Saturday, February 7, 2015

No, There Aren't Too Many Writers - Part 3: It's Okay to Want to Get Rich

In this final post taking down the "too many writers" meme, let's talk about getting rich. Really, really, really rich. Gold bath tub rich.

Indy writers often begin any discussion on the topic of self-publishing with "I'm not saying every writer will get rich but…." This is because people attacking self-publishing are constantly accusing the community of promising writers they will get rich. Hugh Howey seems obligated to insert a standard "I'm not saying you'll get rich" qualifier even when he's giving tips on ebook formatting. Successful indy writers who talk about their achievements are required to issue the equivalent of mandatory pharmaceutical warnings:


The other compulsory admonition, the one I hate the most, is that anyone who has made a lot of money in self-publishing is required to say, "I was lucky." No, you weren't lucky: you are talented, clever at business and/or worked your ass off. Most likely, all of the above.

Those pushing the "too many writers" meme say that self-publishing unrealistically encourages writers to dream about getting rich. They frequently cite any struggling writer who hasn't succeeded, or has a set back along the way, as proof that everyone is doomed to failure. They are fond of saying "the gold rush is over." The implication is that eventually everyone will be forced to return to the prison of the traditional publishing models where big corporations decided what should be printed and who was allowed to benefit. (Usually, everyone but the writers.) As if that is better than even their most pessimistic predictions of self-publishing's future.

Indy writers responding to these attacks frequently stress the non-monetary positives of self-publishing: freedom of expression, the joy of engaging with even a small fan base, and the satisfaction of knowing your work will available as a collective part of human culture, possibly for as long as humans are around. These are all good things and deserve to be touted as the main reason to self-publish. But…

Three more things:
  1. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get rich.
  2. Self-publishing is a pretty darned good way to try.
  3. The gold rush ain't over.
While there are other good reasons to self-publish, no one should have to apologize for hoping they can make good money from it. Nor should they have to apologize that some people will succeed at making money and some people won't. That's no reason not to try.

There might be quicker and more reliable ways to get rich, like maybe grifting, war profiteering, or starting your own religion. If making lots of money is your main interest, real estate and the financial markets might be a better choice. If you're looking for a nice dependable income, there are opportunities in the tech, legal and medical industries. But most people aren't solely motivated by money. It's a sign of intelligence, not naiveté, to not to only want to make money, but to make money at something you love.

Does that mean you still have to be practical? Yes, of course. Don't rush to quit your day job. Don't mortgage your house to hire a publicist and advertise on blimps. Yes, writers who leap into the market thinking they'll get rich overnight will likely be disappointed.

On the other hand, some writers have gotten rich, or thereabouts, very quickly. When an aspiring writer reads about how Amanda Hocking sold $2.5 million dollars worth of ebooks 20 months after she began self-publishing, what is that person to think?  "Oh, that could never happen to me.  I shouldn't even try." That frankly seems like a strange, defeatist attitude. Is that they way people should approach life? It seems a better reaction would be, "Okay, if she did that well, maybe I could do a tiny fraction of that and still make a nice profit in terms of the work involved."

An even better reaction might be: "Heck, maybe I'll do even better!  What have I got to lose?"

This is America, dude! (And dudettes.) Making money is the name of the game. Whether you want to play or not, you're on the field. There's nothing wrong with kicking the ball and seeing where it goes. There is nothing wrong with dreaming about getting rich, and it's even better to take logical steps to try to make it happen. Succeed or fail, at least you're playing the game. And that can be fun in it's own right, even if you don't win. Amanda, herself, was inspired by J. A. Konrath, who talked about his success and said, jump in the water's great!

Always swirling around the arguments about "too many writers" is an undercurrent of elitism and snobbery from the traditional publishing establishment. This is also true about the fake hand wringing that gullible fools are rushing into self-publishing in a "gold rush" to "get rich." The truth is, they don't care about the writers who might fail at self-publishing, but they are terrified of the ones that will succeed.

