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Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2015

28 January 2015

The most commented posts in the history of The Passive Voice have been those requesting the stories of  indie authors who have been able to quit their day jobs and live on their writing income. The first post is here and the second is here.

It’s a new year and time to share some more stories. To prime the pump, here’s a story that James N. Cook shared the last time PG invited these stories.

Since the age of twelve, I wanted to be a writer. But as time went on, and I learned more about the process of legacy publishing, I decided it wasn’t worth the time, effort, and heartache.

So I joined the Navy out of high school, served for six years, got married, left the Navy, and then bounced around from job to job while I worked my way through college.

The desire to write never left me, but I figured pursuing an education was a much more sensible and productive way to spend my time (I also wanted to be the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree). So that’s what I did.

After graduation, I took a job with a major investment firm and started working my way up the corporate ladder. It was good, steady work at a stable company with sufficient pay and benefits to provide well for my family. I had made it. I had achieved the stated goal.

And I hated every second of it.

I was an avid reader. Still am. I had story ideas floating around in my head, distracting me at the oddest times. I used to tell my wife about them, and her response was always the same: “You need to start writing.” Finally, she got so fed up with my lack of action she told me she would not listen to another story idea of mine until I started writing them down.

This happened right about the time she bought me my first Kindle and I learned about KDP (late 2010). So in March of 2011, I sat down in my recliner, perched my laptop on my knees, opened a blank Word document, and started work on my first novel, No Easy Hope.

The first month I released it, November of 2011, it sold 201 copies. I was pretty happy with that.

In December of 2011, it sold 2,013 copies.

Talk about a surreal experience. I remember walking outside in the cold and putting my hands on my knees and taking deep breaths until the dizziness subsided. After a few minutes of this, I realized two things:

My bare feet had gone numb, and I was smiling.

In July of 2012, I released my second novel, This Shattered Land. The following month, total sales of the first two novels were over 8,000 copies.

I remember in late July of that year showing my wife the sales figures, and the look on her face, and the tone of her voice when she said, “If you make ten thousand dollars in a month, you can quit your job.”

August 17th 2012 was my last day at Vanguard.

And I haven’t looked back. I have released three novels since then, all of which have done well enough to keep me writing full time. I’m currently earning more money now than I have ever earned in my life, and I have Amazon and KDP (not to mention Createspace and ACX) to thank for it.

I don’t know what the future holds for all of publishing, but I know this: Authors have more choices now than they have ever had in the history of the world. In this business, there are no guarantees, but if you have the talent and the drive and you are tireless and you never give up, your chances of making it are better than they have ever been.

I am the writer Joe Konrath and Barry Eisler and others predicted. I’m the guy Traditional Publishing needs to be afraid of. Not because I was rejected by them and went on to find success on my own, but BECAUSE I NEVER EVEN TRIED.

And I can guarantee you this: I am not the only one.

How many writers labored for years under the old system only to never find success? How many found success only after decades of effort and mountains of rejection letters? Those writers will tell you there is no guarantee of success in self-publishing. And I agree. However, your chances aren’t any better in the traditional world, and at least with self-publishing you don’t have to query an agent, deal with an editor, or surrender control of your work.

I like being in control. I like being able to write whatever I want and publish it as soon as I am finished with it. I like 70% royalties. What I don’t like are onerous contracts, sharing my profits with an agent, or giving up more than half of my royalties to a publishing house. That’s why I self publish.

Also, don’t let anyone tell you self publishing is expensive. It doesn’t have to be. I published my first novel for ninety dollars–that’s $90.00–and it has gone on to sell over forty thousand copies. Pretty good ROI if you ask me.

So if you are considering self publishing, my advice is to go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You might not be an overnight success–hell, it took me two years to reach the point I could write full-time–but you can make money from your work while you strive to take your writing to the next level. That’s what I did.

Those first royalty checks weren’t enough to retire on (still aren’t, actally), but they made paying the bills a heck of a lot less stressful. So do what I did: start making money from your hobby. Trust me, it beats the heck out of getting a part time job. In many cases, it pays better too.

Now stop reading this and go write something.

Here’s a link to James N. Cook’s books

Please share your stories about quitting your day job in the comments to this post.

Quit Day Job

58 Comments to “Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2015”

  1. “If you make ten thousand dollars in a month, you can quit your job.”

    I love these stories of success. At all levels.
    And… just because you earned $10,000 one month, is no guarantee you ever will again. James Cook did. However, there are increasing reports from people who are no longer earning anywhere what they were two or three years ago.

    People who quit their day job when their writing income matches the day job income are taking on significant risk.
    I see many commenters who made the decision to quit their jobs understanding this risk, and many more who still haven’t quit- despite very good sales topping their day job income – because they understand that future sales are not guaranteed.

    I hope new writers encouraged by these wonderful stories make their own decision with that in mind.

