Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dealing in Realities

With any business, the end result should be a focus on money. As I stated in my vision casting post, for me writing is not just a job but a lifestyle choice, and the writing has to support that lifestyle. It does not have to necessarily support employees, but it does have to first and foremost support my individual needs.

My individual needs include paying out some money every month.

Here's my monthly budget:

Renter's Insurance
Auto maintenance
Auto Insurance
Running Money
Bus Pass
Life Insurance

I have blacked out the numbers for, well, obvious reasons, but these are the numbers I have to hit with my writing for me to be able to live comfortably. Does not really include upcoming college loan payments, or my daughter's soon to be a college expense. In fact, the budget above leaves a lot of stuff out, but this quick and dirty monthly budget gives me a number to shoot for.

Here's the kicker: every time I sell a book on Amazon, that brings in $2.05. That royalty number is not a secret. Anyone can look it up.

In my vision casting, I mentioned a part of this whole thing is teaching writing at the university level. I'm doing that now, though it is not creative writing but developmental writing and beginning college composition and some writing center coaching/consulting. Not totally where I want to be, but pretty dang close and on my way, so I'm going to include that income as writing income. Teaching adjunct covers rent and gas.

That leaves me with monthly expenses of $n,nnn, which means I need to sell on Amazon nnnn books a month. I'll be honest: that number seems like an absolute impossibility to achieve.

Chris Mullins has something different to say, but I think he is over optimistic. He suggests a committed author should sell way over between 300 and 700 per title. For argument sake, that means a successful author should have 800 sales per month per book. Which means, to hit that number a successful author needs to have at minimum 2 ½ books published on Amazon. I actually do have that many books on Amazon.

Mullins also suggests the book should be ranked in the top 10,000. Actually, he uses an author ranking, and I'm not quite positive where he's getting this number from. Amazon? Maybe?

My novel Banana Sandwich hovers right around the 10,000 mark for its genre. The novel is ranked 1,309,362 in the best sellers at the time of this writing. Wasteland, Neighborhood Mums, Color of Hope, those rankings are much more dismal than Banana Sandwich. I don't even want to talk about those numbers.

For 2014, I made seventeen dollars in royalty checks. Thus far this year: eight dollars.

Maria Force published some harder 'soft' numbers not based on as much speculation as Mullin's ideas on where an author should be rank-wise for sales. Force reports 2012 sales figures per author per unit sold. The lowest number on that list is 5 total unit sales in a single year, and the highest number on that list is 646,908 unit sales in a single year. That means, one author sold over fifty-three thousand books per month.

More specifically, Force highlights Liliana Hart's success: 441,069 sales in one year, never been traditionally published. In 2010, Hart had zero sales, and in 2011 she had 76,527 sales. By the way, I just liked Hart's Facebook page. My question has to do with what happened for Hart between 2010 and 2011.

Man, listen, I'm content with a starting point. Everyone needs a starting point. The numbers Hart shares suggest overnight success. We all know that's not true. Overnight success means sweat, blood, and tears that no one ever sees. A closer examination of Force's post suggests authors didn't really start hitting significant sales numbers until they had around 15 titles available. For example, Laura Hunsaker has one title available and only 193 sales. Juliana Stone seems to be the exception in Force's list; Stone has three titles and 19,000 unit sales.

Practically, that means I need 13 more titles available for purchase to hit Mullin's magic number of the top 10,000 ranked authors.

Here's the bad news: on average it takes me about a year to write a novel. To achieve 13 more titles, I'll be 55 years old.

Here's the immediate take away: I need to change.

Next week: Starting Point Goals

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