Mailbag: Writing Advice For Beginners

It’s time for another trip into my mailbag!  Most often the people who contact me wanting to become writers (or looking to make money writing) are people looking to pen an occult book. The following emails cover the questions and scenarios I am most often presented with. Enjoy and I hope you find the answers both honest and useful.  I’ll answer questions in the comments section below.

Please note that these emails are real and these are the exact responses I sent to their authors. Names have been withheld.

Ms. Connolly, I have decided that I need a career change and after careful thought, I realized that I’ve always enjoyed writing. I was really good at it when I was in school and always got good grades on papers. I have been thinking about writing a book about satanism. I’ve read some of your books and liked them a great deal and I thought I have some ideas about satanism to.  Do you have any advice you can offer? XXX

XXX, Thanks for writing! Well, as much as it pains me to say it, keep your day job. The sad fact is that first you have to complete the book, then you have to publish it and then you have to market it. For traditionally published authors (paperbacks and ebooks), only expect to make about $1 a copy. Also, since Satanism is a niche market and there are literally hundreds of books on the subject out there, don’t expect to have vast distribution or that your book will stand out among the others unless you have a really unique, fresh idea. Also, it could be rough finding a publisher unless they’re a small press. You may have to self-publish.  Most small press and self-published titles are lucky to sell even 200 copies. So traditionally published you could be looking at making around $200 per book. By self-publishing you might make a little more, but also remember at that point you’re doing all the work and only making between $2-4 a copy. If you sold 200 you’d make $200-800.  Like I said, don’t quit your day job. Most people won’t even sell up to that 200 mark – not in a year’s time.  One of my friends, who recently wrote his first occult book, says he see’s between 10-20 copies of his book sell each month. He makes about $3 a book and at most is making $60 a month. That won’t even pay most people’s cell phone bill, dude.  Another friend of mine only sells 2 copies of his occult title each month and makes $8 dollars.  He can pay one monthly cell phone bill a year with that income.

Sorry if that bursts your bubble, but I want to make sure you don’t do anything rash and you really have a realistic idea of what you’re in for. Try writing a book first, getting it out there and seeing what kind of money you make before throwing caution to the wind, quitting your day job, and declaring yourself a writer. Good luck!  ~Steph

Ms. Connolly, I have written a book of satanism that I was wondering if you can look at it for me and tell me what you think since you are a professional in your field. I would like to have it published by the end of the month so please get back to me soon. XXX

XXX, Thank you for the opportunity to review your essay. I’m sorry, but you’re about 30,000 words short of a book here. This is a twenty page essay and the only reason it’s 20 pages is because you’ve used a sixteen point, script font. Please know that most readers will not buy a pamphlet this unreadable. I do apologize if my criticism seems harsh, but I would hate to see you put this out with high expectations and big dreams only to have those dreams dashed to the ground. I had to stop reading after the first page because the font gave me a headache.  Since it’s rather short, if you could put this in a 12 point Times New Roman, I would be happy to take another look. ~ Steph  (For the record – never got the revised *book* back.)

Steph, thank you for talking to me about writing.  I have seen how much some of these books sell for and think I might make the decision to become a writer because I was thinking I could easily make even more money than I make now if I write two books a year and sell 700 copies for $50 each plus shipping. I know you do this and was wondering who printed your books for you. Thanks in advance, XXX

XXX,  You do realize you’ll need to pay the printer for the books up front, right?  It will cost you around $8K to have that many books printed up and bound. I realize 700 x 50 = 35,000 – 8,000 = 27,000, but you also have to pay editors, artists, etc… So you have to ensure you can sell a minimum of 160 books cover your initial investment. Plus, chances are you won’t sell all 700 copies in a year unless you’ve written something incredibly poignant. Also, one thing you’ll notice about authors who pen books like this — they’re usually well-known or have some level of expertise they’ve been recognized for in the occult community. You might consider building up some street cred first. And no, I didn’t write any of my books just for the money. As a matter of fact I was anti-limited edition hardcover at first.  It took a lot of persuasion from readers and friends to convince me to go there.

I am not trying to discourage you by any means. I just want to make you very aware of what it takes to actually make a living as a writer. The occult community (especially when we’re talking Demonolatry and Satanism) just isn’t that big to where you can actually make a living doing nothing but writing occult books. Unless you’re writing droves of re-hashed 101 books.  A local printer and bindery printed Infernal Colopatiron.  ~ Steph

 Dear Ms. Connolly, I wrote a book about Satanism but it’s only sold 23 copies in a year. I was wondering if you would promote it and recommend it for me. I don’t know how authors like you and Michael Ford make a living writing. XXX

XXX, Thanks for writing. First, I don’t make my living writing *occult* books. My labor of love is writing occult books. I make my living writing fiction, articles, etc… Sure, a small portion of that income does come from the occult books, but I generally sink that money right back into DB Publishing. I suspect Michael Ford likely isn’t making a living completely from his writing, either. The occult (books and services) isn’t the cash cow some folks seem to think it is. Trust me – those of us who have been here for a long time are doing it because we love it. Not because we’re getting rich from it.

I think the biggest problem is that the market is now saturated with Satanism 101 chapbooks. Sadly, every Satanist with a computer and some free time has written their own Satanic treatise. The difference between a lot of failed chapbook authors and writers like myself or Michael Ford is that we’re considered *experts* in our respective traditions. We’re not considered experts because of our books. No, most of us were dedicated practitioners first who wrote books later. This goes for just about every well-known, prolific occult author out there.  They’ve earned the reputation of being experts in some way. Perhaps a better approach, if you sincerely wish to write occult books that readers will find useful (and consequently will sell more than 23 copies), is to find a particular angle about Satanism that has never been covered before. Or something that hasn’t been covered adequately.  Then pen a book about it.  The world has enough “This is what Satanism is”, “This is why I’m a Satanist”, and “Here’s how I practice Satanism” chapbooks out there.   Write a book with real substance and the readers will come. Good luck! ~ Steph

For more of my advice to beginning writers, check out these previous blog posts:

  • REALITY  – May 19, 2011 – Why you’re not likely to make millions as a writer.
  • THE MOST USEFUL ADVICE – December 15, 2010 – Advice on the path of traditional publishing.
  • DOSE OF WRITING REALITY – August 24, 2011 – Another blog with the theme that writing is real work and you’ll work for slave wages.

About Steph

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at swordarkeereon@gmail.com

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