The Career Author Podcast: Episode 99 – Making a Living from Your Writing

Make a Living from Your Writing

Making a living from your writing can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a career author. Whether youโ€™re a new author of if you make six figures a year, a sustainable income is difficult, and yet, there has never been a better time to be an independent creator.

Thanks to the good people at Written Word Media, we have some data that can shed some light on the most likely actions you need to take if you want to make a living as a writer. Whether it has to do with time management or advertising strategies, join Zach and J. in a conversation about Written Word Mediaโ€™s report and determine how you can take incremental steps closer to becoming a career author.

The Career Author Podcast is a podcast where co-authors J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon share their struggles and successes as full-time authors, advice for improving your writing craft, and honest discussions of what it takes to build a successful career as an author.

In this episode, youโ€™ll discover:

  • How authors can be categorized when it comes to earnings
  • Why you need to write a lot of books
  • Why you need professional editing and professional covers
  • How much time the highest earners are spending on the act of writing
  • Which promotional sites are the most effective marketing channel
  • How to price your books
  • Where to distribute your books

Also, discover how what you put in your stomach directly affects your brain.

Send us your ways and hacks – https://thecareerauthor.com/waysandhacks/ 

Leave us a comment: Do you make a living from your writing? If so, how? If not, how do you plan on doing it?

Thanks to all of our newest Patrons – Peter DeHaan, Michele Tracy Berger, Ken Kobylski

Podcast sponsored by Kobo Writing Life – https://writinglife.kobobooks.com 

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Author Income: How to Make a Living from Your Writing – https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/author-income-how-to-make-a-living-from-your-writing/

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22 thoughts on “The Career Author Podcast: Episode 99 – Making a Living from Your Writing

  • Morning guys. Love the 1 star review. Proof that one can be so negative that one becomes positive. Interesting way J. Have to listen to that podcast.
    That’s a great article. So I only need to publish another 23 books. Yay. Thanks for the trigger warning J, but can I point out that an entire 10% of $100kers edit books themselves. ๐Ÿ™‚ I read somewhere that in 2018 there were 1,000 self-pubbed $100kers so that is a massive 100 of them editing their own books (101 when I get there ๐Ÿ™‚).
    I hear your pessimism about advertising but worth noting that most advertising is done using the author’s input; authors are not paying for Madison Avenue agencies to write their ads which might explain why there are no scores near 5.
    J, your idea that you start a new podcast every 50 episodes is nearer the truth than you think… Your “The Author Life” podcast is at episode 45 (I think)… spooky.
    I loved this article and my conclusion from it is that one needs to be in this for the long game. So I’ve put it on my calendar to start looking for an editor in 2025 (not quite Zager and Evans) ๐Ÿ™‚.
    Great show guys.

  • I loved the one-star review. I used to dwell on them, but besides occasionally checking how many stars my books have in general, I ignore the reviews. It helps that no matter what, I have fans who will read and love my books.

    I don’t make a living from my writing yet, but I do make enough that it’s like having a part-time job. I’m also a stay at home mom with young kids (one with medical issues) so to me, anything I can make from my writing helps. I do feel like that article helps me see that I’m on the right track. Once I got a little traction, I immediately found an editor. Half of my books have professional covers and half of them have covers I made with help from my husband (who thankfully has experience with editing pictures and the like.) But it’s the next step. It’s a balancing act to invest some money back into my author business while also using some to help support my family.

    BTW, love the show. I’ve been listening back through the catalog and I’ve only got a few episodes left before I have listened through everything! So helpful and I’m excited for episode 100 next week ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Welcome, Mikki!

      “But itโ€™s the next step. Itโ€™s a balancing act to invest some money back into my author business while also using some to help support my family.”

      That is so true.

  • Well, not making a living yet. But working towards it. I am focusing on writing more and wanting to put out more higher quality books. Might need to look for another editor. Recommendations anyone?
    Do love the one star review.

  • I looooooove one star reviews! I go looking for them! Mary Robinette Kowal told a class of us once that 1- and 2-star reviews just aren’t your audience, so don’t take them to heart. So I read them for entertainment value about every three to six months. A friend had the best: “I could have written a better novel in alphabet soup.” ๐Ÿ˜‚

    I resisted spending any time earning money on anything that *wasn’t* publishing my books for two and a half years. I was determined to “make it” as only an author. I didn’t have a definition of what that meant, and I hadn’t even consciously recognized that drive until I hit a very cool income milestone, and then that drive disappeared. Like, “Right, then. Check that one off the list. What can I do now?”

