Category Archives: Forming a Business

Sean Golden: My Year as a Writer

A Guest Post by Sean Golden

DollarKeyboardDec 15, 2014. That was the day I started my journey to live as a writer for a year, to see how I could do. After being laid off from my corporate job with a reasonably generous separation package, I calculated that I could spend a full year “writing.” So I did.

My very first monetary decision was to attend the SuperStars Writing Seminars, in February. That put me roughly $1,000 in the hole before I even published my first book. But I figured if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to learn from experts.

From Dec 15 to Jan 18 I focused on whipping my first book, “Warrior,” into shape. That included doing my own editing, artwork, and cover. On Jan 19, 2015, I hit the “publish” button on Amazon.com’s Kindle Select program and became a “self-published” author.

My first month, I sold roughly sixty books. At $2.99 a copy, that meant I had pocketed the princely sum of approximately $104.31. But then I was buying gas, meals and a hotel room for the conference. By the time the conference was over, I was about $1,500 in the negative column in my writing account.

In February and March, I did some free-lance work, which helped. By the end of March, when my first Amazon paycheck from January came in, I was back down to a negative $1,000.00 in the balance sheet. Yay!

Warlock, my second book in the series, was coming along. Of course, during all this, Warrior was still on Amazon, and sales were trickling in. In February I made another $140, so that put me at roughly -$840. I must admit that, by the end of February, my enthusiasm was drastically declining, after making less than $300 in six weeks of sales.

Then, in March, something happened. Warrior started to sell. From my perspective, it was suddenly selling a lot. My total sales in March hit $1,010. I was actually in the black now. That was huge. Then April came in at $1,040. I kept plugging away at Warlock. I figured I’d publish in June, and then I’d be making REAL money.

May brought in $1,230. Woohoo! I’m +$2,000 now! Maybe I should get a real cover for Warrior and Warlock, and hire an editor for Warlock! So I did. My covers for Warrior and Warlock cost me $1,100. Editing cost me $2,300. So that was $3,400 committed (but not paid yet). I figured “What the heck? I’m selling books!”

Then I hit the downside of the Warrior sales curve. And when it went down, it went fast. June brought in $785. Not even enough to cover my editing and book cover costs. I had to dip into my personal income to pay them. And so, after six and a half months, my great writing adventure had netted me a net negative $515.

I hit the free-lance route hard in July and August. I pulled in about $1,500 in free-lance work those months. Warrior sales in July were only $680. But I was $1,700 in the black again.

In August, the bottom fell out. $440 in sales. But I also spent $350 on cover design, so ended up netting only $90 in August. September was $209, and I did no free-lance work. But I did manage to get Warlock finished. On October 8, I published Warlock. Just a few weeks after my brother passed away from cancer.

I had been a “writer” for almost ten months. Had written two books, published one and had “done well” with that first book by most people’s estimation. I had made a grand total of $2,000 in profits. Not even enough to pay for the covers and edits I would need on “Warlord” the third book in the series. And I had to pay $500 to reserve a slot for that editing, bringing me down to $1,500.

As I hit the publish button on Warlock, my spirits were low. My finances looked horrible. My year of writing was coming to a close, and my grand dreams of proving I had what it takes, were clearly demonstrating exactly the opposite. Those were dark times, I’m afraid.

And then Warlock started to sell. Which also triggered renewed interest in Warrior. I raised my prices and sold both Warrior and Warlock at $3.99 instead of $2.99. I thought that would potentially kill sales, but it didn’t.

October sales from Warlock and Warrior combined came in at $1,800. My biggest month by far. My enthusiasm soared, and I started hitting Warlord pretty hard. My balance book put me at $3,300. But one thing I haven’t mentioned, is that Amazon pays out sixty days after sales, so that big October payday wouldn’t come in until December 31, just in time to pay my editor. In an attempt to rev the sales engine even higher, I poured about $400 into advertising. Maybe it paid for itself. I don’t know.

