A running joke that wife wife and I have shared for years now is that we’ll retire when I make a million dollars from my books. At the current rate of writing-related income, that’ll be sometime in 2350, or thereabouts.
Another ongoing debate between us is whose story is better – the ones I make up, or the story of her life (which in fairness is a pretty interesting tale). The difference, of course, is that my stories have already been written (two of them, anyway), whilst hers is languishing in development hell (that is it say, lots of ideas and no actual, you know, writing).
All of this, really, to preface that a few weeks ago, someone bought a physical copy of 22 Scars. Which might not sound like a huge deal, but it is when you consider that in ten years of having books available to buy – in any media or format – I’ve sold approximately 150 copies of six different books, and made roughly $250 off all of it. That’s ⅓ the editing cost of one of my books.
Which is to say, I’m not exactly in it for the money. I’ve given away thousands of copies of both 22 Scars and The Broken, as well as hundreds of copies of my other fantasy work, The Redemption of Erâth, and I feel good about that. It’s allowed me to connect with readers in a way that pure sales would never have. But it does mean that I’m unlikely to ever find a survivable revenue source from writing, at least in the foreseeable future. It’d be nice, but unlikely.
It occurred to me, as my wife and I were debating the other day, that I’ve really gone about this writing business all backwards. Most people – the financially successful ones, anyway – seem to start their craft with short stories, poems, and essays, looking to get them printed and published any which where they can – magazines, blogs, and anywhere that will pay for the written word. Then, once they’ve established themselves in a small way, they foray into the novel, seek representation, get an agent, a publishing deal, and the rest is history.
In my case, I dove right in to the most tedious and long-winded type of novel there is: a seven-part series of high fantasy, complete with conlangs and world building lore that’s never even referenced in the main books themselves. Then, when I got bored of that (well, that’s not strictly true – I got worn out, truthfully), I wrote two contemporary young/new adult novels, which you know as 22 Scars and The Broken. So in ten years, I’ve written going on six novels, all of which took a great deal of time and effort.
Now, perhaps, I should slow down a little; perhaps now is the time to try writing a few short stories. An essay or two. Maybe even a poem. Try to submit them to literary zines and sites. I mean hey – it’s worth a shot, right?
After all, I won’t have a day job forever, and even if it takes me until I retire, I imagine I will never stop writing to some degree or another. Maybe by then, I’ll make that million dollars.
In the meantime, I’ll continue to feel pleased when someone actually spends money on my work – especially the print copies – because it validates that it’s all really worth it. That someone, somewhere out there, valued my writing enough to part with their hard-earned cash for it.
Like I said – it isn’t about the money. But it helps.