*Includes updates from Oct. 2020 and Aug. 2021 in bullets below*
So you want to be a writer?
Anytime I mentioned my dream career was to be an author, I got this question thrown my way and it was usually accompanied with an unimpressed stare and a "you are doomed to fail" tone. Every now and then, I met someone who said, "That's awesome! Go you!" and then even rarer, I found someone who actually bought my book and read it and tried to get other people to read it. This was almost a decade ago. I still wanted to do it, but I just didn't know how yet. I had so many stories in my head and I thought that they would be meaningful to someone in the world. The practical side of me knew I couldn't pay for food if I never sold any books. So I had this inner war within me for so long. How can I spend time and money on something that I felt called to do when I don't know how to do it and everyone said is doomed to fail? Yet, I pushed on. My inner voice told me to. So this post is for the people out there like me: the dreamers who have a hard practical side. This is the practical side of my journey toward my dream of writing stories that people might find meaningful in their life events.
If you have followed me, you'll know I had published two other science fiction novels before I unlisted them in 2017. You'll also know it has been four years in between Blood of Toma and Salvation in the Sun. During this time, I knew I wanted to write but it felt like I was throwing money into a really expensive hobby that paid less than 4 figures spread over eight years and about 40% of that came from my mom...always my biggest fan. Yeah, I know–about what I would expect from a noob indie author.
The problem is...or was...I didn't know how to self-publish. I didn't have the resources to know what I didn't know. I didn't know where to find the expertise that I was missing. I didn't have the network I needed for a "launch" - yeah - like I knew what that even was at the time.
But over the years, I've found that if you want to get out of the 9-5 grind, you have to become your own boss. Looking around at the financially wealthy people in life, they are either working round the clock for someone else or are successful entrepreneurs who beat the whole go to school-get a good job-you'll be ok system. Don't get me wrong, I loved school and I got a great job, but I was tired of clocking in day-in and day-out at a job working for someone else. I was 25 at the time when I realized this just before I published Blood of Toma. I looked into real estate having missed the opportune time to buy property before the DFW rental market exploded. I looked into other areas, possibly having a property management company. I looked into so many different options because I had been told all my life, less than .01% of authors ever get published. Amazon Kindle had reinvented the publishing market a few years earlier, but I still was not selling anything with my two sci-fi books and Blood of Toma. I thought it was useless to try to go that route, so I treated my writing as it was, a hobby, especially after I spent $300 on advertising for Blood of Toma and saw a negative net profit of $44. I didn't know about launch teams, AMS campaigns (for a great start go with Kindlepreneur's free AMS training), how to go about getting a professional editor, how to get a cover design, what should the cover look like–does it matter if it is genre-specific? Actually, yes, yes it does. Quite a bit actually.
I stumbled upon Chandler Bolt's Self-Publishing School late 2017 while listening to a Side Hustle Nation webinar with Nick Loper, and it was almost as if I had hit the jackpot. I got to the end of the webinar and saw it was a lot of money for the course...my shoulders sank. That was a lot of money. I took a deep breath and went and talked to my husband. We both had good jobs and he thought Blood of Toma was a good book. So we decided we would invest in me as an author thinking the more books I write and if I knew how to self-publish and market the books, it would be passive income that just compounded to where eventually it could become a full-time income maybe in ten or twenty years.
The Self-Publishing School came with a 90-day guarantee, but I didn't finish my book mostly because I was writing fiction and the writing tactics were more geared toward non-fiction. However, the lessons I learned there about launching, speed writing, and publishing were invaluable.
Then they opened a brand new course Self-Publishing School Fundamentals of Fiction, and of course, more money, but since it was new, they offered it at the Master level meaning I would receive coaching calls with Ramy Vance aka R.E. Vance, bestselling author of the GoneGod World series. It was worth every penny. I learned more about marketing and plotting in those calls and that course than I ever had before. With one book published in May 2018, over the past eight months, I've almost broke even on my initial training with book sales alone on that one book. My only regret is not writing the second book before launching the first especially since we were welcoming our first baby into the family in the meantime. I took four months off to be with my child, time I would not trade for the world, but made it a risky decision given the timing of my book's first launch. I will update the math after the series comes out.
If you don't care to see dollars and numbers, skip this section down to the next section break I find it tacky when people talk about their income, but it is below if you want to know the dollars of my self-publishing journey and want to see if you're just starting out or looking to see how much someone can make. So many factors go into this such as genre, reach, ads, other word of mouth, quality of book, cover, blurb, price, cash.v.accrual, reader magnets, networking, etc. But anyway, I wanted something like this when I first started, even though it is not 100% transparent, to see what I could make in my "blended genre" of historical fiction, which is a not-as-popular genre like Romance, Urban Fantasy, or Cozy Mystery, and if it would just be a hobby or an actual part time or full time income and better decide how to account for it on my federal taxes. So this is here for you, IF you want it. If not, then please skip.
