I know that money isn't a good reason to write, but I am wondering if writing as a new author is even profitable anymore.

What makes a book successful? It seems less that it is the story or prose and more "Oprah's Book Club" or some other major publicity.

See: 50 Shades Series...horrible books from what I have heard (never read for myself), yet they made the author massive amount of money.

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    You could say the same thing about any other business. Most startups fail. Most novels don't get published. The trick is perseveranceNever give up! Write your next novel. And the next. –, social competenciesNetwork! Be likeable. Make friends in and around the business. –, and, admittedly, a bit of luck.
    – user5645
    Jul 25, 2014 at 7:19
  • Agreed, you've just got to put yourself out there. Still, it would also help to consider what you mean by profitable. Most of the fantasy and sci-fi authors I read are very well known, but still have day jobs. Writing with the aim of becoming the next 50 Shades has nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with marketing see here, I recall reading that E. L James' husband was a high end marketing executive.
    – CLockeWork
    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:02
  • If we knew what makes books successful, we'd be signing books for my fans instead of sitting here! Think of it in terms of buying lottery tickets. Both writing and getting through publishers.
    – SF.
    Jul 25, 2014 at 8:46
  • This is a very broad question and hard to answer in its current form. It also seems very related to this question. I'm going to mark it as a duplicate; if you had something else in mind, please edit to clarify and focus. Be sure to read our question guidelines. Thanks. Jul 25, 2014 at 14:32

1 Answer 1


"Profit" is simply "bringing in more money than you spent to create/achieve X task."

If you bake cookies, and the ingredients and stove fuel work out to cost you 15 cents a cookie and you sell them for 25 cents a cookie, you've made 10 cents profit.

The real question is whether you can live on those profits.

Over the entire batch of cookies, how much does the 10-cents-a-cookie add up to? How long did it take you to bake the cookies? What is your time worth? What did you not do while making those cookies?

It's the same with anything else. Yes, you can write a novel. How long will it take you? What did you not do while writing that novel? How much will it cost to publish? After you sell a copy and subtract the publication costs, what's left?

Even writers with contracts from publishing companies may struggle to live on the profits (the royalties) if the book isn't a gangbuster (and really, how many are). So you may "make a profit," but you have to figure out if that profit will pay your bills while you spend all your time writing the next one.

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    One can also look at the time (and other resources) spent writing from the perspective of lost opportunity cost (the resources could have been spent on a more profitable activity) and entertainment/recreational and educational expenses (e.g., 8 hours of writing might be less expensive than an hour of psychotherapy or 8 hours of MMORPG play).
    – user5232
    Jul 25, 2014 at 15:43
  • I've published a handful of magazine articles and two books. My income from this has been small, but expenses are small too, so sure, I've made a profit. But if my goal was just to make money, I can confidently say that the opportunity cost was huge. I could have done much better by getting a part-time job at McDonalds and earning minimum wage for those hours. Never mind that I have on occasion done computer consulting work, which pays WAY better than writing. I'd have to add up the numbers, but I probably made more with one day of computer consulting than with all the writing I've done ...
    – Jay
    Jul 25, 2014 at 21:16
  • ... for the past 30 years put together.
    – Jay
    Jul 25, 2014 at 21:16

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