An Author’s Journey to $100,000

KK Window Writing

“John, I want to let you know that I’ve decided it’s time for me to move on.” I had planned my resignation months earlier. “I’d like us to find my replacement so I can leave by the end of the year.”

“Oh my God, Kevin, I really didn’t see this coming.” John sighed and leaned back in his chair. Things were going great in my job and there was no pressure to leave. “What, may I ask, are you going to be doing? Why are you leaving?”

I smiled at just the thought of it. “I love writing, and I’m just not finding the time to get to it. Most people have a list of books they want to read. I have a dozen books I want to write. I just want to write.”

John leaned in and lowered his voice. “No, seriously. What do you really plan to do?”

How long will it take me to make $100,000 as a full-time writer?

On January 1, 2015 I left my cushy six-figure executive job to become a full time writer. Perhaps more accurate and fancier-sounding is that was the day I decided to become a full-time “authorpreneur”—because while I certainly hope to make money from book sales, I know I’ll need to supplement that with speaking income, too.

This is the blog that I wish existed years ago when I wrote my first couple non-fiction books, which were traditionally published (with Jossey-Bass and Wiley).

This is the blog I wish existed three years ago when I wrote my first independently (i.e., “indie”) published book on Kindle (eBook) and CreateSpace (print).

It’s going to cover the lessons I learn from my own experiences writing and publishing both non-fiction and fiction. It will include my failures and (hopefully!) my successes, my notes from studying others, my list of resources and my marketing tests.

I plan to cover everything from writing to editing to formatting to publishing to marketing and beyond.

I know there are already great resources out there for indie authors, and I try to keep up with all of them. But I’m trying to offer a unique perspective. I intend to open the kimono as they say and show everything from the driver’s seat—including my monthly revenue.

Why focus on $100,000 of revenue?

I want to set a goal just to have something to aim for. I have a feeling that a nice big round number like $100k is one where other wannabe authors might say, “If only I could earn that much, I’d be able to quit my job and be a writer!”

The truth is that financial success as a writer is more complicated than a single revenue number. I expect that getting to $100K will include a mix of revenue streams from book sales, to speeches, to training and who knows what else. But the books are the backbone that make everything possible.

And $100K is completely arbitrary. Maybe you only want to make $1,000 per month to supplement your day job. Maybe you need $200K to maintain your current lifestyle. The money isn’t the point. The point is to share lessons learned as an authorpreneur, and the revenue is just a mile marker tracking progress.

Where my journey starts – not at $0.

As a single Dad with three kids, I never would have quit my six-figure job to start this journey from scratch. Like most writers out there, I started by writing books at night and on weekends. I’ve already written two traditionally published books and a few indie titles.

Specifically, in the last two’ish years I’ve written and published two business books, Employee Engagement 2.0 and Employee Engagement for Everyone. Real mass-market exciting titles I know.

More recently I published 365 Best Inspirational Quotes as a test of my ability to get high rankings on Amazon. Test went well, although revenue is modest.

For most of 2014 those three books earned me $3,000 per month in royalties–or $36,000 for the year. I also had a few low paying speaking gigs.

Now I also tried my hand at fiction, writing a novel for my 10-year old son, The CobraSquad Virus (Battle Masters #1). It sells nothing. I mean literally 0 copies a month.

Yes, I’m a “NY Times bestseller” but it doesn’t really help.

And I need to get one thing out of the way. I’m actually already a New York Times bestselling author. But it was expensive and worth very little. Surprised?

In 2010, I co-authored the book, We: How to Improve Profits and Performance Through Full Engagement, which was published by Wiley. I thought writing a great book and getting it on the best seller lists would lead to fame and fortune. The truth about best sellers is very different.

I received a $50,000 advance from Wiley and spent all of 2010 writing and revising the book. While $50,000 sounds great, I had previously made about $125,000 more than that in my annual salary, so it actually cost me $125,000 in lost wages to get the book done.

The bestseller lists track sales per week so the trick to making the list is to get as many pre-orders as possible. That way, once the book is released, all those orders trigger at the same time, giving you a shot at making the list.

So my co-author and I spent about $200,000 and another six months of our lives marketing the book. (What, you thought publishers paid for marketing campaigns? Hahahaha!) We had two different PR agencies, digital marketing agencies, sent out over a thousand review copies (our expense, not the publishers), did interviews with magazines, blogs and podcasts and begged everyone we knew to pre-order copies of the book.

And it worked. For one week. Our book hit the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller lists. And then dropped off the lists like a rock.

And fortune did not follow. The book never earned out it’s advance, so we got a sum total of $50,000 and spent $200,000 for a net loss of $150,000 (not to mention the opportunity cost of earning a regular salary while I took time to write the book).

I got exactly one speaking gig from a speakers bureau, worth $7,000. Even though I was a “New York Times bestselling business author” I contacted over 30 speaking bureaus and not a single one returned my calls or emails.

Even though I was a “New York Times bestselling business author” no Fortune 500 companies suddenly called to hire me as a consultant.

That book came out four years ago and it did nothing for my career. Basically nobody cares about that label—except authors. We think it’s the ticket to business success, but actually it’s just a nice little label to fluff up our egos and it might (I doubt it but, might) help sell future books because of the added credibility.

So, what’s next?

Hopefully you’ll join me on this journey. Just sign-up below to get notified of my new blog posts—it’s totally free of course.

And if you have a specific question or just want to say, “Good luck!”, hit me on Twitter @Kruse or Facebook or email me at: info at kevinkruse dot com.