9 Or So Years, 2.7 million words,$165K

While I was here figured I’d drop in a state of the writing post. So the headline pretty much says it all. I hit the end of my ninth year of writing towards publication in early July. In that time period I’ve written around 2.7 million words. And as of the end of July (minus audio and a couple of the smaller sites that haven’t reported yet) I’ve grossed $164K from my writing with a net just over $75K when you take into account expenses.

For me most of those expenses are advertising. I did put some money into audio at one point and I do keep making the mistake of putting big money into covers for my fantasy series. (I’m just about to release new covers for that series after five years. They’re very nice covers but the pain in the ass of working with the designer to get them makes me more determined than ever to master cover design enough to do my own for the next series.)

At this point I like to think of myself as a decently successful self-publisher but a failed novelist. But I do honestly think that has more to do with how many titles I have out under my novel-writing pen names than anything. I still only have two romance novels published and three fantasy novels published. I’m doing better on the mystery side, I have six of those published at this point, which is likely also why that pen name is my second-highest earner in terms of profit.

I’ve sold 54,000+ books at this point, but for some of my pen names it’s like treading water. I’ve sold over 10,000 romance/erotica titles but made just as much with them as I have with the mysteries that have sold just about 5,000 titles. Unfortunately, in certain competitive genres the cost of getting visibility to get those sales is high and so is best recouped with long series that people go on to read. I don’t have that. My romances sell and get good reviews but there’s just nowhere for a reader to go after they finish even if they love what they read.

Right now I make most of my money on non-writing-related non-fiction (which is why the failed novelist comment). I’ve also published 780K words of non-fiction, so that’s probably part of the reason for that.

I was lucky to qualify for PPP and EIDL loans this year based on last year’s profits so even though I took a hefty hit with print sales this year when everything went down I’ll be able to continue publishing for at least the next six months. I was on a very nice uphill swing in January/February compared to the year prior, but I’ve slipped back to 2019 numbers. At least I didn’t slip further than that.

My goals are another mystery and a new fantasy novel. As you can see from my other post today I also have been having some fun with covers and design work. Someday I’ll get good enough to do my own fantasy novel covers and have them look just like a trade published novel, but not yet. I am proud of the new short story covers though. There’s just a little bit of je ne sais quoi that my covers miss that professional ones have. I know it when I see it, but I can’t recreate it yet.

It’s all a matter of slowly leveling up for me. Learn a little more, improve a little more. Some come in right at the top with slick presentation and heavy ad spend and all of it in place. I’m not that person. So I guess I get to be the proof that you can get somewhere in this business without being that person even if it isn’t six-figures-a-year. (You just have to be willing to be embarrassed in public when you look back and realize how far you were from the mark at certain points. Sounds easy, right? Ha.)

Anyway. That’s where I’m at. Hope everyone is well and if it still brings you joy that you’re continuing to write and/or publish. (If it doesn’t, it’s also okay to walk away for a bit or forever. Or to keep the social aspect and drop the actual writing aspect. The nice thing about writing compared to skydiving, for example, is you can keep that community and social group while not actually doing the activity that brought you together. But I digress.)

Be well.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before I tend to post more over at mlhumphrey.com than here these days although this year it’s mostly about COVID being real and people being assholes, so maybe not worth reading….

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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