Is Your Writing Starbucks, 7-Eleven or Home Brew?

There are millions of wanna-be published authors out there. Some of them–a lot of them, actually–actually end up writing some semblance of a book manuscript. And once it is written, there are quite a few that think this: It is the greatest thing that has ever been written. All I have to do it get it published, and people will instantly recognize my genius. Once they do so, fame and fortune will follow.

Well, here’s the reality of the situation: Many dream of being writers. Some actually write something. A few of those get published. Of those few (actually, about a hundred thousand titles a year), a small percentage actually get noticed. Even if you are picked up by a traditional publisher, there’s only so much advertising and promotion budget to go around. So many manuscripts that actually get published still don’t make much money.

That’s one of the big reasons why I went from traditional publishing to indie publishing. I was getting published, but still getting lost in the shuffle. There are many other reasons why, which I won’t go into here. But the point that I am making here is this: there are only a very few published books that become blockbusters. If you want to get rich, go to school and take medicine or law. You’re more likely to get into medical school than to make a fortune writing.

Now that the bad news is out there, here’s some good news. If you have the patience, determination, and a little innate talent, you can actually make some money writing. But you have to be pragmatic about it. The first thing you want to ask yourself is: why are you writing? Are you writing for fun? Are you writing for money? Or are you writing because you have something to say?

If you are writing simply to make money, I advise you to write how-to books and articles. More people buy how-to and self-help books than any other category, and non-fiction beats out fiction every time. But some writers–include me–find fiction a lot more fun.

If you are writing for fun, accept the fact that you very likely won’t make a lot of money. There’s a chance of it, but just remember why you are doing what you’re doing, and you’ll be less likely to be disappointed. This is my category, and I am having a ball self-publishing.

Finally, if you’re writing because you believe you have something to say, the same thing applies. You’re not driven by the market, you’re not meeting the needs of some editor or publisher somewhere. You are writing to get a message out there. The vast majority of people will ignore you, or misunderstand you, but there is always the chance that you will make a significant difference in the lives of one or two readers. This is also my motivation.

If you decide to self publish, the question comes up: book or e-book, what price should I charge? Once again, you have to ask that important question: writing for pay, fun or message? But beyond that, you have to be pragmatic and ask yourself how good you really are. How well are you known? If you had never heard of you, would you buy one of your books? Price can have a bearing on how many books you sell, but it is only one factor. As an experiment, I lowered one of my books–which was selling OK–from $2.99 to $.99. I expected an increase in sales, but didn’t really see any change. Conversely, I upped another e-book–which was selling well–from $2.99 to $4.99, and saw a slight dip in sales, but realized that I had basically doubled my profit from each e-book I sold.

There’s no shame in selling your e-books for $.99. You have to experiment with what works. Sometimes selling it for $.99 will draw some interest from those who might want to take a risk on an unknown writer. But the bottom-line, long-term, necessity is getting your name known. That goes for whatever genre you’re writing in. You have to do whatever you can to make this happen.

You may not be a household name, today or ever. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sell a few books. You just have to write your best, get your name out there, and experiment with the marketplace.

Writing can be fun, and it can be a good way to get your message out there. And finally, it can be a way to make some money. You just have to find your niche–and keep writing.