November was, again, my biggest month, at $2,010. $4,900 in the black, and, hopefully still rising. But reality was also setting in. $2,000 a month might sound like a decent performance for a couple books, but it didn’t come close to covering my bills. It was time to admit that this grand adventure was a failure, and to start looking for a real job.

You can probably guess the rest. December sales were down to $1,400 and falling fast by the end of the month, promising a very disappointing January. My first free-lance jobs were coming in but those also tend to pay out 60 days or so from submission, so that wasn’t going to help much. After getting my December payout from Amazon, on Jan 1, 2016, more than a year after my adventure began, I had $6,300 on paper, but only $1,500 or so in the bank. And a big editing bill coming due, plus a book cover to purchase for Warlord.

So, I started looking for a job, and am now back in the ranks of the gainfully employed.

To summarize:

Thirteen months after being laid off, and a full year from hitting “publish” on my first book, my total “profit” from writing existed mainly in deferred payments from Amazon.com in the amount of roughly $3,400, and a bank balance in my writing account of $185. I’m sure I could have worked harder and been more productive, but I did get two books out and was very close to my third, which is a decent output for an epic fantasy author, I think.

I’ve learned a few things, about writing, and about myself:

  1. I don’t write well when I am in terror of ending up homeless.
  2. I don’t write well when I focus on the economics.
  3. I write well when I’m able to think about my stories without feeling like every single word has to make a profit.
  4. My success so far, in having made any profit at all on my first books, seems to be unusual for self-published, unknown authors. I’ve had a lot of other writers tell me they wish they had sales similar to mine. To which I can only say, “wow.”

The thing is, for pretty much my entire adult life, I had told myself that I could make it as a writer. And despite the fact that I’m back at a regular job, and made a pittance of “real money” in my year of being a “pure writer,” I think I learned a lot, and what I learned will help me to keep on writing even as I’m working a day job. And now I will never have to go to my deathbed wondering what my life would have been like if I had only had the courage to follow my dream.

I followed it. And because of what I learned by doing so, I’ll be following that dream for the rest of my life. And there’s another thing. Based on the success I had with “Warrior,” I applied for and received a membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) organization. I am now, literally, a card-carrying writer.

I had wanted to become a writer. And I succeeded at that. And that’s more important, really, than the balance book in the end.

End Note: Someone asked me a while ago how much money they could expect to make as a self-published writer. I wrote a blog post to answer that, based on my own experience. The post was, by far, my most popular post. “My Year as a Writer” is a very condensed version of that blog post. To read the full post, please click here.

 

Sean Golden:

Sean Golden is many different things. Father, husband, writer, programmer, project manager, gamer, crafter, fisherman, amateur astronomer and too many other things to bore you with. He took a year off from the grind of corporate cubicle farms to write “Warrior” and “Warlock,” both available on Amazon.com. The third book in the series, “Warlord” is in the final stages of writing now. Sean has a BS in physics from Louisiana State University and had the second highest rated rogue on his World of Warcraft server after taking down the Lich King, and then retiring from raiding.

Why I Write

A Guest Post by R.J. Terrell

There is a fundamental reason behind most of the things we do in life. The larger, or more significant the activity, the core value or reason will correspond. This base, or core reason behind our actions is a reflection of who we are and the experiences we’ve had in life. Now this may be dramatizing the subject if we’re referring to why I chose the shoes I laced on this morning, but if we’re referring to something with more significance in life, the ‘why’ also becomes more significant.

When Bruce Wayne climbs into that awfully uncomfortable-looking batsuit, there is a strong ‘why’ present. Growing up with the recurring images of his parents’ murder before his young eyes, he swore to make a difference, and to bring justice to gotham while striking fear into those who would strike fear into it’s citizens. There was a time in my life when I’d been at the precipice of a similar decision, where I’d been ready to become part of the night, stalk the streets of my home city, and bring justice to it through the nightly terror of those who commit crime…

But I didn’t have enough money, so I became a writer.

