Happy New Year! I’m back from an (almost) unprecedented two-week break, talking about working smarter not harder really panned out in 2023 and a deep dive into author finances as a full-time writer.
Happy New Year! I’m back from an (almost) unprecedented two-week break, talking about working smarter not harder really panned out in 2023 and a deep dive into author finances as a full-time writer.
A bit more on how I’ve increased my author income stream over the last 7 seven years so that I can make my living as a writer, my strategies, why a robust backlist is key, and how I’m refining my approach for 2023.
I’m reviewing my author earnings for 2022 as compared to prior years, talking trad vs. indie income and how a robust backlist is key to earning a living as a write. Also some distressing news about Robin Perini.
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re talking Secret Identities! As in, the work we do on the side to make ends meet, partners helping to support us, and quitting the day job.
I’m fortunate that I was able to quit the day job – 18 years of a career as an environmental consultant – about 7 years ago. It was one of those things where the day job quit me: my team was downsized, I got laid off with affection and good severance pay, and I decided to try making a go of it writing for a living and NOT getting another day job. In truth, I was more than ready for that moment. At the same time, I kept waiting to make as much money from writing as I did from the day job (including the value of benefits), which was never quite happening. If I hadn’t been kicked from the nest, I might never have voluntarily left it.
That said, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. My husband has Parkinson’s Disease and is no longer able to work, so apart from a small retirement income and his social security payment, keeping us afloat is up to me. That reality has made me really hustle with my writing. Between self-publishing and traditional publishing, I’m now making what I was with the day job.
And I’m ever so much happier. Seriously, after having essentially two careers for over 20 years, it was such a relief to focus on just one. Plus, all the meetings and phone calls I have are about books and writing. It’s the best life!
I don’t do much work on the side. I do some author coaching and teach the occasional workshop – I’m considering doing more classes – but it’s important to me for the happiness quotient. I want writing and making books to be the priority. That’s what I quit the day job to have.
Good morning, everyone! This is Jeffe Kennedy author of fantasy romance and romantic fantasy I’m here with my first cup of coffee.
Delicious coffee elixir of life. How the hell are you guys today is Thursday may twelfth. Yeah, ah, it’s um. Fairly warm I mean coolish warm here in Santa Fe and overcast this morning and it’s not windy so I’m out here in the great barber for once in a straight on shot because I don’t have the rising sun in my face. Ah, it was really nice to wake up to a little bit of moisture in the air and the little bit of cloudiness stillness is supposed to be windy today but maybe after this, it’s come back off although I see. Mid next week is looking Windy again. My I move my plants outside this weekend I I know that this is something if you have listened to this podcast for a long time. The moving my plants outside is always a yeah, an event. It’s a deal you guys and I’ve left it long this year because I didn’t want him to get battered by the wind. But I think I’m going to go ahead and do it. Um, there’s one that I hesitate to move out to the front porch with this monkey tree. That’s really great. And it’ll get torn up by the way and but then the leaves grow back. So I don’t know I shouldn’t obsess. Ah, so um, ch ch ch things things something rustling nearby. What could it be a mouse There are a lot of rodents again this year
Yeah, so I make good progress on the on the book yesterday. Um I was still not done with this revision. It’s still going slowly but on um Tuesday I made it through 47 pages and yesterday I made it through 41 which so that’s going considerably faster than I was I’ve also been adding a lot of words I’ve added well so far for this revision I’ve cut almost 2000 words and I’ve added um. Trying to forgot what the actual ad was well I’ve gone up a net of nearly 4042 pages to go so theoretically I should finish the revision today I did not mean to hit that excuse me. We do not need to open a Zoom conference. So I’ve got writer coffee today. But otherwise I hope to get to that revision and can add those remaining words at least with this revision something happened that I was hoping would happen in that. My overall word count revised down. It’s not going to be 102000. It’s gonna be like a 98000 which I mean I realized that it may sound immaterial if it’s like 95K, 98K or 102K but I mean it’s a difference of a couple of days of how long it takes me to write it. So I take 98000 is probably going to be spot on. Glad for all of you who are excited about the 4 epilogues I’m excited about the 4 epilogs. And then we shall. Um, yeah, get this one out there. So speaking of getting books out there I had kind of an exciting exciting slash daunting event yesterday ah congratulations are in order because. I got the rights reverted to all 10 of my Carina Press books 10 books people. It feels like the end of an era um Carina press was the first to publish me well almost. Um, LooseId and Ellora’s Cave each published one smallish thing for me I did Petals & Thorns with LooseId and then the the vampire books my vampire books in um, with Ellora’s Cave.
