Writers Need an Initial Nest Egg. Here’s Why

Even if you traditionally publish, writing takes some initial capital. In this video, I acknowledge that hurdle and encourage writers to prepare by putting together a nest egg.

How much should a writer put into their nest egg?

I hear your next question from here. How big should the nest egg be? That depends. If you want to take time off and not work and just write, it’ll be a heck of a lot bigger. And if you’re not as well connected (which is still true for me), the amount you have to put into marketing will be larger, too. It’s not usual for people to put anywhere from a few hundred bucks to $20,000 into a professional package.

At the very least, plan to cover some expenses like software and email tools (e.g., Aweber). Those tools not only can help you prepare your manuscript, but also allow you to communicate with your readers about the book.

nest egg savings

An easy way to put some money aside

Another hurdle I hear all the time is just, “How do I save?!” When money’s tight to begin with, even a couple of bucks can be hard to spare. But one tip I can give you there is, take the time to get enough upfront that you can buy the annual versions of any writing-related subscriptions you might have, rather than by the month. (The exception, of course, is a tool you’ll only need for a brief window.) As an example, say a tool costs $15 a month. The annual plan is $144. That’s $36 bucks you just saved.

Now, I know that might not seem like a ton. But what if your process requires other subscriptions, such as Aweber, QueryManager, and your website host? Then savings easily can total up four digits. And if it does, well, now, all of a sudden, you’ve essentially just paid for your cover design, editing, or other publishing-related service for free. Or maybe that pays the travel expenses you have to be a guest presenter somewhere. ALWAYS take the money you save from these kinds of things and reinvest them in your writing. ALWAYS.

Image credit:
Frantisek Krejci from Pixabay

[Transcript summary]

It used to be that as a writer, you could send some queries out. You could get some writing done, and that would pay for itself and be sustainable. But it’s been a long time since that has been viable. What we’re seeing today is that, now, it really does take a lot of initial investment. That is true whether you are self-publishing or are traditionally publishing.

What’s happening now is that, even in traditional publishing, if you get an advance, the publishers are expecting you to take that money and put it towards your marketing. They used to do a ton more marketing. That’s not to say that they don’t do marketing for you now. It’s just that the expectation has changed to be that you are going to reinvest in that. If you self-publish, you’ve got to put that money upfront, too. And even if you get it from your advance, it goes right back into marketing or other things that you need.

So, you need to have initial capital. How do you get that? Now, this is where it gets a little tricky. What I would advise if you’re just starting out is — and I know you don’t want to hear this — but go ahead and do some other work. If you can make it from writing, great. But if you can’t, be patient. Do your writing on the side. Don’t just set it aside if you can help it. You can still get those ideas going. Work as much as you can. Set some money aside and save. If you can invest a little bit to make it go faster to get some more capital, that’s great. But if you can only save, well, then that’s okay.

But once you have that money saved, that’s what’s going to get you that little beginning nest egg so that you can then put that into something that’s going to start the ball rolling. Once you have that first book or that first couple of publications, then you start getting a following, and you can start publishing more to get more and more income. But you need that first initial little bit.

So, it might take some saving for a little bit. But don’t be discouraged by that. Just understand that that’s a reality that you’re going to have to face as a writer, that you have to put that money upfront, just like a business expense. You’ve got to plan for it. If that means that it takes a little bit longer to get off the ground, okay. But you know that it’s coming, and you set up that plan for how to get that money saved up.