WARNING: Subject to headdesk and foot in mouth. Please feel free to argue. This is my learning experience, too, you know.
Okay, to begin with, I’m stealing right and left from Dean Wesley Smith. If you’re interested in the topic and you’re not reading his (and his wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch‘s) blog, you have problems. Go read. He’s bending over backwards to help a whole generation of writers succeed. Let him.
First, the money.
Dean says, and so far (month 1) this has panned out. FIRST MONTH. No name recognition, no major push. Just announcing things on Facebook and Twitter. So yes, this is reasonable.
(Presuming posting ebooks at Smashwords, PubIt [B&N], and Amazon [Kindle Direct Publishing]. Short stories at .99, Short novels/collections at 2.99, Novels [50K and up] at 4.99. Presuming you’re writing at the level of the occasional sale to semi-pro markets in your chosen genres. Presuming you have decent covers and blurbs, too. Not GOOD. Just decent.)
Short stories, novels under 50K, collections:
5 copies per month, across all sites.
Oh, no!!! Only five copies a month?!?
Yes, but that’s five copies a month for the forseeable future.
On average, you’ll make .35 on each .99 sale (35% royalties).
5 x .35 = 1.75 a month, or $21/year. For what could be the rest of your life (well, probably not, because something will change, either up or down. But for the forseeable future).
Now, let’s say, like me, you’re writing a short story a week.
If I did nothing but post all the stories that I wrote, immediately, without submitting them to pay markets, I should, on average, make:
50 stories (2 weeks off for vacation and ease of math).
50 x 21 = $1050/year.
However, I can also collect those stories into story collections of 10 or so each, or 5 collections (priced at 2.99, profit averages about $2 each, due to 70% royalties).
5 x 2 = $10 10 x 12 = $120/year 5 collections x 120 = $600.
Again, lowball it. Writing a story a week for a year, you should make at least $1500/year.
If you have a full-time job, you can still write a story a week for a year.
And, again, lowballing it for ease of math, let’s say that you don’t make ANY sales until the end of the year, when you have 50 stories and 10 collections done. The first year after that, you’ll make $1500.
The next year after that, you’ll make $3000 (because you’re still writing).
The year after that, $4500. And so on.
Unlike traditional publishing, the money from the first year’s writing doesn’t go away. You still make money off it. It’s like investing in real estate more than it is selling beaded jewelry. You get something almost like rent from it, every month.
And that’s if you have NO name recognition, and nobody recommends you to someone else, etc…
And also, that’s not counting any money you could make from submitting your stories to pay markets before you post them: when you’re selling stories, you’re only selling a period of time to the rights for those stories. Check your contracts; if they say “forever,” walk.
I don’t have any novels out, so I’m just going to take this on faith. I’m taking it on faith from a number of people, however, people who aren’t famous in any way.
Novels should sell, baseline, about 25 copies a month, and on a $4.99 ebook at 70% royalties, you’re making about 3.50 a book.
25 x 3.50 = $87.50 87.5 x 12 = $1050.
WHAT?!? But that’s waaay less than a publisher advance.
But, again, it goes on forever: $1000 year one, $1000 year two, and so on. Granted, at that rate, it would take longer than your lifetime to make a $100K advance. However, if you were worth a $100K advance, you’d probably be selling more than 25 copies a month, yes? Which changes the calculations.
If you’re writing one novel (NaNoWriMo) and 50 stories a year, you’re making:
Year one: $2500
Two: $5000 (keep writing!)
This is something you can do and still work fulltime.
Now, writing fulltime, you have to figure out how many novels you’re going to get done, edited, and posted a year. Also, once you sell something to the big publishers, it’s tricky to get it back, so get help before you sign a contract: make sure they can’t screw you when it comes time to get the book back.
I’m going to shoot for nine + 50 stories over at WonderlandPress.com. Crap, man, I don’t know. But even if I only get six done and up, that’s still saying something.
I’m not going totally indy; I have four novels out on subs right now. If they don’t get picked up in six months or a year, I’ll probably epublish them. I’m also working on WFH projects for cash flow, and that takes time, too. We’ll see. It’s only been a month, and it’s already HARD being patient, waiting for sales to come in. I know, the healthy thing would be NOT to check your numbers on a daily basis, but I’m not necessarily sane. I’m sure the checking will wear off after a while, but it’s new. Oh my God I made 40 cents last night has not yet lost its charm 🙂