Adjusting To Being A Full-Time Author – Part 4

In the final edition of this miniseries, let’s talk about keeping yourself from becoming a recluse, along with taking some time out to chillax…


Everyone’s going to have their own reaction to this aspect of things, but it’s still something I’m trying to come to grips with. The people that I worked with at NSA were like my second family. Many days, their camaraderie was the only thing that kept me from going cuckoo.

When I left the agency, in some ways it was like leaving home, leaving my other family behind. While it was great staying home with my wife (and amazingly enough, we have no problem being together all day) and the boys, I no longer had those folks to kibbutz with. Sure, I have a lot of friends – real friends, not just acquaintances – online, but it’s not the same. We worked hard and we played hard together, and it’s one of the things about my old job that I do truly miss.

Now, a lot of folks have social groups they hang out with outside of work, and that’s great – no problemo! But for those of us who don’t (yes, I’m an introverted nerd – sorry!), it’s a big part of the transition you’ll need to make that I was totally unprepared for. It’s very easy to just sit at home staring at the computer all day. I know that for some that may sound like heaven, but it’s another case of being careful what you wish for. There have actually been some days when I suddenly realized, just before bedtime, that I hadn’t set foot out the door, even just to take a quick walk around the local park or something.

The bottom line is just this: if you don’t have much social engagement outside of work and you’re planning to take the plunge into writing full-time, do yourself a huge favor and line up some social circles ahead of time. They can also act as a support group for when you hit the rough spots that inevitably will come.

Taking Time Out

On the opposite end of self-discipline is to make sure that you take some time out to just chill. During the low months from September through November, I was whipping myself to death trying to get the next book out. What I was actually doing was killing my long-term productivity and, at the same time, working on a project that wasn’t optimal from a marketing perspective. I wasn’t thinking clearly.

It was time to take a deep breath, back off, and regroup. I took a little time off just to think and relax a little, and that allowed me to refocus.

On a daily basis, don’t work yourself to death. Yes, you have to be disciplined, but if you’re not enjoying yourself, what’s the point? I normally start my work day at around 6 AM. I work (usually catching up on Twitter – it’s nice to be able to call that “work”, isn’t it?) through breakfast, then I try to get in an hour or so of exercise. After that it’s back to the grindstone. I catch up on social media stuff while eating lunch, then sometimes I take a snooze. Why? Because I can! Then it’s back to work.

Now, “work” typically stops at dinner time, which is usually 5:30 or 6:00 PM. Then we go watch a movie, read, blast away at people on the PS3, or whatever. There are, however, days when I’m on a roll. When that happens, I just keep writing.

But the important thing is to do whatever you like to do to give your mind and body a break. Remember, you’re in this for the long-term, not just a quick sprint, so pace yourself!

Any Questions?

I hope you found this useful in some way. I know there’s a lot I probably didn’t cover, so if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. You can contact me by email, Twitter, or Facebook any time…

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8 thoughts on “Adjusting To Being A Full-Time Author – Part 4

  • Martin Blasick

    No comments yet? Must be the dose of reality. Ebook fever is a lot more fun. I’ve been a freelancer for 20+ years and it’s a roller coaster. Actually ebooks seem like a stabilizing factor from my pov – something I can control rather than waiting to get a call for a gig. Gigs are good when they come. My song Shine will appear on the Feb 7 episode of Body Of Proof. But eBook fever seems downright sensible as an additional revenue stream and outlet for creativity. And – I’m still plugging my way through the first Empire book. I’m loving it but all the eBook blogs take time to read 🙂 Thanks again for so generously sharing your journey.

  • Pamela Beason

    Your comment about being in this for the long run is crucial. I know a lot of new authors who obsess about their sales statistics on an hourly basis! Yeesh, I hope I never get quite that neurotic. My sales and audience are building steadily . It might happen faster if I spent more time on promotion and social media and I didn’t go out and kayak, hike, snowshoe, etc. But then again, a writer of mystery and adventure needs to actually have an adventure now and then to have something to write about.

