Fiscal realities of publishing… and the pursuit of happiness…

‘If everything you do and everything you are is in pursuit of money, then you are already bankrupt.’       ~ Cake, Ink, Collective.

Several things have happened in the last few days to inspire this post. It is a post or at least the idea behind doing it, that has also been inspired by an oft-asked question. Indeed, probably the question that seems to crop up the most whenever I talk to people who want to be writers, or I mention I and a writer. Or to be clear, it tied with that other question every author dreads ‘Where do you get your idea’s from?’. Its the question wannabe writers seem to ask the most… ‘How much money do you make?’

So, here is a little fiscal reality. My first novel Cider lane was published back in July 2015, which a little over four years ago. Since then I have published Passing Place on September 2016, the novella A Scar of Avarice in June 2018, and A Spider in The Eye in January this year. Not including this month, with all four books in print, these are my amazon earnings since January 1st this year:

 

sales t up to and including july

Earnings on Amazon 1st Jan to 31 July 2019

 

To be clear here, I am having a damn good year… I am in fact over the moon with how well it has been going. On top of amazon, I have done remarkably well, selling books at conventions, which I have done all of twice (really I must do this more often). And I can add a reasonable amount in direct sales because of this. But this is all gross, not net. Buying in books for direct sales, and in other things like business cards to hand out, hotel costs and other things. Cut into that, so if I have actually made £50 in direct sales after all that is taken into account, I have done well.

Also with the amazon figures, there are costs, advertising on Amazon and Goodreads cuts into those profits, and remarkably if that doesn’t eat profit away to nothing I have to give the taxman his share… So, all in all, I have not earned enough through writing to cover the cost of a one-month mortgage payment, and if we are cynical, the electricity it cost to run the PC to do all the writing in the first place…

And again, I am having a damn good year… I have never sold so many books per month, I feel I am really getting somewhere and really looking forward to publishing the next Hannibal novel soon. I could in fact not be happier, at least in terms of books sales… In case your wondering, the amount I have made in book sales this year is roughly the same as I made in the previous 3 years combined. So yes, it’s been a damn good year so far…

 

total earnings

Total earnings on Amazon from July 2015 to July 2019

 

On top of all my own stuff, I am also privileged to be part of the Harvey Duckman Anthologies, which has been wonderful from my perspective and has brought me a great deal of joy working with the 6E team, and the other Harvey writers. Even if I have occasionally wondered at the nativity of some of the first time writers in those anthologies when it comes to making money from books. Was I ever that naive? Probably before I published Cider Lane, and after I published Cider Lane come to that. But all the same, I always find it slightly remarkable how many people seem to want to get into writing for ‘the money’. There is no money in books, there isn’t a great deal of money in publishing full stop and there is very little money in anthologies. Indeed,  if 6E did the Harvey Duckman books for ‘the money’ then they wouldn’t do them in the first place. Luckily for me, and a whole bunch of other writers both first-timers and ‘old hands’ with their own novels out there in the big wide world, and indeed for the growing readership of these anthologies, they don’t do Harvey for the money. They do it for the joy of it, and a damn fine joy it is too…

I don’t write to make money. Oh sure that was the dream, and still is the dream. I would love to make my living through my art. But the reality is that writing is a full-time vocation, but a part-time job. I need to do little things like buy food, pay the mortgage, pay the bills and keep the lights on and so I have a full-time job. And do you know what? I am fine with that. I love writing, I love my novels and I love hearing from happy readers ( most of which say ‘When is the next one out?’ so I must be doing something right.) But will I ever make a living out of it? I doubt that somehow. There is no money in books, as I say, but then writing books has never been about the pursuit of money for me. Book are and have always been about the pursuit of happiness.

So if you are a prospective writer, here is my advice, don’t even think about the money you might make, and certainly don’t ever write for the money you might make out of doing so. Write for the joy it brings you, and for the joy of the journey. Because money, hell, it’s not even a blip on the radar.

Oh and never ask a writer how much money they make. That’s just asking to be written into a novel and then have the character gruesomely slaughtered, probably with a ballpoint pen…

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