    • With the community of people here on The Passive Voice, I have no doubt that very few people would quit the day job as the result of a single top-performing month.

      As you noted, it seems that many commenters are making a very well-considered decision when quitting the day job and they are looking at their continuing sales and how they are rising/falling over time.

      And, if you take a look at last year’s comment thread (and thanks to PG on starting a new one for 2015), this isn’t something that was lightly undertaken. Some reported significant stumbles along the way, but the stories of success continue.

      • “I have no doubt that very few people would quit the day job as the result of a single top-performing month.”

        Unless you’re able to live on a few hundred a month, you’d be stupid to do so. A full year (or two) of living expenses saved seems to be the metric most people attain before quitting day jobs. That’s what I would need before I left a good position. I’m in job search mode now and it’s tough out there. Depending on your field just “going back to work” isn’t as easy as some people make it sound. Choose wisely.

    • A think a lot of it depends on *what* your day job is as well, I think. With some jobs, you’re shooting yourself in the foot (at least in that particular career path) the minute you walk away to trying writing full time. If you have to go back, it might take you months to find a similar position (if you do at all), and in some cases, you might have been bumped back several rungs or even have to start over from scratch.

      With other jobs, though, that’s not the case. For example–before I wrote full time, I worked as a pastry chef. The food industry is ALWAYS hiring (no matter what the economy looks like) and turnover rates are high, so I wasn’t worried about finding a similar position to the one I left. Historically, I’d never been unemployed in that industry for more than a couple of weeks at a time (though it helps that I was willing to take jobs that weren’t-quite-right while I searched for the right one).

      Your risk is different in different positions. Someone who’s a doctor with their own practice has a very different risk than someone who’s waiting tables full time.

      (And obviously things like kids, living expenses, etc. make a HUGE difference as well.)

      • Yeah, it depends on the job. But also, if you really hate your job, you should look for something else to do. Dabbling in self-publishing for couple years and then returning to the job market to find other work isn’t the end of the world.

        It would appear to me that James Cook could do many other things if down the line he finds his books aren’t selling. But even then, I would think he will be happy he at least gave it a try and had a good run. (And his writing will still be available.) More likely, if the market changes, he’ll adapt and thrive.

        Self-publishing aside, I’ve quit jobs I hated even when I didn’t know what I would do next. Sometimes it was very tough, but I always ended up somewhere better in the end. The people I feel sorry for are the people that end up doing something they hate for many years, and then decide it is too late to try anything different. Or the person that works a miserable job and then gets fired after many years anyway.

  2. P.G.

    LOL, this place is bipolar!

    I was *just* about to slash my wrists in misery-then we have this one, whose made it big…

    Pass the prozac!

    brendan

  3. I’ll look it up on Amazon, but it would be nice if there was a link to James N. Cook’s books. (if there were – sorry, not enough coffee yet to put the grammar cap on straight.) Also, congratulations to James! Great work!

  4. As a writer of “non-commercial” fiction (and as someone who loves to do too many different things) I never expect to make a living at my writing.

    So I saved and invested what I earned in traditional publishing, and in indie publishing, and write full time anyway. (I did not get the chance to quit the day job because the day job quit me a few years ahead of when I wanted to leave — but I celebrated anyway.)

    I can tell you this: I make more money at indie publishing than I did at traditional publishing, and I get to write what I want. My work is out there and people can discover it, and me. This would not be true in traditional publishing, even if I were a more commercial writer.

    Furthermore, I get to do covers and audio — two things I love, are also a source of additional income.

    • You and I must keep very close to the same schedule. I’m often looking at a post immediately before or after you.

  5. JA Konrath changed my life. In 2010 I was still on the traditional publishing merry-go-round, trying desperately to get an editor to champion my work. I’d had four agents, six trunk novels, and nothing to show for it.

    And then at the tail end of 2010, I discovered Konrath’s blog and put up my backlist of rejected trad pub novels on KDP and B&N.

    Even though sales were paltry at the beginning, I knew from the outset that this was big. I could hardly sleep at night, as I got up tired every morning and slogged to my dreaded cubicle job.

    At work, I wrote instead of doing my real job. I came home and wrote some more, and I wrote on weekends. I published as fast as I could.

    Month after month, I saw sales increase and I learned more about the business.

    About six months later, with sales building, I decided to take a leap and quit my soul-sucking job. I knew that if worse came to worse and things didn’t pan out, I could find a way to get another dreaded soul-sucking cubicle job.

    It’s now been more than four years and I’m still writing full-time. I make more money than I ever dreamed.

    My life is full of the things that I love: writing, reading, watching TV and movies, spending time with my wife and dogs. I travel to warmer climates in the winter months. I get up and wear comfortable clothes around the house, drink coffee and look out the window and wonder how exactly I got here…

    Thanks to Joe Konrath who put out the word instead of keeping it all to himself. Thanks to Amazon and B&N and Kobo, etc. All the venues that allow me to find my audience and make a living doing what I’ve always wanted to do.

