Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Seventeen

Number Seventeen

Family Comes First…Most Of The Time

Family is very important, and there is no denying that. In your day-to-day life, no matter what your occupation is, family should come first.

But, just like if you’re a firefighter, police officer, military member, banker, lawyer, machinist, bus driver, or flipping burgers at the local fast food joint, there are times when work will interfere with your time with your family.

Oh, it’s easy to say that family ALWAYS comes first. In fact, you’ll hear that bantered about by the many pop and wannabe psychologists out there every single day. But the real facts of the matter are that this is not reasonable or even possible.

Think about this scenario for a moment…

What your job is doesn’t matter. You have some job and that is how you make money to pay for housing, clothing, food, and all the other things you and your family need. Without that job, you’re on the street in a cardboard box and hungry. Still with me?

Now, your son has a big baseball game. Maybe your daughter is graduating from the second grade and there’s a big ceremony. Again, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that there is something happening with your family and you want to be there. Now are you still with me?

For whatever reason, when you ask your boss for the time off, the request is denied. The reason for the denial also doesn’t matter, but the real bottom line is that you asked for the time off, and the boss said no. Your employer needs you to work, and that is that.

Some questions for you…

Are you willing to quit your job? Will you tell your boss, “If I can’t have off next Tuesday, then I quit.” I can all but guaranty that the boss will chuckle and point to the door. I personally have fired managers in my corporation who were making half a million dollars a year for trying to manipulate me and the company in that manner. Frankly, I don’t need that kind of a pain in the ass working for me.

Are you willing to just not show up for work next Tuesday knowing that the boss might fire you?

How about calling out sick next Tuesday? Check your state laws, but in most states, that’s an unexcused absence unless you produce a doctor’s note.

But I would bet dollars to dog turds that you would do none of the above. You will bitch and moan, tell the kids you’re sorry, and go to work like nothing ever happened.


Because you are a good member of the family and you are doing what needs to be done to take care of your family. It’s not what you want to do, but it is what you have to do.

And you are making the right choice.

Writing is nothing more—and nothing less—than a job. You might love to write, as I do, but it is how you make your living. You are one blown contract away from living in the aforementioned cardboard box.

There are two secrets to making a living as an author:

(1) You must be prolific. In other words, write a lot of books. Few books, even in print, sell more than a million copies. Most are around a fourth of that. Fewer than 0.001% of all ebooks sell more than 10,000 copies. If you figure a typical deal for a fairly new print author at 8% of a $10 cover price, that’s about $200,000. Take out your agent’s cut (usually 15%) and you’re down to $170,000. After you take out taxes, expenses, and other odds and ends, you pocket about $80,000 over the normal two-year deal, or about $40,000 a year. And this is all being generous. In practice, that number will likely be closer to $30,000. On the other hand, if you write (and sell) three books a year, you’re income just went up to over $100,000 in your pocket.

(2) You need to write what sells. In other words, you can write the best story ever seen, but if no one buys it, you need to start checking the local Costco for boxes. On the other hand, sometimes a story you think is absolute crap will sell like the proverbial hotcakes. The difference is what the market (aka reader) wants. This isn’t always easy to do.

A good representative will help you in both of these areas. They will keep you motivated to write. They will teach you how to get around blocks. They will guide you on what is selling and what is sitting on the store shelves. They will help you learn how to write things that can slip through the editorial process like a greased pig. And they will get you top dollar for every single story you write, not just your current offering. An agent will take their 15% and go to lunch.

For most writers in the United States, the cutoff tends to be around that $175,000 a year gross mark. Once the writer’s gross income hits that point, they can usually quit their day job and become a full time author. Some get the idea that they can now relax and only work (i.e. write) when they feel like it.

That, my friend, is just plain stupid.

Think about it like this…

Let’s assume that you are like an average American and your daily total commute to and from work is about an hour. You work for eight hours a day, and most people have an hour for lunch. That is ten hours a day directly related to your job. Odds are you get up at least an hour before you have to leave and you need to spend about that same amount of time each evening decompressing from work and the drive home. We’re at twelve hours a day now. If you are like most people, you only get about seven hours of sleep a night, so that means you have five hours a day to spend on quality time with your family.

So, why should you expect to spend any less time working as an author? Yes, you can do your work at home in your underwear if you like, but you still need to put in the time.

It never ceases to amaze me how many writers figure that they can make twice the money they make now by putting in half the hours. That’s the old something for nothing thought process.

And they will forever be a writer no one has ever heard of or read as opposed to an author everyone knows.

I’ve been at this for better than 25 years now, and I average about thirteen hours a day writing. No, I don’t do that every day…sometimes I take a day or two off. Then I put in twenty hours the next day to make up the lost ground. Oh, and we’re talking six or seven day weeks, too.

So what? You’re spending that same time now for less money and less self-satisfaction.

Writing is fun. It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on, though I usually write at least partially nude, but I digress…

Being an author is also the hardest work I have ever done, and that includes waiting tables at a fast food joint, not an easy task for a deaf girl.

So, yes…

Family does come first, but you have to look at the big picture…making a living so your family has food, shelter, clothing, and all the rest IS putting your family first.

The world owes you nothing. If you want to be an author, you can do that, but like anything else, you have to work at it. You have to work hard.

The real key here is to remember that you, as a professional author, are an independent contractor. You have total control over your hours and income. In a “normal” job, the boss tells you what hours you will work and how much you will make doing it. As an independent contractor, you have to make those calls. There is no one to make the hard choices for you…it’s all on you.

If you’re not willing to work hard for your family and their future, then go to your job, clock in, dream about a better life, bitch about how no one understands, clock out, fight the traffic, and when you get home, sit in front of the computer staring at a story no one will ever read because you don’t care enough to actually do something.

Yeah, that’s exactly what I am saying…

You have the power to change things if you want to.

You also have the power to waste your talent if that’s what you decide to do.

Keep Loving!

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