Monday, August 10

I'm not seeing the money...

by Liz Flaherty

Let me start off by sending you somewhere else-- http://mainecriewriters.com/kates-posts/can-you-afford-to-get-published

In case you didn't go, the link is to a wonderful post by mystery writer Kate Flora. I read it this morning before my tea was even hot and have been thinking about it as I drank. Can I afford to be published?

I don't know the answer yet.

I know that I have had books published whose earnings didn't pay for the conference I attended that particular year.

I know when I've set up my promotional budget for the year ahead, I've been doubtful I'd earn as much as I spent.

I know I have a book that has not earned out and I truly doubt it ever will. This gives me a leaden feeling in my stomach even though I'm almost sure it has more to do with distribution than with whether it's a good book.

I know that when I see the pictures and read the posts from people at RWA's national conference my laughter is forced and the envy I profess to is a little darker than that. Because I don't earn the kind of writing money that would make my attendance a viable investment.

I know that as tightly as I hold onto traditional publishing because there are things about it I like so much, worries I don't have, time on promotion I don't spend, I'm likely only fooling myself because many of my indie-pubbed friends out-earn me by...oh, lots. (Let me add here that there's also the possiblity they are better writers than I am who have kept up with the market better than I have. Okay, the probability. There, I've said it. Sniff.)

I know I've read the statistics on Brenda Hiatt's so-helpful http://brendahiatt.com/show-me-the-money/ and realized I'm always below the middle.

These are the things I know. And then there's one more.

I'm going to write. Regardless. Sometimes I'm just going to like it better than others.

40 comments:

  1. Well, you said it all. I don't have the publications and earnings/no earnings, but I'm all about the writing--NOT writing is about the worst state I can be in. Thanks for being so honest with us--always helpful to have a look at what really happens to writers. Much too easy to kid ourselves and keep those rose-colored lenses firmly in place.

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    1. I've never actually quit writing and by now, I know I probably never will. For publication? I don't know anymore.

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  2. great post, Liz! I'll always write, too, but that money is a kind of validation ... and it puts food on my family's table and clothes on our backs...so I hope it grows!

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    1. I hope so, too, Kristi. I must admit, I'm glad to be at the stage in life I am, where those things would be nice but don't have to be part of the writing equation. I'm not sure what I'd do if I were there instead of where I am.

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  3. I've been wondering about publication too, and wouldn't you know? Something ego charging happened. A woman to whom I'd given one of my books told me she'd stayed up until after midnight reading my story. She was grinning, telling me she could tell I had fun writing. I've made very little money, but that comment was vindication of the best sort. I hope something of the sort happens to you!

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    1. Oh, absolutely, Ashantay. That's one of the things that keep you going!. On Saturday, after a library talk, a 7th grader told me that he would remember meeting me for the rest of his life. That was pretty cool!

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  4. Well said, Liz. I was writing before I made any money at it. I might have stopped for a few years here and there, but I always went back, and I probably always will.

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    1. That's it in a nutshell, isn't it? Even if we stop, we go back.

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  5. I'm at a point in my life where I don't need the money from book sales but would certainly welcome that form of validation. I'm happy with the individual responses from readers. One reader wrote to congratulate and encourage me to write more books in the series. Onward!

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    1. Yes, onward, the perfect word for us. And, unfortunately, I don't think we ever get over needing that form of validation whether we actually "need" it or not! Thanks for coming by!

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  6. Yes, writing for fun and profit--must be heavy on the first!

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    1. It had better be, hadn't it? :-) Thanks for coming by, Barb.

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  7. Liz - great post and so true - esp. for me. I never expected to MAKE A LIVING writing and I haven't failed in that respect - if I had to live on my royalties and add in all the money I spend on promotions, conferences, yadayadyada I'd be owed money from the government because I fall below the poverty line -- waaaaay below. As writers we write simply because we have to. I used to say if I was starving in a garrett and writing - I'd still be happy. WOuld it be great to never have to worry about money? You betcha. But aside from winning lotto, it is what it is, so be happy.

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    1. Yeah, it is what is, but I'm afraid it will get worse before it gets better. And I am happy--just occasionally disgruntled! :-)

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  8. I'm indie published and with a small press and despite having over fifteen titles available, my indie sales, which were modest at best, have now slowed to a trickle. I know lots of indie pubbed authors who are losing money. Lots! And on my books with the small press, one is selling abysmally and the other looks like it may earn enough to break even at least, or maybe I'll even have a small profit. Indie publishing is not the answer for a lot of authors. You have to have books in the right genre and keep cranking them out.

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    1. One of my TWRP books has been picked up by Amazon Encore--I'm anxious to see how it does. Even a trickle can be a nice little fund when it's indie, though, can't it? Thanks for coming, Mary!

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  9. Amen, Liz, to all of it. And to add to what you said, I have seven "Kindle-ized" reverted rights backlist books. I have 15 or so digitalized backlist and somewhat current books available via Harlequin. I not talking big money by any means, but in the first quarter of this year, my self-published Kindle royalties were about 700% more than my HQN royalties..