Doing feeding the vampire with Ellora’s Cave because they wanted Petals & Thorns and there was communication problem and dhad already taken it but those were all smallish books. Um. More so smallish presses whereas we had such high hopes for Carina back in the day because it was um harlequin’s digital imprint. We thought we were gonna get like the whole harlequin marketing machine behind it. Some things manifested other things didn’t um. Carina was I loved working with Carina I really did and I still loved the people at Karina I learned a lot there. They were great they were great to me Angela James you know, started out running. Ah. Press came over from Samhain books which they did pronounce Samhain I asked the owner once ah, you know there’s just a lot of history. There. It was a really heady time. You know it was around um the around 2000 8 2009 and it’s just funny to look back on. Yeah so 10 books 10 books I did with Carina will be mine now I know I will make more money on them selling them myself. So that’s great. Ah, however, this is ah leading to a bit of angst. It’s like I have to do covers for 10 fucking books people I’m tempted. Maybe I’ll package some of them I don’t know I need to like figure out the smart way to do this. Some of them are smaller. Um, contemporary bdsm novellas. In fact, 7 of the 10 are contemporary Bdsm and which is like not full on my brand right now. But so I have to figure out how I want to do this. It requires thinking and planning and marketing savvy and I’m not feeling really equal to the task at the moment and then the 3 that are fantasy romance my covenant of Thorn’s trilogy I’m going to have to make up my mind about that because do I do I fix them I’m tempted to fix them at least the first one there. Yeah I know I’m so I’m almost inarticulate about this.
Because I go back and forth right? It’s like do I because Rogue’s Pawn, the first book in Covenant of Thorn’s was the first novel I ever wrote and I revised it multiple times and I can see the ways now that it is flawed some people love it. I don’t get many. People loving it the way that I used to but that could be because of Carina and I know that I can recover rebrand remarket. Ah you you know it’s so funny because like the the bargain with the fae king kind of thing is such a. Big deal in kindle unlimited right now in fantasy romance. That’s what that’s what these books are they’re about a scientist who ends up in Faerie and makes a bargain with this ah Fae, Rogue, and as usual and this sort of my my blessing and my curse I was I was kind of ahead of my time on this stuff but also my fairy my landa fairy my fay are all more alien and weird. What many people are writing these days and I think I mentioned this on here before but I saw someone tweeting about reading it and they didn’t tack me I I don’t remember why I picked it up I think maybe it came up under because I like I a search for my name and. Somebody said they were picking them up and were all excited and then she didn’t enjoy it. She said um that she felt like she’d gotten whiplash between the whimsy and the darkness and I don’t know maybe that’s my brand I feel like this is the spot I live in. But I’m wondering if I should go through and smooth it out. Also there is this section of the book. That’s very very dark that is stuff that I did not want to write I wanted it to be there only in flashback and my editor really pushed me um, like 3 times i. Ended up like right? she kept way more and more and more and so I ended up writing this whole scene and I know that that’s something that people really react to very strongly because it is ugly. It’s meant to be ugly but I never meant it to be on page so I’m really tempted to go in and take that out. Um, frankly I’m you know like on the other end of the spectrum I’m tempted to go through and rip the whole thing apart and redo it which no I know I can’t do that I won’t do that and so then the other extreme is not to touch them at all and just.