While my reasons for becoming a writer might not be as dramatic as Bruce Wayne’s decision to become The Detective, we share two elements in common. Love, and calling. As Bruce loved his parents was called to become Batman because of what was done to them, and to protect Gotham, I was called to become a writer because of my love of stories and writing. This is something not to be taken lightly. I believe that whether easily accessed or buried deep within us, each person comes to this life with a purpose, or to put it another way, a calling.

This is what keeps you going despite lack of sleep, lack of recreation, the difficult times when you’re banging your head against the wall, or even those times when you’re ready to quit. It is what helps you to think outside the box when faced with a challenge. It is what gave Michael Jordan the strength to lead the Bull’s to victory against the Utah Jazz despite being very ill.

Years ago I learned a hard lesson about striving for my calling versus striving for that which will make me money. It was a costly one lesson. I was practically born an actor who discovered during my college years that I was also a writer. The little signs of the writer in me were always there, but I’d never paid attention. Even my friends saw it despite my blindness to it. I’d always wanted to be an actor, and that was considered a hobby that people starve while working in futility to achieve success at.

So I read books on business and real estate. I devoured as much information on the subject as I could, attended seminars and workshops, classes, etc. I listened to speeches, and did my best to replicate the methods of those millionaires who’s success I sought to achieve. But I’d missed one detail. Each of these people enjoyed the business of real estate. The lived it and breathed it. They loved what they did, and were creative at being able to solve problems and create deals that had them virtually drowning in money.

I, however, had zero interest in real estate. I didn’t care for it, I didn’t like it, and I didn’t even want to do it. But it was a lucrative industry that could yield a large residual income for the rest of my life. I could build my little real estate empire, then pursue writing and acting on the passive income falling from the trees of money I’d planted.

Alas, you’ll be surprised to learn that this did not happen. My lack of interest made each problem significantly more taxing. I had no creative way to solve problems because I was going on knowledge alone without desire. Whenever a problem arose, it sucked the energy right out of me. As a result, I’d spent thousands of dollars in classes and books, destroyed my perfect credit score, and lost 3 investment houses as ‘tuition’ for an important life lesson.

The lesson? Asking and honestly answering the question of ‘why’, and understanding how the world works in relation to it.

I became a writer because I love stories. Just as I love reading about different worlds and the peoples and species that inhabit them, I love creating them as well. I love building a world and traveling alongside the characters as they relate their life histories for me to transcribe along the journey.

I write because at the time I began my first book, Echoes of a Shattered Age, the fantasy genre was severely lacking in human diversity, and this was a thing I felt the genre could benefit from, and also something I as a reader hungered for.

It is this ‘why’, the passion and love for the craft of writing that sees me through the difficult times when I’m editing a manuscript and figuring out a difficulty in the plot structure. It is this strong ‘why’, that kept me writing despite the numerous rejection letters I received in the beginning that all writers receive. It is this strong ‘why’, that plants me in the chair in the coffee shop or my office when it’s beautiful outside, or my friends are inviting me for some social ordeal or another.

I could not sit down and write a five hundred page book if I didn’t love it. I could not sit through the tedious process of reading over a manuscript for continuity and other details if I did not love what I do. And I certainly could not endure the climb to success that begins with an income that one would be happy for if it paid just one credit card payment.

Why do I write? The answer to this question is the same as when people ask me how to know if you’re really a writer. I have an irrational love and passion for the craft. Contrary to popular belief, most writers are not wealthy. Most writers do not earn enough from their work to live on. It is not a field to pursue if one strives for wealth.

But as with being a teacher, or an archaeologist, or a nurse, I love what I do, and I love how my work affects the people it touches. My calling and irrational love of writing sees me through endless hours at my craft. This love will see me editing instead of the Sunday motorcycle ride my friends have invited me on that I’ve refused with the intention to get back to work after I finish writing these words.

