Here is an overly simplified business plan to help small press and self-published writers understand the realities of what they can expect if they take up writing as a career.

Year 1

Spend 1 year writing 1 novel.

You go to writing conferences and buy books on writing, etc.

Cost $1,000.

Year 2

Write book 2 in your free time.

Spend $3.5k to edit and publish your book one.
Spend $3k to market your book one.

Total cost: $6.5k

Earn $2 a book sale on average.

Note: You have to sell 3,250 copies just to break even. Most small press and self-published authors struggle to get sales.

You sell 500 to 2,000 copies of book 1 in year 2.

You go to writing conferences and buy books on writing, etc.

Conference Costs: $1k
Book 1 Cost: $6.5k
Earnings: $1k to $4k
Loss: -$3.5k
2 year loss: -$4.5k to -7.5K

Year 3

Write book 3 in your free time.

Spend $3.5k to edit and publish your book 2.
Spend $3k to market your book 2.

Total cost: $6.5k

Note: This sustains sales on your first book, but again, you don’t sell enough copies in year 2.

Earn $2 a book sale on average.

Book 1 sales: You sell 500 – 2,000 copies.
Book 2 sales: You sell 750 – 2,500 copies.

You go to writing conferences and buy books on writing, etc.

Conference Costs: $1k
Book 2 Cost: $6.5k
Earnings: $2500 to $9k
Loss/Gain: -5k to $1.5k
3 year loss: -$3k to -$12.5k

Year 4

Write book 4 in your spare time.

Spend $3.5k to edit and publish your book 3.
Spend $3k to market your book 3.

Note: This sustains sales on your first two books some.

Note: You have fans from you first two books, so you get more sales right away and make the Amazon top 100 for the first few weeks after release.

Book 1 sales: You sell 500 to 2,000 additional copies.
Book 2 sales: You sell 750 to 2,500 additional copies.
Book 3 sales: You sell 1000 to 3,500 copies.

You go to writing conferences and buy books on writing, etc.

Conference Costs: $1k
Book 3 Cost: $6.5k
Earnings: $4.5k to $16k
Loss/Gain: -$2k to $8.5k
4 year loss/gain: $5.5k to -14.5k

Yeah, you are finally in the black. It only took 4 years.

Year 5

Write book 5 in your spare time.

Spend $3.5k to edit and publish your book 4.
Spend $3k to market your book 4.

Note: This sustains sales on your first three books some.

Note: You have fans from you first three books, so you get more sales right away and make the Amazon top 100 for the first two months after release. This also boosts sales on your previous books.

Book 1 sales: You sell 3,000 copies.
Book 2 sales: You sell 3,500 copies.
Book 3 sales: You sell 4,500 copies.
Book 4 sales: You sell 5,500 copies.

You go to writing conferences and buy books on writing, etc.

Conference Costs: $1k
Book 4 Cost: $6.5k
Earnings: $33k
Gain: $26k
5 year gain: $31.5k

Takes takes

Whoa. In year 5, you finally had a year in which you made more than you would serving burgers and fries at McDonald’s. It only took 5 years to get there. Unfortunately, if you worked at McDonald’s the past 5 years, you would $22k each year, and you would likely be a manager after 5 years, making more like $40k, so you might have made $140k working at McDonald’s those same 5 years.

Conclusion

Becoming a writer is hard work and not very rewarding. It takes a lot of time, money, and patience.

You have to work full-time at another job. It is not cost efficient to write full-time the first five years. You do not make enough money to survive.

In year 6, if you are running pretty close to this business plan, you can quit your day job. But it might just take a few more years.

  • Do you still want to be a writer?
  • Do you still think being a writer is glamorous?

Well, it might become be glamorous sometime around year 15, but only after you have been poor for quite a long time as your work to put books out to the market.

Here is a spread sheet:

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