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You can't measure fulltime-worthiness by prose in a single story.

You can write the most engaging story with the best prose, but no one will buy it if you're not marketing. A single story? You want to be gauged on your potential for being a full time writer based on a single story?

When you're a full time writer, you don't sell books. You sell your ability to produce more books at a steady clip. Fellow writers are not the judge of your writing. Readers are.

When I go to your page, I see a single book with two reviews. That book was also there when I joined the KB in 2012. I hazard a guess you won't be able to make a living at this for quite some time, not unless you get more product out. Or unless you've got a buttload of stuff coming up that's not yet on your page.
 

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Funny story.

I used to know this old fellow who played the violin. He had records out and his picture in the newspapers and the Queen even curtsied to him once or twice, or she might just have dropped her hankie.

He told me about this second fellow who walked into his studio one day and begged the old fellow to just listen to him play, just once.

"Just tell me if I am good enough to play professionally," the second fellow begged.

So the old fellow said okay and he listened while the second fellow played.

Was he any good?

How the heck should I know? Remember, I'm just telling the story here. My ears were nowhere close to the second fellow's fiddle.

"Was I any good?" the second fellow asked the master violinist, who always preferred to be known that way rather than just calling him "the old fellow".

"You lack the fire," the master violinist said.

Well, I guess ten years later that second fellow ran into the master violinist in the street.

No, he wasn't driving a car when he ran into him. He was just walking and he was grinning ear to ear.

"I want to thank you for telling me that I did not have the fire," the second fellow said to the master violinist. "I have put away my fiddle and now I work for the tax bureau and I own a house and I have a wife and three fine children and I am happier than ham and eggs."

The master violinist gently chuckled.

"You need not thank me," he said. "The truth is I tell that to everybody who plays for me. I always tell them that they lack the fire."

The second fellow was horrified.

"You rotten-eyed son of a bear," he swore. "You told me that and I gave up my fiddle and if I had not listened to you I might be a master fiddle player right about now - or at least a pretty good one."

"That's just it," the master violinist said. "If you DID have the fire you wouldn't have listened to me in the first place."

***********************

I'm telling the story - not to be a wise guy although I do have a third level black in wise-guy-sery.

I'm just telling it because I've been to tell it out for some time now. I'm going to post it up on my blog so that all three of my loyal readers, counting my cat, can read it and chuckle - because a chuckle is better than a cup of coffee to start your day with.

Let's get serious for a minute.

It would be nice if everyone here read your story and said you were brilliant - and maybe you are - but my advice to you would be to keep on writing the way that you are for awhile. Do NOT give up the day job until you have built up a little bit of a cash mattress in your savings account, like about a year's worth of expenses. Meanwhile, keep on writing your books.

The REAL barometer that you need pay attention to will be your bank account. If you start seeing three or four pre-decimal-point digits worth of deposit falling into your account from your writing THEN you ought to ask yourself the question you are asking today.

If you go to work and tell your boss what you really think of him right now, odds are you are going to be so stressed out in a month or two when you are writing as fast as you can and collecting up a heap of collections noticing and wondering if you can hook up a hamster to your computer because the power company has pulled the switch...and you are going to suddenly find yourself too stressed to write.

Don't be in a hurry.

If you are good enough - and LUCKY enough - you will get to where you want to be with your writing.

Think about your first book as being your first date with the most beautiful woman on the planet who knows how to cook. This ISN'T the time to start making forever plans and calling up a caterer and rolling up pennies for an engagement ring.

Take it slow.

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Give yourself time and build up a strong back catalogue and then when you have five or six or eighteen or twenty big fat zombie novels (or whatever you decide to write) rolling in those three or four or five digit monthly checks THEN think about pulling that pin.

Most of all just try and have fun with it for a while. 
 

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I'm in a similar place to you, John. Full-time job, making up the writing time by stealing it from sleepytime, easily distracted (my own Achilles heel is acting. I tell myself doing one show a year is fine. I've done two this year already, and there's at least one more on the horizon).

But keep at it, keep at it. Build up as much interest and income with your parallel lives as you can before making the plunge, of course, but why not?
 

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If you are willing to make such a drastic change (quit your job!), can you make less drastic ones? Because if I boil your question down, it's the same thing I'm grappling with right now - how can I carve out some kind of quality of life while writing and working, or do I have to resign myself to no sleep/no exercise forever?

Can you move closer to work, eliminating that 3 hour commute? That'll free up time to write.
Do you live where you can take transit? You can write on the train.
If you can't do that, can you buy/train Dragon so you can dictate as you drive?
Can you talk to your boss about working from home one or two days a week? That'll free up commute time.
Or can you find another job, closer to you, even if you end up taking a pay cut?

