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Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2017 Edition

5 April 2017

TPV visitor Devyn suggested it was time for another invitation for authors who have been able to earn enough money from writing to quit their day jobs to share their stories.

PG’s first invitation on this topic was in 2014. Devyn pointed out that the last invitation was in April of 2016.

Here’s the original 2014 invitation:

PG received the following suggestion from Dennis:

What if you put up a post that asked anyone who has recently been able to go “full time”, quit their day job and write, to post their name. Maybe they could also put when or how soon they are planning to do it.

That would be anecdotal evidence to support what Howey and Data Guy have been showing since their first report.

If you care to contribute such anecdotal evidence in comments to this post, please do.

If you think it’s your private business, don’t be offended. Just don’t post anything.

Feel free to post anonymously or under an online pen name if you like. If someone points out a trollish comment, PG will probably delete the comment when he gets around to it.

Please share your experiences in the comments to this post. If you posted in response to earlier invitations, feel free to post an update here if you like.

If you would like to review stories in response to previous invitations, you can click on the Quit Day Job category link.

Quit Day Job

27 Comments to “Indie Authors Quitting Their Day Jobs – 2017 Edition”

  1. Quit the day job?

    Gosh, maybe for some but I think many of us are struggling and coming to terms with reality.

    Due to the past year’s abysmal sales I’ve started looking for work. In the past 6 months I’ve taken on 3 extra part-time jobs.

    • That was actually the first thing that occurred to me when I read PG’s post – how many people are going the other way?

    • I went backwards too, Greg. But I am admittedly risk-adverse and I have dependents. The last half year, when sales took an enormous downward plunge not just for me, but for my other author-friends, made me glad I had an extra paycheck coming in.

      *shrug* One day I’d like to grasp the holy grail, but before I do I need to be making as much a year (adjusted for self-employment taxes, expenses, retirement, and savings) as I did when I was working full-time, and I want to have been making that much for at least 12 months in a row. So far I’ve had fantastic months, and abysmal months, and nothing that convinces me that trusting myself to a writing paycheck alone wouldn’t ablate my stomach lining within a year.

      Last year. Man, last year was awful.

  2. It’s been a little over a year since I turned to writing full time (my post from the 2016 thread details how I got to that point). Still going at it. Even though I didn’t write as fast as I wanted or should have (turns out success can be almost as paralyzing as failure), I had a huge year sales wise. Staying on KDP Select has paid off handsomely so far; the income generated by page reads (about 60% of my yearly total) plus the boost in ranking/visibility from those borrows made a huge difference to my bottom line. Not saying KDPS is a good idea for everyone, just that it has worked out well for me.

  3. I’m still working full time as a fiction only writer after leaving my job in 2012 to publish my own stuff. I haven’t regretted it once. I’m not better off financially than I was at the job, but I’m definitely not worse off, so it’s a win no matter how I look at it. I don’t mind the volatility. It’s better than any of the alternatives as far as I’m concerned. I make my own schedule and write what I want. I don’t know that I’ve ever been happier than I have been in these last few years, despite having only modest financial gains.

    It’s a good life.

  4. Quit my day job? Writing is my day job.
    Besides being a starving artist and an undiscovered composer.

  5. I switched to writing full time in August 2016. A bit frightening at first and in case I had any doubts, 4th quarter 2016 was an absolute disaster. Right or wrong I chalked it up to the election, and dusted myself off. I work seven days a week, long hours, and I love it. I write 3 series under 3 different pen names. I work under the premise that the best way to succeed is to build a mailing list, write the next book, make it better than the one before and get it out there. Once my book is at the editor I’m working on the next one the following morning. It goes without saying I’m indie. All my books are on KDP select.

  6. I don’t know if I count because I’m hybrid, but 2016 was the first year that if I’d had a job, not only could I have quit it, but I would have been making a lot more money than I would doing anything else. My husband works full-time and provides for the family (and does a very good job of it!) and last year I nearly matched his salary. So if he’d lost his job, I could have supported us just fine on my income.

    I don’t know how 2017 will compare, but I’m very happy with how I did last year. I do hope to get a lot more indie releases out in 2017.

  7. I didn’t have a day job when I started down this indie path, and still don’t work for anyone else. At my age, and with my physical issues, not to mention lack of desirable job skills, I doubt anyone would hire me.

    I’m not making a living at it, but I think this year is going to be the one. I feel it in my bones. I’m writing more, and more consistently, and just generally think I’ve finally got myself going in the right direction. Knock on wood.

