Fiscal realities of publishing… and the pursuit of happiness… 1 year on.

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

Last year, around this point in time, I published a blog post called Fiscal realities of published… And the pursuit of happiness…It was written in part as an answer to one of the questions every independent author has learned to dread. The only question I suspect that crops up more often than ‘Where do you get your idea’s from?’ from perspective writers. The answer to ‘Where do you get your idea’s from?‘  BTW I will write for you at the end of this post, as a reward for reading it, I suspect the answer to that question is not what you expect… But we are talking about the other question perspective writers always seem to ask here. The question that indie writers tend to get a little irritated about in my experience and to be fair, rightly so. ‘How much money do you make?’

This post then is by way of an update on how I sought to answer that question. I stand by that original post and the answers it gave. But as an exercise I thought doing a follow up one year on would be of interest to those who ask such questions, though this is not just an update to the original post, but an extension of it. I am also stealing the idea of doing these posts yearly from another writer Jim C Hines who had been publishing his earnings form writing on his own blog for years and also have a rather more in-depth look at novelists earnings which is a fascinating read. But this post is about my own experience not the wider community.

A little background first. last year at this time I had three novels and a novella in print. Cider lane, my first novel from way back in 2015,  Passing Place published in September 2016, the novella A Scar of Avarice in June 2018, and A Spider in The Eye in January of last year, and my earnings from these between Jan 1st 2019 and 31 July 2019 were as follows.

sales t up to and including july

Earnings on Amazon 1st Jan to 31 July 2019

Since then I have published two more novels, From Russia With Tassels in October 2019 and Maybe in March 2020. So for comparison these are my earnings on Amazon from Jan 1st 2020 to 30 June 2020 ( a month less because I am slightly early in doing this and don’t have July’s figures)

jan - june 2020

Earnings on Amazon 1st Jan to 30 June 2020

As you can see I have made much more in book sales in the last six months than I did in the first seven months of last year. I was doing remarkably well by my standards this time last year, I am, as you can see, doing considerably better this year. But all things are relative. Last year I was able to sell books at conventions, this year I have been unable to. Also these figures are gross earnings, but I’ll get to that later… But all the same I have sold a lot more books, and not just because I have two more published works out there in the world. I have sold a lot more books and gotten them into the hands of readers, which is a happy thing…

The other chart I shared last year was my total earnings since my first book was published way back in 2015.

total earnings

Total earnings on Amazon from July 2015 to July 2019

From which you can see why I thought I was having a good year last year. But the same chart for this year, 11 months later… Well clearly I am doing something right somewhere…

total june 2020

Total earnings on Amazon from July 2015 to June 2020

And yes two more books in print does help.

But that’s not a complete picture, far from it in fact. I have made a lot more money from writing in the last year. But I have spent a great deal more on advertising, in fact I have spent more on advertising than I have made this year. I’ve also bought paperback I have been unable to sell due to Covid19 closing conventions. Bookmarks I have been unable to use, a pull up banner that has sat in the corner since it arrived ( in its carry case, I am not that vain.)  So in actuality I have probably wiped out every penny I have ever earned on book sales. I suspect, though I have not done the maths to be sure, that I have in fact ran myself into the red by at least couple of hundred ( probably more, which is why I have never done the figures)  more than those total all time sales figures…

So the answer to ‘How much money do you make?’ from your writing is a negative figure, of at least three figures. And guess what, I am still having a good year in my opinion and my summery from last year remains the same…

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…

Because the point remains, I don’t write to make money, writing and been a writer is about the pursuit of happiness. Considerably more people have read my books in the last twelve months than had ever read them before. And most of them like the story’s within the pages of those books ( some don’t and that’s fine too, I write them for the people that do and there seems to be far more of them)

So while publish and selling my books has costs me more than I’ve ever made I am going to keep doing so, because it has never been about money. And if your a perspective writer and money is you main motive for being so, consider this a cautionary tale, because my experience is the experience of most writers, in fact I am selling better than most. And because I don’t care about making money, or indeed spending it to get my books in the hands of reader, I remain in the pursuit of happiness, which makes me successful in my eyes…

And if you are a prospective writer, don’t let the cold hard fiscal realities put you off. Because its never about the money…


Oh and yes I have not forgotten I promised to answer that other question, the one about ideas and there origins. Well the answer I give to that question is simple, I get my idea by drinking the tears of children that were never born but existed only as a potential of a fate denied by an unbroken condom…

I said I would answer it, I never said you would like the answer….

This entry was posted in amwriting, big questions, indie, indie novels, indie writers, indiewriter, self-publishing, writes, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Fiscal realities of publishing… and the pursuit of happiness… 1 year on.

  1. andy hill says:

    Great piece Mark.I suppose the good news is at least the costs of promotion are mainly controllable and variable to sales. So many creatives sign with publishers, record companies etc, they work themselves to death, only to discover that marketing costs (which they can’t control) are greater than sales AND they don’t own their own works. So even if you’ve not turned a profit (yet) you have built a following and reputation. Crucially when a breakthrough happens, you own the back catalogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The value of the craft… | The Passing Place

  3. Pingback: Valuing the craft | The Passing Place

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