Tyler asked: "Ms. Anske, I very much admire your writing and work ethic and I was just wondering how you do this...how do you make enough money to support your bills and family when you give away your books for free? That is something that has confused me and it would be great if you could explain to me how that works. The only reason I ask is because that is my dream life. I want to write all day and be at home with my kids and take them to new and wondrous places without having to worry about the financial strain of it all. I look forward to reading your response!"
I'm not quite there yet, Tyler, financially. I don't yet fully support myself, after writing full-time for four years (I mostly get chocolate from my readers, and socks). But let me start from the beginning of my story, so you can see the whole path. Oh, and before we dive into it, here is a post on why I'm giving my books away for free, and here is a post on my sales numbers in 2014, which is outdated by now, and I should probably write a new one, but I stopped paying attention to how many books I sell, where and why, and am now concentrating more on writing and sharing my ups and downs with my readers. I'll explain below.
Let's see. MONEY. (And chocolate.) Well, it all started out with me quitting my career, selling everything I own (my part of the house, car, etc.), divorcing, moving out, and diving into something crazy. Meaning, writing full-time. Over the last four years my money sources were varied and often would drop on my head out of nowhere, but when I dug, I found out that it wasn't really from "nowhere," it was all this sharing of my writing process online that got me the jobs (consulting gigs like editing, speaking, ghostwriting, etc.). Here are my sources:
- Savings. Yes, before I started, I have saved a good amount of money, knowing I'd have no source of income for a while. I suggest you do the same, if you have a job and want to quit and write full-time. I also hear many writers suggest other writers not to quit their day jobs until they are commanding a sufficient income with book sales alone. I agree and disagree with this. I agree, because yes, at first you will make NOTHING with your writing (but some jars of jam and chocolate from loving readers, for sure). However, I disagree, because unless you dedicate yourself to writing at least 4-5 hours a day, you won't grow and develop as a writer as fast as you'd want. Writing is like any other skill. It's a craft. You can learn it. We won't dive into the art part of it here, but to learn the craft you need time. And to be good and make sales, you need to know your craft. There is no way around it.
- Unemployment. I was lucky enough to be able to apply for it, as I was let go from my last job. When on unemployment, I have reduced the cost of my living next to nothing and managed to save off of unemployment (that included changing my diet and eating less, and selling all my expensive clothes and stopping shopping). That sustained me for about a year.
- Ghostwriting. My first paid gig as a writer I got through writing this post on writer's online presence. I got hired to write blog posts for another blogger, and I did that for a while, and it sustained me for another year. I did it in the evenings and on the weekends. (That was before I stopped breaking from writing for the weekends. Now I don't. I just write until the draft is done.) So you see, blogging amazingly brought me money! If you can, blog.
- Editing. This is a funny one, as I have never edited before in my life, but because I have been self-editing for so long, I have gotten good at it and was able to offer it as a service and even had two clients so far, and they were very happy with the results. Here is my editing services page where you can read their testimonials and see my rates.
- Chatting. Yes, believe it or not, a lot of people lately want to chat with me, and as I can't stretch myself into a hundred Ksenias, I simply had to start charging people. So far I had one paid chat over Google with a client in Europe. It's not much, but I got paid! Here is my Chat with Ksenia page that has all the rates.
- Speaking. This is new. I have just returned from Colorado Springs where I taught a workshop on storytelling and gave a lecture on how writing made me happy at Brooke Shaden's Promoting Passion Convention. And I got paid for it. And it will last me a while. And I even have other wonderful folks contacting me now, asking if I could come and speak at their events. And I even have people asking me to do a writing workshop, which I'm trying to figure out how to do (get the venue, organize, etc.). Hopefully it will happen. After I'm done writing TUBE, of course.
- Book sales online. Ah yes. What about sales? I do make some. They fluctuate from a couple hundred dollars a month to maybe $500-600 on a lucky month when I release a new book. I hardly do any promotion, mostly scream on all my social media sites about the book being published, then do a bunch of giveaways, and then go back to hiding in my cave. And writing a new book.
- Book sales in person. These happen 100% guaranteed if I'm at a book fair or at some other bookish event (like a convention), because of my loud mouth and no filter (and lots of hugging and kissing every stranger who walks up to my stand), I usually sell out, and then people give me money and I ship more books as soon as I make it home. Which means, I'm not shy. Which means, I'm an oddball. We writers are mostly introverts. I am too, I'm just very good at playing an extrovert, that's all.
- Donations. Bingo. These are actually about 50% of my total income. Yes, still. And yes, people donate MORE than my books are listed for. So to your questions, Tyler, it all evens out. Because people who have money donate more, people who don't have money can read my books for free. It's a community; it's all about giving. The more you give, you more you get back. I know math-wise it doesn't make sense, but human-wise it does. We all want to support each other, once we get over our fears of sharing.
- Patreon. This is my steady income of something over $200 a month that slowly growing. It's not much, but it adds up, and I mostly use this money to buy books for stock (my very special shipping room with all my books and shipping equipment is in my closet). I love my Patreon patrons! (To death by chocolate.)
- Personal sponsor (also driver, punchbag, pillow, fan number one, etc). Without my partner in crime, my darling Royce, I wouldn't be able to survive. For a little over two years out of the four years that I'm writing full-time, I've been contributing to our family budget, but when I ran out of my savings, and when my ghostwriting money ended, Royce took over supporting me, and he does still. My infusions of cash here and there are hardly enough to live on. He says he's my investor. Because I told him I'll make my millions, and we shall buy ourselves a nice little planet and walk around there naked and each chocolate and borsht and vodka. But really, if you are on your own and have no partner who can support you in case your money dries out, that's when consulting comes in. I didn't focus on seeking new clients because I didn't have to. But if I were alone, that's what I'd do.
And that is how I make money self-publishing while giving away my books for free.
As you can see, the majority of it is NOT from selling books. Not yet. I intend to change that. I'm working my ass off, writing and reading every day, and learning how to write better and better and better. But I'm also amazed at my readers, you, YES YOU. You're always supporting me no matter what I write, and that is not something that was possible before. You're akin to kings and popes and the wealthy who extended their patronage to artists between 14th and 17th centuries, after which the practice has slowly died out, and now it came back thanks to the Internet.
What will happen in the future? When will I be able to support myself fully? I don't know. I only know that my income is growing, and I'm starting to get paying gigs, which means I'm doing something right. I do know one thing. If I won't write excellent books, I won't make money. Period. No promotion will help me. And that is why I work like crazy. I want to get very VERY good, so I can buy that planet. And build a castle there. And sit on a throne. With a fat, pink pig warming my feet. Typing my stories on an old-fashioned typewriter (so you can hear the bang of keys on Earth and get motivated to write too, OR ELSE).