Over the past few years, since my first book, Shadow Tears, was published, I have had a number of people ask when I thought I would quit my job. At some of my book signings I have had even more would-be authors tell me that they can’t wait to publish their book so they can quit their day job.

Let me just say – don’t do it. Not if you want to pay the bills.

As writers we need to adjust our expectations of just what our book will do for us financially. If the only reason you are writing a book is so that you can quit your day job, you might want to rethink your expectations.

Gone are the days of $100,000 advances from well-known publishing houses for a first time author. In fact, were there ever those days?  According to the latest Bowker Report (October 9, 2013), over 391,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2012. That is more than 1,000 titles every day for readers to choose from.

And what about the cost of the book?

book retail

Let’s just do the math. The average mass market retail price of a book is just over $7.00 each. If you sell books on a major website like Amazon, you have to account for the cost to print the book and the cost of Amazon’s take. Which means you would have to sell about 50 books each day in order to make about $50,000 a year.

That is a harsh reality.

However, if you are a true writer, someone who just has to tell a story or share information; you are most likely motivated more by sharing your words than you are making a living. I would encourage you to set realistic expectations.

Now that isn’t to say that you can’t make a living out of self-publishing your books. I have seen it done and I look forward to that day, but it takes times. You have to be patient. You also have to be active.

Here are a few things I have learned as a newly published author:

  • It takes time to get the finished product ready for sale. I started writing my first book and it ended up being so long that when I finished the editing process, thanks to Lisa and her team at Halo, I discovered that one book was really more like five books.
  • Authors who have created a series of books and continue the story of characters that readers come to know and love; are more likely to make a living from their book sales. It isn’t a “one and done” job.
  • Life interferes with the best laid plans. I thought my third book would be ready much faster than it will be because of family circumstances. You have to be prepared for anything.
  • You have to actively market your book. Like the girl who sits at home waiting for someone to ask her to the prom, unless people know you don’t have a date – the phone isn’t going to ring. You have to get out there and market your book.
  • You have to love what you do. The only way you will persevere is if you really love writing. Unless you are wealthy and don’t have to work; writing will become a third full time job; behind the actual job that gives you a pay check and the full time job of caring for your family and home.

All that being said; it is all worth it. Holding your first book in your hands, seeing people read your books, watching the sale numbers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble; well there just aren’t words for that satisfaction.

Being able to tell friends and family that you are a published author is amazing. Going to a networking event and introducing yourself as an author is a true wow moment.

Consider the questions that Entrepreneur Magazine contributor Lisa Girard offers in the article 10 Questions to Ask Before You Quit Your Day Job. Being a writer is similar to starting a new business. Often entrepreneurs have to work at the new company full time while still working for someone else so they can afford their venture.

If you have a story that you want to share, I would encourage you to start writing and then continue writing every day. Keep at it. You can do it. Just make sure you set realistic expectations as it relates to when you can quit your day job.


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