    May everyone who wants this, go for it and get it. If you work smart and hard and don’t give up, it is attainable!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, G.

      • G

        Thank you as well. Finishing work and SP’ing as early as 2010 is what I should have done. Still slogging away too many years later. Procrastination and The Perfect are killers.

        All the best.

  6. Thanks, Passive Guy, for posting my comment on your page. I hope it helps some budding writer out there to give self-publishing a try. That said, I feel like I should give an update:

    I’m still making a good living as a writer. Has it gotten harder than it was back in ’11 and ’12? Yes. Without a doubt. But I am in this for the long haul, and I look at challenges not as setbacks, but as opportunities.

    A few things I’ve learned:

    Write prolifically. It has been ten months since my last release (although I have a new novel that I will release early in Feb). Sales have dropped. I don’t plan on taking that long to write and release my next novel. The more you write, the more you earn. Bottom line.

    Don’t drink. I am recovering from a ten-year severe addiction to alcohol that vastly hampered my writing. Now that I am sober, I am writing faster and better than ever before. To paraphrase Russell Blake, if you think you can’t make your muse stand up and dance for you, you’re kidding yourself. But that won’t happen if you spend most of your time drunk, hungover, or suffering from withdrawal.

    Have fun. Writing is a joy. Write whatever you want. Publish it as soon as it is ready. And don’t ever, ever compromise. Even if you don’t earn enough to quit your day job, you are doing something you enjoy and contributing to the availability of the written word. Take pleasure in that.

    Income streams are the best. Cultivate as many as you can. All of my books are available in ebook, print, and audio. Audio is huge, and growing. Yeah, ACX has a crappy royalty rate now, but 40%–or even 20%–of something is better than 100% of nothing. Look into it.

    Don’t give up. There are days when I look at my work and I say, “This is crap. I am crap. No one will ever take this drivel seriously. What the heck am I doing?”

    To doubt yourself is human. But don’t let doubt and insecurity silence you. Feel it, deal with it, and write anyway.

    My gratitude and best wishes to all of you here at The Passive Voice.

    • James, I really appreciated this comment. I was feeling a little depressed about my career today (even though I have no real reason to, seeing as I am pretty much a beginner and still have plenty of time to grow), so I found this comment made me feel better and gave me another dose of courage to keep going even when sales are low and no one knows my name (or the names of my books, for that matter).

    • Congratulations, James, and thanks for the update. My income graph slanted downward toward the end of last year as well, but continuing to write and publish is the only solution.

      And congratulations as well on your sobriety. That challenge is rampant in my family, and it’s a tough one. Good for you.

    • Thanks for a great comment, James.

    • Thanks James, your story is an inspiration to me. It wasn’t until my sixth book that I sold 2000 of one book in a month. You did it on book 1–amazing! Good work, keep writing, keep lighting the way.

      And yes, thanks to Joe Konrath for striking the flame. I’ll never forget that weekend I spent reading his entire blog. It was like the heavens had opened up and given me an answer I had been after forever. I even got the three-dog T-shirt. Now if my wife could only make me change it.

    • Wow, man I went and checked out some of your books and picked up No Easy Hope.

      It is simply put: incredible!

      I am so freaking picky, it takes me ages to find books that I can really sink into and enjoy. I want to become completely transported into a world, and enjoy the adventure as well as the characters.

      You have done that so quickly and easily and now I’m just psyched to have a bunch of great books to read in the future once I’m done with this. Great work, you are a terrific author.

    • Drinking derailed me terribly as recently as this fall. It’s so easy to sip a six pack after work after your s***** day, forget about it all and then BAM it’s the next day and you are doing it again.

      Some people can drink and write. Most can’t.

      • Alcohol tolerance likely makes a difference, as does the amount of alcohol. I have a high tolerance, and I don’t drink to the point of intoxication, and it doesn’t affect my writing ability at all.

        • People that have drinking problems drink everything available when they start. And I firmly believe it affects the writing ability of everyone, just not to the same extent.

          Like driving. I can drive shitfaced no problem. I’ve proven this at police drinking and driving programs. They ran an obstacle course for use criminal law types while feeding us booze. I got 10 beers in and was still passing the course easily.

          I don’t drink and drive though, it’s illegal.

          Same with writing. If I drink more than one I’m totally done writing. And I’m not the type that drinks 2. It’s 10 or why even start?

          • One one of my favorite quotations related to writing.

            “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
            — Ernest Hemingway

            As pointed out already, alcohol affects people differently.

            Here is the bottom line: I know that I can write a certain new book while under the influence of alchohol and it will do better than 99 percent of books written by authors who are sober. Just because people are sober doesn’t mean that they have the critical thinking skills to create a great book, the creative skills to come with great marketing strategies, or the common sense to know what will work and what won’t.

