    BUT, I have to keep writing because I believe I am supposed to for whatever reason.

  5. The first time I received a check for a writing assignment it seemed like a reward…but it shouldn’t be that way. Writers work as hard as anyone else, if not more and should get paid for it!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. I’ve checked her site, too. There’s a LOT of books for this self-published author. She certainly put a lot of work in her thing.

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