Many in the established publishing world are horrified that writers can go around them and make money for themselves, cutting out agents, editors, and executives. These gatekeepers and middle people came to believe they were the real force behind publishing and they should reap all of the monetary rewards. For several decades they have been squeezing writers with increasingly lousy contracts that took away most opportunities to make money. In order to get published by the big conglomerates, writers had to give up movie and television rights, sign life of copyright deals, agree to non-compete clauses and accept shady accounting practices. Any leverage the writer had to make real money, other than what the publisher might trickle down to them, vanished. Mid-list writers found it impossible to make a living, let alone even hope to get rich. Which was fine with the established publishing scene. Because they wanted less writers in the market anyway. They were already throwing the slush piles in the trash. They were perfectly happy with the idea that writing should not be viewed as a source of real income. Writers should be starry eyed artists, grateful for any attention, and not bother thinking about dirty things like business and money. Writers aren't supposed to compare revenue streams and share tips on making money. Those were the secrets that executives and agents guarded. Writers weren't suppose to know if you can make more money with audio books or how to get their books distributed into foreign markets. Writers of the most popular genres, the ones that really made the money, were treated like second class citizens, and consistently paid poorly. The money they should have earned was channeled to promote literary darlings from Ivy League schools, and pay off politicians and the socially connected with lucrative and undeserved advances to finance a range of nepotism and influence peddling.

Now, lest I sound like I'm invoking too much class warfare, there are perfectly nice rich people. I'm in favor of more writers, not less, so I'm also glad when rich people want to write books. It's also reasonable they use whatever advantages they have to try to get ahead of everyone else. But I have no patience for lectures by people of privilege, and their proxies, that "too many writers" hurts literature or gives the lower classes unrealistic expectations of succeeding. As Clay Shirky says, in his brilliant and off quoted piece on elitism in publishing, if you aren’t aren’t happy that more books are available to more people then “you’re kind of an asshole.”  Not everyone in the New York literary scene fits Shirky’s description, but right now it seems like they have the megaphone.

Likewise, there is nothing wrong with big companies. Some big companies are run really well. As I said in my first post on the subject, some bosses are good people and threat their employees more than fair. Big companies can do things that individuals simply can't. That includes big publishers and the conglomerates that own them. It is reasonable that big publishers want to promote certain writers. I don't even have a problem when they try to monopolize distribution, as long as they don't do it illegally. Unfortunately big publishing has a long history of engaging in shady and illegal practices to try to control distribution and fix prices. That is a problem. But an even bigger problem is when big businesses, particularly publicly traded companies, are poorly run to serve the whims of snobby executives. Many executives in the publishing world seem to be more interested in catering to the literary scene and basking in their role as cultural curators than selling books and making money for their shareholders. They favor writers who write books that people don't want to buy, simply because they came from the same social circle, instead of the writers who write books people love. Big publishing should embrace ebooks and view self-publishing as a non-competitive college league. They should be snapping up the best self-publishers like hot draft picks. Instead, they have been colluding to try to kill the ebook baby in the cradle, not because it will hurt their business, but because it will hurt the feelings of the literary elite they have been subsidizing on the backs working mid-list writers. This is what is behind the coordinated PR attack on self-publishing and the organized spin by pundits and main stream press to get the message out that "too many writers" have unrealistic dreams of "getting rich."

It is great when people have dreams and can actively pursue them. Writing, in hopes of getting rich, is a lot better than someone buying lottery tickets or playing slot machines. It is better than sitting on the couch watching television and wishing your life was better. Who exactly is harmed when someone sits down and works hard to produce and self-publish a book? Other than the egos of those who want it to be an elite activity? Or those who fear fair competition? If it does or doesn't sell it should be no one's concern but the person who wrote it. If that person wants to publicly complain about low sales, or disappointing reviews, that's alright, people complain about the weather too. And if another person wants to share their advice on how to avoid failure, or achieve success, that is even better. But putting out misinformation to discourage people from trying to pursue a dream? That's pretty disgusting.

Writing, fiction writing in particular, has historically been a successful method for people to rise above disadvantaged backgrounds or limited means. This goes back to Poe, Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Raymond Chandler, Steven King to J. K. Rowlings. While there are other paths for someone to go from poverty to wealth, it is difficult to argue there is a better one than making money by writing stories. Or even to argue that other paths are more likely to happen. It is always difficult for someone to rise from one social economic class to another. But if you have a desire to write, self-publishing books to make money is worse than… what? Where are there other, better opportunities to get rich that people should be directed to?

Self-publishing means that you own your own business. This is supposed to be the American dream. Owning your own business has many perks, starting with the fact that there are less people between you and the money you earn. There are nice tax benefits too. Working harder means you earn more. You have control over your destiny; you can learn from your mistakes and benefit from your clever decisions. In creative endeavors, having control over your work is almost always preferable.