            Ernie J. Zelinski
            The Prosperity Guy
            “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
            Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
            (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
            and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
            (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  7. My story is pretty similar to James’, except that I was a little late to the self-publishing party.

    I’ve always been a lover of fiction—I was the kid that spent all summer at home, reading—but I never even considered a career as a writer. Instead, I pursued a career in science, because that seemed far more sensible. After getting a Ph.D. in engineering and finding that my job prospects weren’t actually that good, that the pay at the jobs I could get stunk, and that I had to navigate oceans of red tape to get any actual work done, I wondered what, exactly, I was doing in the field.

    So I started writing—in my free time of course. I wrote a novel, tried to get the attention of agents and publishers, and hit a brick wall. Then, at the beginning of last year, I started to seriously consider self-publishing as a viable option, probably around the time many others did. I educated myself as much as I could, in no small part thanks to blogs such as this one, and made the decision to self-publish.

    My first two books came out in October of 2014, not even four months ago. I’ve since published another, and I have one more on the docket for the next couple weeks. I thought it would take at least a year or two to build a solid following and make some real money, but I’m on pace to make a five figure income in the month of January from my self-published novels alone.

    My story is an outlier—most people don’t achieve success that quickly—but based on the stories here on the Passive Voice and in other places, I’m not *that* much of an outlier. Success can be had, assuming you write great books and package them in the best way possible.

    It’s a scary, thrilling journey, but one I’m glad I embarked on.

  8. I spent my entire life (starting age 12) saying I wanted to write historical fiction, but spent most of my adult life in academia (doctorate in history, teaching), and I had one draft of the first in a planned historical mystery series that I reworked (and tried to sell) for 20 years.

    Then I semi-retired in my late 50s because of personal reasons. With a small pension—I could afford to then follow my dream, and I took that manuscript (Maids of Misfortune) out of the drawer, rewrote it one more time, and self-published it at end of 2009 as I was about to turn 60.

    I just turned 65, and I am about to publish the 4th book in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, I have a collection of 4 short stories (all of these works based on the dissertation work I did 35 years ago.). And I have made $200,000+ (before taxes—I confess that was a shock—having spent my career just not seeing the money that was going to go to the state and the feds), on the sale of those books.

    Definitely a living wage. I made less last year than in 2012 and 2013, but I still made an income that I could have lived on quite nicely. And since most of the short fall was at the end of the year, and I have subsequently changed my strategy (shifting from KDP Select and 99 cent promotions to selling everywhere with a perma free loss leader), I have a good deal of faith I will make a living wage again in 2015.

    In addition to that new marketing strategy, I have started on a new collaborative effort in science fiction to supplement my historical work—which is particularly fun because I am starting to work with my daughter as a writing partner. Dare I say “Sky’s the limit,” for what indie authorship has done for me. I get to get up every day and do exactly what I want to do, I keep exercising my brain learning new things, and I have developed a lovely and diverse community through cyberspace to replace the community I lost when I retired. Thanks to PG for helping build that community!

  9. I just turned in notice to my employer. As of June, I’ll be a full time writer. A LONG TIME dream come true.

    So excited!

  10. My story: I had a bit of a trad career in 2000-2007ish in Germany, when I wrote five paperback novels and got two agents (one for fantasy, the other for historical fiction). I HATED the publishing system and how it treated authors. Couldn’t bring myself to write the kinds of books my historical agent thought he could sell, but took fantasy agent’s recommendation to heart: “There’s a frontlist and a backlist. You can only start thinking about quitting your day job when the backlist is consistently enough to live on.”

    I moved to the UK in 2005, got day jobs (any day jobs, really). Didn’t have the confidence to “compete” with native speakers in traditional publishing, so just wrote for myself for a few years (2007-2010). Moved onwards and upwards in terms of corporate career.

    In late 2009/2010, I realised people were making money at ebooks. And that I could definitely compete with those who did. In fact, that there’s no competition. I didn’t need to “beat” anybody – in fact, I found e-authors to be the most supportive people, freely sharing information about how to play the game, which publisher to get in with, how it all worked.

    In 2011, I landed my dream job. Lots of time, lots of money, great benefits, awesome team. I started to write seriously (also because the job was about “readiness” – I spent a lot of time waiting for work but had to be ready to jump into the fray at a second’s notice – such is the life of an equities research editor in investment banking).

    Was laid off because equities went to hell and the bank was saving money. Got a big chunk of money as a “sorry to let you go” payment.

    Landed another job. Loved that a lot less. Kept writing. One year into that job, I was pretty damn miserable – so miserable in fact that my co-writer launched “Operation Aleks’s Freedom”, which consisted in co-writing a LOT of stuff.

    The plan was to quit in January 2015.

