I officially became a full time author in January when my husband and I moved to Scotland. This had been one of my goals when I set out on this journey to turn my writing into my career. Being an author has brought me the utmost joy, but what I want to talk about today is the downsides to becoming a full time writer. Don’t get me wrong, getting to write for a living can be amazing, but it also comes with a whole set of other problems and struggles I couldn’t predict or account for until I took the plunge.
Just a quick note here, I’m going to be discussing my struggles honestly and the financial aspects of being a full time writer who has not quite yet found huge success from their work. This is as real as I can get. I’m not one for sharing my private life, but this is the reality I’ve been facing for the past few months. I feel like sometimes people see being a full time writer as some kind of utopian or unicorn job. It’s not. It’s hard work especially as an indie. I don’t sit at home all day writing, relaxing and slacking off. That’s so far from the truth, it’s laughable. So if you don’t want to read about my personal struggle with being a full time writer, then that’s cool. If you want a real as hell and brutally honest blog post about how much I’ve suffered for my dream and my goals, read on and maybe you’ll see that this job isn’t all sunshine and roses. There are hurdles, there are struggles and there are a lot of personal sacrifices. You’ve been warned!
My original plan when I moved up to Scotland was to work part time so I’d have more time to dedicate to my writing. Having done the working full time and writing in between thing, I’m well aware of how much of a challenge that can be. I’m determined as hell and I wasn’t going to let that stop me from writing and publishing. I wasn’t in a huge rush to get another job because I had a bit of breathing room financially for a couple of months, but I was aware I had to start making more money. No matter how much I love writing and I’m not in it for the money, I still have to afford to live and cover my bills. That’s just a fact of life regardless of whether you work in the creative field or not. There’s no getting around it. I’ll state it right here: I earn money from my books and I deserve to be paid for the time I put into them. If other people don’t like that or it makes them uncomfortable, so be it. I’m not here to sugarcoat the truth.
Getting off track a little bit here… So after a couple of weeks, I was struggling to find anything that one, I wanted to do as a job and two, would give me enough time to write. And as I’d just started working as a virtual assistant for my aunt, who’s also a full time writer, I decided I was going to try to find avenues of earning money in the writing field so I wasn’t solely relying on the royalties from my books. At this point they were not enough for me to live on by any stretch of the imagination. That’s where I got the idea to do proofreading, something I’m good at. I’ve not done a huge amount of proofreading jobs since I started, but those, being my aunt’s VA and my leftover money from my last job got me through the first couple of months. I had to cut back on a ton of things, but I’ve survived.
Now you know the background to what was going on for me on a personal level, I’m going to talk about what happened next and how I’ve started to slowly, but surely move towards being financially stable. Before that, I’m going to be straight – I publish my books solely on Amazon and if you didn’t know, there is a 60 day wait from the end of the month until you get paid your royalties. This is not like a normal job where you know exactly how much you’ll get paid at the end of each month. I might know what I’m getting paid two months from now, but that doesn’t help me in the interim period. All I can do is focus on building up my income each month so I’m not screwed in two months time. And that, my friends, is not an easy task. I’m not going to discuss the benefits or downsides of being Amazon exclusive or being available on other platforms. I’ve made a choice that is the best option for me and that’s really all I’ve got to say on the subject.
Most of you know I’ve been working on and releasing my Corrupt Empire series over the past couple of months. The last book, Revenge, comes out next month. Before this, I’d been working on releasing my After Dark series. I didn’t release anything in January because I was moving house and finding my feet being at home all the time. I’ve worked from home before, but this is different. Being your own boss, setting your own schedule and knowing you’ve got to write and keep writing to earn a living are big adjustments to make. I’d already written and edited the sixth book in my After Dark series, Lucifer’s Cage. The final thing I was waiting on was the cover. When I got that, I set a publishing date as I’d promised it would be early 2019. Lucifer shares his book birthday with my own – I turned thirty this year on the 8th of February. And February was the first month my royalties increased significantly. I’m not going to discuss the amount of money I’m making, but I was starting to see a return on my books in a bigger way than I had been before. I still wasn’t earning quite enough, but I realised that in order to keep my income on an upward trend, I was going to have to release something new regularly. At the end of the day, I have to treat my writing career as a business because that’s what it is. It’s not a hobby. It’s not something I do for fun. It’s my livelihood. Don’t ever forget that about full time writers. We rely on our writing to earn us an income. And no one should be shamed or made to feel wrong about it.
