Had a recent question in one of the author groups we run about going full-time as an indie author. Now, I recently came across an industry stat there’s only like 1650 or so authors who make over $100k a year (I think that number is low, see my discussion about the problem of industry stats and competitive evaluation). But it’s the dream, isn’t it? 

A List of Things You Need to Know

  • how fast can you write and finish a book (including editing, including proofing and master). So start of writing to publishing.- how many books can you push out in a year- how many books can you CONTINUE to push out every year and NOT burn out
  • how much your backlist is going to make for you (your lowest months when you aren’t pushing out books) and/or
  • your average cost of putting out books so that you can have money for that (and for audio if you’re going to do audio!)- timeline and cashflow of when money is going to arrive, when you’re going to need to pay for editing, covers, audio narrators, etc.  
  • advertising cost, and when they charge and funds to do advertising (if any) as well as any capital expenses involved (new software, website, hosting, Bookfunnel, mailing list, etc.)
  • what your minimum monthly income requirements are and how much you have saved up for emergencies.  
  • your income from each book as they come out and your average monthly income on months when books aren’t released.

Problems With Income Estimates

  • book 1 of a series will ALWAYS sell better than subsequent books in a series.
  • you still are going to want to write in series, because series will make you the most compared to standalones.
  • for most people (unless you have a major hit series); your series is going to need to end because too many readers have dropped off (this is where advertising & promoting helps but… no guarantees still).
  • every single series will be different. You will NEVER have an idea of how well a series will do. You might have minimum expectations, but some series will blow up, others will just crash. Yes, even for ‘big’ authors.
  • backlist will / should make up a larger % of your monthly income, but backlist also degrades over time without advertising / promoting. Some backlist will degrade faster than others.  

Which is why when you ask, or state, that you want to go full-time? It’s not an easy question. It isn’t even a string question, it’s a ‘there isn’t an easy answer’ one because there’s too many things to math out.

Bottomline – My Recommendations for Going Full-Time

  • write for at least a year before making a decision.
  • make sure your lowest income month can comfortably sustain your lifestyle.
  • have a minimum of 12 months worth of expense (minimal expenses, not ‘go on holiday to Disneyland expenses’) saved. If you’re doing well enough at point 2 above, that shouldn’t be hard.
  • get a backlist up and running and multiple forms of income from ebooks to audiobooks

Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.