Author Topic: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?  (Read 2410 times)  

Offline tacet22

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I'm a self publisher and currently about 80% of my publishing revenues are coming in from Amazon KDP.
I also work a 9-5, and am debating when to quit and do self publishing full time.
The only thing slightly giving me a pause right now is that KDP can technically just close your account any time (in other words, Amazon "owns" your material in a sense, kind of how a lot of internet marketers saw their adsense revenue disappear overnight after Google changed their algorithm), so I'm considering this as a potential risk. Thoughts? Do you think it's safe enough to pursue this full time or start diversifying further to other channels before I quit my job?

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    Offline Corvid

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #1 on: July 27, 2020, 07:16:10 pm »
    It is extremely unsafe to pursue this full-time unless you're one of the outliers.

    Honestly, I wouldn't quit my job without meeting ALL 3 of the following:

    1. Being completely out of debt
    2. Have at least a year's salary put away as a cushion
    3. Prove I can make 10k a month consistently for at least 18 months in a row.

    Even then, all bets are off.

    My advice - keep your day job. The time to quit will make itself readily apparent, i.e. you're absolutely killing it in sales over the long term, and/or you're a huge breakthrough bestseller. Short of that, don't quit. Seriously, if you have to ask, then it's not time to make the jump, and it's much too big a risk, IMO.


    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #2 on: July 27, 2020, 07:31:04 pm »
    In addition/modification to the above, I would scrap the 10k and replace it with however much you need to live on.

    Regular living expenses have two components: 1. how much you earn, 2. how much you need. If you cannot change 1, you may be able to chance 2. Or you may not, but you'll have to consider future expenses for you and any family. People have done things like moved to a cheaper location and sold assets in order to reduce expenses.

    In diversifying I would also include some form of non-writing income that's not dependent on your ability to write all the time, like investment income.

    Offline Writer999

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #3 on: July 27, 2020, 07:55:43 pm »
    It's about as stable as nitroglycerin.

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #4 on: July 27, 2020, 08:06:07 pm »
    There are some authors here on KB who apparently make a good living. I would think they're in the minority. Most of us probably have our indie writing as an accessory income at best -- to varying degrees.

    If you think of it more as your second job, you'll probably be better prepared for the ups and downs of it.

    Offline TSDwrites

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #5 on: July 27, 2020, 08:20:28 pm »
    I wouldnt give up my day job. Reduce hours if Im debt free and making more through self publishing than working.
    You never know if a book or series might flop, so its good to have a job than can still cover basic necessities.

    Online ShaneCarrow

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #6 on: July 28, 2020, 03:33:46 am »
    Most of us probably have our indie writing as an accessory income at best -- to varying degrees

    This is definitely me. My writing income is quite literally life changing - it's the difference between actually saving money and getting ahead and maybe one day buying my own home, and living a pleasant life in the meantime... or just treading water. That's the difference a grand a month makes. But a grand a month is still nowhere near enough to live off. Not even close.

    My day job isn't exactly stable either. But I would have to be really, really confident about a sustained source of income before I threw in even an unstable day job. I'd be more worried about the future success or failure of my own personal writing endeavours before I worried about Amazon pulling the rug out from under us.

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    Offline Rachel Anne

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #7 on: July 28, 2020, 04:55:26 am »
    It isn't even just a matter of whether KDP is stable or not, it's life itself.
    Case in point? There is nothing stable about 2020.

    I think only you know the real answer to this if we're being honest. You can assess how risk-averse you are better than anyone and what factors will weigh in this decision for you. I can say you need to take into consideration what can affect your income outside of just Amazon.

    For example: I quit my day job after I released my first book and it outearned my job earnings over 3x in one month. I was in a unique situation though--I was on the verge of burnout, I was constantly sick and even worse my one-year-old daughter was also always sick. I worked 7-4, got home at 5:30, went through the motions of caring for a toddler, and when she was in bed by about 7:30 I would clean my house, shower, and then write until about 11 or 12... back at it the next morning at 5. My husband has a great job that's extremely stable. My day job was just covering the bills I took on to pay + daycare with no room to pay down anything else... The decision was really easy.

    Even then, life can still interfere. My father was diagnosed with cancer and my mother was initially diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis. Since then they've changed her diagnosis and he's gone through the treatments and is currently cancer-free. Another pregnancy thrown in there, and I didn't release anything in 2019. Income has fallen greatly. 2020 was another blow. It's getting better now. But my point is that you just never know what life is going to throw at you.

    Tldr; KDP isn't going to be your only worry. Consider different scenarios. You know best what you can handle and what consequences could be one way or another. Almost everyone I have ever talked to on this topic will always recommend you have at the minimum a nice chunk of savings to fall back on just in case. It's good advice.

