Last week, my husband and I had a budget meeting for the family. Part of that discussion was asking where does the line get drawn between a hobby and business.
We've made some big decisions to allow me the opportunity to pursue writing as a career. I scaled back on my hours at work to give me time for writing, editing and promotion. We gave up some luxuries to have room in the budget to pay for editing and promotional work. It was a big decision and one which has long term effects.
With a reduced salary, we don't have as much money to put aside for long-term savings. We don't go on vacation. We can't do renovations or update our furniture. We both accepted it as a short term measure.
Initially, I expected to be able to earn enough in one year with one book to cover the expenses of the next book. That turned out to be overly optimistic. So we've had to consider, how many books and how many years do we invest in my career before expecting income to match costs?
When I first started to seriously pursue writing, I had people tell me to create my own definition of success. Was it to see my books in the bookstore? To get lots of positive reviews? To earn a certain amount of money? To see my book topping the charts or made into a movie?
I think those definitions are important to consider for the creative side of writing. But for the business side, it's important to think in terms of income and expenses. It's important to have a sustainable plan for how much money and time will be invested before expecting a return.
When planning, the future has to be considered as well as the present. Are you willing to potentially put off your retirement to pursue your writing career? Are you willing to go without some of the luxuries in your life to cover the costs? Even J.K. Rowling held a day job for a number of years before Harry Potter became a source of real income. Becoming an overnight success takes years of effort.
We've settled on a five year plan. For the next four years, we can continue at the same rate we're currently at. But if income is still not matching costs at that point, we'll have to reconsider the plan. I think this plan is more realistic than my initial one.
Creatively, I have a number of definitions. I'd love to see my book in bookstores. I enjoy getting reviews from people I've never met telling me that they enjoy my book. It would be a huge thrill if someone told me about a great book they'd read which they want to recommend to me and it turned out to be my book. A movie would be awesome.
Businesswise, it's much simpler. I want my profits from writing to replace or exceed my income from my day job on a consistent and reliable basis. I want to be able to quit my day job and focus on writing. I see writing as a more sustainable and flexible career option than other work (aside from being something I would do anyway even if no one ever paid me a dime). I can continue to write well past the age where I would have to retire from other work and I can do it from wherever I choose to be. So we can move wherever would be best for my family, if necessary.
That, to me, would be a success.