After writing the TIAC post and noting I lost money on it (and, as my wife would say – again!), I would like to make a somewhat public admission.

I’m a horrible business person.

I constantly take on projects that are, frankly, not a good sensible business decision. Many of these projects are passion projects, things that are done that don’t really add to the bottom line – or, in many cases; are a net negative.

Here’s a rundown on a few that I’ve done over the years:

System Apocalypse Comics – last year revenue – $64.70. Still over ten thousand dollars in the negative.

System Apocalypse Anthologies – thousands of dollars in the red, still.

German Translation for A Thousand Li: – yup, in the negative. Significantly so.

German Translations for co-authors: Yeah, these are currently in the negative. Some are coming out of the red, and most will eventually be in the black; but with splitting of revenue; it’ll be years.

Audiobooks for the novellas and novelettes: Mostly in the red, because audiobooks are expensive and being so short, these novellas and novelettes just don’t make the amount back thanks to how much Audible pays me

Trinity of the Hive: Still very much in the negative

And then there’s the ones where the topline revenue numbers are in the black, but they’re certainly a net loss when you include them in opportunity cost:

Any of the novella and novelette series ebook costs are generally positive, but tiny.

Short stories are almost always positive because of the low cost in proofing or covers that we do, but they’re also almost always in the negative when you include opportunity cost and/or audiobook cost. In fact, only a few of the shorts can be said to be in the positive. Mostly, they’re just a drag on income.

Translations in anything but German: These are almost always a negative, in terms of opportunity cost if nothing else.

Then, of course, there are the other bad decisions I’ve made, from opportunities I’ve turned down to just choosing to follow certain storytelling ideas and prioritising those rather than more surefire works. 

And, now, the TIAC.

Survival While Indulging in Passion Projects

So…. how the heck am I still running a business and eating?

Well, for one thing; I have a couple of series that are still selling well and that my fans enjoy. I guess I’m a better author than a business person in that sense. I make enough money on those projects, I have money to burn on silly little things like my novellas for Eternal Night or writing a cozy fantasy that is all about food…

For another, while my passion projects cost me money (and time and opportunity cost); I lean more towards projects that make me money on the regular. Outside of certain projects that are just incredibly expensive (see translations and the comics); most of these projects have a specific dollar loss amount, with a certain upside.

So going into these projects, I know how much I’m likely to lose. Even if my superhero stories don’t pay out much, I also don’t spend much on them. So the only true cost when writing in that universe is my time, some small amount for editing and then the covers. The audiobooks are probably the most expensive aspect, and even then – because it’s a short, the cost of the audio is known.

Put another way, many of these passion projects will generate revenue. Sometimes on-going revenue, sometimes in spurts and starts, but once the money is spent; the expenses are sunk and aren’t returning. Unlike, say, buying a really expensive car, I don’t have to pay expensive motor insurance again and again.

Lastly, for projects like the TIAC or comics, neither of which really will ever return how much I spent – most of these are seen as direct expenses. For TIAC, I figured the amount I would (could) potentially lose was my charitable contribution for the year. That I lost less than the total amount just means I’ll redirect that amount to charities later. The money was always going to be spent.

The comics came from my marketing ‘play budget’, doing things that might or might not work. I’ve discussed this before, and so, while it really didn’t work out; I’m not too fussed. The money – like a lot of marketing dollars – was going to disappear into the ether anyway. Better for it to go to a legitimate comic artist, rather than into Facebook or Amazon’s coffers in this case, eh?

So, yeah. Not the best business person – but because I limit how much I am likely to lose doing all these silly passion projects, I don’t go out of business.

Could I make more? Sure. Would I have as much fun? Definitely not.

And if we aren’t having fun, especially when you’re your own boss, why the hell are you doing this? 

At least, that’s my view.


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