Moreover, the start up costs for a self-publishing business are minimal. They can range from zero to a few thousand dollars and are completely within the control of the writer. I can't think of any other real business with such low start up costs. Let alone one with the risk/reward potential to make serious money. Should someone with a desire to write avoid self-publishing because "there are too many writers" and instead open a restaraunt? Most new restaurants go bankrupt within a few years. The start up costs can be enormous. The amount of work involved is huge. And, in even in success, the amount of revenue generated is not likely to be huge, certainly not as much as a best selling writer. Of course, if the restaraunt branches out, becomes a successful chain, much more money can be made. But how likely is that? More likely than someone writing a popular book?

Is house flipping better? There are higher rewards but huge risks. Starting your own limo service? Selling Tupperware? What exactly are the better business opportunities that writers should be pursing instead of joining the "gold rush" of self-publishing?

Of course, the critical part of all this is a person has to have a desire to write. Not everyone does. Then the person has to be able to sit down and actually finish a novel or story. Even fewer people can do this. Then they have to believe that what they have written is good enough to be worth self-publishing. I suspect quite a few would-be writers stop at this point, when even their mother says, "It's not so good, honey. What's so bad about working at Starbucks?" But assuming a person can get though these steps, why on Earth wouldn't they try? Would it really be better to spend the rest of your life wondering if you could have been successful at writing?

Now, it might sound like I'm just saying everyone should "follow their dreams." I'm not saying that. I'm talking specifically about self-publishing, which is a very low-risk/high-reward way for some people to follow their dreams. Including a dream to get "rich."

Not all dreams should be pursued with equal vigor. If you're 20 years old and 5' 2" and dream about being a professional basketball player, I would highly advise you to put some energy in a good backup plan. I'd be skeptical if someone told me they were going to get rich as a race car driver just because they beat people at traffic lights. If you’re a mother who told me she was going to pay $10,000 to a talent scout who promised to make her child a movie star, I’d appeal for an intervention.

The entertainment industry, in particular, is a very dangerous place for people to wander about with unrealistic dreams. It can be brutal and cruel to the innocent and naïve. There are many tragic stories of people wasting their lives trying to break into acting, singing, stand up comedy, film directing, etc. The performing arts, in particular, are incredibly competitive while also rife with exploitation, nepotism and favoritism.

Moreover, anyone with a desire to start up their own business, even a freelance business, really needs to study the market and think carefully about whether they can succeed. Just wanting to do something is not enough. There should be a reasonable expectation of results in exchange for hard work.

A little over a decade ago, I would have even been pessimistic about anyone seeking to pursue a career in fiction writing, particularly if they were looking to get rich. While writing historically has been a possible path to making money, it was always been a difficult one. It was made even more difficult by consolidation and market manipulation in the traditional publishing world over the last fifty years. In recent decades, abusive industry practices made almost impossible for anyone but insiders to succeed. A system was codified, by accident or design, to discourage and distract outsiders and to prevent writers from gaining money and independence. It was, effectively, a rigged game. And for me, the downsides playing it were far greater than any potential rewards. That's why I quickly gave up any dreams of writing novels in college, once I got just a hint of how the system worked.

Self-publishing changed everything. In studying self-publishing (because you should always do research before starting your own business) I learned that my prior concerns about traditional publishing were not only justified, but barely touched the surface. Before the self-publishing revolution, most writers pursing careers were hesitant to talk about just how bad traditional publishing was. Also, before the internet, they didn't have a good channel to talk about it even if they were willing. But now we are able to really starting to hear about the dark side of traditional publishing. Here's a quick list of some of the most abusive practices and why self-publishing solves them:

1. Submission process. In traditional publishing, the bulk of submissions to agents and publishers are tossed away, unread, wasting enormous amounts of both time and emotional energy for writers trying to get printed. But even worse, in many cases writers would sometimes be told to rewrite their work (for free) and still not get a deal, wasting even more of their time. They would be given notes on what kinds of stories the publishers were supposedly interested in, often by junior people with no real power, and still not get deals if they tried to write (for free) to appeal to what they were told the market wanted. Many, many writers would go through this horrible submission process, working really hard for many years, and end up with absolutely nothing to show for it. The writer who self-publishes skips over all this misery and goes straight to readers. If readers buy their work, they know they can trust their own instincts, if readers don't, they know they should try something else. In the old process, writer's were appealing to middle men who often had no real idea what readers wanted and little intention of signing the writer regardless.

