In its first month, The Final Winter sold about 10 copies and made me about £15. Now it makes the same amount of money each month that I used to make as an assistant manager at Phones4U. The other books I have published will eventually make me a similar amount too, I believe, and all subsequent books I release will just add to my monthly kitty, meaning that every year I will potentially be wealthier than the last. So, in a nutshell, I now earn more, working 30 hours a week doing something I love, than I did working 50 hours a week doing something I loathe. With a bit of luck I will never have to seek employment for the rest of my life. God willing I will be able to grow old doing what I love and making good money for it. God willing.
Lately I have been pinching myself a lot, that I actually set out to succeed at something and managed to do it. My life had been filled with failures up until that point. When I finished The Final Winter, I worried, like all other writers, that it was nothing but a pipe dream and that I didn't have anywhere near the talent I thought I did (I probably still don't), but now I have complete strangers emailing me to tell me how much they enjoy my work (I still don't feel right calling them 'fans') and asking me when they can buy the next. I get satisfaction from my job that I never knew possible, and I get paid well for it! Factor in that I have a wonderful relationship with a woman I have loved since the day I met her, and I guess I'm amongst those lucky few in the world that have truly wonderful lives.
I'm not here to brag though, and I'm sorry if it comes across that way. As I said, I pinch myself everyday at how blessed I am. I appreciate how lucky I am and I always seek to pay back my good fortunes into the 'Karma pot'. I always reply to emails from people who have read my books; I always offer advice to other aspiring authors; I always do favours for my colleagues (when I can); and I always look after the people I love. I try really hard not to be a jackass! That is why I am about to share my thoughts on the current state of the industry and why I think I have been able to carve out a living. Because I want the same for you.
Being a writer has now become exactly the same as being a businessman. While some of us will fail and some will succeed (with others floating about in mediocrity) we all now have an equal playing field. The same opportunities are there for all. While only 1 in 3 business succeed (I think), they all started out with the same potential and the same freedoms to reach for their goals. It is now the same for writers. Gone are the days where a writer would pen a novel and send it off to get twenty rejections. We don't need some stuffy agent to give us their approval anymore. There are no gatekeepers. We can now take the belief we have in ourselves and push things as far as we choose to. While being the next Stephen King is the ultimate goal, there are now many more modest and achievable goals along the way - such as merely making a living from writing or getting a few fans. It's no longer an all or nothing industry; there are gradients of success.
Like any entrepreneur wanting to get rich with a great idea, an author can now self-publish and put all of their belief behind it in the same way a salesman would a new product. We can put our work on Amazon or itunes and promote it, market it, and push it out into the world in any way we want, gaining back success equal to the efforts we put in - in other words the industry is now fair and open to everyone. It's become more about hard work and less about luck. How much money you make is totally down to you - how good your work is and how hard you try (but that's the way it should be). There is no longer anyone in your way saying you're not good enough - it is not for them to say any longer. It's truly an exciting time and fantastic for those of us that have the burning desire to tell stories.
Stephen King once said that if you write something and somebody pays you a dollar for it then he considers you a writer. That's what it's all about now: whether we make a dollar or a million dollars, we can all have a fair shot at being what we dream of being. Nobody has the right to tell you that the novel you just spent a year of your life writing is not valid. It most certainly is, and if only 1 in 100 people enjoy it, then that just means your audience is small and not everyone gets what you're selling - but that one person who enjoyed your novel makes you a goddamn writer! At least it does to me.
Self publishing can make you a living, or even make you wealthy, BUT...the work still needs to be good, the editing still needs to be competent, and the cover still needs to be done by a professional - but all of these things now are just business costs that can be controlled by you, the individual. Releasing your book is no longer a lottery that relies on some random agent or publisher deciding you're worth a go. It is a product being shipped to market, aimed at an audience who will enjoy it. Its success is up to you.
So, if you have a novel in you that's been rejected two dozen times, edit it another ten times and then get it out on Kindle or iTunes. You could be really surprised to find out that people love it (which shows what a load of codswallop the agents that rejected you were talking in the first place.)
If you want to get published the traditional way, then go to the small press. Why? Well, because they will give a shit about you, for starters. They will believe in your work and want to get it on sale immediately and see it do well. A book sold to Random House may sit around doing nothing for a few years before they even bother to release it - and even then they don't always care how well it does. A small press will believe in you, support you, and help you to get better. The readership they will get you is a great way to start your new business (of writing book), and once you are successful with a few novels behind you, you can start trying self-publishing for a couple of titles each year and enjoy the feeling of being 100% in control of your assets, both financially and creatively. Then you can set up a website, ask people for reviews, speak to your fans, and run your career like a successful enterprise.
While it's obvious that I am a supporter of self-publishing, I myself have also been published traditionally via Grand Mal Press. The reason I did this, I can admit, is that they know a heck of a lot more about releasing a book then I do. By publishing through Grand Mal Press I got:
A professional editor
A professional Cover Artist
A support network that included other published authors
Career advice and guidance
A friendly ear about anything and everything
Validity in being a 'published' author
The chance to be part of a brand and to support colleagues who are supporting me
A readership in addition to the one gathered by myself.
Experience in the process of getting book to market professionally
So my overall advice to any aspiring authors (providing they don't get a six-figure offer from a massive publisher), would be to start with the small press (Grand Mal Press being a great place to start) and work with them to become the best writer that you can. Then, maybe, release every second book yourself on Amazon KDP and Createspace. This way you have the best of both worlds - pure profits from your self-published books and the backing of a publisher for your others. This is what I do by choice and it works for me (FYI, every novel I have written has had offers from a publisher, but I have turned them down for some of my titles).
This time next year, I fully expect to be earning twice what I did as a manager in a phone shop. Thinking about what I will be earning ten years from now makes me start pinching myself again.
The world of writing is finally accessible to anyone that wants to give it a go. There are no more excuses. So get writing, my brothers and sisters.