Monday, 14 December 2015

Writing and Money: The Reality is...

The First Book! Is it the One?
Self-pity is so unattractive. When I feel a dollop of the stuff, I get very annoyed with myself. Even more so with the world in the state it's in, and poor little me living in paradise* (*Mallorca) with a roof over my head and my belly full. But bear with me, because if you're a writer too you might recognise what I'm feeling.

The thing is I thought that once you'd written three books you'd be making money from writing books. Alas, far from it. The reality is, the time involved in writing and selling the books, and how much you make from each book and the quantities you're likely to sell, mean that it's more like a very expensive hobby.

When I feel demoralised like this,  I turn to my favourite podcast The Creative Penn. It's a podcast in which self-publishing guru, Joanna Penn, interviews other writers with entrepreneurial spirits like hers who have worked their socks off and now make a comfortable living from their writing 'business'.

Listening to them blows me away. These people are machines. They don't write one book a year like traditional authors tend to, but raise the bar to four books, five, even six books a year. They're full-time writers setting big goals each day and achieving them. I don't know how they do it. Are these books ten pages long? No, they're full-length novel. Are they terrible quality? Put it this way, they're good enough to have attracted lots of loyal readers! 

Today, listening to the interview with  Russell Blake, I found myself hearing exactly the message I needed to hear. Artists have always had lousy odds of success, that's how it is, and the best thing is not to have great expectation. His advice? Work really hard! 

"I have friends that write in the movie industry and in TV and I have friends who have been professional musicians and make good livings at it and they all say the same thing. They all work their asses off, they work long hours, and they all say it’s not rocket science.- Russell Blake

The amount of books that need to be written in order to make a living out of writing books is a point that has been made time and again on The Creative Penn podcast. You can't earn a living from one stand alone book. Yet most of us writers dream of just that. It's what Blake refers to as 'magical thinking'.

I'm guilty of tons of magical thinking - and before you start with the 'but what about JK?' - we never get to see all the books and all the work these famous authors did before they finally got their big deal.

Some people spend years polishing that one book, getting excited when they get a book deal (a book deal doesn't necessarily mean getting money upfront - I have yet to be paid an advance!), and then they inevitably feel disappointment when it doesn't sell as well as they fantasised it would. Because the odds are a new writer only sells a couple of hundred books, of which they make less than a pound a book, which means earning a couple of hundred pounds for a year's work! Crazy, right?

It makes so much sense that you're not going to make money from one book. I was brought up in a shop and my Dad was always obsessed with increasing our stock. The more stock you have the more likely you'll sell. Having one book to sell is like having, well, a book shop with one book in it. If you sell ten books in a day, congratulations, you've made £10.00, you'll be able to pay for lunch and the bus home.  

Basically, if we want to make money from writing novels, then we've got to forget about writing one novel, and think long term. Think 8 novels. If you can write a series, then lucky you. I'm still not sure I could write a series...and besides the other message writers leave on the podcast is, you've got to write what you would want to read!

Instead of complaining about how hard it is, I think I had better knuckle down and get on with stocking up my book shop, don't you?

Thank you for reading!  


Keri said...

Such sound thinking, Emily. One thing always strikes me about going to an exhibition of an artist is how much stuff they produce.
. Must be the same for writers.

Emily Benet said...

Sorry for delay in replying, I can never comment successively on my phone. It's so true! I need to produce a room full! Just give me... 10 years?!