Take the files put them up have done buy stuff to pay for covers covers for 10 books 4 of the books are novellas that um are my facets of Passion series and those are um, sapphire platinum ruby and 5 golden rings and 5 golden rings was supposed to be called oro but Angie James thought that no one would get oro which means gold and. And it takes place in Mexico and it was in a holiday anthology. So what do you think? do I keep the name the same do I change it I’m tempted to put it back so many things so many decisions you guys I know that this is a champagne problem I know this is a good problem to have I i. Bitched in 1 place on a forum and I think and really I only got hearts which I think was like good problems to have Jeffie I have 10 books that I can release.
Now. So then the other three I guess I I didn’t say the other three are my um, falling under books which are full length contemporary bdsm novels and. So one way to approach this is to put up the ones that have sold the best right? and it’s definitely those books those books I’m actually surprised they reverted the rights to me on those books because they um they they still continue to sell pretty well. But I mean I might just try to set up a deal where I have like a release every thirty days on Amazon right? Just keep the momentum going along with my other books I’m releasing I do have a. Reserved spot with my cover artist Ravven for the rest of the year and probably we’ll just keep doing it that way I can always cancel but I can get her going on these covers and they’re not horribly expensive. They’re not what other people. Pay you know, like for other stuff but it’s still a financial investment right? Oh gray magic is live. Okay, so now all 3 bonds of magic books are live in Audiobook. I just got the message last night so I need to get those going for some reason acx put the second book in erotica and I don’t know why and I asked them to change it once and they haven’t done it. Feel like it should be in the same categories as book one. So I’m going to have to deal with that more business e things right? business business. So that’s good news. It’s it’s like that. Ah, but it it really is good. News. But. Ah, did make me think and I even made this note the other day and then forgot to oh no I think I made it later on the day on Tuesday but you know 1 thing about earning your living as an author which we talk about that. It’s the dream and I did think that this was funny. Um. Ah, few weeks ago on the sf f seven where I blog one of the other writers said that because we said um, are you a full time writer is it your dream if you are you know like how do you do the finances and so forth and one of the.
Writers said that they are absolutely a full time writer that they’ve always been a full time writer and just because they have a day job doesn’t mean that they’re not a full-time writer. Ah, you know and it’s like okay, but you’re you’re kind of mincing words here. This isn’t what we’re talking about when we say full time writer. It means it does mean a few different things right? and and people want to be able to claim it because it’s like some kind of badge of honor which I don’t. Think it should be because being a full time writer I think means that you don’t have another job that you don’t have any kind of day job or so you know most of us have like side gigs of teaching or other things but not. Salari not consistent income. Um, that’s what I think it means but just because you’re a full time writer does not mean that you are supporting yourself with your writing and that’s really the dream right? That’s what we want is like this. Have the career where you support yourself as a writer a lot of writers are subsidized by a salaary benefited spouse which is no shame I mean that’s that’s great. Um, and I wish I had that because it would be much It’s just a lot more security. It’s much easier because the thing about it is that yes, this is the dream that you don’t have another job that you get to write full time but you know the thing is is it is a fair amount of pressure that. You know, just like I’m feeling with finishing this book where you know like I really want to get it so that I get that money from Amazon you know thirty days earlier right? if I get this book out by the end of may then I’ll get that money by the end of July and I’m looking ahead to my finances. Later in the year and it’s like I need to have a certain amount of money coming in every month so that I can keep us afloat and you know it’s one of those things where I think a lot of us think that earning being a full-time writer supporting ourselves as a writer means that we’ve made it. That we’ve gotten there and as I’ve talked about many times making it is an illusion right? That’s there is no made it there. You know unless you really hit the jackpot as a writer where you make a whole slew of money enough so that you never have to worry about it again.
