The title says it all really, doesn’t it? I did that thing where I start the year off really well, do lots of regular posts and shit, then just kind of stop for the middle part of the year before picking it up in the autumn and going “Sorry, I’ve just been really busy.”
That, of course, is the problem with being an amateur author – or maybe “hobbyist” author is a better description.
Writing as Marc Nobbs is a hobby. It always has been. Would I like to make it my career? Yes, of course, I would. But that’s not going to happen any time soon. I mean, as much as I’d like to quit my job and write, publish and promote my books full-time, I do still have a mortgage and utility bills to pay and I need to food to put on the table.
So “going full-time” isn’t something I could realistically do without some sort of guarantee of an income that would allow all those bills to be paid.
Theoretically, it’s possible, I suppose. And, I suppose, there are more options for generating that income now than ever before. But that still doesn’t make it “easy” to generate the kind of income needed to switch to doing this full-time – at least, it’s not easy to generate the income to do this full-time, while you’re doing it part-time.
Does that make sense? It’s basically a Catch-22 situation.
You can’t generate the income you need to do this full-time until you’re doing it full-time, but you can’t do it full-time until you can generate the income you need to do it full-time.
So just what are the options to generate an income from writing, and how successful does each method need to be to generate that income?
Until a few years ago, there were only really two ways to make money from writing, selling books and advertisements on your website. Let’s dismiss the second one, because Google ads aren’t really allowed on a website with anything close to “adult” content and while there are other ad brokers I could use, I don’t really want this site covered in ads for porn websites and sex toys.
When it comes to selling books, there are a number of sites you can go to but the primary market is Amazon through its KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform. This allows you to not only sell books, but also enroll in Kindle Unlimited.
Let’s focus on Amazon.
Book sales through KDP pay the author either 70% of the cover price (if the cover price is over £2.99) or 35% if the cover price is less than £2.99.
Kindle Unlimited pays roughly 1/3 of a penny per page.
Let’s say we’re looking to generate a monthly income of £3,333 per month. That’s the equivalent of a yearly income in the order of £40,000. Of course, one would have to put some of this aside to pay tax at the end of the year, but that’s a different issue. We’re aiming for £3,333 per month.
On an average cover price of, say, £3.99, you’d need to sell in the order of 1200 books each and every month.
That’s a lot of books.
And if the average cover price is £1.99 (so, we’re looking at 35% royalty rather than 70%), you’re looking at 4800 books a month.
And as we know, most books sell most copies in the first couple of months of release, so unless you’re a really well-known and popular author already, then to generate those kinds of sales, you’d need to be putting out two or three new titles each and every month.
Now, I’m sure I could do that if I was writing full-time – a couple of 5000 – 15000 word short stories a month wouldn’t be that tricky if you’re sitting down to write for five hours a day. But doing that in your “spare time”…
Kindle Unlimited would also demand the same kind of commitment to putting out new titles. At just one-third of a penny per page read, you’d need over one million pages read per month to generate our target income.
One Million Pages.
A typical novel of around 80,000 – 100,000 words would be in the order of 400-ish Kindle pages, so we’re looking at around 2,500 books read in full each and every month. A typical 5,000 – 15,000 short story is between 50 – 100 pages, so you’re then looking at 10,000 to 20,000 complete reads every month.
These numbers are huge!
Even given that I have seven full-length novels on KDP, we’re looking at 400 complete reads for each book, each month. And with 20 or so short stories, you’re looking at between 500 – 1,000 reads per title, per month.
Obviously, the more title you are able to put out, the more likely you are to generate these numbers, but, as I’ve said, you’d need to be writing full-time to put out the volume of content you’d need to in order to make those kinds of numbers.
In recent years, there’s been a new revenue stream for creatives. One that is supposed to provide a more steady income stream.
Patreon is a subscription service, where anyone can subscribe to a creative’s Patreon account and get exclusive access to that creative’s work.
I published A Wounded Heart, chapter by chapter on Patreon before the book was published on Amazon, for example. I know of other authors that do this. There are podcasters that publish their pods on Patreon “a day early and without ads” before they go on Spotify et al.
My Patreon costs £2.50 a month and I pay the website an 8% fee. So I get £2.30 per subscriber each month. That means I’d need about 1,500 subscribers to reach that magic £3,333 target income where “going full-time” becomes viable.
But in order to attract subscribers, you need to be pushing regular content to your Patreon – something I’m not very good at because, yep, you guessed it, I have a full-time job that takes up most of my time.
In order to push out the volume of content to Patreon that would attract the size of audience you’d need to work full time as a Patreon content creator, you need to be working full-time as a Patreon content creator.
Of course, all three of these income streams would work in combination to provide that income. So, for example, for every Patreon subscriber below that 1,500 target, you’d need to sell one extra book per month, have two extra novels read on Kindle Unlimited or sell three extra short stories.
A “happy medium” might be, for example, 750 Patreon subs, 300 novel sales, 250 short story sales and 250 novels read on KU.
Or even 500 of each category – that would work too. And it’s probably “achievable” – if you’re working on it full time.
But even working full-time, that audience would take time to build, so there’s a very good possibility – no, a very good probability that there’d be a good period of time where the income isn’t at the level you need it to be in order to be able to make it work.
And how do you pay the bills in the meantime?
And that is the problem. And one I do not know how to solve. Without enough cash in the bank to live on for… who knows how long?… you simply can’t make the leap and become a full-time author.