Can you afford to be a writer?

Everybody and his uncle is writing books and self-publishing. While it is exciting to be able hold your own book in your mitts it will be expensive to get to that point and it is a gamble. Don’t kid yourself. The odds against you being able to recover your costs, let alone turn a profit, are astronomical. You need to know that. You need to be prepared to deal with that, and absorb the loss if you are determined to brave the fray.

Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose

Thousands of new books hit the market every single day. The market is saturated. If you want to stand a chance of success you  must invest. It is imperative, however, that you not invest your retirement funds or education savings. Don’t put your nest egg into the self-publishing basket.

NEVER count on book sales to bring you income.

Counting the cost

There are things on which you dare not scrimp. Once your book is up on Amazon you will have a difficult time recovering from a dreadful first impression, although I know authors who have managed to do it by pulling the book down, having it edited and releasing it again with a new cover. With all of the additional costs involved. But those success stories are rare. The fickle reading public will not buy twice from a writer with substandard work, and they post bad reviews, too.

Cover art, editing, PR coaching/marketing, technical assistance

Editing is not optional. I am not saying that because I am an editor. The quality of English knowledge and usage is deteriorating and you may believe you have written a manuscript which is error free. Please believe me, you haven’t. Don’t assume you have “dumbed down” readers who won’t notice. Don’t insult your audience and don’t set your standards that close to the ground.

Cover art is your greatest selling tool and it has to be top-notch. I have seen some covers with lousy drawings and graphic design and I scratch my head and say, “Are you serious?”. Don’t get a friend or neighbor or computer geek to do this for you. Hire professionals with a proven track record.

Know this: 100% of the marketing and publicity is your responsibility. You must attract attention, do interviews (yes, even radio and TV) and connect with people who can help you make this happen. You will need to devote at least half of your time to marketing. Even big publishing houses are leaving more and more of this to the authors. You are on the hook. It all is riding on you.

If you cannot figure out how to upload your PROPERLY FORMATTED work to Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Amazon and others then you must hire people who can. I know a handful of authors who have sweated this out successfully, but most cannot or simply don’t want to. (Hint: Don’t expect your editor to do this. I can’t, nor do I want to pull time from my field of choice to do the technical stuff.)

Try publishing the smallest run possible through outfits such as Lulu and see how well you do at lining up your own launches and book signings. Find out if you really have what it takes to market yourself aggressively.

Manage your own Amazon account

Know how to check your stats, your royalties, know the tax laws in the countries you market to. Yes, you will have to answer to their revenue people. Unless you have an agent or a manager who can oversee this for you, you are on your own.

Freelance individuals or full-service companies

I am a freelance fiction editor. I edit. That is all I do. If you are hiring individuals for every specialty (I can’t believe I am about to say this) you may not be making the best use of your dollar. You can find full-service businesses which provide editing, cover design, formatting and uploading to multiple marketing venues.

Beware of any person or business which guarantees success

There is not a person alive who can promise you success. In fact, the truth is that you are unlikely to recover your investment costs.

We all post platitudes on Facebook about chasing your dreams, never giving up, not becoming discouraged, not letting others rain on your parade. The philosophy is positive, but may not be realistic. If your self-esteem is riding on this venture please pull out now.

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11 thoughts on “Can you afford to be a writer?

  1. Thank you for your honesty. I write as a gift to mankind, giving away the majority of my books. I allocate a portion of my GIVING funds to this cause. I receive back testimonies of changed lives which is my income. Write on.

  2. Pingback: Can you afford to be a writer? | Wendy Reis Editing (Blog) -

  3. Pingback: Can you afford to be a writer? | Charles Ray's Ramblings

    • Thanks for your comment Bonnie. Writing is hard work, and there is a LOT of editing and rewriting/revamping required even before you bring in a professional editor. The commitment of time and frustration at that point is huge. The financial drain after the manuscript is polished and the energy commitment and tough skin needed for promotion and sales should not be underestimated. I am not trying to discourage determined writers. Indeed, that is not possible. But quiet, gentle souls need professional help with promotion and they must be motivated enough to move light years out of their comfort zones.

  4. Being an editor, I cannot agree more with you, Wendy. You are such an inspiring woman, and I am grateful to have met you in my journey of life.

    This blog is full of information that should not be ignored or taken lightly. I am also a writer, but knowing as much as I know about the publishing industry, I don’t have the goal to ‘get rich quick’ or rely on my writing for full time income. I still have a full-time job outside the home that pays the bills.If my writing brings in income, then that is sat aside for editing services, or other things that are mentioned in this blog post.

    Thank you for your time, Wendy, that you give to authors and friends. It is much appreciated.

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