A couple years ago, mainly inspired by Jim C. Hines' post about money, I sat down and figured out every expense and income I could dredge up when it came to my, at the time, hobby. Ever since, I've been maintaining it pretty rigorously but never had the courage to talk about it.

Mainly because it points out an uncomfortable truth: I'm not a financially successful writer.

I love writing and I can track twenty-five years of steady output and income, but I haven't really made money off of it. It was until 2012 that I was okay with this, I wrote, some people read, and I got to enjoy myself.

In 2012, this cease to be good enough for me. I wanted to be more. I wanted to be "successful."

Of course, wanting isn't enough.

Being transparent

I wanted to make this post since 2012. Mainly with the hopes that some day, I will be successful and I can point back to it and see how things are better.

I'm also doing it because my memory is rather poor and I was sure I made more than the charts actually said I did. Last year, when I wrote this post but never posted it, it was because what I remember and reality were depressingly different.

Since 2002

A chart showing cumulative income since 2012.

The earliest expense I tracked was in 2002. It was for an expense for a novel which has never really paid for itself. I don't really push it anymore because I've changed so much as a writer. The quality isn't even close to what I can put out today and I'd rather not make it harder for someone to get into my writing.

I combined the income and expenses into net, to make it easier to show the relationship between the two of them.

A chart showing cumulative income over time by source.

Most of my writing income in the first decade came from commissions, writing custom stories for a single person. I thought I was pretty decent at those, but the problem is that they are private. I couldn't really share them with anyone and try to get my name out.

And then, in 2011, the economy tanked and commissioned writing pretty much disappeared. And that is one reason why I decided to take this more seriously.

I didn't include commissions on the above chart because it completely overwhelmed the other lines.

A chart showing income from 2014 by source.

Almost all of my income came from Amazon and direct sales. I see these as starting points, when I started actually pulling in money from writing public pieces. It is interesting that my love for Smashwords puts it squarely in third place.

Sand and Blood

In the annual chart, you may notice a dip in 2013. That was my effort to get Sand and Blood out the door. I didn't really have a publisher when I started, but I thought I could do most of the self-publishing myself. So I created a company, Broken Typewriter Press, ordered some ISBNs, and basically threw myself in to publishing Blood. It was a lot of fun, filled with a lot of tears and excitement, and generally it was a relatively high expense that I tracked against my writing.

A chart showing cumulative income and expenses for Sand and Blood over time.

Blood is a major accomplishment for me and I am completely proud of it. Not only did I actually write something, I got it edited, a cover made by a professional, and figured out everything to get it out the door. I finished something that I was proud of. Actually, I finished something period. And I got to see the results on other websites. Getting paid for all that was just icing on the cake.

It was also a humiliating experience at the same time. When I published the book, I had such grand hopes that everyone would want to read it and it would take the fantasy world by storm (aim high, Dylan, aim very high).

That didn't happen.

When the Reddit Stabby awards came up, I realized that I had failed in so many ways. It wasn't that no one read the book, no one knew about it. It was a non-existent entity, a figment of my hopes. A couple people have read it but it didn't go beyond that.

I have a good idea of why Blood failed. I'm terrible at marketing, both my book and myself, I'm spread out across many projects including two adorable sons and a wonderful wife. I suspect the world setting and characters aren't quite right for the fantasy market. And I'm responsible for all of them.

Going into 2015

Last year was discouraging, that is a simple way of saying it. But, I think I learned a lot about the process and I'm planning on 2015 being a much better year. I think that Sand and Ash is a good sequel to the novel and something that I will have better success marketing.

I'll admit, I'm hoping to at least show up in a nomination or two by the end of the year. We'll find out.

The hardest part is trying to identify "success" when it comes to writing. In so many ways, I'm not successful. I'm not a great or awesome writer. I'm a writer, and I can't stop writing even when I tried. Sooner or later, I might successful, but it's going to be a very long and hard journey.

2015-01-06