 

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TaraCrescent said:
If you are willing to make such a drastic change (quit your job!), can you make less drastic ones? Because if I boil your question down, it's the same thing I'm grappling with right now - how can I carve out some kind of quality of life while writing and working, or do I have to resign myself to no sleep/no exercise forever?

Can you move closer to work, eliminating that 3 hour commute? That'll free up time to write.
Do you live where you can take transit? You can write on the train.
If you can't do that, can you buy/train Dragon so you can dictate as you drive?
Can you talk to your boss about working from home one or two days a week? That'll free up commute time.
Or can you find another job, closer to you, even if you end up taking a pay cut?
Tara is wise. I'm going to go ahead and try to put out a concise summary of my last four years for perspective. In the Kboards, you'll find tons of success stories. I'm envious of every one of them, but somewhere someone is surely jealous of mine. I am a "full-time author," in quotes not because I don't know how to use them correctly but because full-time capability has netted me no more writing time. In fact, I've become more the housewife now that I'm no longer going to a job, tending appointments, household finances, any arising problems, and a host of animal-related issues on a daily basis.I'm on my sixth novel in four years (not lightning speed by any means and technically seven, but one was a practice novel), one of which was picked up by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon publishing) and another which got me a film option from a reputable Hollywood veteran. To hear those things one might figure (wrongly) that I'm living on Easy Street. I'm here to say no way. I had about a year of solid income (not "living money" but better than a grand a month) and then whatever happened (KU2, a book contract, and several other things) dropped my income by more than half. Then by half again. See, I'm full-time because I'm one of the lucky "financially independent" folks, again, not really, but we can live comfortably on my husband's salary and chose to do so when my grandfather became terminally ill. He needed me and I did what needed to be done for him, including quitting a good paying full-time job. Continuing to write has been made possible not because I keep publishing books or had a couple of small successes (SMALL), but because the husband can carry us. If you don't have a safety net, don't quit. That's my advice. It sounds to me like you're asking that question far too early anyway, but no matter how much you can write it doesn't guarantee you can sell--even if you're good. Even if you're great. Success in this business takes so much and to be self-supporting from it is rarer than you'd guess from surfing the KBoards. I hope you get there and I wish you a lot of luck, but be careful. As someone who does this gig FT, who doesn't do nearly as well financially as many others here, there's an opposing viewpoint to all the success stories. You don't want to quit a job you need and find out you're one of them.
 

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The trouble with this business is, it's so very, very unpredictable. You might have a whole catalog of books that sell pretty well -- then Amazon may do some more tinkering and completely change the playing field. (Lots of KBoarders can tell you how their income plummeted when KU 2.0 came around.) The genre you write in may become unpopular for whatever reason. Readers may simply get tired of your books and move on to something new and shiny. You just never know.

I always say, in your daydreams you can say and do whatever you please! On those days when the day job is too much to bear, let your imagination run wild. Picture yourself being the next Hugh Howey, traveling around the world. But while you're doing that, keep building your catalog. Write more books! Lots more books. Build things up so that when a reader discovers you, you've got lots of shiny things to offer them.

I was in a position 2 years ago that I could step down from my day job and spend a lot more time writing. But I also work as a freelance editor to bring in enough income to pay the bills -- because my books only earn a small amount. (Microscopic, compared to some of the folks here.) Even that's very unpredictable, but I keep working, keep hoping... and spend some time every day picturing myself as the next big thing. :)

I wish you LOTS of luck with your writing! But my advice is to plan carefully, make sure you've got a safety cushion, and take things one step at a time.
 

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John,

This is a great topic and I'm learning much about fellow authors here as well as my own situation. I have 6 books out and am not a "full-time writer" because I'm not bringing in the money I would need to support my family. So I'm working full-time, getting up when it's dark, and I write. I work/commute 11 hours of my day and use whatever free time I have to write, network, research all while trying to have work/life balance--spending time with my kids, training for half-marathons, etc.

Some days it sucks. It really does.

But Steve's story about the violin hit home to me. When I was young and in college, I told my professors that I wanted to be a novelist. They warned me not to do that because I'd never make any money. I listened and shopped around one novel for about a decade. I wrote short stories on the side, wrote a sequel to the first novel but never went anywhere with any of it.

Then the ebook revolution came and I realized that I had a chance to try my hand. I have failed, failed, failed and failed again seeing only modest gains in making money. But what I'm learning from writing is also helping with my day job. I'm trying really hard to marry the two: The online marketing skills I am learning from marketing my books helps me at work. My website launches and project management at my day job helps me with building my website.

