The following guest post comes from YA fantasy author Helen Scheuerer:
For the longest time, us creative writers have been told that there’s no money to be made in books, that the idea of an author making a living from their writing isn’t feasible. I was certainly told that on numerous occasions as I went through school and even a creative writing degree.
However, I’m here to tell you that it can be done. I’m living proof, having lived off the income of a single title (my debut YA fantasy, Heart of Mist) for nearly an entire year now. I hate that young writers are being told not to expect to earn a decent income from their art. So, I wanted to break down the ‘myth’ with the lovely ladies of The Regal Fox and delve into some of the things you might need to know about being a full-time author…
1. You need to believe it can be done.
I know it sounds lame, and a touch on the adidas “just do it” slogan side of things, but it’s true. The first thing you need to know about being a full-time author is that it can actually be done. If you don’t believe it can happen, you won’t put in the necessary work, you won’t invest the time and energy required. And trust me, there’s a lot of that needed.
2. Success might not look like you thought it would.
A lot of us authors have a particular vision in mind when it comes to what our career will look like. For some of us, we’ve been dreaming of it since we were kids. That was me, since I was about seven years old. I wanted to be a bestselling novelist, published by one of the famous publishing houses.
However, over the years I’ve reassessed what’s important to me. Being able to work for myself and have creative control over my work became my priorities. Although I had interest from one of the big 5, I ultimately decided to publish independently, and it was making that decision that allowed me to quit my job and write full-time.
3. You need to save save save.
Being a full-time author means you’re a small business owner. You are the brand, your books are your product. Like with any business, there are times where you’ll need to fork out money. Sometimes it’s for the production of your product (in my case: editing, cover design, proofing etc.), other times you may be simply waiting for a royalty cheque to arrive. You need to be able to support yourself during these times.
Life is also full of unexpected interruptions, and if you want to be a full-time author, you need to be able to weather any incoming storm. Unexpected medical bills, a broken computer, a crash in sales… All of these can happen, and you need to be prepared for if and when they do. It’s a scary thought, but if you can save even a little, then these financial pressures won’t lead to a nervous breakdown, or having to borrow large sums from friends and family.
4. Knowing how to manage your money is essential.
In a similar vein to above, money management is vital to running a small business, and you need to become good at it if you want to remain a full-time author.
For me, this meant asking for help with my finances. Like many authors, I’m not mathematically inclined, and so I needed a leg up when it came to organising business expenses, sole trader tax, paying contractors and eventually, paying myself a wage from my royalties.
You need to gather all the information you can about how you spend your money, and ensure that you’re spending it wisely.
5.Accept that being an author isn’t just about writing.
You’ve probably heard this before, but being an author in this day and age certainly isn’t just about putting pen to paper.
In addition to writing novels, here’s a glimpse of what else I do as a full-time author:
- Social media management
- Email marketing and growth
- Outreach marketing
- Review management
- Organise and complete publicity (interviews, guest posts, podcasts, book launches, etc.)
- Website creation and updates
- Book production (typesetting, ebook formatting, printing)
- Contractor hire and management
- Process orders, packaging and logistics
- Execute marketing campaigns
And to be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’m lucky that I enjoy a diverse range of tasks. I don’t think I could write all day, every day. But whether you’re an indie author or a traditionally published author, chances are, a lot of the tasks above are going to fall to you, and you need to be ready for that.
6.You need to make business decisions, not just artistic decisions
I’m not trying to take the romance out of being a writer, I’m really not. But the fact is, if you want to write full-time, you need to look at your art from a business perspective as well.
For example, you might need to consider…
- Specialising in a niche/genre
- Writing a series rather than a standalone
- Making your pricing more competitive
- Product splintering (where you create multiple products from one main one)
- Where to focus your marketing (print vs ebooks and which offers the highest ROI [Return on Investment).
- Who to market to and how
The writing is isn’t the only creative aspect to being a full-time author!
7. Know when you’re ready and if it’s realistic.
If being a full-time author was easy, wouldn’t we all be doing it? The thing is, we all have different commitments, ways of living and expectations when it comes to income and lifestyle.
Making the leap to self-employed writer is scary and often fraught with risk, which is why it’s so important that authors don’t make the decision on a whim. For me, going full-time was always a goal, but I didn’t take the plunge and quit my freelance work until 5 months after Heart of Mist was released (and note: I only had myself to support!). What works for one author may not work for another. You have to assess what will and won’t work for you.
Helen Scheuerer is a YA fantasy author from Sydney, Australia. Heart of Mist is the first book in her high fantasy trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles. Helen is also the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit, an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.
Helen has a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong and a Masters of Publishing from the University of Sydney. She is now a full-time author living by the beach.