Last week I spent time hanging out with some of my friends. One of the guys there was raving about an energy drink he’s currently working as a marketer for. He explained the whole system and was extremely gung-ho about it, convinced we should all give it a try and could become millionaires through the company’s system.
Some of these companies are legitimate and you can make tons of money, but there are plenty of scams out there too, just like in the publishing world. Still, I didn’t say anything about that. What I did say was “thanks for the information, I’m too busy working on writing and editing my books”.
His response? “That’s fair. Books are a great way of creating passive residual income.”
I didn’t say anything, but it was extremely hard not to. There are several things I could have said, but I didn’t want to get in the debate right then and there. Instead, I’m going to explain the realities of passive residual income from books here, and hope that it will help you–because frankly, it wouldn’t have helped that guy anyway. It would have become a pointless argument, when really, all I would do would be point out the following realities:
1. You make a lot more money with non-fiction. Or perhaps, you are a lot more likely to make money with non-fiction. People are always learning, and as a fantasy writer, you have no idea how often I hear “I only read non-fiction”. And while there are a limited number of fantasy fans and different ways you can take it, you can write non-fiction about ANYTHING and for ANYONE. There’s a huge market for non-fiction depending on your exact subject, and you’re way more likely to make good money on a non-fiction book.
2. Most publishers give horrible contracts. In fact, in traditional publishing, 12% is a pretty big royalty. It’s really, really hard to make good money when you’re getting 12% of $10.00. The advantage a publisher gives you is prestige and sometimes–but not often–a marketing budget. Ebooks give you better royalties, but there’s tons of competition and lots of people still don’t read ebooks. Any way you look at it, getting published is hard, and making a living off your published work isn’t any easier. Yes, the income created by royalties is passive income in a sense, but without writing more books and staying active on social media, you won’t make much money at all, certainly not enough to live well off of.
3. I don’t write for money. Well, I do, but I don’t write JUST for money, and money has almost nothing to do with why I write novels. It has everything to do with why I write freelance articles on different subjects, but it doesn’t have much to do with most of my writing. The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer is going to be a free ebook for the foreseeable future, and I have no way of knowing when my novels will bring me money–or even if they will, as much as I’ve had hundreds of people express interest in my books.
Writing fiction with a focus on money is a fool’s errand. Freelance writing can be extremely profitable, but it’s still incredibly difficult. If I could picture myself being happy in any other career, you bet I’d take it. Get off the keyboard and actually make a steady income every month? Hell yeah, that sounds like a great idea! But I could never give up my writing, regardless of the money, and all the best writers have said the same thing, if not in the exact same words:
I write because I can’t not write, not for passive residual income, not to please other people, not even truly to please myself, but because I literally can’t not write.
Why do you write? Do you see books primarily as a source of income or as a labour of love?