It's not an easy thing, but I'm juggling both a full-time job and writing. The challenge is finding some sort of healthy balance. I've been writing and releasing books about one a year. I wish I could do more but then I'd have to see less of my kids and wife. And, when I'm dying, I don't think I'm going to say that I wished I would have written one more book over seeing my kids grow and laughing and playing with them and seeing the smile in my wife's face as we play a game with our kids.

All of this is to say: Being a "full-time writer"TM is not the holy grail. I don't believe it would solve any of my problems. Reading, writing more, networking more, being open to new ideas and the like is what I'm finding that helps me. I can toss my violin away and have a hell of a lot more time, but then, would I really be happy? Nope, I wouldn't.

Tara and Belinda's suggestions about rethinking your job, commuting and the like are spot on. All are really great solutions. Good luck!
 

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Nothing to do with being 'worthy'. Do you want it? How bad do you want it? Are you willing to make sacrifices and give up some things to get more time to writing, learning, and publishing? Can you do it consistently, week in and week out and still feel the joy from writing? Start slow, finding 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, then more every day to write something, and keep at it. If you want to be a full time writer, take the steps to get there.

That's exactly what I'm doing now and partly why I set myself a ridiculous 3 novels in 3 months challenge on top of a day job and a 6-month old baby and all the other life stuff that crops up (funerals, volunteer work, etc.). I've given up a lot of things to give myself more time to write and publish and read, and so far, I don't miss any of the stuff I've given up because writing and publishing is such a joy, and it's an awesome feeling to be actively driving toward something I want, which is to be able to make just enough off my writing to quit my day job and turn writing into the full-time gig, as opposed to being a full-time gig on top of another full-time gig.

Good luck!
 

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Love those responses from Patty and Steve! So good.

I wasn't going to post, but I feel like maybe I should because I've had the same thoughts as you recently. I got the writing itch around 2011 or 2012 and decided to start my own publishing company. Originally, it was going to be comic book focused but then I met someone who was an author and who had been published by New York. Unfortunately, he's not very tech savvy so I offered to help him out. We got his books up and things started happening at a pretty good click. Meanwhile, I finally got something of my own together. A little non-fiction book. A year and a half later, I've now sold over 1000 copies of this book between paper and ebook. The other author? Nothing but crickets. For sake of comparison, I have just the 1 title and he has 4 novels, 6 novellas, and a box set.

Now sure, one could say I got lucky in comparison, but I think there was something else at play:

1. I kinda wrote to market without knowing what write to market was at the time.
2. I satisfied a niche, with a strong focus on keywords, etc.

What does all this have to do with anything?

Well... both of us want to go full time. We have since Day One, but there's a key difference between us, I think. One is making writing a priority, the other isn't. Now hold on, you could say. Didn't I just say up top that I haven't released anything in over a year and half? I sure did, but during that time frame I took on a new job. And it was working bloody overnights, if you can believe it. I had never done that before and let me tell you, it's freakin brutal. Less than 6 hrs sleep, you essentially only have 1 day off a week because you lose the other one to sleep, etc etc. I didn't write at all for a year because I honestly felt like I had no time to do it. I'd wake up at 6 pm and be out the door by 9:45 pm. Then come home again at 7:30 am the next day, sometimes as late as 10am. Being a manager sucks, btw.

So that's where I was come Jan 2016 and right around then or maybe Feb, I hit rock bottom and almost gave up the dream. But then something happened. I started telling myself I could do it and that I should at least try to make a go of it. I think this was around the time that I started reading Chris Fox's non-fiction books, too. Fwiw. Tracking your word count was a big deal to me. Not the words per hour part of it. I just wanted to write whenever I could.

I started what would be my 3rd novel Jan 31/16. (I did write one before the overnight job and half of the sequel to it) (I ended up unpublishing the novel because I ended Bk. 1 on a freakin cliffhanger and lost all momentum when I finally got that overnight job.) Anyway, back to present day--- I'm 3/4 of the way thru the first draft. So all that talk about me having no time? Yeah, it was there. Somewhere. I chipped away at the book whenever I could. And I'm talkin' CHIPPED. 100 words one day, 249 the next, 56 the day after that. I finally started hitting some 1000+ days on my day off.

Anyway, this is probably getting long. So to wrap this up...

