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.