    The Universe decided to bring that date forward when we were all laid off (without much of a golden handshake this time) in January 2014. Still got three months’ pay out of it. Kept writing pretty hard (5 novels a year is hard for me).

    In a moment of existential dread I took a job in a sector I used to be good at (journalism) in July 2014, but only lasted two months, because it was depressing the hell out of me. (Just about everything about that job was wrong for me- the company, the environment, the sector I was covering, and the leadership, also no benefits, and I stopped writing entirely. In those two months, I didn’t write a single word.)

    As a matter of self- and sanity-defense, I walked out of that job before my probationary period ended – likely burning every bridge into journalism ever. But that’s okay.

    So, money:

    Two years ago (2011/2012) I made £8,500/year from writing. Hey, it paid for all kinds of stationery, some trips and overseas conferences.

    One year ago (2012/2013), I made £13,500/year from writing. That’s below starting salary for a graduate, but definitely starts to look and feel like money, especially on a day job.

    2013/2014 was better than that (I just did my tax return for that year), and I can see that 2014/2015 will be better again, despite KU slaughtering my backlist sales (they went down 40%, putting me way below what I need to live).

    Unlike a lot of indie success stories, I’m looking at incremental increases on profits, not exponential. If I continue to grow royalties by £5,000/year, I’m good. That’s the number I’m watching. That it’s going in the right direction and that one day I’ll be able to contribute to a pension again and help pay off the house.

    The “end goal” is to meet and then exceed my old corporate salary and pay off the mortgage, which is our combined biggest outgoing. That would enable my partner to scale down his hours, maybe go part-time so he can do the stuff he enjoys.

    What I found surprising was how long it took me to come to terms with the new “life path”, for want of a better word. I had to overcome the feeling of inadequacy for “not pulling my weight” in financial terms, I had to accept that, income-wise, I was starting from the bottom, and I had to accept help – from my partner – and gifts from my friends, both of which involved substantial amounts and a big sense of obligation with a smattering of guilt. I’m by nature a fairly independent soul. It’s a biographical wound having to do with my parents, so that stuff runs *deep*.

    I was hoping to get a similar job to the one I loved so much in 2011, but even though I had three leads, none came true. It’s been up and down all of 2014 for me, as I lived off savings and explored freelancer options and am still studying for qualifications that might eventually open up another income stream over the next year or two, but mostly, I’ve been slowly consuming my savings.

    But I did have a tiny quantum leap just yesterday. A headhunter who’d put me forward for a big-££,££££ job left a voicemail telling me that “in this instance, you haven’t been successful.” And she was all regretful, and wants me to call her back to discuss future options.

    But what did I feel after the message ended?

    “Thank gods. I don’t have time for a day job. I’m way too busy over the next six months.”

    And my partner’s come round to it all too. When I told him of all my other money-making schemes (the stuff I’m studying), he just chuckled and said: “Your job is to write that next book. Whatever else you do, those are hobbies.”

    And yeah, he’s right. Writing books is now my job. And that felt good. The anxiety/stress is way down. I’m no longer treading water/biding my time. I’m back in control of my life/future. I’m amazed how long that process took and how hard it was, but I had to overcome everything drilled into my head about money/independence from childhood.

    But I’m in a much, much better space than this time last year.

    (I have a total of 30ish “earning titles” – and I’m in the very very niche market of queer romance/fiction.)

    • Thanks for sharing, Aleksandr.

    • Unlike a lot of indie success stories, I’m looking at incremental increases on profits, not exponential.

      Exponential growth makes great headlines, but I think incremental increases are the real story in building a solid writing career. Big congrats to you, Aleksandr.

      • Exponential growth makes great headlines, but I think incremental increases are the real story in building a solid writing career. Big congrats to you, Aleksandr.

        Thanks! I’d be totally ready to accept exponential increases, mind you, but if I can’t have those, I’m happy to go with incrementals. Never had a day job that paid me a £5,000 bonus or gave me a £5,000 raise at year-end, so I take it. 🙂

  11. Still no closer to quitting my job. But haven’t lost hope.

  12. I started last Feb publishing. I published 4 novellas and two short stories in a series. I did make some sales but not much.($9.18). I have a long way to go to building my writing career. I write in different genres and the first one is in erotic romances. That novella series was mostly bisexual/M/M romances. I do write straight as well. I have lots of plans for this pen name and I will have novels coming out this year. I realize you have to be prolific and consistent. I wish everybody the best in their writing.

    • Ha. Your erotic romances made about as much over the last year as mine have. But 2015 is a new year and I’m back on the horse. I’m going to work on the “prolific” part.

  13. I haven’t even started publishing yet, but my dream is to be able to write full time. Some criteria I have to meet first is to pay off my car loan and my student loans. That’s a given. Why would I want to take such a risk while I’m still severely in debt?