2. Non-compete clauses. Many publishers force writers into contracts with non-compete clauses, which basically means the writer can't work for anyone else. This drastically limits the writers options if the publisher turns out to do a bad job packaging and promoting the writers work. The writer also has little leverage to improve their deals even in success. Obviously, self-publishing eliminates these kind of unfair contract provisions.

3. Long lead times to publish. Traditional publishing moves extremely slowly, more for the convenience of executives than from any practical consideration. Writers who get traditional deals have to wait years to see the results of their work. If they write contemporary, cutting edge material, they have to worry it will be dated by the time it reaches readers. This unnecessary slowdown in getting material in the hands of readers can have very negative effects on a writer seeking to make money through their work. Self-publishing gets material to readers almost as quickly as the writer can write it.

4. Limiting writer output. One of the dirty secrets of traditional publishing is that publishers discourage even best selling writers from writing quickly and putting out a lot of books per year. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a great post on this. Even in success, publishers don't want writers to become too successful. This is a bad business practice which is, at best, an issue of publisher laziness, not wanting to disrupt their slow moving distribution plans. More likely it is to prevent popular writers from dominating the market and becoming too powerful. Publishers prefer to have a stable of writers putting out one book a year (or even every two years) so money is divided up between writers and there is still room for them to market and distribute their less popular literary darlings. All of which is completely against writers best interests (except for literary darlings). Readers love it when their favorite writers put out lots of books. So another key advantage of self-publishing is there are no artificial limits on writer output. Which gives writers a better chance of getting rich by working hard.

5. Series, short stories, boxed sets. The huge money in writing is almost always in a series or franchise. Yet big publishers, completely against their own business interests, are lukewarm about them, despite the proven success of Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, romance and detective series. Publishers still prefer make deals for single books and market books as single products. Even when publishers make deals for a book series, they usually insist on putting out one book to test the market, rather than commit to the entire series. As the series progresses, they often allow the first books to go out of print. Again, this is primarily to protect their distribution system, which needs to keep slots open for less popular literary fiction and politician biographies the publishers want to insert into bookstores before they are returned and pulped. They don't want the co-op shelf-space to be taken up just by popular series. Publishers are willing to make exceptions for some big names, but it's actually mid-list series that need the support of having all their books marketed and available at one time. Self-publishing eliminates this bias toward single titles, allowing writers to make money in the most profitable way possible, by creating a set of characters and writing multiple stories based on them. Readers win, writers make money. Self-publishing also allows writers to sell their work in a variety of boxed sets, sometimes with other writers' work, and also profit from writing short stories based on popular franchises. The flexibility writers have to market these potential cash cows is much, much greater than anything traditional publishing can offer.

Prior to the self-publishing option, the traditional publishing world so dramatically limited the options for all but a few writers that I don't believe it was a good business for even a talented writer to pursue, unless they had some inside connection. The risk that a writer could spend twenty years working hard to get through the system and end up with nothing was too great.

Self-publishing changed all that. For very little money a writer can test out whether there is an audience for their work. If there isn't, they can make their own decision to get out, or change their writing or marketing to appeal to a broader audience. If they succeed, there is virtually no limit to how high their income could rise based on how hard they are willing to work at it. It isn't artificially limited by the whims of large corporations.

The notion that writers should only be worried about their art and not bother about money issues was a self-serving meme put out by some people in the traditional publishing world against the interests of working writers. Writing is a form of expression, but it can also be a business. A business oriented writer should absolutely be focused on what sells and how to sell it. Getting rich (by whatever definition) is a reasonable goal for anyone starting a business.

Much of the talk so far in the self-publishing community has been focused on being able to quit a person's day job. That is a completely understandable goal for some writers. But I think it is ultimately limiting the discussion. The reason to self-publish is not that it's an alternative to a "day job," but because it's work that can make some people good money. People with writing talent would be foolish to pass it up, regardless of their current finances or work situation. To make "a living" from your writing is a goal, but it's not the only goal and maybe not even the best goal.

The best advice I heard for people seeking a living in creative arts was: get your life together first. If you hate your day job, find a better one. If you are having trouble paying your bills, cut your expenses and live more modestly. Find a job you can live with, a life style you can afford and then focus all your efforts on your art. All of this is easier said than done. Particularly for working parents. People can find themselves in situations where there appears to be no way out. (I've been there.) But a person trying to compete in a highly competitive market like self-publishing is at a huge disadvantage if the rest of their life is out of control and they feel pressure to succeed overnight. That's not a good way to pursue a new business startup.