It is my irrational love for writing, the calling to create, that I am a writer.

 

 

About the Author:Author
R.J. Terrell is an actor and author who instantly fell in love with fantasy the day he opened R. A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard. Years (and many devoured books) later he decided to put pen to paper for his first novel. After a bout with aching carpals, he decided to try the keyboard instead, and the words began to flow. As an actor, he has appeared in the hit television show Supernatural, izombie, and Arrow, as well as the hit comedy web series Single and Dating in Vancouver, and is one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men in Once Upon a Time. When not writing, or acting on set, he enjoys reading, video games, and long walks with his wife around Stanley Park in Vancouver BC.

Connect with me at:
www.rjterrell.com
R J Terrell on facebook
RJTerrell on twitter
J. Terrell on Goodreads


 

I Swore I Would Never Go Into Business…

ebook cover 9…And then I became a writer.

When people talk about finances, business models, marketing, and spreadsheets, all I here is, “blah, blah, blah…” That’s how I’ve been most of my life. I can discuss calculus with more energy than I can muster up for anything related to business. I had to stop and recognize that becoming an author meant I was going into business. I had to make a shift in my way of thinking, especially regarding the works I would self-publish.

We’ve talked about the business side before, but I’m going to say it again, one of the best places to learn about that aspect of writing is Superstars Writing Seminars. Check it out. Beyond that, as I went through the process of putting together my short story anthology, The Black SideI realized forming my own publishing company was probably a good idea. Jace Sanders addressed this in his post, “My friend said to get an LLC”, but I’m not going to talk about reasons to form publishing companies or types of companies. Instead, let’s talk about some of the business decisions that might need to be considered in conjunction with forming a company.

Money: Where does it come from and where does it go? Trees, right? I’m still wishing for one of those, but in the meantime, I had to decide if I needed a separate bank account for my business. Depending on the type of business you organize, it may be a necessity, but what if it’s not? After spending time talking with a bank manager, I realized I had a few options. There were multiple types of accounts to choose from and I’m glad I didn’t jump on the first one they suggested to me. I took the time to talk with them, fully understand the pros and cons for each one and the possible tax implications, and then I made an informed decision based on my current needs. In a few years, those needs might change, and that’s something to keep in mind, too.

But it didn’t end with the bank. After getting my account, checks, etc. , I still needed to get everything in place on Amazon, Paypal and any other service related to my business. I’m still in the process of deciding whether to get the Flint app for payment services or the traditional Square. Maybe that can be a future discussion.

Thanks to Heidi Berthiaume and her excellent advice on how to run a Kickstarter, at least I had money with which to publish my first novel and to make the whole process possible. I can’t wait to get her upcoming book on the subject. Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it helps make a business.

Privacy: You know the part of the copyright page where it says the publishing company and then the ADDRESS? That’s not the only place where you might want to have contact information, but you might not want it to be your home address. This is where a PO Box can come in handy. The postal service offers small boxes for very reasonable fees that won’t cost you more than a night out to dinner. Not everyone takes this option, but I think it’s worth it. When I send out the rewards for my Kickstarter, that’s the return address my supporters will see, further allowing me to separate my personal life, from my business life.

Perception: I don’t think forming a publishing company really changes anyone’s perception of the self-published writer. For those of us familiar with traditional versus self-publishing, it doesn’t take much investigation to recognize whether a writer went through an outside publishing company or formed their own. But registering my company name with the state, the bank account, PO Box, getting an EIN, and all of the other things involved, changed my self-perception, reminding me that I must treat this venture for what it is, a business. I must market, I must work, and I must be professional in order to make it profitable. I also developed a business logo that has personal meaning. Each time I put that on the cover of a book, I’m reminded again, that I’m not only an author, I’m a businesswoman.

So, as you contemplate whether or not to take self-publishing to the level of forming your own publishing company, I hope this gives you some information to consider in your pros and cons.

*As has been stated in previous posts, by other blog contributors, this is not legal advice.