    I also want to have a good chunk of money in the bank. Something I could live off of for a year or two without having to ever get a job. What happens if you quit your job and then your sales tank? You need some money in your savings to account for that. Not to mention retirement. (Although I’m willing to bet I’ll never stop writing completely.)

    Another thing to consider is health insurance. I’m not married so it’s not like I can mooch off my non-existent wife’s benefit plan. Not to mention, what if the woman I marry has a job that doesn’t offer benefits? What if she’s a writer too.

    It’s great to read stories like these but at the same time I can’t help thinking how far away from my dream I am. Baby steps, though. One day I’ll get there. Hopefully sooner than I think.

  14. Reading these success stories is very inspiring 🙂

    I started self-publishing a year ago. I previously had published historical romances for the inspirational market, but I was also interested in going outside the genre. Steampunk, dieselpunk and fantasy were on my list. I should also mention that I knew several author friends who went the indie route. They seemed happier and more in control of their work. I wanted that, and if I could earn a little supplemental income, great. I spent the summer of 2013 reading Konrath’s blog, Dean Wesley Smith, and TPV. The education I received has been invaluable as well as very eye-opening concerning the trad pub industry.

    The Lady Machinist was my first self-pubbed book to be released. It made the top 100 list for its genre on the first day it came out. How’s that for encouragement? I didn’t make any stellar sales to buy a house or pay a car note, mind you, but after one month, I was able to buy myself a latte and pay the internet bill.

    Fast forward to late 2014 and I have six stories in my steampunk Curiosity Chronicles series (four books, two short stories). All of them have been Amazon bestsellers at some point in their publication. I’ve also started working on a YA paranormal romance series. I’m not saying all of these things to brag. In fact, my husband and I were going through the process of relocation, having financial issues, and grieving over the loss of our baby during 2014. Seeing
    my books selling online was one of the few positives in a hard year.

    Now here we are in 2015. My husband is back in school and I’m steadily building my writing career. My income is certainly not enough to sustain us by itself, but I’m able to make my monthly student loan payments, contribute to our grocery money fund, and pay for my health insurance. I know accomplishing these things with my writing could not have been possible if I hadn’t chose to self-publish.

    To everyone on TPV, you have been at times encouraging and entertaining 🙂 I wish you all the best in life and in your writing careers!

    • Ava, I am so sorry for your loss.

      Thanks for sharing your story and huge congrats on your success. Paying for health insurance, student loans, and contributing to groceries is definitely success in my opinion. Write on!

      • Agreed. I started with the goal of “maybe paying for some books”, then adjusted to “wow, wouldn’t it be great if I could pay my mortgage out of writing”, then “I’d love to make $1,000/month” – now it’s about matching a graduate salary in London, then UK average wage. They are all milestones, and we need to remember to celebrate those.

        It took me 4 hard years to get here, and I’m happy to put in another 4 before I hit that very big milestone. Meanwhile, just moving forward is a great success.

      • Thanks, J.M. I’m really happy and blessed to be able to contribute to my family’s wellbeing by doing what I love.

        And congrats to you, Aleksandr. You’re right. We all need to be happy about reaching our milestones, big and small.

        Here’s to a bright 2015 for all of us 🙂

  15. I didn’t quit my job to write full-time, but when I was laid off, I took the opportunity to try it on for size. I wasn’t ready, not by a long shot, but I gave myself six months to see if I could stretch my writing and marketing skills to what I knew full-time writers were doing.

    It took the full six months.

    Writing full-time is HARD. I used to write on the weekends, and revise during the week. Now I don’t have all week to think about what I want the next chapter to look like. I’ve got tonight, because I’m going to be writing it tomorrow.

    Would I recommend that someone else take that leap? Probably not. Am I glad I did? Oh, heck yes. 🙂

  16. I published book 7 yesterday of my legal series, one year in. Presently that book (Unspeakable Prayers) is #1 HNR in Jewish literature and #13 HNR in historical literature. What?! How on earth could such a thing happen to a burned-out lawyer. The truth is pretty simple: I wrote for thirty years while being completely ignored by NY. Totally. Ignored. I quit my law practice the same month I published my first book, January 2014. The writing has supported us since the fourth month and grows each month. I’m into five-figures now and the sky’s the limit. Most of all, I love my readers. They write me, they correspond with me. One of them I’ve supported through his hip replacement surgery because I had knee replacement surgery and kind of know what he’s going through. He rewarded me by posting review #1 on my new book. It’s all back and forth with these wonderful people. Their one complaint is that i don’t write fast enough. I’m sure lots of you hear the same thing. How cool is this life? Some days I feel utterly guilty because all I do is watch Breaking Bad on Netflix and drink coffee. Then sell my dreams for $2.99 because someone is willing to hear them. What’ s not to like?

    Oh yeah, I’m in my seventies. I should add that because I only plan to do this another thirty years. At five books a year, let’s see…

  17. I published my first novel (contemporary fantasy) in June and sales have been slow. But I expected that and have been concentrating on reviews, which I’m slowly accumulating. I continue to be very happy with the feedback on that front and am just diving into book two in the series.