    Offline Amanda M. Lee

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #8 on: July 28, 2020, 04:55:37 am »
    One of the problems I see is people having two or three good months and quitting. Then they have two or three bad months and suddenly find themselves in trouble. I stayed at my day job a lot longer than most people would have. I waited until I had no debt, a six-figure cushion and was making enough to live on each month for a full year. By the time I left my day job I was making more in a month than I did in an entire year as a reporter. I don't regret staying longer because a lot of the people who were quitting their day jobs around then have already gone having to day jobs and are no longer publishing.

    Amanda M. Lee

    Offline jvin248

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #9 on: July 28, 2020, 05:26:10 am »
    .

    +1 it's both income and expenses. The day job is just as risky as publishing books. Work on writing more books and reducing expenses.
    Have you seen the youtube Tiny House videos? Get some ideas from them about pursuing a life without a mortgage. Sell the new car with a seven year loan and buy a good used car for cash. Chop the phone plan down and get out from under the daily Starbucks addiction. Soon you will find that where your savings would previously only last a few months of no income you are now able to last a year or more.

    If you have a few successful books you should be cautious that you don't mess with their keywords until they are not working. Too many times a book is selling great because it somehow got linked to another title or event where it gets splashed on the recommendation pages. Then a well intentioned author tries to tweak the keywords or the listing slightly and accidentally clips that link where the book falls back into obscurity.

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    Online ShaneCarrow

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #10 on: July 28, 2020, 06:15:11 am »
    I think only you know the real answer to this if we're being honest. You can assess how risk-averse you are better than anyone and what factors will weigh in this decision for you. I can say you need to take into consideration what can affect your income outside of just Amazon.

    This is good advice. Everybody's life is different and one person's stable annual income is another person's kids' school fees for the year, or their parents' aged care bill for the year. I think when people ask questions like this - whether on the internet or to their close friends - they've often already made up their mind and are really looking for either acceptance that it's a decent idea, or rejection that it's a really bad idea.

    Only you are really fit to judge whether quitting your day job is the right decision. But as generalised advice I would say that 2020, and possibly this decade to came, is probably not a good time to be walking away from any kind of financial stability.

    Get some ideas from them about pursuing a life without a mortgage. Sell the new car with a seven year loan and buy a good used car for cash. Chop the phone plan down and get out from under the daily Starbucks addiction. Soon you will find that where your savings would previously only last a few months of no income you are now able to last a year or more.

    This on the other hand is bad advice, springing from a Mr Money Mustache style moralising that's more interested in lecturing Americans for their supposed profligacy rather than seriously discussing personal financial security.

    Shane Carrow

    Online Lydniz

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #11 on: July 28, 2020, 06:31:45 am »
    This on the other hand is bad advice, springing from a Mr Money Mustache style moralising that's more interested in lecturing Americans for their supposed profligacy rather than seriously discussing personal financial security.

    You might not like the tone, but none of it is objectively bad advice.

    Online EmberKent

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #12 on: July 28, 2020, 07:14:15 am »
    You might not like the tone, but none of it is objectively bad advice.

    It is bad advice because a "daily Starbucks addiction" has a short-term positive impact on mood and living, while the savings you get from not buying a coffee or snack from Starbucks wouldn't move the needle on one's retirement whatsoever.

    I saw an interesting post somewhere, possibly on Twitter or reddit, about a case study where someone had a low-enough income to not save anything if they spent frivolously. They asked the question, "What if I didn't pay for any of these luxuries? What if I skimped? What if I followed the advice of people in the upper crust as they look down upon 'the poors'?"

    The conclusion was that this theoretical individual removed all optional luxury from their life from their 20s to retirement age, put that money into investments... and still didn't have half the amount needed for retirement. Living as a pauper doesn't move the needle. A higher income does.

    Buying a house with a mega mortgage or luxury cars? Sure, don't do that. Buying a coffee and an avocado toast? It's a rounding error for the money you need to survive once you're out of the workforce.

    Online Usedtoposthere

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #13 on: July 28, 2020, 08:00:37 am »
    To answer the original question, I believe the concern about KDP suddenly shutting down an account is way overblown. If you are not doing anything shady, chances are slim.

    All my stuff is in Select because I don't like the admin/marketing side of publishing. Personal choice.

    I quit my job two weeks into writing my first book, but we could live (more frugally) on my husband's salary, my health insurance was through him, we were on a per diem in another country at the time, and he told me to take 14 months and we'd re-evaluate. It worked out great, but he didn't quit HIS day job with the health insurance until he was over 70, and continued to work part time for another couple years, so we had a really good cushion. I couldnt have made this choice during any of the years we had kids at home, in college, etc. Your age and circumstances are huge factors.

