Well, I’m still broke, though I did just get a $150 check for writing an article for The Living Church.
I’m very grateful, but still broke.
I’ve never talked publically about money before in terms of my writing, but as my wife and I have recently decided that my writing needed to support itself (I made that decision, she obliged), I’ve decided to get more realistic about the endeavor.
First, I’m grateful that I already have a really good laptop (MacBook Pro-2012), which I upgraded to an SSD and have the original HDD as a backup drive. I also have a functioning iPad (1st Gen mini) that still works decently well for reading and email. Finally, I have an iPhone, though we plan to trade down on cell phones as part of our “restructuring.” All in all, I’m good as far as tech is concerned. If, for some reason, my laptop dies, I have about a half dozen broken down computers in my garage that I could build a new one if I needed (think Johnny Cash’s “One Piece at a Time” without the threat of theft).
Anyway, I’m going to make this work. This is going to be fairly lengthy, so bear with me.
First, let’s talk about what my writing paying for itself means:
- I usually purchase a few writing-related books each year. Normally, I buy those around Christmas because that’s when I get gift cards or other spending money. However, my recent copy of Writer’s Market (2018) came from an article written for The Lookout (see above).
- When an article or story gets published, I usually spread it around social media, including my Navy Christian Report Facebook page. I could rant for hours about how Facebook makes you pay for exposure, but they aren’t going to change for little guys like me. Paying $10-$20 for a post usually puts it in front of around 1000 people.
- On a related note, I am still building my community, and that takes money as well. Every quarter or so, or after an article is published, I usually spend $25 or so to build my Facebook page. This is a long, tedious process, but it will pay off someday when I get that book contract.
- If all goes well, the hope is that this process will net me real money (see below) and start supporting my family the way my family has supported my writing. That means helping buy a house someday, helping put the kids through college, etc.
- Finally, as a Christian, my writing must also pay enough for itself that it covers its own tithe. If I need to make a $1000, for example, to buy a new piece of technology or whatever, it must also cover the amount I’d be giving back to God for the privilege. I don’t mean to be so blunt or sterile about tithing. I realize that it’s a spiritual process. As such, I’ve made a decision to make a commitment to tithe on my writing income.
Current Writing Income
- 2016 was the year I decided to make writing work. I had to accept a few of non-paying opportunities in order to get the credits rolling, but I’m also grateful for the paying publications. That year was my most successful ever, with more published clips (7) than in all previous years combined. In all, 2016 netted me $535 on four paid articles.
- 2017 was an odd year (no pun intended). I deployed for the first seven months, so opportunities to write were less frequent. I did manage to have four articles published (3 paying) for a net income of $355. Amazon KDP ($29.92) and Smashwords ($7.75) added another $37.67, gaining me a total of $392.67. The biggest thing to come out of 2017 was a finished draft (and subsequent rewrite) of Tragedy in Sunset, my first real novel.
- Contrasting that modest income is the outlays. In order to build a following and expand my influence on Facebook, for example, I spent $191.34 on advertising. All writers also need to keep up with their trade, so add $41.45 in books. I subscribe to Christianity Today and San Diego Union Tribune ($10/month), so add another $39.99 to that amount. I don’t count the paper since I read it generally as well as for research (at this time…that may change this year). I also went to an author event at UCSD (Andy Weir), which cost me $49. Finally, I have WordPress for this lovely site, which is another $35.88/year. All told, I wrote off $357.67.
- 2018 is hopefully a breakout year in many ways. I have the following goals for 2018:
- Sign a contract with an agent for representation.
- Sell Tragedy in Sunset (success of this largely depends on the previous point).
- Sell at least 1 sci-fi story.
- Sell at least 1 article to a major national magazine (e.g. Christianity Today, Relevant, Newsweek, etc).
- Get paid for six articles.
I’ve got a lot of work to do in order to make this all a reality. If you’re thinking, “Why in the world would anyone want to write when the payoff is so small?” Well, if that’s your thought, then you’re right…don’t write! For all of the John Grishams, John Scalzis, and Stephen Kings in the world, there are thousands of S. Daniel Smiths.
I don’t write because I make a lot of money. I write because I can’t not write!
Which reminds me…I need to go write right now!