But wait, didn't I just say it was okay to want to get rich? Yes, getting rich is a legitimate goal. But it shouldn't be the expectation. Good jobs are hard to find, but it's going to be more likely that a person will find a better "normal" job than it is that they will make enough from self-publishing to quit a job they hate. People, of course, have to make their own choices, and some people actually find inspiration in trying to escape from unpleasant employment. But we're already hearing stories of people who found success in self-publishing, quit their day jobs, and then were forced to return when they suffered a downturn in sales. Others feel embarrassed if they are forced to go back to work to pay for a child's schooling, or deal with medical issues, like needing health care insurance.

So I would argue that as great as it is to hear the stories of people who quit a day job and became full time writers, that should not be the goal line everyone feels they have to cross. There should be no shame in working a day job and writing on the side. There should be no pressure to quit that job as quickly as possible. Nor should there be any embarrassment at going back to "regular" work after a good run as a self-publisher. Optimistic as I am about the business prospects of this growing industry, creating the expectation that self-publishing is a way to escape unpleasant day jobs ultimately sets most people who try up for failure. That will generate a lot of disappointment, bitterness and anger that can eclipse the good news about this new business.

What should be the goal? Making money.

(Oh, and yes, self-expression, exchange of ideas, community, saving the world through art, etc., etc.)

As Auda abu Tayi said in Lawrence of Arabia, "gold is honorable." It is. A focus on how to make money, and how much money is possible, is likely to be more productive in the long run than promising to solve people's day to day financial issues.

Not too long ago I read a writer complaining in the comments section of a self-publishing blog. One indy writer had commented on how much money they were making, over six figures annually, and another complained bitterly that they were making "only" ten thousand dollars a year after several years trying. It wasn't enough for that writer to support themselves.

My reaction was, ten thousand dollars a year is pretty damned good for a few years in. I was even more stunned when I checked out the complaining writer's website and discovered they had only five books for sale. Ten thousand dollars a year for five books?! That's not bad at all.

The Author's Earnings reports (which every self-publisher should thank Hugh Howey and Data Guy for daily) estimates that there are some 700 self-published writers who are earning over $25,000 a year from Kindle ebooks. If their rent is cheap enough, a writer might be able to live off of that (heck, if you found a cheap enough shack, you might do it on $10,000). That number is far greater than the number of newer traditionally published writers, so it is a huge vindication of self-publishing. But in terms of full time employment at a living wage, 700 slots out of tens of thousands of writers self-publishing, is not a lot. Zappos has over 1,000 US employees in their high perk jobs, if you can get one. Google hires thousands of employees in the US each year, and I would guess most make a lot more than $25,000.

Even if Kindle ebook sales double in the next few years, which is possible but on the high side, that still means there are not that many writers who will be able to live solely on their ebook sales. And the odds against it for any single individual are quite large.

But wait! Mackay! You said you were going to talk about getting really, really rich! Now you're talking about lowering expectations and how hard it is to make a living on ebooks? Where's the gold bathtub?!

I'll get to the gold bathtub in a moment. Yes, I am saying lower expectations, at least as far as being able to make a steady living wage and quit your day job. The people who will succeed in self-publishing are those who treat it as a business, and that might require reinvesting the money you earn back into the business, not quitting your job and paying your rent at the first opportunity.

The other problem with there being an emphasis on self-publishers being able to make a "living wage," in my opinion, is that it sets the bar too low. Not all writers are looking to quit their day jobs. Some writers are retired, or already have a lot of money. The larger self-publishing community will benefit from those writers. We want wealthy, powerful, well connected people to join this movement and feel invested in it's success. We want lawyers, military, politicians, judges, celebrities, debutantes, high society, and business executives to self-publish. We want all the best selling writers currently working for traditional publishing to self-publish some of their books, or better yet, abandon traditional publishing all together. We want the rich son of a Senator to self-publish his Zombie books so that when a bill comes up on the Senate floor to regulate self-publishing, the Senator votes against it. In other words, we want this to become a big industry. It will help if the debate shifts to the fact that self-publishing is a great business, not a quick way to escape working at Burger King. Along the way, hopefully a lot of people from modest means will be able to write full time, but if a successful executive, working on the side, makes enough to buy an extra sports car, that's okay too.

So let's get to the gold bathtub. The reason a writer making $10,000 a year, or even $1,000 a year should not despair is because they are creating a library of intellectual property. Intellectual property is like real estate. The value of it depends on a large number of factors, and the value can change quickly. The value of it can grow over night. Some intellectual property is more valuable than Manhattan apartment buildings. And the great thing about intellectual property is you don't have to pay property taxes. And more you exploit it, generally the more valuable it gets.