    Other people with crappy jobs and no employer-provided health care, but no dependents, may choose to go the all-writing route because it is really no riskier than their day job, and they feel they can always pick up a part time or full time job.

    And the pandemic changes things yet again. No right answers here, just an assessment of your personal situation.

    ETA: Three years ago, when my husband finally fully retired, we sold the house in the extremely pricey area and moved to my sleepy hometown. No mortgage, a huge house, and almost everything is cheaper. Peace of mind. But I like small towns. Other people need to be in a city to write.
    « Last Edit: July 28, 2020, 12:05:38 pm by Usedtoposthere »

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #14 on: July 28, 2020, 08:54:00 am »
    These discussions always presume day jobs a) make more and b) are stable. They don't and they aren't.  We haven't had stable employment for 20 years and paychecks have been stagnant for 40 years. Meanwhile, any chance you may have had at a day job ended when you hit your mid 30s. 

    If you think a day job is the answer, keep looking.   



    Offline Indiecognito

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #15 on: July 28, 2020, 09:46:42 am »
    My income has varied widely over five years from $20,000 a month to $2500 a month and back up again. It's a rough, stressful thing to contend with algorithms and I would strongly suggest following the advice of those who warn you to have a substantial cushion. I have over $100,000 stashed away and STILL haven't quit my day job...not that my day job is happening right now (thanks, pandemic) but you know.

    Online Usedtoposthere

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #16 on: July 28, 2020, 12:07:35 pm »
    Amazon or not, the writing biz is rarely a steady income, year after year until retirement. Or steadily uphill, year after year. (Though you can get long stretches of steady/up.) But then, as others have pointed out, "day jobs" aren't necessarily a guaranteed income year after year either.

    Offline C. Gockel

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #17 on: July 28, 2020, 12:31:08 pm »
    How many series do you have? How many of them sell? For how long have they been successful?

    I ask because I've seen people here hit it out of the park with one series because they hit the market with X just when the market was looking for X. They thought they were a genius that had cracked the code, but in truth, they'd just gotten lucky. When the fad for X passed, their series didn't sell anymore. A good series about X should earn beyond X's popularity.

    If you have some books that have been successful over time and have been exceeding your expenses (and savings goals!) for a while and have also put away at least a years cushion, then you're a candidate for quitting your day job. Do know, the business is very unstable, and you will have bad years. Also, make sure you know just how much insurance will cost you, and how much taxes will eat into your income.


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    Offline tacet22

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #18 on: July 28, 2020, 12:36:33 pm »
    My income has varied widely over five years from $20,000 a month to $2500 a month and back up again. It's a rough, stressful thing to contend with algorithms and I would strongly suggest following the advice of those who warn you to have a substantial cushion. I have over $100,000 stashed away and STILL haven't quit my day job...not that my day job is happening right now (thanks, pandemic) but you know.

    Was your publishing income mainly from KDP or other channels? That's a pretty large variance.

    Online Usedtoposthere

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #19 on: July 28, 2020, 01:16:12 pm »
    That's not really that large a variance. My own publishing income has varied, over the past 7.5 years, from $10,000/month to $80,000+/month. Up & down. (I've been both wide & in Select, and also have audio, foreign translations, and some titles traditionally published.) This business changes a lot. A LOT.

    Looking back, I personally worried too much about the money angle. Unrealistically. It can be emotionally hard, though, because it's all on you, and yet some of it is out of your control. Especially if you have others who depend on your income. Something to think about.

    Offline Indiecognito

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #20 on: July 28, 2020, 01:44:34 pm »
    Was your publishing income mainly from KDP or other channels? That's a pretty large variance.

    KDP. Now, that said, the times when it's crashed, it's because I went wide and realized it wasn't going to work for me. When I came back to KU, I wasn't able to get my traction back until I changed genres entirely and focused on one that was, in my opinion, underserved but potentially lucrative.

    My worst months have been those when I published nothing. Steady publishing has always kept my income at a level where I could survive in a pinch, but it doesn't help my confidence to know how quickly I can lose visibility when algos shift.

    Offline Wayne Stinnett

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #21 on: July 28, 2020, 03:41:47 pm »
    It is extremely unsafe to pursue this full-time unless you're one of the outliers.

    Honestly, I wouldn't quit my job without meeting ALL 3 of the following:

    1. Being completely out of debt
    2. Have at least a year's salary put away as a cushion
    3. Prove I can make 10k a month consistently for at least 18 months in a row.

