I’m a terrible blogger, I know. My last post was almost a month ago! Gosh, time flies. Don’t worry. I’m still writing. I’m at 52,314 words for Noonday in the North, book 3 in the Absolution of the Morningstar series. I also worked some on Desert of Stone, book 2 in my Monuments of Stone series. Once Noonday is done, I plan on finishing this sequel to the Island of Stone, so I wanted to get it fresh in my mind (it’s at 20,649).
I suppose this gets to the topic of this post, and that is how much of an author’s world readers don’t see. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the Lottery balls in a moment. I think there is a lot of intrigue about our world- especially about how much we make. Readers see the big names like King, Rowling, Martin, Brown, Patterson, etc., and think we are all making bank. Oh, if they only knew. So, let’s put down some numbers, and at the same time, I’ll give you a look into my world.
The consensus among authors is that writing 1-2 books a year is the goal. Even this is a struggle and culminates in thousands of work hours. But what does this actually look like? Keep in mind that what works for me is by no means the norm, as all writers have their own and different process. Ultimately, I imagine the level of effort is roughly the same.
I start the day with a faithful cup of joe (as I am entirely useless without it). I check various book-related social media, such as my Facebook and Twitter pages, as I sip and relish my first cup. I do my tweets and follows, check my webpage views, and respond to any author-related emails or comments. I have a second cup. I then check my reviews and sales of my published books, which is a rollercoaster of excitement and immediate disappointment. After that, I set up my daily marketing material and check my Amazon keywords to see what pages my books appear on each day (then track them in a spreadsheet). This helps me to know where I need to focus my efforts. Lastly, I check my Amazon Associates account to see how many clicks my links received the previous day. I make virtually no money with this account, but it is a way to get an idea of traction. I finish all this around 9 AM. It sometimes varies, but this is my routine.
If I’m lucky and not dealing with a crisis, I work for my day job from 9 to 4:30ish (though recently it has been 50-70 hours weeks, and hence the droop in my productivity). I then have dinner with my wife, followed by a 45-minute to an hour walk to get some exercise and decompress.
I do most of my actual writing from 6 to 8:30 PM. I turn on a warm light, get some tea, and focus. In that short time, I try my best to put down 1,000 words. It doesn’t always happen, and sometimes, I can get more, but that’s my daily goal. It equates to about four pages. I know it’s not much, and I wish I had more time. Luckily, I can still work from home most days. If I have to commute it eats into my writing time considerably. Also, I can’t cold start, so I need to read through a bit of what I wrote the previous day. Sometimes I need to research something, which can be a rabbit hole. The faucet doesn’t always flow either. True, at times it gushes, but often it trickles. I consider all these activities writing, even if I’m not putting down words, as it’s all part of my process.
At 8:30, I stop, get ready for bed and watch Youtube until bedtime at 10. Typically, I watch things for inspiration, depending on where I am in my current story. For example, last night, I watched videos associated with black powder as my characters are trying to blast through some rock. I watch a lot of blacksmithing and forging videos and channels focused on medieval, religious, and occult history. Writing craft, marketing, and author interviews are helpful too.
I can write more on the weekends, but I don’t have a set schedule. I always write from 6-8:30 (routine and tracking words are vital for pushing forward). Sometimes I can squeeze some writing in the morning, such as a blog post or something, or a page or two in the afternoon after taking a long walk with my wife. I try to get 3-5 thousand words over a weekend.
That’s my life. All told, I spend about 16-20 hours a week writing. If you take the average of 18 and multiply it by 52 weeks, you get 936 hours a year of actual writing. If you include marketing and managing published books, that adds another 500 hours a year related to being an author- so like 1,400 hours a year. If you get out two books a year, that is 700 hours per book- but in reality, I would say at least a thousand hours per book. The minimum wage in Massachusetts is $14.25 an hour. I make much more than this in my day job, but let’s focus on the minimum. This means I would need to make almost $20,000 (roughly 10,000 copies or 27 books a day) in book sales a year to make a “living wage” from the hours I spend writing- ha! Ouch, that puts things into perspective. Maybe I shouldn’t have written this post. Currently, I’m at like $0.25 an hour. The silver lining is that once those books are out there, they are theoretically there forever and hopefully will produce residual income for many years- that’s what us authors tell ourselves anyway.
Not that glamorous, huh? You may ask, why do it then, Scott? Easy. You all know I love it and would write even if I made nothing (which, in reality, is currently the case). There is also the dream that the lighthouse beam of success, fame, and fortune will suddenly shine upon me. I know the possibilities of that are much like winning the lottery, but I still buy a ticket from time to time, too, for the thrill of hope. My wife always asks me what the first thing I would purchase would be if those cosmic balls found my numbers, and my answer always frustrates her. No, it’s not a house or a car. I have no genuine desire for any material possessions. I would quit my job and write full-time, and I’m sure this answer is the same for any author.