One thing I noticed with the books that are written to market is that most of them start to sound similar to one another. Why? Because authors can’t afford to take risks with their writing. I know this because when I wrote to market, I went with what was safe. I scanned other books in my genre and picked out stuff (such plot, hero trope, and heroine trope) that seemed to resonated well with the greatest number of people. After a while, I felt boxed in. I felt like I had nothing fresh and new to offer. There were no story ideas that lit my writing self on fire because I’d already exhausted the safe stuff that interested me. I could never write something that went against my core values. I have to be comfortable with everything I write. Because of that, I ran out of things to write a lot faster than other authors would have.
I have noticed that books written to market tend to sell better. Obviously, there is a demand for those books, and they resonate with a lot of people for a reason. Maybe it’s the familiarity factor. I haven’t researched this idea, but the part of me that got a degree in Psychology is intrigued with this. If I had more time on my hands, I would delve further into this particular topic. But suffice it to say, my hypothesis on why writing to market is so lucrative is because most people gravitate toward things that are familiar to them. (Please note I wrote “most” people. There will be outliers. I happen to be an outlier. I hate the same old-same old. I love stuff that’s different, which is probably why I got bored writing to market.) Anyway, I think most people like picking a book where they know what to expect. That’s why I think there’s monetary value in writing to market. When you’re writing to market, you’re hitting up something that has already been established. It’s easier to ride the wave of what’s popular than to take risks with stuff that is different.
If you happen to be a writer who wants to write for passion, I think the path is going to be more difficult. After all the stuff I’ve read over the past 3-4 years, I think that most writers who embrace passion don’t make as much money as those writing to market do.
But there is hope for writers like us. It involves getting our financial house in order. The main reason writers are flocking to writing to marketing is money. If you can lower your dependence on book sales, you will free yourself up to writing what truly matters to you.
I know this isn’t easy. Most of us are not independently wealthy. We have to find a way to pay the bills and buy food. I totally understand because, even with a husband who is working, our four teenage sons eat all the time, and I have to use some of my writing money at the grocery store. But there are some expenses we can all cut back on. It’s a matter of searching them out.
I tracked my expenses for a couple of months like the financial experts suggest, and I was able to trim out some excess. The biggest one was eating out. I don’t enjoy cooking. I do it because it’s cheaper than eating out, and I’m finally at the point where I’m used to it. (In other words, I’m no longer grumbling about having to do it.) I also gave up my cell phone service. I am using a Google phone now. The Google phone hooks up to the internet so you don’t have to pay a telephone company or a cell phone company to use a phone. We cut out satellite. We shop at thrift stores for clothes (except for underwear; I can’t bring myself to wear underwear other people have worn). The Dollar Tree offers the same school supplies other stores do, though I notice even Walmart can be cheaper on some items, like Composition notebooks. I’ve learned to comparison shop and look for coupons. Also, we gave up newer cars to buy two 10+ year old vehicles, and we live in a house that is considered cheap in our area. When we bought the house, it was a fixer upper. We’ve been slowly working on the place as funds allow.
In my opinion, the best way to cut out expenses is to get out of debt because when you’re in debt, you’re making interest payments AND you don’t own the thing you’re paying on yet. Those interest payments can really add up. I know because my husband and I spent most of our 19 years of marriage living under the curse of debt. It wasn’t easy to get out of the debt mindset. When I lost half of my writing income in the span of a year, I realized how dangerous debt was. (For that alone, I can say losing money was a blessing in disguise.)
If you’re a writer who needs their writing income to make money right now, my advice is to write to market and get books out as fast as you can. Then save as much of the money you make as you can. A lot of authors will tell you to spend that money on ads, so be careful on how much you spend if you choose to do ads. I see ads as a short-term boost to sales. Already, some authors are seeing it losing effectiveness. And to be honest, I also think writing to market and publishing books quickly will also lose its effectiveness in the years to come. I just don’t see how the human brain can possibly keep up. I guess you could start farming out writing to ghostwriters, but then, what’s the point of being a writer if you’re having others create the stories for you?
For those who want to write for passion, cutting expenses, getting out of debt, and saving as much as you can are all things you can do to buffer yourself against the ups and downs of the indie publishing business. If you can get multiple streams of income coming in, then you’re in an even better position.
It’s been three years now since I got serious about being intentional with my money. I realized if I wanted to keep writing books, I was going to have to make sacrifices to get there. I needed to make myself as financially independent of book sales as possible. That way I could embrace the passionate side of writing and not worry about trying to market myself to the point where my health or my relationships were affected. I’ve heard of authors who’ve ended up with serious health issues and ending up in divorce because they made the pursuit of sales their main priority. I don’t want to end up like that. So that’s why I started cleaning up my financial house.
The changes I made that helped me get a better financial foundation were gradual. I started with a small change that didn’t scare me too much, and then I slowly added more changes as time went on. I’m still slowly adding more changes. This is a process. At least it’s been a process to me. I can’t go cold turkey on everything at once. I tried it, but I ended up falling back into old spending habits. I had to ease myself into the changes in order to make them permanent. I know Dave Ramsey talks about cutting everything out right away, but that didn’t work for me. If it works for you, then do it. You’ll progress faster than I did.