  8. We just interviewed Justin Sloan on my podcast, and he just quit his day job (fantasy author), and I know a couple of indie horror/post-apoc authors who are quitting in the next few months. 🙂

  9. I’m working on it! Been indie writing for four years now, with five books published. I’m loving it and have made more money than I ever did as an aromatherapist. Still doing that part time but on the brink of giving it up. I do find it hard juggling both. The books are my pension plan, given that the UK government has postponed mine until I’m 66. Once I’d recovered from that shock, it galvanised me into getting serious about writing, so I bless them for it (sort of). Now, my income is steady from my writing and I never go a day without gratitude. Working now on a fourth and final book in my first series, which is doing well, and then planning at least two or three sequels to a different series. My marketing strategy is letting the first book in the series go out permafree. This has been the most successful approach for regular income without spending hours on promotion, which is something I do not excel at. Got all my books in KDP select (and earn as much from pages read as sales) except the permafree one. Had a massive injection of cash via Bookbub when let the first book, Daffodils, go free last autumn and it remains live on their website (without fee). As my books, historical genre, take a lot of research, I have worked very hard to achieve this and took a break for a few months over this winter when family demands prevailed. I’m back researching for the next one now and still loving the freedom of exploring thoughts and facts from my desk, wherever I am. Good luck to everyone.

  10. My story is slightly different, I suppose, because when I started to write I didn’t have a day job to quit. I’d spent the 00s temping and doing some freelance copywriting, but by 2011 all the work had dried up. I was broke, homeless, surfing from friend’s couch to friend’s couch and doing whatever I could to get by.

    In late 2011 I decided to try writing some short fiction. I used to write all the time, when I was a kid and a teen, but spent much of my 20s scrambling to get by, and scraping the poverty line has this funny way of making it hard to justify making the time for creative expression. Without a job, with every application feeling more futile than the last, I really didn’t feel like I had much to lose.

    So I wrote a bit and sent off a piece to a magazine, my first professional submission, and then forgot about it and went back to the grind of looking for work. Few months later, got a fairly positive personalized rejection noting that the story was an “almost.”

    I was just about to send it off to the next market on my list when I remembered hearing about that self-publishing thing. I did some research, read some blogs, opened a few accounts, and threw the story up on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. I wrote a few more stories, did the same.

    My first month I made $10.

    By the end of 2012 I’d switched to novels and was making four figures a month.

    So yeah, that’s basically it. For the last six years (Jesus) I’ve been a full time writer, expanding into audiodrama production and tabletop game dev. I’ve ridden the wave of the changing indie marketplace, and I’m still here.

    I’m not rich. I’d probably do a lot better if I found a day job. But I don’t really care about the money, and I’ve got that big gap in my work history anyway. As long as I’ve got a roof over my head and food in my belly, I’m happy to be poor if it means I can spend all my time telling stories. It’s turned me into a bit of a workaholic, but there’s nothing I’d rather be doing.

    Making it all possible, in addition to the people who buy my work, are my supporters on Patreon. It’s added a nice bonus to my monthly income, but maybe more importantly it’s proof that people believe in me, want to see me do well. And that really does mean a lot. It’s what keeps me going.

  11. My wife quit her day job and went full time in 2010. Best year earnings wise was low six figures in 2012. The last few years have hovered 30% lower despite many, many more new releases and a paperback deal with a major publisher.

    Some marketing methods that used to be free now cost $ (FB promotion). Other stopped being effective (Twitter). Amazon ranking formulas seem to increasingly favor the Big Pub offerings as they lower their prices on e-ink.

    On the bright side, FB ads, Amazon ads, and Bookbub are quite helpful and still provide positive ROI. But you must come out of pocket for money that won’t find it’s way back into your pocket for 60+ days.

    So, still very much full time in 2017, but navigating rough waters. I often wonder if she began this journey today how differently things could have turned out.

    ‘Making it’ doesn’t signal the end of your journey, but also a new beginning – figuring out how to not go back to your old day job.

  12. My story is more of a didn’t-have-to-get-a-day-job-when-things-got-rough story. I started out in 2013, and made about a hundred bucks. In 2014, I made pizza and beer money, and was able to pay a few bills here and there. In 2015 I made enough to cover our out-of-pocket max on my husband’s crazy-expensive surgery, and in 2016, I had a few months when I made enough to cover mortgage payments. With hubby’s ongoing medical expenses, if writing wasn’t covering the extra outlay, I’d be working at Target. Writing is a lot more fun!

  13. Thanks for sharing your successes (and challenges), everyone.

  14. I’m nowhere near quitting my day job and not so sure I’d ever want to, but I did cut back on my hours exactly one year ago. I work a 5.5 hour day now and get to keep all my benefits, which is still pretty amazing to me.

