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Discussion Starter #1
First of all, hello to everyone, especially anyone who reads this! I've been a long-time lurker and figured I'd finally drop in.

So my big question for 2021 has been "do I transition into writing novels or keep doing what I'm doing?"

"What I'm doing" is writing narrative games (think of an app). I'd say I put in 10 hours a week, so let's say 500 hours a year to write one of these, and I've averaged between $6000-$8000 net income over the past few years.

As I see it, here are some pros and cons but the reason I'm throwing this out there is because you all know SO much more about Amazon/the self-pubbing environment than I do. I'm basing my knowledge on speaking with other authors, listening to podcasts and reading forums like this one.

Pros to what I'm doing now

1) Currently I can just focus on writing. I don't have to worry about promotion, ads, etc., which I know is a totally different situation than self-pubbing a traditional novel.
2) I like what I'm doing! Making narrative games lets you explore different plotlines; it's sort of a collaboration in a way between writer and reader. Super fun!
3) I never have to worry about losing money. Sure, I've written a dud or two, but they still made some $. Art, editing, etc., is all covered by the publisher, as is promotion and distribution.

Pros (as I see it) to starting to write novels

1) Even though narrative games are getting bigger, it's still a very small pond compared to the audience for traditional novels. I'm not sure how much further I can grow remaining in such a niche.
2) Narrative games take FOREVER to create, what with all the coding, branching, etc., and you have to relinguish most of the control over the protagonist to the reader. I feel I could create stories faster without these elements, perhaps writing 2 novels a year instead of writing one game a year.
3) I don't currently control distribution or anything. I write a game and submit it, and hope it does well. I'm paid royalties on sales. So yes that part can be nice, but part of me wishes I could do more to chart my own course re: getting my products out there.

(edited to add) What are my goals? I want to grow my writing business. My goal is to earn between $25K-$30K (net taxable income) yearly writing income by 2025. This would let me transition from my day job to becoming a full-time creator. The problem is that, like most people, I have a full-time job, so ramping up my income while only writing part-time has proven to be very frustrating. I don't feel like I'm building much momentum. Instead, I feel like I'm basically treading water, and I'm not sure I could ever write these narrative games more quickly than I do now. Even though yeah, I make a little money, I'm not sure how I can ever move "to the next level" if that makes any sense.

If anyone has some advice for me, I'd gladly listen. This has been on my mind for some time, and I feel I need to decide soon.
 

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What's your objective? Make more money? Work at something you enjoy regardless of the monetary benefits? Or something else entirely?

Because you could transition to writing novels 40 hours a week and still earn way less than you do now. Frankly, that's pretty much a given for most. At least initially.

But if you don't care about the money and love the craft, that's irrelevant.
 

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ImaWriter said:
What's your objective? Make more money? Work at something you enjoy regardless of the monetary benefits? Or something else entirely?

Because you could transition to writing novels 40 hours a week and still earn way less than you do now. Frankly, that's pretty much a given for most. At least initially.

But if you don't care about the money and love the craft, that's irrelevant.
Oh, I definitely want to grow my writing business. My goal is to earn between $25K-$30K (net taxable income) yearly writing income by 2025. This would let me transition from my day job to becoming a full-time creator. The problem is that, like most people, I have a full-time job, so ramping up my income while only writing part-time has proven to be very frustrating. I don't feel like I'm building much momentum. Instead, I feel like I'm basically treading water, and I'm not sure I could ever write these narrative games more quickly than I do now. Even though yeah, I make a little money, I'm not sure how I could ever move "to the next level" if that makes any sense.
 

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Earning $30K a year self-publishing your fiction within a 4-year time frame is very doable. It will require a lot of hard work, and making the right decisions where self-publishing is concerned, but it's definitely achievable.

Heck, even getting to $30K per month within 4 years is doable if you work extremely hard and smart, make prudent decisions, and if a few bounces go your way (which they tend to do the harder/smarter you work).

No, it isn't easy to do - and the vast majority never get there - but if you're asking if it's possible, the answer is a resounding 'yes'.
 

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Corvid said:
Earning $30K a year self-publishing your fiction within a 4-year time frame is very doable. It will require a lot of hard work, and making the right decisions where self-publishing is concerned, but it's definitely achievable.

