Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

In this blog series, I’m breaking down Written Word Media’s author survey. They released their findings in October 2019, and I’m breaking down their points as an emerging author who has six books in her catalog and has made less than 60k a year from her writing. In all total, I’ve made less than 2,000 dollars in the three years I’ve been publishing.

In their first point, they said emerging authors, on average, have six books in their catalog, authors making 60k a year have 22, and authors making 100k a year have 28.

In their second point of this survey, WWM focuses on time.

Emerging authors, on average, spend 18 hours a week writing, 60kers, 28 hours a week, and 100kers 32 hours a week.

Marketing-Is-Hard-2-indie author writing time

graphic taken from survey article linked above

And this makes sense if you’re going to call yourself a career author, or if you want to be one. Treating writing as a job isn’t something you can just say you’re doing–it’s something you have to do.

A while back, I listened to an indie author interview and it might have been Adam Croft who said before they started earning career-author-money he worked 16-hour a days: Eight at his day job, and eight hours a day writing.

This doesn’t come without sacrifices, and this is one of those things where you have to ask yourself how bad do you want it, and how long are you willing to work at it until you succeed?

I don’t watch much TV. If I read, it’s at work during slow times. I’m a single mom of two with a job, three cats, a clunky car and I live in a place where the clouds dump snow on us four months out of the year. My time can fill up if I let it.

We all have lives, but the fact is, writers who write 20-32 hours a week just aren’t finding time. They’re MAKING time. And once you start making a bit of money, if you don’t make time to write, your royalties will dry up and what you were using to pay the rent will be gone.

personal organizer and pink flowers on desk

Ink in an hour every day.  Photo by Kaboompics .com on

The math is pretty simple. If you can write a 1,000 words a day, in three months you can write a 90,000 word novel. Rinse and repeat three times a year, and you have a steady publishing schedule. The writers who write 20-32 hours a week honestly love to write. They don’t have to force themselves to write. They don’t have to bribe themselves. They love it. They don’t HAVE TO write. They GET TO write.

If you’re someone who needs to be on Twitter sprinting all the time, who needs one of those apps that start deleting your words if you’re not typing, if you’re on Facebook three hours a day when you could be writing, then be honest with yourself.

As Kristin Kathryn Rusch says in the high-powered author panel at the 20booksto50k conference last month, there’re easier ways to make money. If you don’t like writing, figure out why. Maybe you don’t enjoy the genre you’re writing in, or maybe you’re a pantser when really you would work better from an outline. Maybe vise versa and you find an outline too restrictive. Maybe you’re new to writing and you’re struggling with craft. Whatever the reason is, get it figured out–if you want to call yourself a career author and start making career-author money. (If you’re happy writing five hours a week, putting out a book a year, if that, then obviously, this post isn’t for you.)

(Here’s the panel if you’d like to watch it. It’s very informational!)

I write whenever I can, and if life events take me away from it for too many days at a time, I get crabby. I get life interferes, and I’ve never been one to promote writing every day, but I don’t waste the time I do have binging Netflix and Amazon Prime Videos.

I don’t keep track of how much time I spend writing, but I do produce 10-15k words a week without fail. Since January 1, 2019 to right now, December 9, 2019, I’ve written approximately 385,000 words.  I’ve completed 4 books in a series (they are being edited and proofread even as I type), and I’ve written one and a half books that will be a trilogy under a pen name I’m going to start next year. That number doesn’t include the blogging I do, either.

What can you do?

  1. Keep track of your time. Are you napping when you could be writing? Watching a movie? Where can you make time to write?
  2. Figure out why you have to force yourself to write. If it’s not enjoyable to you, you won’t want to do it.
  3. Find a partner. We all need support. I have a couple people who love read what I write. That helps.
  4. Realize that writing and publishing is a profession just like any other: doctors, lawyers, teachers, HR directors. Listen to podcasts, go to writing conferences if you can. Network with other writers. Join an organization like RWA, or the IBPA. Act professional, be professional.
  5. Read good books. Reading fuels your brain. Don’t worry about copying another author’s ideas or style. That’s crazy. Read for pleasure and just enjoy yourself.


Reading is inhaling.
Writing is exhaling.

What it boils down to is mindset, and there are a few great books out there on the topic:

The Indie Author Mindset: How changing your way of thinking can transform your writing career by Adam Croft

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream
by Craig Martelle

The Successful Author Mindset: A Handbook for Surviving the Writer’s Journey (Books for Writers) by Joanna Penn

I’ve read all of them, and they’re great. (These are not affiliate links; I do not benefit from your purchase of these books.)