    Even then, all bets are off.

    My advice - keep your day job. The time to quit will make itself readily apparent, i.e. you're absolutely killing it in sales over the long term, and/or you're a huge breakthrough bestseller. Short of that, don't quit. Seriously, if you have to ask, then it's not time to make the jump, and it's much too big a risk, IMO.

    Sage advice. All three criteria. But I'd change #3, to twice the current salary, rather than a flat number. He could be making $20K a month at his day job.

    I didn't do this and it could have gone horribly wrong, but I was only giving up a $50K a year job that I could easily have stepped back into in less than a day. But I was very lucky. My book income has remained about 10 times my old wage for four years.
    My Bestselling, 18-volume Jesse McDermitt Series and the spinoff,  5-volume Charity Styles Series, also Bestsellers, are available in ebook, audiobook, and paperback, with many more exciting adventures to come. In my motivational non-fiction, Blue Collar to No Collar, I provide tips, advice, and strategies for new authors, also available in the same formats. Don't forget to visit the Ship's Store for Jesse McDermitt swag.
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    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #22 on: July 28, 2020, 04:08:34 pm »
    Sage advice. All three criteria. But I'd change #3, to twice the current salary, rather than a flat number. He could be making $20K a month at his day job.

    I didn't do this and it could have gone horribly wrong, but I was only giving up a $50K a year job that I could easily have stepped back into in less than a day. But I was very lucky. My book income has remained about 10 times my old wage for four years.

    Wayne also makes a very good point about how easy it is to step back into some form of (part time?) employment in your current day job for the times when the writing goes through a tough period. For some jobs, it's easy. For some, once you're gone, you're gone.

    Online Flying Pizza Pie

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #23 on: July 28, 2020, 05:18:40 pm »
    It is bad advice because a "daily Starbucks addiction" has a short-term positive impact on mood and living, while the savings you get from not buying a coffee or snack from Starbucks wouldn't move the needle on one's retirement whatsoever.

    I saw an interesting post somewhere, possibly on Twitter or reddit, about a case study where someone had a low-enough income to not save anything if they spent frivolously. They asked the question, "What if I didn't pay for any of these luxuries? What if I skimped? What if I followed the advice of people in the upper crust as they look down upon 'the poors'?"

    The conclusion was that this theoretical individual removed all optional luxury from their life from their 20s to retirement age, put that money into investments... and still didn't have half the amount needed for retirement. Living as a pauper doesn't move the needle. A higher income does.

    Buying a house with a mega mortgage or luxury cars? Sure, don't do that. Buying a coffee and an avocado toast? It's a rounding error for the money you need to survive once you're out of the workforce.

    Everyone can believe what they want, but I strenuously disagree with part of this "story." The "Starbucks" example is not a "rounding error" as you put it. Just as an example, the US stock market has averaged nearly a 10% annual return  for decades. Just suppose your Starbucks expense each day is $5. And, you quit the habit and save the $5, five days a week, and put that money ($108 each month) into a stock fund such as Standard and Poor's 500 Index. After 20 years, that little $5 a day habit will have grown to $82,000. I know it's possible, I've been doing it since 2004. In 30 years the return is $240,000 and in 40 years you should accumulated $670,000. Rounding error?

    Live your life as you see fit, but if you save $100 each week - in 40-years it should grow to $2.7 million. If you didn't start until today, well, that amount might only buy you a new house when you retire. If you don't start at all, I'm sure you'll think of something else when you reach retirement.


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    Offline Patty Jansen

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #24 on: July 28, 2020, 07:16:52 pm »
    Everyone can believe what they want, but I strenuously disagree with part of this "story." The "Starbucks" example is not a "rounding error" as you put it. Just as an example, the US stock market has averaged nearly a 10% annual return  for decades. Just suppose your Starbucks expense each day is $5. And, you quit the habit and save the $5, five days a week, and put that money ($108 each month) into a stock fund such as Standard and Poor's 500 Index. After 20 years, that little $5 a day habit will have grown to $82,000. I know it's possible, I've been doing it since 2004. In 30 years the return is $240,000 and in 40 years you should accumulated $670,000. Rounding error?

    Live your life as you see fit, but if you save $100 each week - in 40-years it should grow to $2.7 million. If you didn't start until today, well, that amount might only buy you a new house when you retire. If you don't start at all, I'm sure you'll think of something else when you reach retirement.

    ^^ This a thousand times over.

    Of course, labelling people frivolous latte addicts with a penchant for Chardonnay never goes down well. It's not about accusations.

    But reducing your unnecessary recurring costs in life and business is where the magic really starts working long-term.

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