Myths About Writing a Novel

Before we even get started, there are some expectations that need to be set. I constantly see advertisements in my Facebook feed for free book writing webinars (they are only trying to sell you something, btw) that promise success, wealth, and lazy days languidly writing in a leather notebook on a tropical beach. Can I just say, that’s all bullshit. Writing a novel is hard work. You will pull your hair, want to bang your head on your desk, and try to throw your laptop out a window. But, don’t worry–I swear it’s a lot of fun.

But, before the fun starts, I want to set a few expectations. Remember–writing a novel is like a marriage. The first time for love, the second time for money!

Myths about writing a novel writing repair money


After you hit ‘publish’ on Amazon or email your completed manuscript to your agent, you will not receive a call from Oslo begging you to come pick up your Nobel. Oprah will no call and tell you that your brilliance has inspired her to reboot her book club. Besides–you’ll be too busy getting started on your next book to take those calls.


This book will not make you rich. If you make enough to buy a fancy coffee every day, you will be among the apex of writers. One book will not make a splash in the world. Could you make millions off one book? Sure. But, you won’t.

Self Publishing

Let’s talk about Amazon. The vast majority of people who self publish one book on Amazon lose money–as in money out of their pocket, not into it. The chances of making money increase exponentially the more books an author has. Visibility is everything, and lots of books increases visibility. But, we’re talking about your first.

Amazon has a couple of options. If you decide to go exclusively with Amazon, you can get your book in Kindle Unlimited. That means that people (like me) who pay the monthly $9.99 can borrow your book. When they do that, you don’t get paid because they borrowed it, you get paid for every page they read.

To get paid for that, all of the money Kindle Unlimited customers pay is added together. Then Amazon takes their cut… amount unknown. Then all of the page-reads for every book in the program are added together and the money left is paid out per page read. I just checked the last month I was paid for. The rate was $0.015 per page, which isn’t terrible. If your book is 200 pages long and someone borrows it and reads the entire thing, you would get $3.00 at that rate.┬áSometimes it drops down to half a penny a page. That would be $1.00 for every time someone reads all the way through.

As for sales of your book–the percentage you make depends on the price. Under $2.99, you make 35%–at $2.99 and over, you make 70%.

Going wide (publishing on iTunes, Kobo, etc.) knocks you out of the Kindle Unlimited option, but gets your name out a little wider. It also means that Amazon, the absolute largest ebook seller, will do even less to promote your book. If you only have one book, it’s probably best to be Amazon exclusive. When you have a whole series, then it’s time to consider branching out.

But, as you can see. There’s not a lot of money in one book.

Traditional Publishing

The times, they are a changing. The days of the astronomical advance are over. If you get a contract for your first novel with a publisher, your advance will probably run $5,000 to $10,000.

An advance is what the publisher assumes your book will make in the first year. Unless you have a runaway success on your hands, it’s actually more like the first three months. The chances of them pumping any real money into promoting your book are slim, which makes it die on the vine fairly quickly. And it’s unlikely it will make enough money that your royalties will go beyond your advance. Your royalties will be roughly $1.25 per book sold. It will take a lot of books to eat up that advance.

That means, the advance is probably the complete payment you receive for your novel… and you don’t own it anymore–they do, for years and years and years. Can you tell that I think traditional publishing is the new vanity publishing?

If you just absolutely have to have your book in bookstores, it’s almost the only way to go though. There is Ingram Spark, which I’ll discuss at the absolute end of this, about a hundred posts from now. Create Space–not a good way to get your book in stores. Ingram Spark–more of a chance. I’ll tell you why way later.

Writing is Easy

Oh, good googly moogly–no. But, there are ways to make it easier. The main way? Plan, plan, plan. But, the best way to ruin your writing career in its infancy? Overplan, overplan, overplan. I’ll see what I can do about coaching you through that.

Despite what you may hear, the characters do not control the story and tell you where they want to go and what they want to do. They do NOT magically write your story for you. You are the not-always-benevolent god of the world you create.

Now that all of the horribleness is out on the table, here are some things you’ll like to hear:

Writing actually is fun.

Writer’s block doesn’t exist.

Once you have the fundamentals, you can write all the books you want.

Getting the first payment for your book, no matter how small, is one of the most life-affirming things that will ever happen to you.

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