Author Topic: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?  (Read 2414 times)  

Offline ShaneCarrow

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Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
« Reply #25 on: July 28, 2020, 08:26:30 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.

The reason "cut the coffee" is a particular bugbear of mine is because it usually comes without that second piece of advice about actually investing your savings rather than just have them sitting in the bank. Living within your means and investing wisely and early is certainly a lesson that should be drilled into people's heads, the younger the better - but is probably not as relevant for an adult working 9-5 and contemplating whether to earn off KDP full time.

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    Offline jb1111

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #26 on: July 28, 2020, 09:21:34 pm »
    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.

    You make some very good points. I lost a day job a few years ago -- actually, a career. So I understand your point completely. That said, we all know how 'stable' indie publishing can be for many, if not most authors. I think there's a balance there. Somewhere.

    Offline jb1111

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #27 on: July 29, 2020, 03:53:49 am »
    I forgot to add that the OP also needs to consider the vagaries of the present day economy. We are not out of the woods yet.

    No one can predict where the economy will go for the rest of this year, or even into next year, and how that will affect either one's day job, or book writing income.

    Offline EmberKent

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #28 on: July 29, 2020, 08:37:17 am »
    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.

    Thank you for the correction. My post lacked nuance and was very easily countered, as you demonstrated.

    To be nitpicky (of course), saving $400+ a month is a tall order for someone living paycheque to paycheque, and this also doesn't include responses to sudden extra costs, or the natural costs of the "typical" adult experience: mortgage, having children, repairs, etc. And especially in the US, healthcare. There's also inflation and the cost of living index to keep in mind. These costs are bearable if you have a rising wage, but the unfortunate reality is that many don't get to have that, and possibly not even the chance to pursue it. For many, getting a raise to match inflation can be the exception and not the bare minimum, let alone a raise that puts you above where you were before.

    I think it's a good idea to invest in a fund, though. It doesn't take extreme financial literacy to do, and if you really can regularly invest toward it, you'll have a good egg after 40 years, just as you describe. I just hesitate to claim it's easy to invest and save when so many have their wages and avenues of opportunity suppressed. Expecting optimal financial behaviour is silly for even the most comfortable, and it seems cruel to expect it of someone who's stressed and otherwise hurting for ways to feel better about the daily grind of modern living.

    I technically waste a lot of money every month, money that could be much better spent elsewhere. But that's in an objective sense; subjectively, the money I waste is what allows me to survive to this point. If someone wasting $100 a month on Starbucks is what gets them through the day, is it truly a waste, even if it's the nail in their coffin 30-40 years from now?

    ---

    And just to make sure these posts don't get purged due to being off topic, in response to the OP... Publishing, as said by others, is mercurial and can differ greatly from one month to the next, even if you have a strict schedule in place. Personally, I'd never quit unless I had a year's worth of savings, plus an emergency fund, plus a plan for maintaining a minimum publishing income. However, that's the overly cautious part of me. Instability stresses me out and I like knowing that I'm secure. It's an incredible luxury to feel safe. I like the idea of reducing hours instead of quitting entirely, and making sure you always have a fallback in case the worst happens with your writing.

    I wouldn't worry too much about KDP arbitrarily banning you. They have reasons for what they do, and it's easy to avoid being in a position where they'd have a reason to drop the hammer. That said, this risk exists with any company you'd publish with/through. Even trad pub has exit clauses in their contracts.

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #29 on: July 29, 2020, 12:09:54 pm »
    KDP doesn't ban accounts unless they believe the author is engaging in behavior not allowed by their TOS. So as long as you read and follow the rules, KDP is stable for most authors/publishers in that sense.     

    The reliability of self-publishing income is another question. There can be a lot of variation between a good month and a bad one, even when you're doing it full time. It's not unheard of to vary by $10k from one month to the next, depending on your release schedule. Keeping the releases consistently spaced helps smooth out the drops and spikes, and so does a strong ad campaign, but there're still elements outside your control. 