    I’m in this for the long haul with no plans to leave my day job anytime soon, but every reader who takes the time to say they like my work is a gift.

  18. Great post, Mr. Cook.
    All I can say is keep right on cookin’! 🙂

  19. Year -1 (2011): Submitted novel query and sample to agent contests, won a few, sent off full manuscripts, received nice comments but no cigar or waited for 6 months with no response from agents who requested novel. Queried other novel and was told it was a crowded market or didn’t hear back at all. Found JA Konrath’s blog and decided to self publish.

    Year 1 (2012): Published 2 full-length novels in a series (June and July) and made $2500.

    Year 2 (2013): Published 3 full-length novels in 2 series (January, April, September) and two collections. Made $100,000+ Quit My Day Job in November of 2013.

    Year 3 (2014): Published 2 full-length novels (February, September) and 4 novellas (March, Oct, Nov, Dec) , one collection, two short stories, participated in 3 multi author boxed sets. Made $153,000+.

    Happy Camper. Thanks JAK!

  20. I’ve read threads like this over and over, and wondered what it would be like to post in one.

    Well, now I’m on my way.

    The doubts are extraordinary…
    “Can I write something I love that appeals to other people?”
    “Can I write a sentence that makes you want to read the next one?”
    “Can I even finish a novel, much less edit one?”

    When I finally realized I would never be able to look in a mirror again if I didn’t try, I wrote a modern fantasy about Halloween. It didn’t fit into the standard genres and no one seemed to have any advice on marketing, sales figures for holiday fiction, etc.

    Well, damn the uncertainty, full speed ahead.

    The sales, with essentially no marketing at all, not only were stunning, but they continued well past October. I hope the book finds new readers every autumn, but more important, that first novel gave me the gumption to keep going.

    Now, the next few novels seem possible, even plausible. The reviews, the sales, the royalties – all of it comes together and gives me the inspiration to keep going.

    No, I haven’t quit my day job. Don’t know if I ever will, but retirement? Vacations? New house? Yeah, those things seem doable.

    And I don’t know if I ever would have managed to finish that first novel if I hadn’t read threads like this. To those of you who share your experiences, thank you. You actively helped to shape my life.

  21. Great stories so far, keep ’em coming!

    I don’t have a day job to quit, but I’m forging my path to success this year. The last three years have been hard, with catastrophic family illness and some pretty intense teen boy issues, not to mention my own health problems last year. I haven’t written nearly as much as I’d planned, but so far this year I’m getting more words down than ever, becoming consistent in my process, and expanding my writing boundaries. The next eleven months are going to be even better. 2015 is my year, baby!

  22. I did quit my day job this year, but my book sales were only partially a factor. I’d wanted to quit my job since September of 2013, stuck with it, and was going to quit when I had my baby in August of 2014 but decided to go back. I quickly realized that going back was NOT the right choice for me, for all the reasons I’d wanted to quit all along AND because of how hellish evenings were with my baby and that was the ONLY time I spent with her. So I quit to go work with my husband at his business and search for a part time job.

    Meanwhile, each month my book was doing better and better. It allowed me to take the part time job I really wanted, 2 days a week at a yarn shop. I’m a huge knitter and it was a dream come true. It’s been tough the last few months money-wise, but it’s always been tough, and the fact that I’m not spending 50 hours a week being depressed and stressed and just barely making it to the next day is a gift. Having a controlling boss, I used to watch The Devil Wears Prada over and over again just so I could enjoy the scene where she walks off the job and throws her ringing cell phone in the fountain. I almost walked off the job because of something that happened after I’d already put my notice in.

    This month will be my biggest month yet, because I put my second book on preorder while I edited it and it was released on January 20th, so all those sales are counting this month. So it’s an artificially big month, but it’ll help us catch up on some debt when the check comes. It seems to have affected my book’s ranking, which is resulting in larger than normal daily sales for me since the book was released, so I’m encouraged.

    There’s a third book in my series in the works, I’m getting new subscribers to my email list each day (at 30 now, woo hoo!), and I just joined Draft2Digital, so I’m hoping sales on other channels will eventually take off. I’m also working on learning how to format my book & cover for CreateSpace, and beginning to dive into learning about producing audio books. I know that it can be unpredictable, but I’m going to do everything I can to keep this life of independence and control over my time that I’ve gained.

    It was probably stupid not to stay longer at my job and save up the money I was making from my books. But the thing is, I’m not sure I would’ve ever had the time to finish that second book if I had. My job (preschool teacher) required so much off-the-clock work and training (which I had to pay for myself), and it didn’t pay enough for that to be worth it. If my mother-in-law hadn’t been able to take care of our daughter, I wouldn’t have been able to afford paying for her to go to the daycare where I worked. My coworker was on public assistance for her daughter to go there, even with the discount that employees got. When I started college as an English major, everyone said, “oh, so do you want to be an English teacher?” I always said no, I never wanted to work with kids. But I ended up working with kids anyway.

