Linda Nagata: the blog at Hahví.net

The Business of Writing

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

In my last post I promised to take a look at expenses versus income for my newest novel, The Last Good Man. The novel has been on preorder for several weeks. As of yesterday, preorders had been placed for 542 copies. I estimate the net income from those copies will be roughly $2,415, which I’ll receive in two to three months.

So what about expenses?

As the saying goes, time is money, and time is by far the biggest expense incurred in writing any novel. Suffice to say, this novel took most of a year to write. Other expenses include editing, cover art, copyediting, software fees, setup fees for the print edition, advertising, and postage. Right now the partial total of stuff I actually paid for stands at $3,627. Some of the postage was paid on a different card and I’m not going to track down the amounts right now. I’ll just note that the actual dollar figure for expenses is a bit higher.

Not all indie writers spend this much. I didn’t spend this much when I indie-published The Red. For that book, I had only one round of paid editing, I had a free copyedit, and free cover art from my daughter. But I’ve had a few years since then to realize the value of good editing, so I indulged this time, wanting to make this book the very best I could. I also wanted a copyedit consistent with standard practice in the American publishing industry. And I wanted a specific sort of cover art. I definitely got my money’s worth there.

I believe that The Last Good Man is well written and well laid-out. I believe it compares favorably to most traditionally published books and it’s already earned some enthusiastic reviews. But as you can see from the figures above, it’s got a long way to go before I can call it profitable.

Why am I publishing these figures? In part because it’s a glimpse into the industry that might be useful to other writers planning their careers, and in part because it’s an explanation of why I’m doing so much promotion. But it’s also because most articles about writers and their incomes focus only on the very successful, and that’s not most of us.

I’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve had many novels published, both traditional and indie, I’ve won awards and been short-listed for more, and my books have been well reviewed — yet my sales have always been tepid. Maybe The Last Good Man will change that. I hope so!

If you’d like to help out, buy the book! (I know most of you reading this already have. THANK YOU.) Ask your local library to order it. Post a reader review at Amazon and Goodreads. And do the same for any other author’s books that you’ve especially enjoyed. Writing is an art but it’s also business — and readers get to decide if we stay in business.

Art vs. Business

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

This is a post from last spring, but I’m going to pin it up here at the top of the blog for a few days in light of the present widespread discussion regarding those of us who like to post a list of our award-eligible work.

I started writing this post last fall, and then got distracted. I was inspired to return to it by the thoughtful comments of one my most supportive readers, addressing the relationship between business and art. I’ll be blunt and say that throughout my career I have seen money as a measure of my success and, having never made much money, I’ve never seen myself as a success. I’ve been criticized for this. More than once I’ve been assured that “success” in writing can be defined in many other ways, that I shouldn’t beat myself up over it, that my art will live on. But I remain skeptical. (more…)