I’ve already mentioned on the blog that I was unemployed when my books started earning me enough that I could begin writing full time. Anyone who has been unemployed knows how soul crushing the experience is. It batters your self-esteem and it can batter your motivation. Writing was my saving grace.
It’s difficult for anyone to be in that dreaded unemployment status and with unemployment levels at an all-time high no one knows that better than folks right now. For me, being unemployed made me feel all kinds of a failure. Mostly I felt disillusioned and disenchanted.
My parents are extraordinary folks living ordinary lives. My dad is a tanker driver and my mum works in retail. We didn’t have fancy holidays or fancy cars growing up but my parents gave us everything they had and more, including genuine interest in our lives. From the moment I could say the word school my mum and dad drilled it into me that I was going to university. I would be the first on either side of our immediate family to go to university.
I did everything I was supposed to. I worked my ass off in school, got great grades. I jumped into university as soon as I graduated high school and everything about it felt all wrong. Wrong degree, wrong classes, wrong university. So I left and this was the first time I found myself unemployed. It was crushing. After months of struggling to find a job (no one wanted to hire an inexperienced high school graduate who had only ever worked in a bakery and a supermarket) I was smiled upon by one of my best friend’s relatives who gave me a good job in administration with a big Scottish financial company. I was taken on with the understanding that I would be leaving in a year to attend the University of Edinburgh.
I loved my first year in uni. I moved into student housing, met loads of great people (particularly some awesome American and Canadian friends I lived with that year), let my hair down for the first time, and met a friend for life - hey Kate McJ! It was all fun and games until I realized I’d spent all my student loans and still had no job to support living expenses in one of the most extortionate cities in the UK. Second year was… bad. I don’t come from a well-off family who could support my living in the city. They would have loved to have been in a position to do that (and believe me they went without when I phoned home saying I had no money for food that week - my parents are AMAZING) but they weren't. I moved into a flat with my best mate and that was all hunky dory except it was expensive and I still had all my school books to buy. Thankfully I managed to get a job with a cab company that year but by the end of the year I was in hell. I was working 25 hours a week on backshifts, taking abuse from drunken callers every weekend, and hiding how utterly miserable I was. During the week I studied, went to class, wrote essays, and at the weekend I worked nights and slept during the day. I had no life and still not enough money to eat. Beans on toast became the staple diet. Or falafel. Mmm falafel.
For my third year, after having a bit of a breakdown during a trip home, we realized I had to move back home to Stirlingshire and commute to uni. Third year was horrible for a number of reasons that I won’t get into it. But uni-wise it was very difficult to have much of a social life when you don’t live there anymore (and I’d already isolated myself in second year - not from Kate McJ though - Hey Kate McJ!) and I was still working at the cab company too (although on reduced hours). But… being home in a peaceful village did something for me. That story about Greek mythology and werewolves I’d been working on a little here and there for the past few years started to form into an actual book. So when I graduated I decided to finish it. Still working part time at the cab company, trying to find a full time job, I had extra time on my hands and the Lunarmorte trilogy just spilled out of me page by page, day by day. By the time I found a job with the police I had been published by a small press. I organized school visits, talking to students from high schools in my area, and book groups at libraries. It was nerve wracking for someone who’s shy of public speaking but I got used to it and it was really fun. It took my mind off the mountain of debt I’d accumulated as a student and the bad choices I’d made that made me feel like an utter failure. It felt like all that hard work at school for years hadn’t gotten me anywhere. My friend who I’d worked with as an administrator before leaving for Edinburgh Uni was making more money than I was -my thought process of course was ‘if I hadn’t gone to uni I wouldn’t have all that debt and I’d be making good money and be living in a home of my own’.
But then…. I’d probably have never written the Lunarmorte trilogy.