    I never told people that I wanted to be a writer, because it seemed silly and unachievable. But every time I tried to come up with a backup plan that was acceptable to me, like grad school or going back to community college for medical transcription or something, I’d end up having this moment where I sat back and thought, “Why would I spend that much effort developing that career that I only sort of want, when I should be spending it writing what I really want?”

    So. Here I am, making up for lost time and effort. If I’m going to have to spend unpaid time on training and professional development and pay for my own trainings, then at least now I’m doing it for myself!

  23. PG, I hope that maybe you’ll bump this post to the top again; the stories are so inspirational and interesting, and 46 (or however many comments there are) aren’t enough…

  24. I guess I have an appetite for risk. My spouse and I left positions that earned us $500,000+ (in 2009, during that economy, voluntarily) to start our own business. We built the business and by 2011 we were making $350,000 a year. And I wrote my first novel. It earned $20k. The next, two more. Earned $70k. 2013. Two more. $100k. Last year, I wrote 4 and published 3 of them (mainly by burning the candle at both ends). I earned just over $250k from indie publishing last year. And now we’re selling the other business so I can do what I love. Sometimes, you have to point your chin at what you want and forge ahead.

  25. As for me, I started self-publishing in 1989 when I was unemployed and had no job to quit. My net worth was MINUS $30,000 (due to student loans). I was single so I had no support from a spouse.

    Since then, I have had some years with low income and last year (2014) was the year of my highest income, which would be in at least the top 5 percent of income earners in the general population. This was achieved by my working only half an hour or an hour a day. Since 1989, I have managed to create three true bestsellers, each with at least 100,000 copies sold in print editions. My 15 creative works have sold over 850,000 copies worldwide and have been published in 22 languages in 29 different countries.

    Incidentally, I don’t believe in hard work as the key to success. Working smart for one or two hours a day will get a person much more success and prosperity than working hard for 12 hours a day. This valuable advice that has served me well over the years.

    “It’s better to do a sub-par job on the right project than an excellent job on the wrong project.”
    — Robert J. Ringer

    Also, the adage “It takes money to make money” is wrong.
    These quotations apply:

    “Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.”
    — Norman Vincent Peale

    “When starting out, don’t worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way.”
    — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    “The three most harmful addictions are heroin, carbohydrates, and a monthly salary.”
    — Fred Wilson

    “Reasons only help you sound reasonable. They have nothing
    to do with manifesting success and prosperity in your life.”
    — from “Life’s Secret Handbook”

    Ultimately, however, the only way to know anything definitely about success and prosperity in the publishing industry is to attain them for yourself by yourself — anything less is hypothesis, idle talk, and folklore.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working”
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  26. I love all the passion in this thread. The yearning to do what you love. It’s really inspiring and nurturing.

    I’m on that way. Publishing my fourth book (it’s on preorder right now), which is the start of a series. I have high hopes for that, even though my sales have generally been abyssmal.

    Yes, I’m very grateful for my secure part-time job that pays my bills, with benefits and a pension. Even so, I’d give that up quickly as soon as possible, so I could write and be a coach full time. *keeps dreaming and writing*

  27. Haven’t earned major money yet, but I’ve recouped all of my expenses so far for two books (cover design, formatting, promo copies, etc.).

    Published my first book in April 2014 and my second in August 2014. I’m working on my third right now and hope to have it out in a few months.

    I put both books in KDP Select to start, but haven’t seen significant benefits, so I recently took the first out of KDP Select and made it permafree. Just waiting for Amazon to price match. Next week, the second book will get out of KDP Select and be distributed everywhere.

    Regardless of how much money I make, I’m optimistic about the future. I think my books benefit a lot of people. They generate a few extra hundred dollars a month, and the reviews have been excellent so far.

    As a side note, I published a book almost ten years ago with a traditional publishing house. They were fine to work with, but when I weighed the resources spent vs. the ROI (without complete control), it just didn’t make sense to pursue a second book.

    When indie publishing emerged, my enthusiasm and motivation for writing in book form (I’ve been writing on the web for years) came back. Finally, I could have complete control over everything! My biggest fear was my publisher exercising their “right to first refusal” clause. I only wanted to self-publish because it gives me total control and higher royalties. I think that’s the real story.

    As James N. Cook shares, “I’m the guy Traditional Publishing needs to be afraid of. Not because I was rejected by them and went on to find success on my own, but BECAUSE I NEVER EVEN TRIED.”

    Had these options existed when I left college 15 years ago, I would have never approached a traditional publishing house. And now that they do, it would have to be a VERY favorable deal for me to sign a traditional publishing contract.

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