How a blog post changed my writing business model

Over the years, I’ve wrestled with my identity as a writer. I earned an M.F.A. in writing children’s literature with the goal of writing young adult novels. Then, a story called Made of Shadows came along and I switched to paranormal romance. And then, recently, I realized that I wasn’t writing paranormal romance after all, but rather fantasy stories with a strong romantic element. Without knowing it, I was emphasizing the fantasy plot, and the romance was secondary. So that alone was a big realization for me.

But as I’ve worked on my short stories The Beltane Kiss and The Faerie Key, I’ve realized how much I love writing short fiction. So I started doing some research: Can I actually make a living writing short stories?

I found this article from Dean Wesley Smith: Can you make a living writing only short fiction?

He offers a compelling argument—actually runs the numbers—and concludes yes, you can. So I did something I’ve never done before with my writing. I crunched some numbers and started thinking about a formal business plan. How many stories can I realistically write in a year? My numbers are a little different from his. Most of my short stories are closer to 10K, whereas he estimates 5K, and he doesn’t include time for revising, which I need. And I still want to write some novellas and novels in addition to my short fiction.

So my numbers are this: six short stories/novelettes a year, four novellas, and one novel. That’s just under one story a month. Not much over the course of a few years, but given ten years, the numbers start to add up.

In short, his article got me thinking about my writing business model. Can I actually make a living at this? And, he concludes, yes. It takes discipline and hard work and consistency, but yes, over the long haul, one can make a living as a writer—even if one only writes short fiction.

By the time I finished reading his article, I was excited. Now I’m thinking like a businessperson in addition to an artist. I see a path forward, and that’s a good thing.

And, before I go, a brief ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote 5,823 words in Winter Faerie, a novella-length retelling of Beauty and the Beast. I’ve been itching to write a fairy tale retelling for a while, so I’m excited about this one. I just got edits back on The Faerie Key from my editor last night, so I’ll be switching to that story for a couple days to get it revised and ready for the proofreader.

Reading: Haven’t read any books on writing craft/business this week. I’ve been reading The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2. It’s been fantastic!

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

What about you? Have you visited Dean Wesley Smith’s site? If not, I recommend starting with his series Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Do you have a writing business model? Have you read any articles that have helped to shape that business model?

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13 thoughts on “How a blog post changed my writing business model

  1. Oh, my goodness. I never thought to write an actual business plan for writing. O.o And I’ve done a decent amount of small business research, too. *facepalm* It’s funny how something can be sitting right in front of you for a long time, but it still takes someone else to see it. So thanks for that! I hope your business turns a nice profit for you in good time. 🙂

    • Honestly, until I read Smith’s post, I never really thought about running the numbers. But when I realized how much I enjoy writing short stories, novelettes, and novellas, I really wanted to find a way to make writing those stories work. Writing is my passion, but it’s also my profession and I want to find a way to do this for the rest of my life. Thanks, ReGi!

  2. I’m trying my darndest to earn some actual money with short stories! I put out one with every full moon, which means 12 or 13 a year. Actually, the way the calendar works, we won’t have that “extra” (a blue moon) for a few years, which is weird.

    I’m not profitable yet, but I hope to be eventually, with perseverance and consistency. In the meantime, I’m still working on novels and novellas.

    • Every full moon. I like that. It’s a good way to keep track. I think with short stories it’s a slow build–that’s largely what Smith’s article touches on. You need to have a lot of short stories out to be making money, but it can be done. It’s definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme.

      I’m glad to hear you’re keeping at it. Sounds like you’re in a place I hope to be soon, publishing short stories and trying to get a few novels and novellas out into the world. Happy writing, AmyBeth!

  3. Last summer, I bought and read The Indie Author’s Power Pack, a Kindle special. It began to give a shape to the vague sense of a direction I want to go.

    I prefer to keep things organically growing, but, this year, I expect to self- publish my first short story, and I’ve recently started creating my website. That’s enough for just now, business-wise, but I’ve been doing a lot of brainstorming, and I expect the next three to five years to see me with a body of work for sale, and maybe enough extra money coming in to make my family’s life a bit more comfortable in these last years of being responsible for our children’s upkeep.

    In ten years or so, I’d like to be making enough to support the two of us. We don’t have fancy tastes, so that doesn’t need to translate to best-sellers, just a solid bank of books and stories out there in the world, finding their way to the people who might like them.

    Sounds like you’re on a good building path – can’t wait to see where it takes you!

    • I also found the Indie Author Power Pack incredibly helpful. I’ve found Joanna Penn’s books to be especially helpful. And now I’m reading Dean Wesley Smith’s stuff and gathering a lot of good information. Do you read J.A. Konrath’s blog? I just started reading it and am finding a lot of good information there, too.

      It sounds like we have similar goals. It would be great to build up a large backlist and have a steady income stream. Not that I want to be rich and famous, but I’d like to be able to support myself and my hubby one day. That’s the dream.

      Thanks, Shan Jeniah! I look forward to reading your work someday soon. 🙂

      • I may have seen the blog here or there. One of my Round Three goals will be more podcasts and writing blogs. I tend to be so busy writing in the spring that any reading will be hugely involved with the current project.

        But moving forward beyond the plotting/drafting/revising phases, and into what comes after, will require me to do a lot more learning.

        That’s my goal. I want a strong starting point, so I’ll start self-publishing with short stories and poetry, working up to an anthology of my own work.

        That will give me time to work on the Kifo Island series – right now, I’m aiming for 3 a year drafted, with, hopefully, the first volume revised and in the hands of betas by the end of this year. I’m thinking that by 2018, I could have three ready to go, with three more finishing, three more drafted, and three in development.

        That will allow me time to delve further into my Trueborn series – an epic fantasy interwoven with an epic Star Trek: Enterprise/TOS storyline I’ll share free online. All the fantasy elements are original and mine; people won’t have to read one to understand the other, but, if they’re inclined to read both, the stories get richer and more textured.

        I don’t necessarily want to support my Accomplice – he’s in the process of developing his own cottage industry of hot sauces, jerky, and smoked meats.

        We’re hoping to be able to decide if we want to work for anyone else by the time we move to Oregon, hopefully in the spring or summer of next year.

        I’m slooowllly working on the website (I intend to start publicizing it by August), and there will be lots of experimental, in-progress stuff there, as well as links to my ff.net page and Other Things.

        Can’t wait to download you onto my full-to-bursting Kindle, when you’re ready, and help make your dreams come true! =)

  4. I don’t have a business model, but I am working on publishing short stories. I haven’t read the article you mentioned, I’ve read others. I’m slower at writing. My goal is to publish 3 shorts this year, I’ve published 2. No ideas on the third. Good luck.

  5. You amaze me Denise. You accomplish so much and I love how you strategize. Short stories, novellas and a book in one year is wonderful. And I don’t doubt you’ll be successful. 🙂

    • I really love writing fiction, and I want to be in a position to do this for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’ll be able to publish that much work right away, but I’d like to build to that level. First I need to really work on my revision process, and then go from there. Thanks, Karen! 🙂

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