Savannah Grace asked: "Would you mind me asking a personal Q? I just see how well you are doing with social media and how much influence you have. You are doing an amazing job and are a writing machine. I'm just running into a huge financial problem right now which puts me in a very bad situation for my writing career and may have to give it up. I'm at the point where I feel I really am on verge of making the whole thing work financially.... but... but... How do you do it? And are you at the point where you can live from what you make now as an author/blogger? Trying to find some inspiration here."
Thank you, Savannah!
Let me begin by saying this.
I have started writing not expecting to make any money at all, but purely for therapy. So I set out to adjust my life in such a way where my lack of money wouldn't inhibit my writing. Surprisingly, I started making money via book sales and donations, and even landed a ghostwriting gig through this blog. Here is what happened, step by step.
1. I PLANNED TO MAKE MONEY ON THE SIDE.
From the start, like I said above, I figured I won't be able to make shit, so I changed my life to fit my "writing for no money and doing something else for money" formula.
6 months before I decided to quit my job I started putting money away for later. And, 1 year before that I knew I was going for a divorce, so, technically, I started saving money 1.5 years before becoming unemployed. When I was ready to quit, I was fortunate enough to have been let go, so I applied for unemployment. Throughout all this I have divorced, sold my part of the house to my ex, sold my car, sold my clothes (all those expensive office suits and shoes and bags).
Next, I read The New Evolution Diet and switched my eating habits to paleo, which reduced my budget for food, eliminated my being sick (and having to go to a doctor, which costs money), and required me to sleep less, about 6 hours a night (with more time left to write). It helped me lose those stubborn extra 10 pounds and get back into my 18-year-old body (almost), so I could stop wasting time on exercising or obsessing over not exercising (I pedal on my bike at home about 30 minutes every day now, and that's it).
I have also prepared to take on any side jobs I could, going to unemployment interviews and resolving on taking up anything that would help me do research while I worked on the book. For example, I thought about doing lanscaping while writing Rosehead to learn about gardens. It turned out I didn't have to do it.
As a result of all this, I have managed to stretch my savings for over a year, and I even saved money off of my unemployment and stretched that over another year. The little sales I made helped, the donations helped. Last year total sales and donations came to about $6K or something like that, which blew my mind.
At the moment, as you know, I'm going through a bankruptcy as I still have debt from my startup. So I'm basically wiping my financial past clean. I also don't go anywhere so I won't be tempted to spend money on food or clothes. I get most of the books I read from the library, and the only money I spend is on printing my books and little things like keeping up my website and breeding my 30 baby hedgehogs (and buying them tiny pink socks).
I've been very lucky to receive pro bono help from my editor, as well as a reduced rate and pro bono work from my formatter, and my daughter is doing my book covers for free which is helping both of us—her in exposure and building her portfolio, me in getting awesome covers.
My boyfriend has offered me his financial help, but so far, I have not needed it. This month has been scary as I'm running out of money in April, but then I hope to get something from my tax return, so I know something will work out. And if not, I will find a way to make it work.
Stijn Hendrikse read my blog post on online presence and offered me a ghostwriting gig which I did in between drafts, and that has been a huge chunk of my income, carrying me through last year. Thank you, Stijn!
2. I SPEND MY TIME ON WRITING.
Every free minute I have is spent on three things: writing, reading, or talking to you about both. Yes, you, all of YOU. Since you, my darlings, are online, that means I'm talking to you on various social media channels. That's all I do, really.
I have tried over the last 3 years doing different things, like talking to bookstores and sending my stuff to competitions and such, and have realized that it's a waste of my time. I'm an unknown. I should have enough portfolio to even talk to someone. So I quit and focused on writing and taking about writing and reading and talking about reading and writing and—
You see the pattern. Guess what happened.
You started sending me links to stuff, stuff you thought would fit my writing style, essentially saving me time. Thank you! Please keep sending me stuff!
That is how I found out about the Amtrak Residency. That is how I found out about conventions. That is how I found out about readings at bookstores.
You think I was very smart to decide this? To somehow predict this? Not at all. I simply did what Hemingway said. He said something along the lines of, write for 3 years; if no one offers you money after 3 years for your writing, quit and do something else.
I also did what Stephen King said: write every day and read every day (not an exact quote, but you get it). He also said he writes at least 2K words a day, and I did the same. Still do.
I figure, as soon as my writing is worth buckets of gold, I will make buckets of gold. Until then, I have to bite the bullet and write and write and write until I'm so good, people can't ignore me.
3. I DON'T LOVE MATH, BUT I LOVE DATA.
At one point in my life I was preparing to study economy and was very good at math. I don't remember those times well, it was in high school. But I have retained a love for data.
Every time I see someone successful making big bucks selling books, I look up data. For how long did this particular writer has been writing? How many books? What did he/she study? How early or late in life did he/she start? This helps me feel less afraid, because the majority of successful writers have at least a decade of writing behind their shoulders when they "make" it. I have only 3 years. At least 7 more to go. I'm cool with that. I'm not writing for money, I'm writing because I can't shut up. Because if I won't write, I'll explode.
Data helps, though.
Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to get good at something. There are disputes about his findings and lots of drama in articles written by smart people trying to poke holes. There are always those. I ignore them. I figure, he is a smart guy who did lots of research. There must be truth in that. I'll try it until I see if it works for me. So far it does. I'm getting better. I know it. I see it.
4. I ASK FOR HELP.
There have been dire times when I was tearing out my hair because I didn't have enough money. When my mom had a stroke and a heart attack and I couldn't fly out to Russia to see her, I talked about it online. You said you will help. You my lovelies have donated money to help me go see her, you have caught me when I was falling. Thank you. I love you.
And so I learned to trust you. I trust that when everything will go to shit, you will pull me out. So far I have somehow made it. See, it's because of you, my readers, my fans, my family, my everything.
And that is how I do it, Savannah, a day at a time.
I hope this helped you.
NEVER QUIT WRITING.