    I don’t make nearly enough money from my books to cover the reduced day job income, but in 2016 I got the closest to covering my publishing expenses than I’ve ever been. Not there yet but I’m hopeful for this year. Maybe I’ll break even! 🙂

    Less time in the cube gives me more time to do other things. I have more time with my kids. I can cook actual meals. I’m no longer buried under piles of laundry that never go away. I’m able to get an earlier start on writing every night, and I occasionally have time to do other writing tasks like research and promo during the day while my kids are occupied.

    My sales trickle in steadily with buys and reads almost every day. I’m gaining zealous fans of my series and characters, and my subscriber list on my website is slowly growing. I’m the tortoise in this race and I’m not giving up.

  15. First off, thank you so much PG for this blog and all the work you do on behalf of writers. I’m new to publishing (been reading kboards and The Passive Voice since October, published my debut in December), and visiting this blog has become a morning ritual for me.

    As of now – four months into my journey – I’m planning on quitting my job when my contract comes up next January. My goal for 2017 was to make back the cost of my book – about 2k dollars – and I’ve actually done far better than that. February and March were five-figure months, and January just a notch below.

    How was it possible? Well, a very large part of it was a prominent indie fantasy author was recommended my book, read it, and then was effusive with his praise on his blog and Facebook and reddit. This changed my life. I doubt I’ll ever be able to repay his kindness, but I plan on supporting my fellow writers in the same way as he supported me.

    That’s really what I wanted to post about. A lot of very professional and successful indie writers frequent this blog. I hope they remember that a kind word or a supportive blog post of a new author whose work you enjoyed can have an incredible impact on their career and future.

    One of the big reasons I decided to self-publish as opposed to query was the supportive atmosphere I saw on message boards and podcasts (such as the wonderful Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast). And then, amazingly, I ended up hugely benefiting from this very attitude.

    Getting back to the original point, I plan on putting the money I make this year into savings and then quitting my job in 2018. I live in Shanghai, and I don’t have any dependents or debt, so even if my income drops I should be fine for a while.

    Deciding to self-publish has changed my life.

  16. I had already quit my day job, but if I had looked for another, I could have quit that one too less than a year into indie publishing.

    I’m frugal. No minor children or kids in college. I shop at Goodwill for clothes and almost never go out to eat or to concerts. Don’t smoke, and drink a beer perhaps six times a year. Don’t buy Starbucks coffee. Don’t watch TV so don’t get convinced I need to buy other things I don’t need.

    I pay myself a monthly salary, pay income tax, and make a maximum IRA (personal retirement, for you non-US folks) contribution out of the business account (as well as run a very few ads, pay for covers and proofreading, and donate to Wikipedia every year) and yet the business account balance keeps on swelling, despite that I haven’t come close to cracking six figures per year. If my income dropped to zero tomorrow, I could live three years on what’s in the account.

    I’m the rare(r) indie who says “I don’t trust that this will continue forever” (too many years in trad pub and watching people climb up only to crash down to believe that I’ve found some sort of perpetual money machine). But for over two years now, yeah, quitting-day-job income. 60,000+ books sold/rented (counting full-read equivalents only, for the rentals) since it took off.

    Note, for 25 years of being a professional traditionally published writer, I made nowhere near that. I only cracked five figures once then, barely, and there were a whole lot of three-figure years. And I did anything “writingish” to make money. I wrote fashion articles for slick mags, and if you glance back up and re-read that Goodwill thing, you’ll figure out how amusing that is. I taught community ed writing for 100 bucks for a six- or eight-week course. I almost did what other writers I knew did and taught at maximum security prisons! It was a hard 25 years, I usually had to work a day job too, sometimes two, and only my love of the craft kept me going despite my acceptance that I’d never ever ever make a living as a fiction writer. That there was a twist ending to my story surprised me more than anyone.

    (Long live the great demigod Jeff Bezos. Amen.)

    • Lou, congrats. It’s good you’re cautious. As my husband’s oncologist once told him: hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. Good advice no matter what we’re talking about. As for my own experience with indy, I’m strictly KDP Select, and the only new books I’ve introduced are ones that were initially print published for a mail-order romance publisher whose business tanked many years ago. I got all the rights back, gave the books new covers (well, my talented web designer daughter did), did a bit of updating, and in 2011 I offered one of the books free. I did have enough savvy to have a few other books online before the free offer and excerpts of those books were in the back of the first one, so that “loss leader” started the ball rolling. More of my income is from pages read than actual sales, which is just fine with me. I’m very fortunate in that I have a large backlist from a 30+ year career in print to fall back on, and am steadily getting the rights back to the majority of my books. I’ve had good years and not so good years, but for most of us, slow and steady wins the race. I’m very grateful for the income provided by my books, and I, too, think Jeff Besos walks on water. Thanks for sharing your story and continued good luck!

      • Congratulations to you too. I too would be reluctant to give up KU income. And I wish I would have been as wise as you and jumped into the pool in 2011!

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