Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Business of Writing a Novel: Building a Monetary Budget

The Cost of Writing
I once heard the story of a would-be writer who invested in all the gadgetry of the day to become successful. She even bought a top of the line typewriter. (Yes, this is a story from long ago.) Her husband encourages her even after the short stories she write are rejected time and again. One day he comes home to find her smiling broadly and waving a check. “My writing career finally paid off,” she tells him.
He picks her up and swings her around with joy. “What did you sell?” he asks.
“My typewriter,” she answers sweetly.

Of course I have no idea if that story is true or not. What I do know is that there is a monetary investment in writing. You need to be thoughtful about how you spend your money because unless you are the one in a billion to create a New York Times best seller your first time out, the returns on your initial investment will be minimal.

It is up to you as a professional to explore financial costs involved. In addition to writing materials, a computer, ink cartridges, pens, paper, index cards, and sticky notes, you’ll need a professional headshot, business cards, copies of your book to give away, envelopes and postage.

To name a few.

You will also need to plan for writing conferences so you can network with other writers, agents, publishers, and writing coaches. You’ll find yourself purchasing books, writer’s guidelines, subscriptions to helpful journals and more. If you are doing research for a book about a specific location, you may need to include travel expenses.

When Your Office is the Kitchen Table
Of course if your funds are limited to start, you will find creative ways to get the job done.
  •      You’ll make your own business cards. 
  •      You’ll use library resources instead of investing in the copies of books you need.
  •        You’ll find a GroupOn coupon to get a snazzy headshot at a fraction of the cost (I speak form experience) AND…
  •        You’ll write about places you know. Your next book may include travel. Not your first…unless of course you’ve already visited a particular area.

You may find a local conference to save you money on lodging or do as I did for my first conference and go for only two days. Was it ideal? No, but I made sure I got the most out of every minute and a little over a month later, I received my first book contract as a result of the second day of conferencing.

If you decide to publish the book yourself, you’ll need to hire a professional editor, allot monies for a professional book cover, and set aside funds for marketing your book.

Will it pay off? Maybe. Don’t quit your day job. Yet. One book will not likely bring in enough to pay the rent. Two books? Three? There is no magic number. It requires you to get readers to read your book, give it good honest reviews, and want more.

Many would-be authors underestimate the cost involved in the writing process. They often talk of “best sellers” and “big bucks.” If you want to write and get published, you need to budget both time (last week’s post) and money.

What do you think?

Note: This post is part of The Writer's Business Handbook No portion may be copied without permission.


  1. You're right. The only way to make money for me was to get a job writing. I became a newspaper reporter. I do get returns from my books, but now that I'm retired I make more money from my articles and reach a larger audience. Yet to me writing is a ministry and giving to God always pays big dividends, perhaps not here but for eternity.

    1. Ada, you and I are on the same page! I see my writing as a ministry. I drafted my first business plan for writing because I wanted to be a writer and just figured it was a place to begin. When my husband died suddenly in 2014, I couldn't even think to write. When that time came, I turned to my business plan to guide remind me of my goals. And is about my Father's business! Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the comment.

  2. Rebecca, I truly appreciate this post and will share it on Twitter (where I found out about it from someone else's Tweet!). Before my debut novel released this past January (from a small press, Elk Lake Publishing) I was aware of a few hidden costs of publishing. However, it wasn't until the book came out that I quickly got my eyes wide open. So far I have not profited, but I'm looking at this first book as hopefully selling the next, growing an audience, and then having readers go back to purchase this first novel because they enjoyed the others. Like that optimistic thinking?

    1. Elaine, you are certainly on the right track! I think it behooves first time authors to take the track you are pursuing. And you are right. Readers like to read more from favorite authors. Congrats on getting your first novel out there! And Readers, I just checked out Elaine Stock's book on Amazon. It is called Always With You and looks intriguing! You can find it here:


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