    That's why I'd recommend having about a year's income put back before quitting the day job. I'd also wait until your average monthly earnings from book sales have stayed consistently high enough to live on for about a year. As others have mentioned, sometimes you get lucky and put out a series that sells big, followed by a dry spell where your next couple series aren't as successful. If you wait until you've built up your catalog a bit, you'll have more backlist to help carry you through the tough times, as well as a better idea of what sells best for you. That also gives you lots of time to work on things like ads and packaging to make sure you've got a strong handle on them.

    Of course, all of that assumes your current day job is a solid one with benefits and that it would be hard to replace if you left and had to go back later. If none of that is the case, it might be worth thinking about dropping your hours to part time so you have more freedom to really pursue self-publishing.

    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #30 on: July 29, 2020, 12:43:42 pm »
    Even a $10/day Starbucks habit is less than 5k/year. That's a nice savings, but it's nothing compared to the difference between a job as a Starbucks barista and a job as a computer programmer.

    For most people, earning more money will do more than cutting small indulgences. Small indulgences can add up. They can add up to a lot. But they aren't going to get anyone from Starbucks barista savings to computer programmer savings.

    In any case, I think KDP is as stable as Amazon. And we're all pretty screwed if Amazon folds. It's a huge part of the economy.

    Publishing isn't steady, but smart authors save the money from their good months and focus on long term stability as much as they can (publish evergreen content in easier to market series).

    The answers to this question usually assume a stable, high paying day job. Not everyone has that or can have that. I've never had a regular gig that paid well. I've had irregular gigs that paid well and regular gigs that paid poorly, but I've done way better at this job than others.

    It feels more unstable than a day job. And, to some extent, it is, because you're assuming all the risks. But day jobs are often less stable than they seem.

    It all depends on your situation.

    Offline 30yearoldboomer

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #31 on: July 29, 2020, 12:56:04 pm »
    I quit, with half this board cheering me on about five years ago. How things have changed. I went from earning a full time income to not enough by the time 2018 hit. The main genre I write in is WAY too crowded and it is impossible to make it without large ad spend and super tight marketing that's basically the same as all the the books in the Top 50.

    Before quitting, it makes sense to have several series - and to prove to yourself you're not just going to burn out (what happened to me). Some people can't handle working alone and can't be trusted to be their own taskmasters. That was me also, for a long time.

    I think the most important factor that I haven't seen anyone mention yet: just how loyal are your readers? Do they forget about you in sixth months, or do you have a base of True Fans that will buy whatever you put out, no matter what? I'd argue that last point is the most valuable in determining long term viability. I still have fans from 2012-2013 who found me after my first book back when nobody followed me.

    Put a book out every few months to those folks who read you for YOU, because you provide something no one else in the market can provide, and you will be set for life.

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #32 on: July 29, 2020, 12:58:21 pm »
    On the Mr. Money Mustache discussion, I kinda enjoy the blog but I read it for inspiration and to take away a few small tips, not with any thought of fully living by it. I believe in living within one's means, obviously, but life becomes grey and flavorless without the occasional treat. Saving a bit of money is certainly possible on a low income, I did it for years, but it becomes far easier when there's "extra" money coming in. Enough to have the little luxuries that make life enjoyable while still putting a chunk away for the future. That's where the blog can be useful, getting a person's thoughts flowing in directions that might start them growing a little side-income stream somewhere.

    I find strong talk inspirational and motivating, whether it comes from Money Mustache or a workout instructor but, at the end of the day, what I really aim for is moderation. :)

    Offline MawBTS

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #33 on: July 29, 2020, 10:43:35 pm »
    When reading the posts in this thread, remember survivorship bias.

    You're hearing (disproportionately) from people who have been hacking away at it for years - learning, studying, and trying different things. By and large, you're not hearing from the people who tried it in 2015, failed, gave up, and now work in landscaping. Those people would have no reason to post in a self-publishing forum in 2020.

    A random sampling of self-published authors would probably be less encouraging.

    Offline aimeeeasterling

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #34 on: July 31, 2020, 08:49:36 am »
    Like several others, I'm not particularly worried about KDP closing my account for no reason. However, when writing was our household's full-time living (still is) and I was in KDP Select, the income roller coaster was nerve-wracking. Since going wide, I probably make about the same amount of money annually, but there are no big dips between my three-times-a-year releases.

