These are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. This particular stretch of rock you're looking at were the Cliffs of Insanity in the Princess Bride. Yes. There's a reason I'm using this photo to talk about author finances.
It's because most of us have to start at zero income and slowly, painfully climb hand over hand up the sheer face of publishing in an attempt to reach some magical monetary number that will mean 'success' to us.
The main issue for conquering author finances is knowing what that number is. It can't necessarily be arbitrary. Far too many of us are going to be sorely disappointed if we pick a million dollars out of thin air. We're probably going to fall from the rocks.
What you want is a formula. And a plan. I can't hand you either. But maybe I can help you build your own.
- What's your current monthly income from all sources? (Yes, factor in the birthday and holiday money, even if you never apply that to bills. If you are in a family that has more than one income, factor in the other incomes helping support the family unless you've been told you can't do that.)
- What's your monthly outgo? (It's super helpful to take a year+ and factor in all the insurance premiums and emergencies - car break downs, new tires, veterinary emergencies, emergency trips to ailing parents, etc, and then break that down into a monthly amount - this way you build an emergency cushion into the budgeting that will accommodate emergencies.)
- Decide on your drop deads - can you cancel the cable? Or other subscriptions? Reduce eating out? Where are you willing to shift quality of life in order to save some cash?
You now have an idea of how much money you'll need on a monthly basis to sustain a reasonable quality of life and keep the creditors at bay. You may also be depressed at this point. That's fair, but with this information, you can begin building a plan for how many books how often. You'll begin the climb up the face of that income goal. Does this mean that you'll join me in being bummed out every time you get a raise at the day job because the goalpost shifted? Only if you're not banking that income as a base for when you decide you've built your monthly author income to the point that you're ready to take the leap of leaving the day job entirely. Spoiler alert: With a solid savings account, you don't have to match your current day job income exactly before you bail. Depending on your risk tolerance, naturally. You merely have to close the gaps between reduced household expenses, all other sources of income, and your writing income. A year of gap closing with savings seems reasonable to me - you'll have to pick a time frame/risk vs reward scenario that works for your family.
It's also at this point, before you jump the day job ship, that you want to revisit your formula and add in author expenses - editors, book cover designers, ads, and whatever else you need to build a business. It may put off leaving a day job. Better that than finding yourself six months out having to scramble to find a new day job because the money got away from you.
Is any of this fun?
It's a climb. But it is one anyone with determination and a plan can make.