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Making SOME Money in Writing

I briefly touched on this in an early blog post.  Writing is really about more than making money.  If you are a short fiction writer you’d have to do a lot of work to make a good salary.

Where you live will depend on how much you need to survive.  But lets assume you’d be happy with $35,000 a year.  Out in California that is a small amount of money and barely scraping by.  But, if I was doing it as a writer, I’d be happy to scrape by.  If you stuck to short fiction, you would need to sell 700,000 words a year at pro rates (5 cents a word).  That is a lot of words.  And that is words to sell, not write.  You’d have to write roughly 1,900 words a day that are publishable, with no days off.

Most of us don’t put something on paper and it is instantly publishable.  We need to spend time editing.  We need to send it out to and listen to our Beta Readers.  Now back to editing.  And there is always the time it sits on submissions.  But, lets assume you work part time at it.  Say three hours a day, five days a week, for a year.  Or 780 hours a year.  And you manage to get an average of 5,000 words a month published at pro rates.  You’d make roughly $3.85 an hour.  Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

You might argue that if you really did spent 15 hours a week on writing, they could put out more that just 5,000 words published each month.  But the truth is you won’t make a lot of money publishing short stories.  You will get paid in a different way.  You will get paid with recognition, reader enjoyment, positive feedback, and much more.  This is why I fail to understand writers who believe anything less than 5 cents a word is beneath them.

They are measuring the payment of writing in dollars and it really needs to be measured in other ways.  And, in many ways the payments you gets from writing can’t be measured.  Reader enjoyment is hands down my favorite method of payment.  Each time a reader comments on my story, enjoys a plot point, or loves a character I feel like I have been paid again for that story.  Each time some one clicks the like button for this blog, I feel like I got another payment.  And when someone says they have heard of me and my writing, I feel like I hit the lotto.

Don’t get me wrong, I like a pay check too.  But I don’t write for the money, I write for the enjoyment.  So I wonder how can we make some money in writing.  The trick is that it is a process.  Just like most jobs, you start at the bottom and work your way up.

I still strongly urge anyone who writes to start with short stories.  Even if you have a novel in the works, starting with short stories really puts a feather in your cap.  It gets your name out there to a community of readers both before your novel hits the shelf, and after.

Now, lets talk about novels.  When I release Dissolution of Peace, I have no intentions of making millions in the first release.  Let us say that I  sell my novel for $2.99 on Kindle.  And, I doubt I would start there.  But lets say that I do.  I get 70% of most sales.  So I would need 16,750 downloads in a year to hit that $35,000.  That may not sound like a lot, 17,000 downloads, but when you are trying to market that book by yourself, it really is a lofty goal.  And lets not forget that you might be more inclined to start your novel off at $0.99 or $1.99 because you may be lesser known.

But, lets consider something a bit more realistic here.  Lets say you really buckle down and dedicate yourself.  I don’t believe it is impossible to turn out two novels in a year and six short stories sold.  I work full time, run a magazine, and volunteer a bunch of hours to Youth Soccer, but that is my goal.  A goal I won’t achieve in 2012, but only because I just made it this month.

Let me assume that I sell $300 in short stories (5,000 word average at 1 cent a word for six stories).  And, in those sales I get to make a quick blurb about my novels and this website.  I think realistically I could expect 3,000 downloads a year per novel at $0.99 price point.  So I’d get $4,200 there.  For a total of $4,500 a year not counting other expenses such as marketing.  So, I may not be making millions as a writer.  But I think that is a good goal for 2013.  And $4,500 a year to do something I love isn’t bad considering the other things I love to do, watching hockey and playing video games, don’t make me a cent.

