Q & A: I suffer from multiple mental illnesses and substance abuse. I am also homebound. Could I make any money writing about my struggles?

Maybe. There are a lot of factors at play here. It’s helpful if you’re a good writer, but it’s not a deal breaker. After all, Snooki got published. It’s actually much more important to have a good editor. Writing is a great occupation for someone who’s homebound. If you’re writing to either encourage or warn others, using your struggles as an example, you may find a market.

The real problem is the industry itself. Publishing wasn’t easy before 2008. But the industry took a real hit that year. Lots of little companies got gobbled up or simply closed. Until then a talented writer, with luck and perseverance, had maybe a 15% chance of being published. Now? It’s down to a 3%, and your paycheck amounts to a pittance – not even 10% of sales. Not only that, but the author is responsible for all marketing. Publishers do market their products, but only for very famous people who really don’t need it. The unwashed get no assistance, and if their book doesn’t sell they’ll never get another contract. A literary agent might help, but if you don’t have one already the chances of getting one are pretty slim.

Which leads to self-publishing. This is probably the route I’m going to take. But if the goal is to make enough money to live off of, prepare to go on a diet. The biggest and most obvious choice is Amazon. Most self-published books there sell for $5 or under. Calculating your royalties for your book is tricky, as there are several options. For the purpose of example, say you’ll make $3.50 for every $5 book sold. Amazon keeps threatening to pay for the pages the buyer reads, rather than for the entire book, but I don’t know if that panned out or not.

If the author is responsible for all marketing no matter which route they take, it makes sense to self-publish. And yes, it’s theoretically possible to make money doing it. Some people make lots of money doing it. Most do not.

If you want to look into Amazon, start here. There are several other options out there – this is just the best known. Best of luck!

Self Publishing and Free Distribution for Books, CD, DVD


The Publishing Dilemma

darkI’ve been writing for years.  I’m confident in my abilities.  I have a very strong story.  So why the heck am I still an “unpublished writer” rather than “… author of 75 Miles to Montauk”?

It’s simple, really.  From my perspective, I seem to be caught between two no-win scenarios.  Tell me if this sounds familiar.  Traditional route:

1. write a fantastic story

2. learn all you can about the publishing industry

3. submit standard materials to everyone you can think of

4. paper the walls with rejection letters

New fangled self publishing route:

1. write a fantastic story

2. sign up with a service like Create Space and hit “publish”

3. watch exactly nothing happen

4. endure withering/pitying looks as you explain you’re “self published”, which seems to equate a grade-school child bringing home construction paper artwork for mom and dad to pin to the fridge door.  It’s something a naive kid would be proud of, but no “grown up” would ever take it seriously.

(Incidentally – if you have trouble remembering how to spell “naive” like I do, remember this fun fact: “Evian” is “Naive” spelled backwards.  But I digress.)

agilityI recently met an author I already have enormous respect for.  Chris Pitchford is a delight to talk to.  His writing is crisp and witty.  He has a real knack for telling a tale, as you can discover in his new novel The Agility of Clouds.

When he isn’t writing fantastic stories, Chris  puts a great deal of thought into the business end of books, as explained in his recent article “Dream jobs.  Sometimes it’s not enough to have just one“.  Published by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Chris lays out the pros and cons, and explains why he made the decision to self publish.  A recommended read!