Heck, even getting to $30K per month within 4 years is doable if you work extremely hard and smart, make prudent decisions, and if a few bounces go your way (which they tend to do the harder/smarter you work).

No, it isn't easy to do - and the vast majority never get there - but if you're asking if it's possible, the answer is a resounding 'yes'.
Yes, I recognize it's possible, but not likely, so there's the rub. I can keep grinding away doing what I'm doing, making basically $15-20/hour and having some fun, or I can try something different, like jumping into self-pubbing, which has more variance for me either really tanking or me doing better than I am now.

One of my greatest fears/concerns concerns genres. In the game world, players/readers/customers/users/whatever you want to call them aren't as particular about 'genre.' There are tons of genre-mashups, and some romance is sprinkled in the vast majority of them, and there's definitely a lot of freedom in writing cool stories that aren't constrained to just the tropes of one particular genre. I like fantasy, sci-fi, superhero stuff, mystery, thriller, alternative history, etc., and the prospect of being advised to just "stay in one genre," which is advice I hear given to new indie writers on a lot on podcasts, seems rather...stifiling.

I guess it all goes to show what tough spot Creatives find themselves in; in what other business would someone say, "I'd like net $30K a year after I gain 5 more years of experience/momentum," and still be afraid the answer is, "Well, it's not likely, but maybe if you play your cards right."?
 

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Why can't you still do both? You can write novels while doing other things, many people do. Work, family, schooling, all things that take up a lot of time, yet people find a way to get the writing in.

Novels tend to have an easier market to reach, which is why most people who want the best chance to make a larger income write them.
 

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unkownwriter said:
Why can't you still do both? You can write novels while doing other things, many people do. Work, family, schooling, all things that take up a lot of time, yet people find a way to get the writing in.

Novels tend to have an easier market to reach, which is why most people who want the best chance to make a larger income write them.
Yep the whole 'reach' thing is probably my main motivator to dip my toe in the water. It's a lot easier to communicate "I wrote a book and you can find it on Amazon!" than it is to communicate "I created a text game that is searchable in this library in this app you've never heard of."

Sure, I'd like to do both, but it just comes down to being realistic about time. With a full-time job, kiddos, spouse time, I'm really lucky to carve out 10 hours a week for writing. I might be able to stretch that to 15 hours a week if I started sacrificing some sleep and waking earlier. I know we all have to deal with this, and my experience is certainly not unique. I've tried "pushing myself" before where I'd work 20 hours+ on writing per week, and it created a lot of tension in my household because I was perceived as not being as available as I should be for the fam (and perhaps that was true).

So given time constraints, I think it either has to be "write another game in 2021" or "write a novel in 2021." Yeah the second option is quicker, but baked into that, I'd have to research genres and figure out what I'm going to write (something I like enough to make it a series), the ins and outs of self-pubbing, where to get a quality edit, learning formatting, figuring out KU or wide, etc." so I just feel like all of this would eat up my writing time for 2021.

Would anyone want to share their story about how much time it took them to become at least competent in self-publishing? Is it something that can be accomplished in 10-15 hours a week for a year?
 

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It just depends. If you go the easier route, formatting in Vellum (so simple that even I could learn it within a couple hours) and publishing via KDP, “learning how” to self-publish is simple as it can be. Since presumably you would be able to set up a Wordpress website yourself also. You do have to learn to write a blurb and you have to hire a cover artist and copy editor, but those things aren’t incredibly hard either. They are just tasks.

The trickier part is whether your books sell, and how quickly you can write them. I would say that virtually everyone I know who makes excellent money self publishing writes at least a couple books a year, more likely 4+. There are exceptions of course. And then how much marketing you need and how difficult you find it. That is my own least favorite part and what I do least well. If your books are very strong as far as hook, cover, blurb, writing, all the marketing will be easier.