I know what it takes to go full time (in theory, anyway) and it really IS more books. (A series probably can't hurt, either, judging by other authors.) So I've got a plan now. A publishing schedule. It's ambitious, but it's a plan, and I've also got two loose Go Full Time dates. But basically, I'm gonna build a backlog of books so I can capitalize on the 30/60/90 cliffs. In theory, it should work, it's just a matter of how long it takes to get there. But really, there's no way I'd ever get there if I didn't plan for it, want it, and work at it.

I think that's going to make a world of difference between myself and the other author.
 

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In some ways, being successful as an author is like being successful playing baseball.

The majors are filled with folks who have managed, through talent, hard work or both, to leverage their abilities to make money. For simplicity, let's say their author counterparts are those who make at least $10,000 per month.

The minors, from A to AAA, are filled with folks who want to play baseball for a living, but haven't yet been able to reach the majors. Let's say their author counterparts are those making between $1,000 and $7,000 per month. They have dreams of making it to the "Big Show." For all but a few, those dreams will remain unrealized and they will eventually quit.

And of course, parks throughout the world are littered with hobbyists who play on the evenings and weekends. They don't make any money (in fact, participating may cost them money), but they enjoy themselves. Playing the game is their reward. Let's say their author counterparts are those who sell a few books a month. They love to write, but haven't developed the marketing chops to gain exposure and give their books visibility. They don't "train."

KBoards has a few major leaguers: Howey, Blake, Stinnett, Annie, etc. The rest of use are either in the minor leagues or are hobbyists. Most of us will never reach the majors. Some of us will "stick" in the minors and make a livable wage. But the majority of us will be consigned to play in parks and local fields for little to no pay.

@OP - before you quit your job, figure out whether you're in the majors, minors (A, AA, or AAA), or at the park. Then, figure out if you have a realistic plan to make the majors, or at the very least sticking in AAA. If you're not there right now, and lack a realistic plan to get there before your savings implode, don't quit your job.

Many kids dream of playing pro ball. All but a few will have to eventually give up on that dream.



 

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Anarchist said:
In some ways, being successful as an author is like being successful playing baseball.

The majors are filled with folks who have managed, through talent, hard work or both, to leverage their abilities to make money. For simplicity, let's say their author counterparts are those who make at least $10,000 per month.

The minors, from A to AAA, are filled with folks who want to play baseball for a living, but haven't yet been able to reach the majors. Let's say their author counterparts are those making between $1,000 and $7,000 per month. They have dreams of making it to the "Big Show." For all but a few, those dreams will remain unrealized and they will eventually quit.

And of course, parks throughout the world are littered with hobbyists who play on the evenings and weekends. They don't make any money (in fact, participating may cost them money), but they enjoy themselves. Playing the game is their reward. Let's say their author counterparts are those who sell a few books a month. They love to write, but haven't developed the marketing chops to gain exposure and give their books visibility. They don't "train."

KBoards has a few major leaguers: Howey, Blake, Stinnett, Annie, etc. The rest of use are either in the minor leagues or are hobbyists. Most of us will never reach the majors. Some of us will "stick" in the minors and make a livable wage. But the majority of us will be consigned to play in parks and local fields for little to no pay.

@OP - before you quit your job, figure out whether you're in the majors, minors (A, AA, or AAA), or at the park. Then, figure out if you have a realistic plan to make the majors, or at the very least sticking in AAA. If you're not there right now, and lack a realistic plan to get there before your savings implode, don't quit your job.

Many kids dream of playing pro ball. All but a few will have to eventually give up on that dream.
I agree with what you are saying but there's another side to it too and that's looking at your needs. If you are single, no dependents and no debt, and live somewhere with a reasonable cost of living, you can be in the minor leagues and be doing well. I mean $7K a month is nothing to sneeze at.

The other difference is that if you play ball and you have a good game/match or whatever they call it in basketball, it's gone. It's in the past. Sure you might be able to relive that glory but you can slap a new cover and blurb on it and do a bunch of promoting.

In terms of the OP, it's not just about what you can achieve as a full time writer but what your needs are now and in the future.
 

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kathrynoh said:
I agree with what you are saying but there's another side to it too and that's looking at your needs. If you are single, no dependents and no debt, and live somewhere with a reasonable cost of living, you can be in the minor leagues and be doing well. I mean $7K a month is nothing to sneeze at.

The other difference is that if you play ball and you have a good game/match or whatever they call it in basketball, it's gone. It's in the past. Sure you might be able to relive that glory but you can slap a new cover and blurb on it and do a bunch of promoting.

In terms of the OP, it's not just about what you can achieve as a full time writer but what your needs are now and in the future.
Those are excellent points Kathryn.

