The reality is, the majority of authors (traditional and otherwise) are not among those stories. Once you start digging you come across many articles like this one: Most Writers Earn Less. It makes more sense, and can seem a bit dismal. But don't be discouraged by reality. Instead, capitalize on it with a strategic business plan.
If you look at WHO and WHAT is making all those millions, it's easy to recognize there is absolutely no way to predict what will work with readers and what won't. The moment you think you have the formula you become that bitter author making scathing remarks on the latest Fifty Shades phenomenon about how poor the writing is (because, why didn't it happen to you?).
When I took my book into the office to show my co-workers, they all clapped me on the back and remarked, 'remember us when you're famous!' Of course, it's a common joke and we all laugh. However, I am fully aware that the likelihood of that happening is slim. Most likely, I will have a hard time making back what I invested to get them out there (editing, formatting, cover art is not cheap).
But I didn't do this for money. I did this for me. Just to have the opportunity to share my novels with a small circle of readers that loved them is enough. I've been writing all my life and although I've never penned a query letter or tried to go the 'submit and wait' route of traditional publishing, self publishing has given me the opportunity to not only release my art, but control it in every conceivable way (something that is important to me).
So what are my goals? This is what I feel is realistic for a brand new writer in a world that houses over 5 million kindle books:
- Sell 100 books in a year. (this won't happen by itself but it's possible!)
- Sell 500/1000 books within three years. (I know this moves the bar up substantially, but I have 8 novels completed (over 6 years of writing) and was projecting a bit.
- Assuming goals 1 and 2 were successful, earn up to half what I currently earn at my regular corporate job. (this one is big and without 1 and 2, not possible clearly)
Those don't seem very exciting, but I think there is a difference between GOALS and HOPES. Every writer hopes to be a bestseller, just like every musician hopes to be a breakout star. My hopes are much more in line with my dreams: BIG. But the failure of goals can be detrimental, so I made sure to separate them.
I think having realistic goals that include a one year, three year and five year stretch is motivating and essential. It's important we don't allow all those grand stories to bend our expectations into something that is going to hinder our confidence and work ethic. In other words, have your goals AND your dreams, but make sure they don't get mixed up.
If I don't meet my goals, I won't quit writing. I've been writing since the first grade because I love to do it. I will continue to do it until I can't. My goals strive the business side of writing (something I have less experience at), my dreams are all based on my heart and my love for my own characters and the world they live in.
What are your writing goals?