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Little Ming
08-06-2011, 05:09 AM
Recently I've become interested in the business (read: money) side of writing and after some research I've concluded that if I want to make my living from writing, I'll probably need to be more prolific through out my life, instead of hoping to write that single perfect-super-awesome-will-make-me-rich-forever! book. (Better late than never :tongue )

So I'm wondering for those of you who make all or a substantial portion of your income from writing, how prolific are you? Not just how many words do you write a day (though that is also helpful), but how many books do you complete and sell every year? If you have a healthy backlist, how long did it take you to build it? And when did you finally start feeling secure (whatever that means to you) with your income from writing?

Also, what genre(s) do you write in? Is it different for different genres? I write mainly fantasy right now, and from what I see most fantasy authors only put out one or two books a year. (Mr. Martin is an exception :tongue ) Whereas I see some romance authors can put out five or six titles a year.

Just trying to plan for my future, seeing that we don't really have pension plans or employee health insurance or anything like that in our business. Anyone retired with a healthy backlist? Are you ever worried that people will stop buying your books? Any tips for the rest of us beginners? :)

Hope these questions aren't too personal, I'm just feeling really curious today. :tongue

Thanks. :)

Jstwatchin
08-06-2011, 05:21 AM
Nothing to add besides those are great questions to ask...

cwfgal
08-07-2011, 02:05 AM
So I'm wondering for those of you who make all or a substantial portion of your income from writing, how prolific are you? Not just how many words do you write a day (though that is also helpful), but how many books do you complete and sell every year?

I don't make a substantial portion of my income from writing right now, but I did for 6 years. I had three novels that were published during those years--one a year--and I averaged about $45K of total income from each book. But that $45K was spread out over several years for each book and aside from advances, I never knew how much I'd be getting until the checks arrived. I augmented my novel income with other writing income, doing freelance nonfiction stuff, a lot of which was work-for-hire.

Today I have a series of novels out (those first three novels are now out of print and I have the rights back and will likely self-publish them in the near future) with three that are pubbed and two more under contract. So at this point I have a bit of a backlist and hope to continue to have one for years to come. I typically produce one book a year, but can write two. More than that would be tough for me given my current "day job" as a nurse, but that job provides me with a much appreciated regular, predictable income, and some delightful bennies like health & dental insurance, life insurance, a retirement plan, paid vacation, etc. It also provides me with plenty of inspiration and source material for plots, characters, etc.


If you have a healthy backlist, how long did it take you to build it? And when did you finally start feeling secure (whatever that means to you) with your income from writing?

I have a backlist and I hope to keep it that way. Not sure what a "healthy" backlist would be but I have other irons in the fire besides the current series I'm writing and I hope my writing will generate money for years to come. I plan (hope) to retire from nursing in ten years and my intent is for my writing income to augment my other retirement income sources: social security if it isn't bankrupt by then, and my employee retirement funds, which may evaporate if the stock market doesn't play nicer. I don't plan on ever retiring from writing:) and hope to be doing it until the day I die. But unless I score a huge six-figure contract or a movie deal of some sort, I don't see being able to rely on my writing income as my sole means of support.



Also, what genre(s) do you write in? Is it different for different genres? I write mainly fantasy right now, and from what I see most fantasy authors only put out one or two books a year. (Mr. Martin is an exception :tongue ) Whereas I see some romance authors can put out five or six titles a year.


I'm writing a mystery series at the moment, but my first three books were stand-alone suspense. I think two books a year is my max, at least at this point in my life, but I know authors who put out four or more books a year, often under pseudonyms. The only limits I would think are a writer's abilities and whether or not the books sell.


Are you ever worried that people will stop buying your books?

Every day.

Beth

cwfgal
08-07-2011, 02:10 AM
But unless I score a huge six-figure contract or a movie deal of some sort, I don't see being able to rely on my writing income as my sole means of support.

Just clarifying that if I opted to go back to the freelance stuff I could possibly make writing my sole means of support, but I quickly grew to hate doing the freelance stuff and it ate up too much of my fiction writing time. It made me not like writing so much, so going back to that is not an option for me.

Beth

CheshireCat
08-07-2011, 03:06 AM
Started writing in genre fiction (romance, fantasy, mystery, suspense), spent more than 25 years building a backlist and a reputation as a dependable writer, never mind polishing my skills and style. Made enough during those years to support myself, though it was touch and go at times, and I lived cheaply. And I wrote several books each year, my high being -- I think -- 9.

Finally hit the Big Time when I hit the Times list, which I now hit consistently, and now I can afford to write just one or two books a year. Plus, now that I've hit the Times list, my considerable backlist, languishing in out-of-print land for years, can be reissued and provide very nice "extra" money twice each year.

My advice to aspiring writers is always the same. Be patient, be very, very patient, and concentrate on building a body of work. It also helps if you have other publisher-valued traits going for you: you're consistent in style, you meet your deadlines or get the project in early, you don't bitch and moan about stuff you can't change, you're always pleasant and professional to deal with, you have a savvy agent who knows how much to ask for without pricing you out of the market -- and knows when to ask for Big Bucks.

Mind you, now with all the Internet publishing going on, nobody really knows what's happening, publishers are tightening their belts, and even successful writers are lucky to get decent advances because print sales have flattened (right along with the economy, and affected also by the explosion of ebook sales that is possibly heralding the death knell of mass market books).

The main thing, though, the thing you really have to keep in mind, is that you can plan all you want -- and your career is going to happen the way it happens. You'll have twists and turns, unexpected good fortune and unexpected bad luck. You'll meet the right people at critical points in your career, and just miss them at other points. You may flounder in finding your style, finding out what it is you really want to write and, even more, what it is you're really good at.

The trick is to find something you're really good at writing that happens to hit the sweet spot of a wide enough audience to make publishing you -- consistently and over a long period of time, because it takes time to form a body of work -- worthwhile to a good publisher.