If you can make $1,000 a year from a few books, odds are you can double that by writing more books. And you can figure out what books sell the best and focus on writing those. If you can keep your costs low, you can keep working and building a library of intellectual property. And then… you can get rich.

Because the real money in this game is not going to come from ebooks. It's going to come from everything else that spins off from the intellectual property contained in the ebook: merchandising, movies, television, video games, soundtracks, and maybe even theme park rides.

So far, most of the conversation in self-publishing is about selling enough ebooks to be able to quit day jobs. That's completely understandable, particularly since so many in traditional publishing argued it wasn't even possible. It is possible. That's been proven. But now I believe the conversation needs to shift to the incredible potential value of creating intellectual property, building libraries, and selling ancillary rights. Because that's where the big money is. That's where the gold bathtubs are.

Let's call it Phase Two. That's where self-publishers will branch out from making money selling ebooks, to making money selling the rights to their intellectual property. Dean Wesley Smith calls it the "magic pie," because if you slice it up right, you can sell the slices and there's always more. Already, self-publishers like A. G. Riddle and Hugh Howey are selling options for films to be produced based on their ebooks. Film production has about a five to ten year lag time and the ebook market only started to take off a few years ago. Once a few films based on self-published ebooks become successful, there is likely to be a rush of new deals. So "only" 700 self-publishers right now make more than $25,000 a year on their Kindle ebooks alone. Well, there are more than 700 films produced a year (about 250 wide releases, another 400-500 limited releases, TV movie, made for cable and direct to video), and almost half of all films produced are based on books. So it's not impossible, in fact it's likely, that hundreds of films will be produced based on self-published novels in the next decade. (And hundreds more will be optioned, making money for the original writers, even if they aren't produced.) Naturally, a successful produced film will greatly enhance ebooks sales not only of the writer's source material, but sales of the writer's entire library of intellectual property.

Beyond movies, already many self-publishers are finding additional revenue from audio books. This is completely in addition to and sometimes larger than the revenue they get from ebooks sales. Some writers are even producing their own enhanced audio books so they can have better production values, more control and take a larger share of the profits. Does having an audio book hurt a writer's chances of getting a film or television deal? No, in fact, it is quite likely to help it. (Lots of film executives hate reading, so it never hurts to have an audio version.) The already huge landscape of intellectual property opportunities for self-publishers is growing every day. I'll cover it more in another post. But for now let's say what should be the obvious, the real money, gold bathtub money, is going to go to the writers who are able to exploit their work in other forms of media in addition to ebooks.

Writers have an incredible advantage over performing artists, sports stars and many others in the entertainment world. An actor has a limited time that they can play certain roles, daughter, lover, mother, grandmother. The clock is ticking against them. It's even harder in sports, you have a window of a few years to make it or not. When film directors and producers can't get projects produced, all those years are lost. Even in non-entertainment business, if someone doesn't get in at the ground floor when they are younger, it is very difficult to start out at an older age. But, and this even more true thanks to self-publishing, time is on a writer's side. You can publish fifty novels that only sell a few copies a year, and then if one breaks out and becomes successful, your entire library becomes more valuable. You can start at any age, you can take breaks and go back, you can work at whatever speed you want. Your work can even become more valuable after you die (but try to get rich when you can enjoy it). The only way you fail is by giving up. You will also help yourself if you pursue a long term strategy. Some gimmicks that might increase sales in the short run, might not help, or might even hurt you in the long run. (For example, lots of poorly written books with great covers might sell in the short run, but their value long term might be lesser than fewer, better written novels.)

Writers also need to ignore the misinformation being put out there that "too many writers" means that writers can't get money. Or that writers shouldn't concern themselves with making money. Or that the "gold rush" is over. Intellectual property isn't a gold rush, it's a gold mine. While it's not a good idea to pin all your hopes on quitting your day job by writing a few ebooks, or quitting your job the minute you make your first six figure year, there's nothing wrong with dreaming about getting rich from self-publishing. Because it absolutely is possible.


  1. Hi. This is my first time reading your blog. So my question for you is, are you really, really rich from self publishing now? Honestly curious.

    1. Not yet. I just published one book so far. Sales are small so far, but it's been a lot of fun and I've gotten some great reviews.

      But I suspect the guy who wrote "The Martian" is doing very nicely.