Also to OP: keep in mind that your writing income may fluctuate from month to month. If you need $5,000 to make your monthly nut, it's risky to quit your job after making $5,000 for two or three months.
 

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I would say you're ready to go full-time when you have a reasonable expectation of income from your books, and a contingency plan for what you'll do if things start to head south. Generally, people like to get a steady flow of income before they quit their full time job. Enough that they can survive on that, even if it's not the perfect amount.

But, again everyone's different. There are people who save six months of income and quit their job with the plan to follow their dream. But they have a backup plan of things they can do to bring in additional income while they work on their dream. You have to decide your level of risk tolerance on this. If you only have one book, then that's probably not ideal. If you've got 9 manuscripts that you intend to clean up (1 per month) and release, then maybe it's going to work.

My own personal level of risk tolerance would want me to have an idea of the income I could make prior to quitting my job. But, that's me.  Whatever you decide, you need to look at what you think the worst case scenario could be and how you'd plan to deal with that. If you've got a plan that allows you to cope with worst case scenario in a way that you'd still be happy, then go for it. If not, then delay until you figure that out.
 

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Steve Vernon said:
The REAL barometer that you need pay attention to will be your bank account. If you start seeing three or four pre-decimal-point digits worth of deposit falling into your account from your writing THEN you ought to ask yourself the question you are asking today.

If you go to work and tell your boss what you really think of him right now, odds are you are going to be so stressed out in a month or two when you are writing as fast as you can and collecting up a heap of collections noticing and wondering if you can hook up a hamster to your computer because the power company has pulled the switch...and you are going to suddenly find yourself too stressed to write.

...Give yourself time and build up a strong back catalogue and then when you have five or six or eighteen or twenty big fat zombie novels (or whatever you decide to write) rolling in those three or four or five digit monthly checks THEN think about pulling that pin.

Most of all just try and have fun with it for a while.
Best advice possible. Said way nicer than I was going to! ;D
 

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There are a lot of intangibles about writing full time that people forget as well. Writing full time is not as glamorous as it sometimes sounds. It takes a surprising amount of discipline to set a routine in which you sit alone at your desk typing away for hours without seeing anybody. I set a schedule to go walk around the neighborhood at the halfway point of every day, and sometimes I feel like a bit of a hermit shuffling out into the sun for the first time. Occasionally I look back at the work week and think, damn, outside of my family I can't recall a single engaging conversation I had with anybody. But the bottom line is I did a lot of great writing and I get to do what I love.

Another sticky point is that it can often be hard to track real progress in this business. As some have pointed out, it's very volatile to begin with, but since sales often hinge so much on promotions, it's hard to find a true baseline to see if, in fact, you are really selling more every day. If your marketing is working. There's very little validation, and that's something that took me a while to get used to.

Plus, just as an aside, the financial realities of things are always worse than you think. That 7k a month that we're all trying to shoot for is more like 4-5k after taxes. After various health and life and disability insurances and whatnot it can look like 3-4k.

I know this seems dour, but these are the types of things people often forget when they make the plunge. But again, you get to write for a living! Answer to nobody but yourself! And depending on who you are, that might be worth it right there.
 

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One more thing to consider...

Amazon could, at any time, decide to lower the percentage paid to authors. We've grown accustomed to receiving 70% for books priced between $2.99 and $9.99 (and books on Countdown). But remember, the rate was 35% years ago. It could go back to that, demolishing your income stream if you're exclusive.

Even if you go wide, there's a high likelihood that Amazon will comprise a majority of your sales. There are exceptions - Patty is one of them if I remember correctly - but the exceptions define the rule.


 
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I think you're looking at it the wrong way. The question isn't "are you full time worthy?" The question is "can you make a sustainable financial return from writing alone?"

How much are you making? Can you live on your current book sales without needing another income source? Most people don't make the jump to full time until their income is at a certain level that makes it possible to quit the day job. I didn't quit mine until I was making a comfortable amount and I knew the increase productivity would cover the lost income.

If full time is your goal, that's great. Now you need to make it happen. Which means having a sufficient back catalogue generating a base income and a level of productivity to sustain momentum.
 

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There are way too many factors for there to be one answer. If you are 25, no kids, a spouse who makes six figures a year, then you can go full time without worrying about money (assuming the spouse is on the same page). If you have three kids and live in an expensive city, you might need to wait until you have two years of living expense banked to go full time.

It's about priorities. If writing is your priority, you'll rearrange your life around it. But that isn't necessarily a good thing for your health and happiness. Sometimes it's better to keep it a hobby and have a consistent job.
 
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