    If you're not really good at saving for a rainy day (which I actually am) or at not chewing off your fingernails when you have a few low months back to back (which I'm very much not), I recommend going wide before going full-time. Or at least diversify into audio to give yourself another revenue source.

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    Offline Wayne Stinnett

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #35 on: July 31, 2020, 02:03:56 pm »
    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.

    In my case, I can no longer go back into trucking. My vision was borderline when I quit and after four eye surgeries there's zero chance of passing a CDL physical. I let my CDL expire years ago, so I'd actually have to go to a truck driving school and then go out with a trainer who probably wouldn't have a tenth of my experience.

    So, it's this or Walmart greeter.
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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #36 on: August 04, 2020, 04:05:48 am »
    Nothing is stable in this world as far as income, and hasn't been for about three decades. Back in the day, you could get a job and work at that company for the rest of your working life. These days, you can't guarantee you'll be anywhere six months from now. Writing as a career has never been a stable job for more than maybe one percent of those pursuing it.

    As others have said, getting a KDP account closed isn't the nightmare you think it is. It happens when people screw up, or keep screwing up after warnings. Those big name authors who lost their account? Due to their own mistakes, arrogance and actions. None of it came out of the blue, despite what they say. Keep your actions clean, don't associate with those who take risky actions, and you'll be fine in that regard. And don't forget, any retail site can refuse to sell your work, at any time, for any reason (read those TOSs you signed closely).

    As to those who tout giving up everything "frivolous" and saving? I've lived far too many years where there were no luxuries, where scraping up gas money and another dollar or two for enough groceries was the norm. Doing without everything. No new clothes, no new car (or new to us), no new furniture. Watching everything age and fall apart, knowing you can't afford to replace it. Hoping the car makes it another year, or that repairs won't cost more than a few dollars. It's demoralizing. It's depressing. It makes you feel even more worthless when people spout off about "just give up that Starbucks", when you've never had a Starbucks anything, and likely never will. Instead of offering ways to get things done, finding a way to work around not having money, you get lectured about saving money you don't have.

    That's not to say that there aren't often ways to cut back, to scrape up money, but it's truly not feasible for every single person and it's not helpful to insist it is, or to hint around that people are lazy, or stupid, or lying about their situation.

    Online Usedtoposthere

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    Re: How stable is KDP to rely on as a primary source of revenue?
    « Reply #37 on: August 04, 2020, 08:40:22 am »
    Nothing is stable in this world as far as income, and hasn't been for about three decades. Back in the day, you could get a job and work at that company for the rest of your working life. These days, you can't guarantee you'll be anywhere six months from now. Writing as a career has never been a stable job for more than maybe one percent of those pursuing it.

    As others have said, getting a KDP account closed isn't the nightmare you think it is. It happens when people screw up, or keep screwing up after warnings. Those big name authors who lost their account? Due to their own mistakes, arrogance and actions. None of it came out of the blue, despite what they say. Keep your actions clean, don't associate with those who take risky actions, and you'll be fine in that regard. And don't forget, any retail site can refuse to sell your work, at any time, for any reason (read those TOSs you signed closely).

    As to those who tout giving up everything "frivolous" and saving? I've lived far too many years where there were no luxuries, where scraping up gas money and another dollar or two for enough groceries was the norm. Doing without everything. No new clothes, no new car (or new to us), no new furniture. Watching everything age and fall apart, knowing you can't afford to replace it. Hoping the car makes it another year, or that repairs won't cost more than a few dollars. It's demoralizing. It's depressing. It makes you feel even more worthless when people spout off about "just give up that Starbucks", when you've never had a Starbucks anything, and likely never will. Instead of offering ways to get things done, finding a way to work around not having money, you get lectured about saving money you don't have.

    That's not to say that there aren't often ways to cut back, to scrape up money, but it's truly not feasible for every single person and it's not helpful to insist it is, or to hint around that people are lazy, or stupid, or lying about their situation.
    Well said. On all counts.

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