    And that was extremely freeing. I had a surge of energy that I’ve been funneling into other (writing adjacentโ€”I’m still a story addict) projects, and I’m feeling more true to myself. Which is a great reminder that our internal compass shifts and changes, and we need to be aware and in tune with that so that we don’t keep pushing for a goal that no longer aligns with who we are.

    That’s not to say I don’t plan on continuing as a career author, but my definition of that has expanded.

    • Love this! I think that’s what’s dangerous about goal-setting (not saying this applies to you). It creates tunnel vision and doesn’t allow for this kind of growth over time. It’s okay to change your mind or decide you want something different especially after you accomplish what you set out to do.

  • I count this as my writing for the week. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I feel like writing has been my career all along. I have been a software developer for 20 years. It is only recently that I decided to write novels to earn another revenue stream. Hopefully one that doesn’t require as much hands on client work as my current career.

    I think what would have been a great data point was releases per year. Some of those 100k people are getting their money from full sets that they released a few years back and are just marketing the heck out of them right now.

  • Best. Show. Ever.

    Great show. It sort of seemed like it should have been both the 99th and the 100th episode it was so chock full of information. It both affirmed and challenged some of my long held assumptions.

    As for going full-time, there’s nothing that would please me more…but (and you saw that coming), life circumstances keep me chained to my day job mostly because of health care benefits. Well, that and my wife and kids have gotten used to luxuries like a roof over their head, clothes on their backs, and food on the table.

    All that said, that doesn’t keep me from working like a full-timer, or, at least, being as productive as one. My plan was to release eight books this year, but it looks like I’ll only make five. At first, I found that frustrating, but I’ve had to learn to accept what I CAN DO, rather than what I want or desire to do.

    Next year could be a big year for me as I switch genres. We shall see.

  • The basic premise of this survey is misleading. They divide three groups of authors based on the best each did in one year. If an author had one good book and its first year of publication put them over $100k, they’re a 100ker. If their next 20 stink and they never come close to making another annual $100K, they are still in the 100ker group. It is illogical to conclude that writing more books makes you more money. In my example, the 20 stinkers didn’t make the author much of anything, only the one book did.
    I use KindleSpy to quickly estimate how much revenue different authors’ books make in the previous 30 day period. Some with 20 books aren’t making much, while some with a few books can make in one month what I’d like to make in a year.
    Generally, better writing has to be hugely more important than quantity writing and the authors of this survey ignored that aspect of a successful career. I would be interesting to see the median Amazon Sales Rank some how in the survey too.

    • I see books like at bats (sorry for the baseball analogy for the non-sports folks). The more at bats you have, the more chances you have to get a hit. But if you’re not serious about your hitting, practicing and working to improve, no amount of at bats will get you a hit.

      • I agree. What the surveyors completely missed was: How much time did the authors in their sample devote to practice and improvement?
        I’ve listened to over 100 new writers read their works and few even consider they need to learn the craft. In a sports analogy, many didn’t even know which end of the bat to hold. They didn’t know what a story was.
        It is a sad feature of beginning writer’s classes and writer’s groups that the huge majority of the feedback is, “This is great.” It rarely is. And the victims of this feedback go back to their computers and continue creating more bad writing.

  • I’m not making a living writing. I haven’t even published any fiction yet! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have to admit it’s daunting at this early stage to think about creating a large catalog of books. I’m not one of those people who can whip out a novel in a month or two, so it will take me a long time to write thirty books. But then, I’m not in a hurry. I’m continuously working on my craft and hopefully, that will pay off in terms of good stories that people enjoy.

    One thing that wasn’t mentioned was writing to market. Some of the authors I know who are making a living writing are writing to market and they change when the market changes. I’m not planning to do that, but it can work.

  • I’ve gotten benefit from them, since they are often big readers. They might not know much craft but they can tell you things about how your story is going, from a reader’s perspective. It’s great when they laugh at humor, sometimes not where I thought my story was funny.
    Many of them will mark misspellings, grammar and illogic. The greatest feedback is when they can’t give you feedback, because they were so involved in your story that forgot to do it. Then I know my scene knocked it out of the park.
    The best part is having someone listen to what I’ve written.

    • I agree there, too. But I don’t need to gather in a group with other writers to get that kind of feedback ๐Ÿ™‚ I want to be ripped to shreds by an expert who knows what they’re talking about AND who can give me actionable advice.

  • In all of my stories a woman has been one of the protagonist and in every writing group I’ve been in the majority were also women. They don’t know everything about being a woman, because they’ve sometimes disagreed about what my protagonist would do, because she is a woman. Regardless, they’re all experts in the field and experts can disagree.
    It’s hard to get a variety of opinions when you only use one person for your feedback.

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