At the end of 2010 I discovered Amanda Hocking and Joe Konrath. I researched everything they’d done to make a success of self-publishing and I thought… ‘I can do that’. Or at least I can try. I bought my rights back to Lunarmorte Book One -retitled it Moon Spell, finished Book #3, edited them all and started self-publishing at the end Feb 2011. By then budget cuts had come into play at the police and I’d been let go. After a temping job ended I was once again without employ.
And I seriously don’t know how I would have gotten through those months without writing. My parents kept a roof over my head, I had red letters in the post that made me sick to my stomach, and I was on benefits. I went to interviews that seemed to go well but only ended in disappointment and I couldn’t believe that the girl who used to make my parents so proud with A’s and educational awards was such a complete mess.
I think I fuelled the anger I felt into my writing, churning out dreamworlds that helped me escape it all.
As an avid reader I suppose I found it easier to approach bloggers I’d already been following and ask them if they’d consider reviewing my book or doing a guest post. Without their wonderful help I don’t think my sales would have increased as quickly as they did.
What is the point of this huge window into my world? Because to be honest I’m not really that good at opening up to people - sure it’s easier in writing but this is out for the all the world to see. Why then? Because Joe Konrath said something on his blog recently that really resonated with me. He said he started the trend of sharing his sales numbers and earnings but he’d only done so to show other authors how possible it was to make a living from self-publishing… it wasn’t to brag and it wasn’t to compete with other writers. And that’s exactly why I’ve shared my figures in the past. I literally had nothing before I self-published. Nothing but a pile of strangulating debt. There are so many people in that position and some of them are writers too.
So… what is possible?
I now have eight novels out and one novella. So nine titles. Five are priced $0.99, two at $2.99 and two at $3.99. Before December I was averaging between 12000 - 15000 sales a month. Money - £7000 to £9500 a month. In December I joined amazon’s KDP Select and with the Christmas spenders and the free promotional tool I made 23000 sales (and 16000 free downloads) and over all made roughly £17000. I’ve just gotten my sales report in for January. I sold 25000 copies of my books (75000 free downloads) and made $31000 in the US and £4500 in the UK. That’s roughly earnings of £23000 in January alone.
I can’t get my head around that. And like Konrath says, I’m not telling you to brag, I’m sharing to explain what is possible through amazon self-publishing when you work really hard and comport yourself professionally. As Konrath said there are indie authors out there hitting the NYT list but that’s not what this is about for me. *shakes head vigorously* I can write full time doing something I love! I’ve paid off my debt. I’m holidaying to the Caribbean in July (my first holiday in 6 and a half years and I’ve never been anywhere like the Caribbean before!) And I just bought a brand new car. I had the thing growling like mad at first because I’m so used to driving cheap wee bangers that should have been proclaimed un-roadworthy that I didn’t realize I just needed to tap the accelerator and the thing starts! I also don’t have to sit at junctions forever waiting for a gap big enough for my slow wee thing to pull out into. This car just goes weeeee! I was literally hooting with laughter the first time I did it! *clears throat sheepishly* ( such a sad person lol).Also, I’m saving up for my own home and I’m helping my parents out in ways I never could before.
And one of the best things is… I no longer feel like a failure. And that is really important for me.
To reiterate how much I’m just trying to inspire people who want to make writing their full time career, or at least have writing help pay the bills, I can tell you I’m terrible at talking about this stuff. I can’t speak about it face to face. When people ask me what I do for a living I get all mumbly and self-conscious and when my dad brags to people about how well I’m doing I get so mortified I just want to melt into a puddle in the floor (thanks Dad!). It may be easier in writing but it’s still hard for me to share at this kind of level but if it helps then I’m good with it.
You see a lovely author emailed me this morning asking for inspiration and she inspired me to write this blog. I remember reading Amanda Hocking's figures and Konraths and how much they inspired me to do this. So.... I hope this post inspires and I hope it does help even if in some tiny way.
P.S. A massive thank you to all my readers. Love you lots.
P.S. A massive thank you to all my readers. Love you lots.