Thanks for reading the second post in this series! If you have a unique way of making time to write, let me know!

Next up is the survey’s third point about using an editor! Don’t miss it!

See you then!

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Being a Career Author. Do you have what it takes?

When we think of being a career author, what do we picture? Sitting in our pajamas all day with a pet at our feet, snacking and drinking coffee all day while we do what we love: write.

Untitled design

he’s loving all the royalties pouring in (taken from Canva)

We don’t often picture what it takes to get us there–we only dream we’re earning enough to pay our bills and buy a lovely writing retreat in the woods sans mosquitoes and flies.

In October, Written Word Media, the company that brings you Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy promo tools (both services I have used) put out an author survey. (You can read the whole survey here, but don’t forget to come back to the blog!) In this survey, indie authors weigh in on everything from how much they make to how much they pay for services.

They breakdown their survey into categories, and in similar fashion, I’ll breakdown my thoughts in this blog series.

To start us off, they brokedown the authors they surveyed into three categories:

  1. Emerging Authors
  2. 60kers
  3. 100kers
Marketing-Is-Hard-average number of books per author

graphic taken from the survey linked above

My views will be as an emerging author who, in total, in the three years since I’ve been publishing, has made less than 2,000 dollars.

This brings us to their first point, and the only one I’ll be covering today, though we do touch on their second point just a little as they are related.

The first point the survey goes into is the number of books you have your catalog matters to your income.

According to the survey, (stats are median):

  1. emerging authors have 6 books in their catalog
  2. 60kers have 22 and
  3. 100kers have 28

The numbers of books for those authors making some actual money look pretty intimidating. But I’ve blogged about this before: books are not necessarily full-length novels anymore.

The survey didn’t break down the length of these authors’ books, but I doubt that when we talk numbers of books published, that all of them are full-length novels of 70+ words.

I know this is also genre-specific. Romance in particular is a good genre for spin-off novellas, shorter-in-length prequels, and more. Look at the catalog of any bestselling romance author. When you find the print-length of their work, you’ll see some as few as 16 pages to as many as 400. Companion pieces and side stories of favorite secondary characters can be moneymakers, too, if your readers are invested in your characters (although I can understand using these projects as newsletter presents for your subscribers).

I’m not sure about other genres, and interestingly enough, this survey did not breakdown the authors by genre.

So if you’re thinking to make 100k a year from your writing that you need 28 or more full-length novels, that may not be true. Especially since the very definition of a full-length novel differs from person to person, genre to genre. I’ve seen 40,000 words described as full-length! If you can write 1,000 words a day, that’s only a little more than a month to produce a book. [How you can make a living writing short stories, novelettes, and novellas, and things like serials are out of the scope of this blog post.]

I wrote novellas for a little bit. On the Corner of 1700 Hamilton (what an atrocious name, blah) is made up of two novellas, and Summer Secrets, my experiment with erotica, is also made up of six novellas, packaged three in one book and three in another (plus an ebook box set of all six).  These are not in the genre I chose to make as my career, and I do not count them in my backlist (though writing them was fun and good practice). The six books I do count are full-length novels of 70k words or more, but in the series I’ll be releasing soon, there is room for a prequel and short stories about other characters that didn’t get their time to shine. Whether I’ll take the time to write them is a different matter.

What can you do?

  1. Add to your catalog. Obviously, the more books the better.
  2. Do your research. If your genre supports short(er) works, pepper in novellas and short stores if you like. Just keep in mind that if you’re in KU, you earn more in page reads for longer books (providing a reader reads the entire book) so you need to decide if it’s worth your time to write shorter pieces or if you should focus on writing full-length books.
  3. Plan a publishing schedule and stick with it. A friend of mine said the other day if he can’t write two books a year, he might as well forget it. I’m not sure how true that is. Jami Albright is famous in the indie community for publishing one book a year and she’s a 100k/year author. Now she has four books in her backlist, and she says she depends heavily on ads between releases. But she does it. Does that mean you can, too? That’s the nightmare of indie publishing. No two books are the same. Authors and their connections are different, and it could just be that people love her voice and what she writes about (romcoms).

Here’s Jami’s talk from the 20booksto50k conference in Las Vegas last month.

I’m of the mindset that if you want it bad enough two books a year is doable for most people, though I might just need a reality check. But it’s hard to argue with the math. 1,000 words a day for 200 out of 365 days a year, [no one can write every day] is 200,000 words. That’s a lot of words.

If you always see 28 books as an unclimbable mountain, you’ll never be able to make it to the top.

Next, the survey goes into how much time authors put into their writing. I’ll weigh in on that next time!

See you then!

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