  • Steve Douglass

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Mike. Well written and extremely interesting. Your story brutally reminded me of all of the fears and concerns i had when I left “Big Oil”, to start my own “Little Oil.” Once you cross the line, there is no turning back. The financial comittment, alone, is the glue that tends to keep you over the line, focused, and running like hell. In retrospect, I’m glad i did it.

    Twenty years later, I decided to self-publish. I’m glad i did that too, but compared to your circumstance, (ie. a do or die proposition), my move is painless.

    Good on you, and congratulations on your convinction and courage. I look forward to your continued success, and wiil attempt to assist your marketing efforts.
    Best, Steve Douglass

  • Regina

    Thanks Michael, you have reminded me that there are real people out there on the Internet. I had to take some time off to catch my breath after getting the wind knocked out of me. I’m still reeling from the blow. But, now I am beginning to accept some things. Your article has some good points that I could use to help me get back to being busy again. Thanks so much, Regina.

  • Windsong

    Just found your blog. I read through the four page “Adjusting to be a Full-Time Author” and enjoyed it for the most part, but… don’t you think having six books out before quitting a full time job is a tad too optimistic? I would think you’d need at least ten full-length novels (60k words) before taking that kind of risk. I suppose it depends on the kind of job one has, but for me and my measly three novels, I don’t make anywhere near even a 1000 a month.

    Second question: if I am making say, $700 a month with 3 books, doesn’t it stand to reason that with 6 books, I’d make double that? Maybe a bit more,or less, but not a whole LOT more or less. I’m writing thrillers so maybe thats not the most profitable genre to be in (since December when I started.). Anyway, thanks for reading.

    • Michael Hicks Post author

      This is one of those things where “it all depends.” I used half a dozen books as a rough benchmark by my own reckoning and experience as a point where you might start considering writing full time, all things considered. For some people it might be more, for some it could be less. The point I was trying to make is simply don’t bank your future on a single or small number of bestsellers, even if they’re doing great at the moment, because tomorrow they might (and probably won’t) be. If I recall correctly, I had six books plus one trilogy collection published when “the perfect storm” happened with Season Of The Harvest and I was making enough money — at THAT time — to replace my day job income, which was pretty darn good as a GG-15 in the government. But right after I resigned to write full time sales fell off a cliff for the next three months, and I was afraid I’d have to go back to the day job.

      The other thing that’s a huge factor is how much money you’re obligated to spend (mortgage, loans, etc., etc.). If you have a low spending lifestyle, you can ditch the day job earlier, but if you’re wed to a big mortgage and lots of other golden handcuffs, you don’t have that option. And, of course, how much risk are you willing to take in general? My wife and I live on the edge more than most people, I suppose, but everyone has a different comfort zone for that sort of thing.

      Anyway, the more books you have out there, the more money you’re going to make. However, it’s not as simple as doubling the current number of books = doubling your royalty. You could have one book do exceedingly well (as Season Of The Harvest did when it was first published) that completely changes the playing field. Some books, even in a series, will prove to be more popular than others, sometimes significantly so. Other books won’t do well for a time, but then suddenly will. And books that have done well in the past suddenly deflate (but might later come back again). Those are the elements of luck that come into play, but can’t be controlled.

      Regardless, if you keep publishing new books and consistently build your fan base (I cannot emphasize how critical it is to focus on this and not leave it to chance), you’re going to make more money; that’s simply a numbers game, and even modestly popular books will bring in a lot of money if you have enough of them. Look at Joe Konrath: he’s been playing this game for a number of years and on Amazon has 56 titles in his bibliography (some novels, some shorts). Bob Mayer’s another one, with 62 titles to his credit. Even if none of them were ever bestsellers (which many have been) and sold only maybe 5-10 copies each per day on average, that would still work out to a LOT of money.

      So, play the numbers game, because that’s one that in the long term only works to your benefit, and hopefully at some point you’ll have a breakout book that will take you up the charts!