I didn’t start writing anything until my kids were all out of the house and actually through college. No way I could have done it before that with primary (sometimes sole) responsibility for them, a 50-60 hr per week job, and all the household responsibilities on my shoulders as well. (I didn’t watch TV either, for that matter. I read before sleep and listened to audio during housework and exercise. That was my leisure.) I admire people who can, but ... family matters! Don’t shortchange your spouse and kids, is my unsolicited advice. My own spouse deeply regrets doing so. You truly do not get that time back. Life is long (usually) and has stages to it. Everybody puts off some dreams during the busiest years.

Best of luck whatever you decide.
 

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@Usedtoposthere, I appreciate the wisdom in your advice about family, I really do. It's the reason I want to be realistic about what I can hope to accomplish these next five years. My spouse and kiddos need me, and I'll need to work full-time for at least another five years before I can even think of semi-retirement, so nothing is going to change in the foreseeable future. I just need to figure out how to best use my limited time. I'm happy you've found yourself in a season of life where you can enjoy doing what you love! And congrats for launching your kiddos!

I think one of my big concerns about writing novels is how much work I fear it takes to build any real momentum. I mean, if a person can only realistically write 1-2 novels a year (at most!), won't it take at least two years before it makes any sense to throw ad money at their work? It seems the general advice is not to worry about advertising until you at least have a trilogy or something, because there's just not enough readthrough potential to make it worth your while, so basically I'd need to write for two years solid just to produce a trilogy that would make little to no money (and actually almost certainly cost me money) during those first two years? I think my spouse would be like, "What?" when I float the idea of sacrificing $12K-$16K in net income over the next two years just so I can...lose at a few thousand bucks in editing/covers for a trilogy that won't make sales for some time. That could be almost a $20K swing, so I'd understand her concern.

@Speaker-To-Animals, yup that's definitely a strong possibility! It would be a little less work, and I might be able to bring over some of my current audience, so that's a big plus! Still, I'd be essentially writing a novel from scratch. Yeah, I'd have the major plot points determined so I could use my previous game as outline, but I'd still have to do all sorts of basic stuff like...create a main character. :eek:
 

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No one can tell you what you want.

Now, can you create a 30k/year business, after a few years of publishing, working ten hours a week?

Probably, if you treat it like a business. It doesn't sound like you want to do that. Which is okay. I didn't want to treat my art like a business at first either.

Part was not wanting to worry about other people's (bad) taste. Part was internalizing the idea true artists don't worry about business/business is bad. But I really didn't want to learn to program, and I wasn't getting anywhere with conventional employment, so I learned to treat publishing as a business.

It can be a pain at times, but I like it overall. It feels good to feel in control. I prefer writing a book I believe will sell. It feels more purposeful.

It's okay if you don't want to treat this as a business, but most successful authors do.

If you find a popular ish but but overcrowded niche, publish a book or two a year in the same series, with great packaging, and some price promos ads to book one... That should get you to where you want to go. It's simple but it's not easy.

Check out Chris Fox's books for a better breakdown.
 

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Crystal_ said:
No one can tell you what you want.

Now, can you create a 30k/year business, after a few years of publishing, working ten hours a week?

Probably, if you treat it like a business. It doesn't sound like you want to do that. Which is okay. I didn't want to treat my art like a business at first either.

Part was not wanting to worry about other people's (bad) taste. Part was internalizing the idea true artists don't worry about business/business is bad. But I really didn't want to learn to program, and I wasn't getting anywhere with conventional employment, so I learned to treat publishing as a business.

It can be a pain at times, but I like it overall. It feels good to feel in control. I prefer writing a book I believe will sell. It feels more purposeful.

It's okay if you don't want to treat this as a business, but most successful authors do.

If you find a popular ish but but overcrowded niche, publish a book or two a year in the same series, with great packaging, and some price promos ads to book one... That should get you to where you want to go. It's simple but it's not easy.

Check out Chris Fox's books for a better breakdown.
Thanks so much for the response!

Actually, I do treat my writing like a business. I've had my own business account for 5 years, file schedule Cs, keep records, have my own website, social media accounts, even a Patreon page. But I have to treat it like a very part-time business because of my restraints.

And yep, I hear you about "writing books that will sell." I've written a couple of hit games and a couple of duds, so don't have my blinders on there; it's more fun writing a story people read! And I've been meaning to read Fox's book, I know it's a short read so might knock that out this weekend. Thanks!
 
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