And now to my final thought on this topic…
When you start to feel discouraged (because the road to progress is never smooth), remind yourself of why you want to write for passion. Write it down if you need to. Get a picture to look at that inspires you to keep going. Print out an email from a reader who encouraged you. Whatever motivates you, do it. This is not going to be easy, but it’s worth it. If your main goal is to write books you love without having to worry about the ups and downs of sales, then getting your financial house in order will help you get there.
Listening to Dave Ramsey really opened my eyes to how terrible debt is and how freeing it can be to get out of it. We have one credit card with a (big) balance, a car payment, and a mortgage. Unfortunately, we are having to spend almost $13,000 on new field lines and septic tank cover, so there we go further in debt again. The thing we all need to be careful of is going into debt for things we WANT instead of things we NEED. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but sometimes we’re like children wanting instant gratification instead of waiting until we can afford to pay cash for something. It’s human nature. It takes self-control to change it.
As to eating out. That’s something I’m still trying to get a handle on. My husband, after over 30 years of being on 3rd shift, will be changing jobs and going on 1st shift. We’ll be together in the evenings, so that will motivate me to cook. What I would suggest is to cook most of the time and then go out to eat every once in a while for a treat to look forward to. With six of you, eating out is EXPENSIVE.
I would never give up my cell phone. What if you’re out by yourself, and your Google phone only works with an internet connection, and you get stranded? How would you call for help? That’s what I would worry most about. We did give up our landline, though. With the cell phones, we don’t need it.
My husband wouldn’t be willing to give up our satellite TV. He cares too much about watching Fox News and sports. It’s cheaper to have Netflix and Amazon Prime, but that wouldn’t help him. But that’s his biggest indulgence. And if we gave up the TV, our internet would go up because of the bundle.
As long as my husband and I are both working, things aren’t too bad. Tight, but not horrible. (Except for the times he’s had to be out on medical leave, so I’m hoping that won’t happen again.) It’s that mortgage that gets us, but that will be gone in about 3 years. But I think everyone should be careful, because we never know what tomorrow will bring. Being out of debt solves a lot of problems. The future is uncertain.
*I didn’t mean to write a book!*
I love the book! LOL This is a topic I can spend all day talking about. I listen to this on You Tube, read books about it, and watch documentaries about it. All of it helps me stay focused because if I’m left to my own devices, I will return to old habits that aren’t healthy for me. 🙂
I know the septic system can be expensive. We looked into that a couple years ago. I love living out of town, but there are some definite drawbacks. Sometimes I miss the city sewer system. It wasn’t touchy like septics can be.
I agree that most of our financial troubles stem from pursuing things we WANT. It’s a lot easier to say no to purchases you need, but those you want have been a real struggle for me and my husband. It’s why we’re not where we want to be. That’s why I immerse myself in the financial stuff I mentioned above. It helps me a lot in saying no to WANTS. The hardest thing I’ve said no to this summer was a vacation. I wanted to go somewhere, but the budget didn’t allow for it after we repaired the carport that was falling apart.
We do go out to eat twice every week in order to help stay on track. We were eating out a lot. Last summer, I was grabbing something twice almost every single day. I don’t care how much you try to get “cheap” fast food; it all adds up fast. My kids are now old enough to make their own meals, and they can stay home. So my husband and I will let whoever wants to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday to sleep in. Then he and I (and usually one or two kids) will join us to go out. Those two breakfasts are the only ones we eat out on a regular basis, and it does help to keep me going on making meals at home. If a kid doesn’t want what I make, then he has to make his own meal, and that also helps. I used to try to make something for everyone, and that led to me wanting to eat out all the time because I had exhausted myself.
For the past couple of years, I had a cell phone mostly because I was driving around to get kids to and from school or because I’d shop during the weekday for stuff we needed. But this year, I told the kids they’re taking the bus. That was one of the ways to cut back expenses. The kids aren’t happy, but they’ll survive. Gas money adds up. And I’m now shopping on the weekends with my husband who does have a phone. So I have cut back my need to use it. If someone needs to reach me, they have the home phone. My homeschooled kid does have a phone, and I can always bring him with me if there’s an emergency. I usually have someone in the car with me who has a phone. If it was just me and my husband, I would have a cell phone, but then I wouldn’t be paying for the kids’ phones. One kid lost his phone at the fair, and we aren’t replacing it. I told them that we can’t afford to be replacing these items anymore, so if they lose it, they won’t get another one. I’m tired of them not taking responsibility for their things. (Plus, one thing that got me into trouble financially was making up for stuff they kept losing or breaking. We are finally learning to say no.) We use Consumer Cellular, and they are a much better deal than the company I used to have a mobile phone through. Transferring to Consumer Cellular saved us $20 a month per person, and we try to keep it to text and minutes only. We also get used cell phones instead of new ones. The last iPhone was $1000 or something, and that is just outrageous to me. You can get a nice used iPhone for $250 instead.
Satellite TV isn’t that big of an indulgence, in my opinion. But we got rid of ours because we watch You Tube most of the time via Roku. We were not watching satellite TV. I think it depends on how much you use something. If you’re using it a lot, you might as well keep it. 🙂
I hope your husband doesn’t have to go on medical leave again. That is very stressful from a multitude of angles. I hate it when money is tight. It sucks. 😦