Eight years ago, exactly at the 26th of May 2013, I published my first book.
When I had hit the ‘publish’ button, I secretly hoped for things every first-time writing greenhorn dreams about: fame and money. And maybe a little bit of the writer’s lifestyle – working as much as I wanted, when I wanted, and doing only the things I enjoyed doing.
You know, the type of fame, money, and writer’s lifestyle which is portrayed in dumb Hollywood productions and even dumber TV series: an author is someone who does nothing, all the time, and cashes in checks every month.
The harsh reality is much different. A few years ago, Author Earnings portal made an extensive research and they concluded only about 10,000 authors on Amazon made more than $10,000 a year. It makes an economic sense. Writing is one of the most competitive occupations in the world. I published my first book paying just $5 for a cover. Anybody can write and publish nowadays.
Thus, the payoff is democratized. You need to work your ass off to make a living as a writer. And it’s hard to do, when you already work your ass off in your day job.
However, within eight years as an author I got my share of money, fame and lifestyle. And many other things I didn’t even imagine. Here goes the list of the surprising benefits of being an author.
1. Time Flexibility.
I was able to downsize my day job to 10 hours a week, and my royalties had something to do with that. Also, writing itself is a very flexible occupation.
My first books were written almost entirely during my commute to and from work. The railroad I had been using was in reconstruction, and travelling 30 miles to the capital took me almost two hours. In one direction!
Being self-published contributed immensely to my time flexibility. I was the one who determined the timelines and deadlines. I wrote and published my first booklet in 49 days. It’s a crazy speed for the traditional publishing. When I was overwhelmed, I could slow down. I published only four books since September 2016. When I started my own business, I scaled down my writing from 1,000 to 600 words a day.
Back in 2012, I realized I needed to own a business to achieve the lifestyle I yearned for my family. The problem was, I had no clue what kind of business nor how to operate any business. That’s why I started writing. What a dumb idea – to write for money! (see the statistics above).
In 2019, I officially started a business, and I was providing this service to authors since 2017. I run Amazon ads for self-published authors. I learned advertising in 2016, and it saved my author career. It quadrupled my sales.
Nowadays, the main bulk of my income is writing-related. Royalties provide about 15-20% of my income. Advertising books provides an additional 40% or so. Even the income streams that have very little to do with writing – coaching and speaking gigs – are mostly book-induced. I have a few faithful coaching clients who found me through my books. I got paid by Bellevue University for a webinar because they found my book on Amazon. I get some affiliate income from pimping Publisher Rocket – the best Amazon keyword research tool in the world – to authors.
3. Financial Stability.
I make only about 30% of my original day job salary working quarter-time. And it’s a good thing.
In 2009, I was laid off from my IT day job. It was the only source of income my family had. Overnight, we lost 100% of our income. That was a scary time.
Now, I have a day job (which I keep for my wife’s peace of mind and social security benefits), my business, book royalties, audiobook royalties, three coaching clients are paying me every month. I have multiple tiny income streams, like that affiliate income I mentioned, or royalties from Medium, and numerous 1-time gigs – webinars, consulting, book description writing, translation deals, etc.
I can lose any stream of income and my lifestyle would be only slightly affected. I had never had such security being an employee.
I haven’t been overly focused on my publishing activities lately. Writing took a back seat in my life. It’s still there, but it consumes only about 10% of my time and brainpower.
Yet, when I published my latest book in December 2020, I sold almost 1,000 copies in the first month. How come? My connections.
A few of my author friends shared my book with their audiences. It was enough to generate over 50% of the sales volume.
Also, my connections helped me to produce the book. My friend made a cover for me and did the formatting.
Right now, I’m in the midst of the next book launch, The Remarkable Power of Consistency. Again, everything was done “in the spare time.” I needed just one phone call and a couple of emails to have a professional cover designed. I contacted my favorite editor and all I needed to do was to accommodate to her schedule. I wrote an email to my previous proofreader and she happily agreed to check out the whole thing. I sent an email broadcast to my list, and dozens of people agreed to become members of my launch team.
But it illustrates only my book-world connections. I built many others. In December, I reached out to my millionaire mentor. He immediately jumped on the call with me.
My former customer introduced me to his friend in March. It turned into a $350 gig, and it’s just the beginning.
The possibilities I have access to now, are vastly greater than at the beginning of my journey.
I’m a very bad role model of the successful author. I do very little marketing and I do it half-haphazardly. Seriously, it’s not a recipe for success. Yet, I still sold over 2,300 copies on Amazon in the last 90 days; and I gave away another free 1,700 copies.
As the story of publishing The Remarkable Power of Consistency shows, I can get decent results with minimal effort because I leverage my experience.
I know who to contact and what to do. I know all the steps. I know the best promotional and marketing venues. I don’t need to wonder and ponder, I just execute.
