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Posts Tagged ‘writing for a living’

This is going to be a whining post, so if you’re not in the mood for that, just stop right here.

I hear writers say all the time, “It’s not about the money, it’s about doing what I love to do.” Really? I could make myself feel better by telling myself that if I’m not making any money. But it wouldn’t solve my problem, would it? Because, yeah, it IS about the money. I don’t mean that I don’t love writing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have started it in the first place. But I want to do this for a LIVING. The cool thing about that is I could have the best of both worlds. Do what I love AND make money doing it. And I used to. I USED to make pretty decent money writing.

A couple of years ago, I was averaging FIVE times the income I’m making now, and that was back when I had fewer books out and they were all .99. (This isn’t counting the two months where I made a LOT of money. I left that out of the average.) Now I’m lucky in some months to make even $100. It fluctuates, but every month pretty much sucks now. Yesterday, I was looking at my book sales, and I only sold about five books. What??? That was REALLY bad. When ebooks and self-publishing were first getting started, it was so much easier to sell books. Now, readers have to slog through THOUSANDS of books to even find mine. In January of 2011, my novella, Guardian Vampire, got up to #134 in the Amazon store. That was pure euphoria. I’ve written several books since then that are so much better than GV, but they’ll never see that kind of success. There’s too much competition.

So how do you get people to find your books? I haven’t a clue. I took out an ad in IndTale magazine. I haven’t seen ANY results from that. I did a couple of other things, but they didn’t pan out either. And I can’t afford ads in more well-known venues. I’m terrible at self-promotion. With a full-time job, it’s hard to even have time for that.

This is the bottom line. Should I keep doing this? Will the writers who aren’t really serious about publishing, who are just dabbling, finally stop when they don’t make money, and trim down the competition? Everyone has a right to write and publish, so I’m not suggesting ANYONE stop publishing if that’s what they want to do. But I keep thinking some people will just get tired of it. I’m almost there myself. Not because I’m not serious about this, but because I AM serious about this…as a business. If I’m not making money writing, shouldn’t I pursue something else? “But, but, Lauralynn! You love writing! Keep doing it even if you’re not making money!” No. Because I NEED a business that makes money. And I can’t keep writing AND do something else AND do my full-time job. It’s a time thing. I need to spend my time in a productive manner. I don’t WANT to live paycheck to paycheck. I have $11 in my regular checking account (not my business one) and my mortgage was due on March 1. My husband will lose about 2 weeks pay because of his broken ankle. I need to be doing something in addition to my full time job so this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

Yes, I know I’ve probably shared more than I should have today. No one should have to hear about my financial woes. But this is MY blog. And I need to vent here.

End of rant.

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***WARNING*** Long post ahead

This post stems from the frustration of tanking book sales. I would like to at least continue to enjoy the little “extras” in life by working full time AND writing, at least for now. Eventually, I would like this to be my job, but things aren’t looking so good right now.

I started thinking I might be able to eventually do this full time when my January & February 2011 sales were so good that I made more money those two months than I did at my full time job. And most of that was from one 99 cent novella…Guardian Vampire. I’ve pondered the mystery of this book’s success for a long time, and I still don’t understand it. It’s actually still my best seller at Amazon UK, although the sales aren’t that great. Think about it though…I made a full time salary on one 99 cent book for two months straight.

I got some emails from readers wishing for a sequel. I know I’ve told this part before. There was no sequel to this novella. So I wrote a the Vampires’ Curse trilogy, thinking that readers wanted series. I’ve never had good sales on those novellas even though they are much better, in my opinion, than Guardian Vampire. After writing GV, I wrote a novel, Haunted Lake. It went months with few sales, but suddenly took off. It never reached the volume of GV, but it wasn’t shabby at all. I currently have 12 works published (one is a compilation of three of the others), and Haunted Lake is still the best seller in the US. Better than anything newer. In fact, the oldest novel is doing better than Vampires’ Curse. I absolutely do not understand.

Here’s the thing. Except for when GV was going crazy, I’ve been used to making a steady $500-$700 a month in sales across a few channels. (We know which channel has the best sales.) This has been less than enough for full time work, but it was really good for part time work. We had been buying essentials and paying bills with our full time money, and had been buying fun stuff and paying for vacation with book money. But in the last couple of months, I haven’t made much over $300. And it looks like July might be even worse. I can’t make a living this way. We’re told the only way to do this is to keep writing so you have a lot of books out there. But the last few things I’ve written are the ones I haven’t sold well. And I’m beginning to suspect that it’s because most of them aren’t 99 cents anymore. My old stuff is all 99 cents, but I refuse to price my later work that low. We, as authors, deserve to get paid for our work. So mine ranges from the 99 cent books, up to the 2.99 ones. I’m afraid, though, that as long as other authors keep pricing at 99 cents, it’s going to be hard to compete. Even if you have a good story, you have to get someone to read it first. Readers will download a bunch of 99 cent books at once. I know this because I’ve done it myself. It’s fun to get lots of stuff for your money. But if I really like an author, I’ll pay more. The key is getting someone to read your work to start with. Some of those 99 cent books don’t even get read, I’ll bet. I have honestly considered dropping all my prices to 99 cents to see what happens. But then I think about the hard work I put into the books and say no.

So we come to the present WIP I’m working on. I think Guardian Vampire did well partly because of the title when people were doing searches. I really feel like my WIP has an even better title. I’m not ready to reveal that title for reasons I’ll explain later. But I feel like this might be the book that brings my sales back up. I have a glimmer of hope. I just need to make sure I’m realistic enough to realize that there’s tons more competition in ebooks than there used to be, and that things may not work out like I hope. I’m a resilient person, though, and also persistent. So there’s always the next book, and the next one, and the next one….

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