And, if you keep building from there, soon you have more sales and more works in circulation.  It is a slow process, but I do believe that eventually it can be possible to make a decent amount of money as a writer.  The process takes time, you have to build a readership.  But remember all the other rewards you get for your writing.  The ones that can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

Now some might say that I sound like I am trying to dissuade you from writing.  This is not true.  Don’t be discouraged by this post.  If you sole goal in writing was to make money, you might want to try your hand at different types of writing.  But if you have bigger dreams than money, carry on with the craft.  I firmly believe that if you write for the love of story telling, the rewards (and even the money) will follow.

It’s Not About the Money (The True Joys of being Published)

On August 31, 2011, I officially became a published Author with my Flash Fiction piece “Death Watch”  in Liquid Imagination.  This was a remarkable thing and such an unbelievable accomplishment.  I had not planned to reach the goal of being published so quickly.  After all, I had not started submitting anything for publication until March 2011.  “Death Watch” is only the second short story I have written, and the first Flash Fiction piece.  So frankly, I was over joyed to have it published so quickly.

Okay, enough bragging.  Lets talk about why being published is so much joy.  Truthfully I thought seeing my name in print would be the coolest part.  That seems to just one of many cool things I have found.  But first, lets talk about money:

The pay check is not the satisfying part at all.  In fact, I was surprised how little I care about it.  If you write for money you will be sadly disappointed.   At SFWA defined pro rates, you would have to publish eight hundred and forty thousand (840,000) words a year in short stories to make just $50,000.  And out here in California, $50,000 year doesn’t go far.

To put that in perspective, that is 2300 words a day with no days off.  Now editing, and submitting come into play.  Editing takes a lot more time than writing ever does.  And lets not forget that some of the most simple of editing changes can cause massive rewrites.  Submitting takes even longer.  You can usually only submit to one market at a time, and then you are at the mercy of the publication to respond.  Some publications take a long time, others are really fast (usually to reject it).  From the time I finished “Death Watch” to the date it was published was just over five months, and I am the exception.  Many of my fellow authors have waited years to get one story published.

So, assuming you can get 2300 words a day written, and you can get accepted by pro-rate markets, and they accept you fast; then you will make okay money in the writing of short stories.  More realistically you will try to turn out one short story a month (a goal I have not even achieved yet).  Assuming your short story falls into the normal range of two to five thousand words, you are looking at roughly $1440 to $3,600 a year.  This of course assumes they all get accepted at pro rate markets.

So if you are writing for money, sorry to shatter your dreams.  However, if you are like most of the Authors I have met you don’t really care about the money.  You find other joys in being published.  Joys and satisfactions far better than money.  For me, my goal was two things:  To share my stories with an audience that would enjoy them, and to see “By Richard Flores IV” in print.

I am here to tell you that is just the beginning.  In  less than four full day since I was published, I have discovered so many other things that are fulfilling to being published:

On the day I was published this site saw a 50% spike in traffic to this blog.  The unique views were the second highest they have ever been (the highest was the day I created it).  And people were looking at more of my blog then the home page!

WordPress reports that one of the common search terms to get to this blog is “Richard Flores IV”.  People are searching for me!  People want to find me!

WordPress also reported today that some one searched “Flash Fiction by Richard Flores”.  So not only was someone searching for me, they wanted to find more of my work!  To that person (and others looking):  I have another story due out in October in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction.  I find it very inspiring to see that people enjoyed my work enough to want to find other things I have written.  That alone could keep me writing indefinitely.

Feedback!  I am getting an overwhelming amount of feedback on people’s thoughts about “Death Watch”.  People are sending me their praise, and I enjoy that a great deal.  I like to know that people enjoyed reading my story.  But even more so, I like the emails coming in telling me what they took away from my story.  People have sent me a number of interpretations that I had not planned when I wrote it.  It gives me satisfaction to know I wrote something that had a deeper meaning to my readers then even I planned.

Inspiring others to write.  Two people have told me that my talks about writing have inspired them to either write or resume writing.  That makes me feel good!

Perhaps the best part of being published is this (and it ties in all of the above):  I have readers!  After all, the real reason any of us become authors is to have readers.