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    1. Oh my gosh! That amazes me, and horrifies me all at once, though I know what my own royalties statements look like, so I shouldn't be that suprised. If I ever get them ready (!) I'm going to put a few back-to-mes up. You've given me encouraging words in that regard.

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  10. Liz, don't ever doubt your talent. I've read your books. You're extremely talented. No matter what you decide to do, keep writing.

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    1. Thanks, Sandy, and I won't give up, but the truth is I'm a lot tireder than I used to be and the whole learning curve of today's publishing exhausts me! :-)

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  11. The money is part of it and definitely a struggle. But the stories keep shouting to be written. I wish there was a better answer.

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    1. But, you know, it's a joyous one even the way things are. So many people don't have those voices and stories we're so lucky we get to hear and tell.

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  12. I ain't getting rich, but I'm keeping my head above water, and I don't have to go to that god-awful retail job I hated with my whole being! A little more money would be nice, though. Just a little....

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    1. Good for you, D--I'm so glad it's working! I know you hated retail. I didn't hate my day job, but I don't miss it, either. :-)

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  13. I hope your library round table went well on Saturday:) I'm not convinced that talent means money. I've read wonderful writers who don't have an audience and not-so-good writers who become best sellers. Maybe the planets have to align a certain way. And some people are SO good at marketing and promoting themselves. A lot more goes into sales than just writing. Wish I knew what it was.

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    1. Thanks, Judy. It went okay. Nice young people there, which I didn't expect! And yeah, I think you're right about the planets. It bothers me, though, that I truly believe good marketing and promoting are more important right now than good writing.

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  14. Thank for sharing the link, Liz. All good points and exactly why I keep my day job.

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    1. I did, too, Stanalei, and I was lucky enough to love it. "Starving in a garret" never appealed to me!

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  15. I wouldn't have to make a lot to beat what I"m making these days ;)

    I know myself well enough to know I procrastinate the marketing angle of self-publishing and not make any money which is why I'm still trying to break into traditionals :)

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    1. I think you just found an opening in one of those doors, Margie. :-)

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  16. I believe Judith hit the nail on the head. I know very talented writers, such as yourself, Liz, who don't make much money. On the other hand, I know social media mavens who literally churn out books like color-by-number projects and because they have a dedicated fan base, they make out like bandits!!! I've even got one of their 10 chapter formula outline on how to write a romance, what to do with the characters in each chapter! And what about the anthologies? You write 15,000 to 20,000 word book that's little better than a short story, stick it in with some authors who have social media "presence" and then sell the anthology for $0.99, and even though, your cut of each sale (10 authors) is tiny, the volume adds up. There is a lot of gaming the system going on (and if I've offended anyone, I apologize). But you have to stay true to yourself. Write the best book you can that means something. Do only the amount of social media and promotion you're prepared to do and no more and hope that you will slowly build. That's all I know to do. I was traditionally pubbed, too, and actually made in the 5 figures on one of my books in the late 90's, but I was frustrated because my publisher and all the other big publishers wanted to tell me EXACTLY what to write if I wanted to make the money. This business is a huge roller-coaster and there's more luck than anything else involved. IMHO Okay, enough of my rant!!!

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    1. LOL. Thanks for coming by, Hebby, and for your rant. RE: the novellas, I've done two now. The jury's out on how much good they will do any of us, but they are so much fun to write and stuff I'm proud of, too. I've bought several and have read some great stuff and some...well, you know. However, it's the same way with full-length books, so...

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  17. My seventh contract with a small press should arrive today. I'm with you on not making any money, Liz.
    Although I'm not in it for the money (except when I go to RWA National and feel like the lowest on the totem pole) I'd love to be able to reach more readers. It's hard to be a contender in this publishing rat race. A few years ago I had to ask myself why I continue to do this, and the bottom line was I do it for me, regardless of the results. Writing gives me identity, purpose, some sort of validation, but most of all it gives me pleasure. It days gone by the saying was you had to write five books before you achieved name recognition. In the digital age I think it's probably fifteen. Guess I'd better quit fooling around on blogs and go write. ;)

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    1. I agree, Roben--I do it for me, too.I'd love to be a "contender," but wouldn't we all?

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  18. Perfect timing on this honest post today, Liz, as I have a few friends who are struggling with this as well. Many of us are. But your line at the end said it all. For the vast majority of us, we may well never "hit big" or earn the big bucks. We write because we love to. And so long as we can hold on to that, then we've gained what money can't buy: happiness.

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    1. That is definitely something that remains true, isn't it? It's important to hold onto, too!

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  19. Wonderful blog post. one reason I didn't go to NY this year. I can't spend all my money on a conference when I don't have much.

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    1. I know. Makes me sad. This does give me an opportunity to talk up regional conferences, though. Much smaller and much less money and lots of bang for your buck!

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