The Business of Authors: Can You Make a Living?

What great fun to be part of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Program hosted by Hellmuth and Johnson Law Firm in Edina as part of an author panel, moderated by my long-time friend, Marshall Tanick (himself a prodigious writer who kindly came to my book launch in 2012, right).   I was particularly pleased to be paired with fiction writer Julie Kramer, a former journalist in the Twin Cities who has turned novelist.  She writes a mystery series set in the “desperate” world of television news—a world she knows well from her career as a freelance news producer for NBC and CBS, as well as running the WCCO-TV I-Team in Minneapolis, an investigative news team.  Her thrillers have won multiple awards.  I couldn’t resist bringing home her latest book Delivering Death, which my husband stole before I had a chance to read it.

We both talked about the business of publishing.  Julie (right) has had remarkable success, securing first an agent and then a publishing contract with Atria, of Simon and Schuster.  Her first novel, Stalking Susan, won a Minnesota Book Award.  It doesn’t always happen like this!  it is inspiring to  hear her success story.  And it continues.   After our panel she had to rush home because she was under deadline to write her next novel.  You go, Julie!

As for me, I represent the other 80% of the publishing industry that is independent or self-published.  I did have interest from a publisher for my manuscript, Zero Chance of Passage:  The Pioneering Charter School Story  back in 2011, but the editor requested that I re-write several key parts.  “That’s not how the story happened!” I told him.  I wanted to retain editorial control and the integrity of the story, so I chose to self-publish.   The editor also could not guarantee a release date by the upcoming national charter schools conference, and that was the final factor in my choice.

I was able to raise the publishing costs through an advance from my co-publisher, Charter Schools Development Corporation.  The advance has now been paid off, and all revenues from the remaining books are mine to keep.  That also differs from a traditional publishing contract. To learn more about my publishing journey, check out my “Extended Q & A” online for Writer’s Digest.  I was delighted that Zero Chance was the Grand Prize Winner of the Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards.

No matter how you publish, the journey only begins when your book is released.  Unless you are a celebrity, no one makes a living from writing and selling books.  But you  can make a comfortable living from public speaking engagements, training seminars, consulting or volume book sales.  It has now been two years since my book was published, and after speaking in 23 states in 18 months, my business, Ember Communications, Inc. is growing.  More consulting clients, paid speaking engagements, and media opportunities are coming my way, some of which I never expected.

So… writing as a business is not about the book.  It is about how creative you are as an entrepreneur and marketer and businessperson.  Next on my list is to create video products for sale at speaking engagements.  All of this takes time and energy, but I love it.  I am learning so much and reinventing on my life’s journey, once again!