How I’ve Been Making Money as an Writer
In May, I will have been making money as a writer for four years. That deadline is looming large for me because by then, I wanted to achieve the following goals in 4 years:
My Four Year Goals:
Develop the following Income streams:
- Short stories
- Fiction books
- Non-fiction books – these create three streams: e-book, print and audio sales
- Online classes
To get income from these three sources, I had to write! So here are my writing goals:
- Write twelve short stories a year and send them to paying markets
- Write a fiction book a year
- Write and self-publish a non-fiction book a year
After three and a half years, I have achieved the three income streams regularly. Here is how I'm doing:
Writing twelve short stories a year has been difficult, but I am on track for hitting that number for the first time this year. What helped me reach my goals of making money as a writer was finding an editor liked my work. She requested a story, which was a huge incentive to write and send stories to an editor. However, having an editor who likes my writing also motivated me to keep submitting to other editors.
The other thing that has kept me on track for making money as a writer was attending a fantastic Workshop called the Fiction River Workshop, where you get a topic for a short story every week for six weeks. Then you have a month to read all the stories submitted (about 300.) Finally, all the participating writers go to Las Vegas for a week of sitting all day and listening to six editors say whether they would buy your story and if so, why or if not, why not. By participating in the workshop, I write six short stories a year. That helps a lot in reaching my goal of selling twelve short fiction works a year.
Last year I finally completed my first fiction book since I started writing full-time. I don't feel discouraged that I didn't hit all of my goals in the first year. I gave myself four years on my business plan to reach my goals. Why did it take me three years to finally reach this goal? Much of my time was spent on writing and self-publishing my non-fiction books.
My business plan starting in year four is to start revising and publishing the four fiction books I have written. I wrote the books and then decided to wait and see how the traditional vs. self-publishing market would turn out. At present, I am sending out the YA Historical novel to editors, hoping for a traditional publisher. I will then have four more books to revise. Since I am much better about writing short stories and non-fiction books, my plan calls for me to publish or send out two of these books per year, depending on the marketplace.
The one thing I have consistently done is writing a non-fiction book every year. There are several reasons I've been able to stick to this goal:
- I see writing the Business Books for Writers as my way of giving back to the writing community. I know many writers look for ways to help other writers, and this is my way. I hate to hear authors say they are not good at business and have to work at a job they don't like when they would like to be writing full-time. Making a living at writing isn't easy, and it doesn't happen overnight (at least not for most of us), but you can reach your goal. Learning about the business end of a writing career is the best way to achieve a writer's dream of writing full-time. If I can help writers learn more about business, I believe I am helping some great stories make it into the world and helping people like me, who love to write, make the money they need to keep writing.
- I have had the great fortune of having a deadline. Every year I have been asked to participate in a StoryBundle called “The Write Stuff” created by Kristine Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith at WMG Publications. The offer usually includes eight to ten books on the business of writing or the craft of writing. Sometimes free online courses are included too. The bundles are released every spring with a tight deadline (and usually with only a few weeks notice.)
- I write the Business Books for Writers so busy writers can read them and complete any assignments in one weekend. No book is over 25,000 words. The length helps me fit them in my busy schedule, keeps the production costs low, and allows me to fill the books with links to online articles, blogs, and other resources so the authors can go into as much detail on the subject as they wish.
How have I been making money as a writer?
I believe I achieved my writing business goals because I had a business plan for making money as a writer. I sat down and decided how much money I needed to last four years until I started making the money I needed to give up my day job (5 years. I still have a year and a half to go.) (Don't know how to create a business plan for your writing? My book, The Writer's Business Plan, can help you with examples, downloadable worksheets, and a template that you use to create a business plan for achieving your goals.
I also identified a year by year strategy for achieving my goals.
I knew nothing about self-publishing when I started. My entire first year was getting the six stories for the workshop written and producing the first book in the Business Books For Writers series: The Writer's Business Plan. Like anything you start for the first time, I made mistakes, but I corrected them and got out the e-book and print book. I also put together a production team to create professional-quality books. That took time because I needed to learn how to work with the team, and they needed to learn what I wanted. I also tried out several team members on small projects in search of a group of people that worked together well.
In the second year, I added audiobook versions of the fiction books. I may have offered audiobooks too early. The audiobooks are expensive to create, and they haven't sold well. But they have provided a small income stream that I hope grows in the future.
This past year was my break out year. Expenses are projected to equal my income as a writer. I was happy with this because, in year 5 of my business plan, I begin to implement my marketing and advertising plan for the non-fiction books. I expect that if I handle this correctly, I will start to generate profits. Nothing is so exciting for me to create a plan and then achieve targetted milestones!
What have I learned from this experience?
- Identify achievable goals. Write them down so you won't forget them. Include your goals in your business plan. Refer to them often, so you remember your goals for making money as a writer. When they seem impossible to achieve, remember if you complete one task a day, you finish 365 tasks a year. If you do that for five years, you will finish1825 tasks! That is a lot to accomplish.
- Identify goals over a period of four or five years. If you achieve them early, great! If you don't hit them by the time you projected, don't get discouraged. You have time. Be flexible, but don't use the time to procrastinate.
- Create a new timeline for achieving what you want to accomplish and ask yourself what can you do to hit your goals within the five-year time frame. Don't expect to hit every goal you set out for yourself, but celebrate if you do!
If you are willing to work every day and treat your writing career and keep full-time hours, you can reach your goals, and you can make money as a writer.
When you are discouraged, it is a good idea to review everything you have accomplished since you started. You will be surprised at how much you have achieved.
If others discourage you, review your plan, ask yourself if you are carrying out what you set out to do. If it still seems realistic, keep at it.
Remember, you can't control what other people do. You can't control if an editor buys your stories. You can't control if you win a writing award or not. I've gone to the Fiction River writing workshop four times, and one year, I didn't sell any stories.
I kept working on getting better, and I sent the stories to other editors.
I have sold some of the stories that didn't sell at the workshop to other editors. Write the stories. If you are a good writer, editors will buy the stories. If you aren't a good writer yet, writing stories and taking craft classes will make you a better writer. Being an author is a learn as you go profession.
Work hard. Don't give up. Keep a list of what you want to do, what you need to work on for the next day, week, month, and year. As you finish a writing project, keep a list of what you have accomplished. When you get discouraged, as we all do, reread the list and marvel at everything you have done since you started.
Just don't give up. Too many good writers give upas they about to start making money as a writer.
Did you find at least one thing valuable in this article? Please let me know. I love hearing when people learn something from my blog. Your comments make the time I put into the blog worthwhile!