I still got my share of author fame. Millions of people read my stuff online. Over 100,000 people read my books. The online fame is easier to stand than what celebrities experience. I was never recognized on the street. 😉 When some troll wants to make me a target, I simply block them out.
The best thing about my modest “fame” is that it increases my reach. I can help more people. At the beginning of 2020, I was interviewed on the biggest Polish podcast. Over 10,000 people watched it on YouTube, and God only knows how many listened to the audio version. I gave away an hour of my time, and I reached thousands of people.
The more I’m ‘out there,’ the more I can help, sometimes in totally unexpected ways. Look at this comment I got on Quora:
Isn’t it amazing? I help Steve to get back his hope for life. This is priceless.
Financial stability is one thing. But I also earn about 100% more than eight years ago. As I explained above, a relatively small part of my income comes directly from writing, but about 80% of my income has been created in the last eight years. Book royalties, publishing deals, webinars, coaching, affiliate sales – I earned money from those sources for the first time in my life.
Doubling our household income made some dreams come true. We bought a home! Book royalties from my first bestseller – Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day – were instrumental in that purchase. If not for that money, we couldn’t afford our contribution.
I travelled to the States a few times and met folks who I knew only online – friends and mentors. I was a couple of times on vacation with my wife – in Bulgaria and on Crete.
Do you know what else I could do? Hire people. My sons gained some hands-on experience and learned how it is to work for money in their teens. I helped a sister from my church community to pay off some consumer loans which were weighing very heavily on her.
I hired a Virtual Assistant from the Philippines, and the meager $400 I pay her for half-time hours is the only income she has. I was never able to tithe as much as I wanted to, but thanks to my writing and business activities, I could pay thousands of dollars to people in need.
8. The Real Reward.
The truly surprising – and overarching – reward for being an author is exactly this: being. I’ve become a better version of myself. The practice of putting my thoughts on paper every single day for years has a lot to do with my growth.
And indeed, I grew. It’s not just a subjective feeling. The host of the biggest Polish business podcast Mała Wielka Firma (Small Big Company) said during the introduction of my interview: “I got to know his story and thought: Wow, what a man!”
Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from Phillip Morris Poland: “Would you be interested in providing a webinar about productivity for our company?” Last week I received an email from Scribd; they offered to create an audio course from my content.
How come I’m getting such inquiries? I did the work. I grew. Now, I can provide value to others.
Well, I have been doing it for the last eight years for my readers and that’s the real reward. Money is just the byproduct.
Writing is a lonely occupation. You need to fight a lot of dark thoughts born out of isolation. But I collected plenty of proof to remind myself that my work helps others improve their lives. The number of my books’ reviews on Amazon is approaching 1,000. My answers on Quora got over 10 million views, 54,000 upvotes and thousands of comments.
And every so often, I get an especially cherished feedback: “Your writing changed my life!”
A manager of my department in PwC during the feedback process got a lot of requests from the team to train their soft skills. The emotional tsunami COVID brought turned a lot of us into a hot mess.
So, she decided to implement a training program within the department instead of waiting for the behemoth company to make decisions and cook up something useful. She approached me and asked: “Michal, would you be interested in leading such a training?”
Bonus: The Lifestyle
I work from home! Well, now, after the Great Lockdown it is not so impressive anymore, huh? But eight years ago it was my huge dream.
I’m liberated from the shackles of day job. I still work 10 hours a week for my employer, but it is much more flexible than any of my “real” jobs. Not only can I work from home, I also have a say in when I work and which projects I take.
I work in my authorpreneur business 30-40 hours a week (and I doubled my income!). I top that with another 20-30 hours of personal development, but it’s a pure pleasure for me.
Time and income flexibility allow me to enjoy luxuries hardly accessible to workers imprisoned in their 9-to-5 jobs.
I don’t think I missed a single singing recital of my daughter in the last few years.
When I scrapped my wife’s car, we had to travel to the location of the scrapping company to sign the papers. There is a lovely 18th century palace there. So, we spent half of the day sightseeing, in the middle of the day. It was a weekday, and we were the only visitors in the whole complex.
I mentioned my travels. I’m not a tourist type, but my wife is. It was nice to go to Crete, Prague, or Bulgaria and enjoy other cultures. It was even nicer we could easily afford this.
I love meeting my online friends. A face to face with Hynek Palatin, Dave Chesson, Aaron Walker, Rebecca Patrick-Howard, and so many others were experiences which I will always cherish in my memory. All those travels and meetings were possible as the result of my new lifestyle; for the first time in my life, I can decide when I work and when I rest.
It doesn’t mean that sometimes moving my author career forward wasn’t a struggle. It was sweat, blood and tears. Long hours. Self-doubts. Disappointments. Failures.
And it’s not “happily ever after.” The struggles continue. New challenges loom on the horizon.
But it was all worth it. Life is good.