Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Write Life

Fun considerations for the future - trying to figure out how much I'd need to earn to do things like a Masters Degree, and move out of my parents' house - have led me to thinking through exactly how to make money in a much more interesting way than scraping by on ten hours per week in a shop. I don't think I have to really say it, but I'd earn more on the Dole than I will be earning in the shop come June, when I am no longer technically a student. The only way the ten hours per week would be beneficial would be if I were also making money in other ways, during the five days off per week I will have.

Hence: the Write Life. While it is also the name of my paper, it's a consideraton for the future. How many books, for example, would I have to sell per month to pay for rent? How many articles would I have to have published to cover travel and heating and Internet access for a year? How many avenues in writing and publishing do I have to take to make a sustainable income? How much more do I have to push myself to earn a holiday?

Let's be clear: I don't technically write for money. I publish for money. The one time I did actually write for money, I was writing about the experience of publishing my book, and writing for a magazine I adore. It's hard to avoid that while trying to stick to the idea of writing for love and publishing for money, because technically I was writing for money in a publication I love. Nobody ever said what to do when it comes to that situation.

The way things stand, I'm nowhere near earning enough to move out. Yes, I have some sales on Amazon, but I don't yet have a sustainable income. I don't yet know what things will be like when after I've received the first payment, how long it will take before I earn enough to make a second. That's a real consideration, not just for me but for other writers who publish digitally (or otherwise): how long until the next payment from books, and will it be enough to live on?

The odds are, unless I publish a book I love, that others love and/or find useful, I won't be at the point of earning enough from royalties per month to actually pay for anything. I have ideas, don't get me wrong. I have a whole publication plan, deciding to write books that interest me, not just something I think will sell, because I have to love the idea for it to be worth reading by other people. I don't think it would be written well enough if I wasn't in love with it.

Taking some rough estimates into account:

Rent can cost 800 euro per month, depending on where I live. That's for a single bedroom place. It's also way too much. Living by myself isn't a viable option. Why? Because unless I found work for eight articles at at least 100 euro per piece, I wouldn't have enough for rent. Not good. That, or sell 2400 ebooks at 99 US cent per month. That's even less likely, I think. Not so much because the figure is so high, but because that's a per-month basis of sales. Even if I did get to a point of selling that many copies in a single month, it's extremely unlikely that it would happen again in the following months.

Food, for one, could be up to 80 euro per week (if I cooked everything myself and didn't just use cheap frozen items), though I would have to buy in bulk and use as much of everything as possible, and freeze. That's possible. Earning the money, possible. The bookshop covers that. Otherwise, it's another 240 books per week, at 99 cent, which on a four-week-per-month basis brings us to up 3360 books.

Can you see the problem, if I rely on 99 cent ebooks? Even if I had a dozen titles released at that price, I'd need to sell a few hundred of each on average, per month, to make my way in the world.

The other option? Publish more expensive books. I have thought of this. A lot. Before I released Balor Reborn, I drew up a pricing scale, on how I would price books of different lengths. I already know what prices I'll be setting on books in the future, right up until September, and have an estimated earning per book at a 2.99 price. A rough estimate would reduce the amount of books I need to sell per month (before electrical, Internet, heating, etc.) down to just over 600. Much better, right? Still difficult, but much better.

Can I see it happening? I don't know. Publishing is difficult to sustain as a business. Earning month from writing is extremely difficult to do. That's why I want to at least have an idea of how well I'm doing, based on financial need. None of this yet includes the other necessary bills that need to be paid, or maintaining a social life. It also doesn't take into account: (a) what I will write, (b) when I will find the time to write as much as I need to, (c) how long it will take to reach this point, or (d) saving for the future.

Considering (a): I know I want to write about writing. That's not only sold books, it's also interesting. It's teaching, which I love doing, and it helps me to focus on my craft and the industry around it. The benefits are outstanding. The difficulty? Competition. Which exists everywhere. I'll also be writing my Modern Irish Myth books. Much harder to sell, I know, unless/until they become popular. Beyond that, I've got further projects planned, some fiction, some non-fiction, that will cover a range of different topics. This isn't even so much as to reach a different audience as to keep me motivated and interested in what I'm doing. The topics in each of my non-fiction books also provide something I could possibly write about for other publications, which I have to keep in mind.

That's when I have to tackle (b): the time has to be made. I can't just sit around in June watching YouTube videos or playing computer games, as much as I'd like to. If I have five days off per week, and I manage to write even 5000 words per day, I'll be on my way towards writing an awful lot by September (which is necessary, considering everything I have planned up to that point.) 5000 seems a lot to some people, but I've written more on several occasions. I'll also need to do research for various projects, so it's unreasonable to think I can produce twice as much per day. I wouldn't get the research done to actually publish certain things.

As for how long it will take, I can't tell. Success sometimes just happens to people. Okay, so obviously it will require a lot of work, but it's possible that I won't even realise it's happened until it does, because I'll be busy trying to get as much work done as possible. If I get to a point where I'm earning a lot by December this year - a lot to be considered enough in that month to pay for bills on a single-month basis - then I'd be delighted. The real test is how sustainable that income is. I know it will be difficult, but if I suddenly earn a lot less by March next year, then I know I'm not at the point where writing would allow me to move out.

And as for the future? I need at least 6000 euro to pay for a Masters Degree. Nevermind the costs that go around it. The actual course will cost that amount. Fun, right? Saving for the future will be the most difficult part of this. Chronically all of this is part of how I hope to keep myself focused on it, though. I don't want to forget, by December, that I need to be selling X amount of books, and consistently for the next three months after, to actually do something more with my life.

This has all been very money-centred, so far. That's not right. So, here's my plan: between June and September, I want to release the next four books in the Modern Irish Myth series. One per month. I only planned publication as far as September, but if it's all possible I'll be continuing at that pace until the series is complete. In July, I want to release a non-fiction book, and another in September, though on radically different topics. More on them when I get through my exams and can plan the time I need to get everything in order. I'm not about to announce something that becomes impossible. As it is, four books in as many months will be difficult.

I'm also planning a web-series. As in, one on camera. Still not sure what it will look like, exactly, but it's in the planning stages. I'll be working on that during the summer, but I don't know when the shooting or airing of it will happen. That's all in the future, and it will require picking up some video-production skills, and becoming a better actor. Yeah... I give myself a lot to do. I'll also need to keep things like costumes, set, marketing and publicity in mind, so there's a lot to consider. I'm not even announcing what it'll be about until later (like when I have an episode or two produced and ready to go!). This is partially because I'm paranoid about someone maybe stealing the idea. Yay?

The idea in all of this is to keep writing, keep trying to make writing my source of income, and making sure I still enjoy it. That's what really matters, in all of this, that I still enjoy writing this time next year. I think about this sort of stuff every single day, never really putting figures on it and only ever telling one person about it, but here it all is. This is what I want to do with my life, and with the projects I'm planning on undertaking from June onwars, it's all going to get extremely intersting. I'll be busy, almost non-stop, but if I pull it off, won't it be worth it?

Besides, even if I only ever end up making a bit of pocket-money per month from writing, at least I can feel like I'm achieving something with it, while still having fun. How many people get to do something they love, and have loved since they were young, for a living? For how many people is it even possible? If I manage to even just make something per month, at least I'll know I can reach somebody with my words.

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