Then you’re always hustling. You’re always looking towards that new book to releasing those new books just like I’m talking about with my reverted writes books you know, getting that you know packaging I’m and getting them ready to go. Um. So. It’s just something to consider because I think a lot of us think if you and I certainly did for a very long time like I had my number in my mind when I still have my full time career type job I thought well once I make enough money from my books. To be equivalent to and I 2 milestones right for my salary. What I was making as an environmental consultant which was admittedly a high bar. They paid me well which was wonderful of them and then if I figured in like the value of my benefits and I thought well you know like if I could get into that area. Then I’ll be fine right? because I’ll be bringing in enough money from the books to be equivalent to my salary but the thing is is even though you’re bringing enough money from the books at 1 time doesn’t mean that you will continue to do so because it waxes and wanes and things go in and out of fashion. That’s another thing with my covenant of Thorn’s books is I admit to a fair amount of insecurity about whether these books are really good enough and whether people will like them or if I should retire them of course that’s the eternal insecurity of the altar right? so. Um, yeah, that’s where I’m at I really feel like I need to hire someone to do promo for me to do to be a publicist and maybe I need to circle back to that because the 1 person I tried to contact they never. Got back to me. Oh well. So um, yeah I’m gonna go get this podcast up and then go out and have um, we’d still call it writer coffee. Although one of the guys wants to call it writer or brunch because we do sit there for a couple of hours and eat so I’m going to a new to me place in Santa Fe not new to Santa Fe because it’s been here since the mid 70 s apparently and I don’t think I’ve ever been there while the other guys suggested I was like never been there looking forward to it so I’m gonna do that. And I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and I will talk to you all tomorrow take care bye bye.
This week at the SFF Seven our topic is: Being a full-time writer – is it your dream? How do you pay for life and write, too?
In this instance we’re defining “full-time writer” as someone who doesn’t have a day job or other paying occupation that competes with writing. Most of us – unless we marry money or inherit a trust fund – continue to work jobs even after our first books are published. Sometimes for a LONG time after that. For myself, I continued to have essentially two careers for just over twenty years after my first publication.
I worked in environmental consulting while all the while carving out time and energy to write. I kept waiting for my writing income to match my day-job salary – even not figuring in benefits! – and it never got there. Eventually life made the decision for me: my primary project got axed, our team dissolved, and I was laid off with decent severance.
And I made the decision to try to have only one career at that point.
It hasn’t been easy! KAK’s post from yesterday about being exacting with a budget is super important.
This is especially true if, like her, you have only yourself to count on for income. Or if, like me, you are the primary breadwinner for your family. When authors give advice on managing finances as a full-time writer, it behooves you to pay attention to what other financial help they have. It might not be a trust fund, but having a spouse with a steady salary (and benefits!) goes a long way. Other authors live on retirement income or other, similar sources.
So, how have I done it?
1) Meticulous budgeting.
As much as I can, I budget a quarter at a time. Writing income is volatile and, unless you’re making buckets of it, you can’t count on being able to pay the bills with income from a single month as you can with a regular paycheck. As KAK mentions, you can’t figure your disposable income by simply subtracting your expenses from that month’s income. You may need that “leftover” money for next month, or the month after. The financial gymnastics require creativity and flexibility.
2) Tracking sales
Data is everything! You can’t afford to be only a dreamy creative. You have to wear your business hat and crunch the data from your royalty reports. You have to be ready to be stern with yourself and pay attention to which efforts generate income and which don’t. You may find you can’t afford those passion projects if your writing is what puts food on the table. OR, that you can afford them only if other projects are paying the bills.
If writing income is volatile, then income from traditional publishing has the lowest evaporation temperature. It comes, it goes – often on an annual or semi-annual basis. Quarterly is likely the most frequently you’ll get paid, and every royalty check is a surprise! Again, unless they’re cutting you BIG checks, it likely won’t be enough to live on. This is why so many trad-pubbed authors also teach or have other side gigs. Self-publishing provides monthly income. Yes, it fluctuates, but you can also track sales and predict how much money will arrive in two months. Taking the surprise out of the equation helps immensely! You’re also not subject to the whims of traditional publishing on a number of levels.
Those are three practices that have helped me manage a career as a full-time writing with essentially no other income. The other, quite obvious step, would be to make buckets of money and never have to think about budgeting again.