Now, some people might think if you write and release quickly, your writing is sub-par or not up to a high standard or that you don’t care about what you’re writing and releasing. Allow me to set you straight. I care a great deal about my writing. I agonise over every paragraph. I make sure that each and every story I publish is something I can be proud of. I’m able to write quickly and write well at the same time. I use my capabilities as a writer to it’s fullest extent and I’m not going to apologise for it. I’m not a selfish person, but I’m also not going to restrict myself for anyone else’s benefit. I am who I am and I’m never going to say sorry for that.
We’ve got that out of the way now so it’s time to get real about Corrupt Empire. I wrote the first book, Betrayal, last year and I’d started on Sacrifice. I knew pretty quickly this would be a trilogy and that Avery and Aiden’s story was going to be dark and intense. Having had some very positive feedback from the one person I allowed to read it whilst I was writing it, I knew I was onto something. I decided I was going to take a calculated risk. Releasing books in a new sub-genre without establishing a new pen name. I didn’t want to have to deal with the added work. I just said, this is what I’m doing and that’s it. The second risk I decided to take was releasing each book a month apart. One of the main reasons for doing this is I knew I’d be leaving the first and second books on a cliffhanger and I know how readers feel about those. They’ll want the next book pretty quickly. I was also aware I had not yet finished the second book or even started the third.
I set Betrayal to be published on the 20th of March. It was ready to go two weeks before and that’s when I sent it out to ARC readers. The very first time I’ve employed them and I think that was part of the key to the success of the first book. I targeted myself to finish Sacrifice as soon as I could because I knew I would then have to write another full length book and have it edited before the end of April so I could have it ready for the May release date. Sacrifice was completed on time and Revenge was done by mid April. I put myself under a hell a lot of pressure to finish those books, but having them both up on pre-order meant I had very little choice but to get them done.
Betrayal has been my most successful release to date. I put out ARCs and got my book up on a month long blog tour, which got my name out there and employed my regular marketing on Amazon. All of those things made sure my income for March went up. And as of today, I’ve made more than I targeted for myself in April after the release of Sacrifice. Now, I’m hoping this continues into next month when Revenge comes out, but you never know what is going to happen month to month, so I can’t exactly rely on it being a success. That’s the thing about being in the creative field and especially being an author, you never know what book will take off next. You never know if you’ve really found the right formula, the right readers and the right market. So you’ve just got to try. Some of what you’ll do will be a failure and that’s okay because it’s all a learning curve.
I’ve talked about the success of my current releases and how that’s enabled me to have a little bit of breathing room because I’m on my way to being able to cover myself financially. Not quite there yet, but I’m hoping if I carry on, things will continue to improve. The last thing I’m going to talk about is what’s happening now and the struggles I’ve been facing because of the success I’ve started to have.
Having one successful book series does not mean I can just take a break and go okay well this will keep me going from now on. I still have to work and I still have to write more books. Having a backlist is extremely important for the future success of my career and releasing new books is the only way I’m ever going to achieve that. So, what I took from releasing Betrayal and Sacrifice is that dark romance is my thing. That means that although I’ve written a seventh book for my After Dark series, it’s not the next thing I’m going to release. Plain and simple, from a business prospective, I have to follow up the Corrupt Empire series with another dark romance book. Lucky for me, I’d already started writing a spin off to that series last year. Not so lucky for me, the same book has also proven to be a complete and utter nightmare for me to continue writing after taking such a long break from it. As well as knowing that I’ve got to bring it again. Not only that, it’s a standalone that’s going to end up longer than any other book I’ve ever written. That in itself is not a bad thing, but I’m aware I have to finish it and put it out soon. It’s a lot of pressure. I can’t just take a break and say ah well, it takes as long as it takes. I don’t have that luxury even being a full time writer. I do put a lot of pressure on myself, it’s true, but I also have the added pressure of needing this to work so I can afford to live.
So, whilst I struggle on through with this spin off, I’m also working on new projects too which I’m not going to reveal any details about. I’ve got to keep going and keep writing, which means new projects are good. It means future releases and more potential income. It means readers will have more books from me to enjoy and that for me, is the main reason I write. Knowing someone loves your work is what makes it all worthwhile. So even though I’m facing a lot of struggles, a lot of pressure and I’ve put a huge amount of time and energy into doing this, having people enjoy my books keeps me going.
I’ve always been one for honesty and this is about as real as I can get. This has been a hard journey, it’s still a hard journey and it will continue to be. That’s just the life of an author. All I want is for people to understand this is my real job. This is what earns me an income. It’s not a stable income, but one day it’ll be enough that I don’t have to worry so much any more. I’m hoping it will come sooner rather than later so I don’t have to give up on my dream and go back to the soul crushing reality of having a day job which made me unhappy. Writing is what makes me happy. Writing is a joy and getting to do it as my job is wonderful. I will continue to work hard, put my all into my books and hope that my readers enjoy them.