You wrote a book, now what? You start researching cover artists and editors and freak out about the costs. You say things like, "I need to know I'll make back the money before I shell out anything." Well, here's a hard truth for you: no one can promise you that you will make back the investment right away or ever, especially if you don't do your part with marketing (which may cost some money as well).
But the real question is, why do you think this way? If you have a full-time job and writing is your hobby, think of all the other people with hobbies who invest money on memberships, equipment, travel or what-not to participate in them. Do they ski because they want skiing to pay them back at the end of the day? No. Do they spend a day golfing and expect to be paid when they finish eighteen holes? No. Do rock climbers stress out about spending money on ropes and safety harnesses before they tackle the mountain? No. Even runners invest money on the proper shoes so they don't get shin splints, but do they expect to be financially paid back for those shoes just because they want to run? No. Why? Because hobbies reward you with joy, satisfaction, and an escape from your day-to-day life. That's why they are called hobbies.
Nothing wrong with writing being your hobby--in fact, it's smart. But are you putting too high of expectations on your hobby? It's not a dirty word, you know--hobby. It doesn't mean your novel isn't good or that you aren't committed. Don't let ego sabotage you.
I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding.
Am I suggesting you shouldn't want to make money from your books? No, just the opposite actually. I'm stating that your expectations are a bit whacked and perhaps you need to take a moment to look at them from another perspective.
If writing is your full-time job and you're still bitchy about shelling out for editors, cover artists, and paid advertising, then I ask you: what kind of special snowflake do you think you are? All businesses have operating costs. All businesses invest in themselves to succeed.
The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.
If you're not earning enough as a writer to afford normal business operating costs, then you need to find a supplemental job to support you as you get off the ground. There's nothing wrong with that--it is simple common sense. Many people work multiple jobs while launching their own business and don't quit until they are financially stable. It's called rocking the side gig. If you go to a restaurant in Los Angeles, for example, most of the waiters will tell you that the are actors waiting for their big break. But what are they doing in the meantime? They're working jobs to pay the bills, they're going on auditions, they're investing in head shots, taking acting classes--they are hustling and putting money into their dream! Does that make them less talented? No, it makes them smart.
Writers are the only group of people I have met who expect to make money without spending anything or who think their hobby owes them something. The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers. If you're blessed enough to know how to write, to complete a novel, to have been immersed in creativity, then it's your obligation to that gift to nurture it and invest in it--and to let go of all expectations after that fact.
The key to success in any creative profession is to keep moving forward at all times. Want to make money as a novelist? It's completely possible, but you need to keep writing, keep putting yourself in front of people, keep striving to be the best you can be, keep investing in yourself. You also need to lighten up about it. The idea of being a struggling artist is limiting you--how about celebrating instead and enjoying the creative process? It's amazing what happens when you stop worrying and begin trusting.
C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it.
I've stopped associating with people who say that they can't make money writing because that very thinking is what's blocking them from succeeding. Normally, when confronted with this type of person, I'll ask what they do to market themselves. They usually respond with free things like Facebook groups or tweeting teams, things that are known to have very low return. If I ask about paid advertising, they always screech about wasting money. Same thing when asked if they hired a professional editor or cover artist--nope, they can do it themselves, they respond. But they are not succeeding in the way they want because they are not investing in it--and they won't because they are stubborn and determined to struggle.
Yes, I mean it when I say they are determined to struggle. They are getting some kind of satisfaction--even if subconsciously--from struggling, from complaining about being lost in the mix, from whining about book prices, or making excuses about the ever-changing publishing environment. Perhaps they see it as paying their dues or their curse as a storyteller or maybe struggle gives them permission to be mediocre because why try harder if they aren't making money at it--that's all nonsense.
In my mind, I can think of at least a dozen authors I know who are making over $10,000 a month. Are they famous? Not in the big scheme. What are they doing to separate themselves from the pack? Investing in their career and embracing the joy of being a writer. Not one of them can be heard whining about how hard it is or making excuses as to why they aren't a millionaire yet. They're doing the work, investing in ads, delegating editing and artwork to other professionals so they can keep working on their next novel, automating or hiring out social media marketing, and making money every single month.
Depending on whether writing is your hobby or full-time job, you need to understand that it owes you nothing. You were blessed with the inspiration and dedication to sit down and do the work of storytelling. That's your reward. Want to make money from it? Good, but are you willing to invest like every other artist and business owner in the world does?
The hard truth is that your books owe you nothing and neither do readers.
I'm not sure why writers are unique in this attitude, but they seem to be. I've known musicians who have CDs and play in the band on the weekends at gigs all over Colorado who never complain that they aren't making enough money to do it full-time. They don't stop investing, though. Neither do artists I know who spend money on tables at art shows and use their last dimes to buy supplies knowing that their return on investment will be uncertain. Yet I know far too many authors who cry at the price of an editor or a cover artist and won't spend a dime until they "are making money from their books."
And the irony? Most of those authors are listing their books at .99 or free to "gain exposure" while they lament that they are dirt poor. C'mon! Time to switch up your thinking. If it's not working for you, stop it.
The hard truth is: to make money, you must spend money. Yes, choose wisely on what ads to purchase and where and what editor or cover artist to hire. But if you're one of those who stubbornly refuses to do so, then don't whine about poor book sales or bad reviews. You were chosen by inspiration to tell a story--which is a gift in and of itself--and then you chose to drop the ball. There is no one to blame but you in this scenario.
And if you did hire an artist and an editor but then failed to invest in ads or put the time in with marketing, the blame is also solely on you. Not writing your next book until the first one pays out? That's a crime against creativity.
As we begin a new year, think about what you are willing to invest in your writing career/hobby, make a budget of both time and money, and stick to it. Stop making excuses and start seeing possibilities.
Amber Lea Easton
Amber Lea Easton is a multi-published author of nonfiction, thrillers, and romantic suspense. A professional editor and freelance journalist for nearly two decades, she created Mountain Moxie Publishing Services to assist authors in mastering the writing craft. Her memoir, Free Fall, is dedicated to spreading suicide awareness, has topped international best selling charts, and has been named by Dr. Prem as fourth on the "Ten Most Inspiring True Stories Everyone Must Read" list. Easton is also a speaker regarding parenting through trauma and suicide awareness. To discover more about Mountain Moxie Publishing Services, please go to http://www.moxiegirlwriting.com. For a list of all of Easton's books, articles and interviews, go to http://www.amberleaeaston.com.