If so, let's do the math (these are revenues, not sales or profits)–
$500 (-$200 from my mom b/c let's be honest, that doesn't count) / 8 years) = $37.5 a year with three books (2010-2018)
$1800/ .75 years = $2400 a year with one book (starting May 2018)
That is a 6400% increase in revenue, and now I can take what I have learned and apply to every single book I will write. From Chandler and Ramy's experience, once you have more than one book, your sales go up even more because now you have multiple avenues for readers to catch wind of you as an indie author. I pay an additional sum each year to be a part of the Fiction Mastermind Community. Every week there is a live Q&A session where Ramy answers all of our questions we have ranging from title to cover to plot to marketing to passion projects to you name it. I think it is a great value to me as an indie author learning from someone who has been there, done that, and is financially successful.
- October 2020 Update: Year to Date, I have had over $10,000 in royalty revenues with my four book series on sale - the last one releasing in June. I doubt I will breakeven this year in my balance sheet. With nine more books coming out over the next seven months, I am hoping to claim at least $30,000 in revenue next year and then hopefully even more the following year. To remember that I only made $500 over eight years when I first published is amazing to me. Without the networks and training offered by Self-Publishing School and without my awesome family, launch team and readership, I know this dream of mine would not be possible.
- August 2021 Update: The saga is completed, and I said I would update you with my numbers. So here it is: my total revenue from 05/18 – 08/21: $38,678 | 2021 Year to Date: $20,580 | Projected 2021 Revenue: $34,800 - which is technically $1,000 shy of a full-time income in the USA ($35,977 is considered an annual full-time income from the BLS in 2019). Even still, I am so excited and it is A LOT better than the $500 total I pulled over the course of 2011 – 2018. AND it is more than I ever thought I could make selling $0.99 – $3.99 books as an indie author while still working a full-time job with two little kids and only spending 1-2 hours a day on my author career. And I might actually make pure profit this year after the next book's production costs! I am pumped for this 15-book saga and my 16 published histfic books. If you supported me in my dream to becoming a full-income author (which fingers crossed will be this year or in the years to come), I am utterly grateful to you. I am so thankful you read, rated, reviewed, shared, and/or proofread my books and sent me emails of encouragement which help me so much more than you know. I am working on two more series and I can't wait to share them with you. If you haven't yet, head on over to my author website to learn more or subscribe to my newsletter so I can tell you when new releases are out: www.LaurenLeeMerewether.com.
If you didn't want to read the numbers, start reading again here:
So why do I tell you all about my finances and life lessons and such that usually people are hush hush about? Well, I want to be transparent, and I could not find anyone out there willing to share their actual numbers. Everyone said it couldn't work; only 0.01% get published and less than that actually live off of their book income. I took a leap of faith with my husband and hoped it paid off. So far, it has paid for my investment. Maybe I will never live off of my book income, but maybe I might one day. I just want others out there who are numbers people like me to have the numbers from my case study and to know it is possible to make decent money on your book. It is my dream to be a full-time author making a full-time income, and everyone knows you can dream all you want, but "without a plan and some action, you ain't going anywhere". This path with Self-Publishing School helped me tremendously in heading toward that dream and wanted to make it available to you. AND LET'S BE HONEST, what I am projected to make in profit these next few years isn't going to cover much, but I am only dedicating 1 to 1.5 hrs a day to this career path. If you have the time, imagine doubling it to 3 hrs a day. You could produce double the books or work on an associated business that your book drives traffic to. The thing is, you have to start somewhere.
I want to tell stories and even though my first book isn't a substantial supplemental income, it has showed me I can make a steady income for the greater part of a year with one book, and eventually if I write two books every 6 months, I may actually achieve my dream in say five years? Not bad for me. If I get proficient enough with the process, I could potentially produce, launch and release four books every year.
If you are serious about writing, consider Chandler's course. Don't get me wrong, it is a serious commitment. I worked my full-time job and then worked til midnight or later writing my book, and after I had my baby, I got up at 4:30am to pump and get the rest of the series done before starting my full-time job at 7am. I wanted to spend the evenings with my child so I scooted writing to the mornings only and late evenings (priorities).
But if you really want to write, you need to invest in yourself. Otherwise why would any one want to invest in you if you don't even want to invest in yourself? The hardest part of being your own boss is realizing no one else is going to do it for you.
To learn more about Chandler Bolt and his course, go to self-publishingschool.com to learn more.
To learn more about how to write a novel from Chandler's school website, visit:
For free book templates, visit the school's sister site: