It’s hard to find income reports from freelancers specializing in the book niche, especially ghostwriters. So, last year I started posting income reports in the hopes of providing some encouragement to those thinking of entering this field. If you have the passion for it and put in some serious effort, it is possible to feed and clothe yourself running your own book-focused business.
In order to meet my income goal for 2018, I need to average $2,500 a month. Well, I had my baby girl, Lottie, in April, and income was certainly not consistent for the next six months. But I’m back in the game! November was my highest grossing month to date! If I keep this momentum up in December, I can still crush my income goal, even with my long absence from full-time work. What’s the magic formula? It looks a little something like … Charge what you’re worth + Never stop sending proposals + Extreme hustle + Continually expand your horizons = Happy bank account.
I currently have three writing clients, two from Reedsy and one who found me via my website (Want to learn how to create a freelance website that lands you clients? Read this post). Plus, two past editing clients reconnected in November.
The best part? Two of those writing gigs are paid coauthor positions, meaning I get my name on the cover, a fixed fee for project creation, plus 10% royalties on book sales.
Since I’ve only been posting sporadically the last seven months, I haven’t been able to announce my most exciting news of all, and I figure this is a pretty good place to do it. A few months ago, my personal novel, Arcamira, was picked up by a hybrid publisher and will be released late next year! I’ve been working on this book since I was fourteen, and to know I’ll have it in my hands next year is incredible. Because I published it previously on the serialized literature website, Channillo.com, I figured a hybrid publisher was my best bet since I currently can’t handle the workload required for true self-publishing. A hybrid publisher offers both traditional and more book packager-like publishing deals (you pay one company a lump sum to produce, distribute, and market the book). Because of the previous publication and the fact that this will be my debut novel, I was not selected for traditional publishing, but placed on the highest tier of the paid packages, meaning I was charged their lowest rates for production costs.
If you want to learn more about the different self-publishing options out there, read Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing.
Hopefully, next year I’ll have some nice book sale numbers to add to my income reports.
Now, let’s get down to business. Here’s November’s breakdown. The chart below is from my invoicing and accounting software, FreshBooks.
(Want to learn more about Freshbooks? Read my review.)
(You can see that dip in September where I paid for book production while not taking in any income. Freshbooks lets you log expenses for tax season.)
NOVEMBER GROSS INCOME: $9,177
I’ll break down some details of the jobs I completed in just a moment.
NOVEMBER BUSINESS EXPENSES: $762
This is completely normal. In fact, this is actually pretty low, considering I made more than usual this month.
NOVEMBER NET INCOME: $8,415
This is before I put 20% into savings in preparation for taxes. This is a good practice so you aren’t forced to cough up cash you don’t have during tax season (to learn how my taxes went last year, read my post on Filing Taxes as a Full-Time Freelancer). However, I’m not taking it out of the net income calculations because I still have that money, just not in my checking.
Apparently, in the last two months, I have started appearing on the first page of Google for targeted ghostwriter searches. It helped me land a large nonfiction ghostwriting gig with a great client. I’m thrilled I’ve achieved that status, and I wish I could tell you how I did it … but I really don’t know. I would assume it has to do with having three different blogs all relating back to book-related topics: this blog for freelancers, my author blog, and my business website blog. I have never really bothered with keywords, at least not on purpose. Perhaps if I had, this would have happened sooner, but I’m happy to say that I think it happened organically. No tricks involved.
My Name in Print
Keep your eyes peeled in the next year or three, because if all goes to plan, there will be two fantasy books out there with my name listed alongside the clients’.
One is a YA mermaid novel set in the client’s vibrant, Middle-Earth-esque world he’s been developing for something like two decades. It’s the first in a series that I hope to continue.
The other is an adult fantasy novel about changelings—humans who can take animal form. It deals with themes of persecution, tyranny, rebellion, and faith. It, too, is slated to be the first of many in a series.
So how do you decide if you should take on a coauthoring deal rather than typical ghostwriting? Well, you have to really like the subject matter and the client, first off. Second, it needs to match up with your author brand, not just your ghostwriting niche.
How did I land these collaborations? Both came to me via Reedsy, which means no searching on my part. However, the real legwork begins when you receive a request. You’re never the only ghostwriter a client approaches. To stand out, you must respond promptly, ask intelligent questions that showcase your expertise, and provide targeted samples. The next step, for coauthoring especially, is to create a genuine connection between yourself and the client. It’s not rocket science, either. Be kind, be eager to learn more about their project, and tell them what you like most about their ideas.
Bring on the Nonfiction
Books are my primary niche. Ghostwriting and editing are secondary. But my tertiary niches are my preferred genres, and one of those happens to be self-help. I love writing in the self-help niche because it always brings clients with big, positive personalities my way. It also allows me to expand my knowledge on topics I wouldn’t normally dive that deeply into.
Thanks to my boost in Google ranking, I was connected with a holistic practitioner and acupuncture specialist who wants to write a book on fertility, namely, helping women who are struggling to become pregnant to finally have that sweet baby. This topic is not only a worthy one, but also near to my heart, as I struggled for about a year to get pregnant and started to wonder what in the world was going on with me. Now I get to help someone who has those answers give them to other women.
This book is true ghostwriting, and my rates reflected that. I charged $12,000 total. Normally, it would have been $15,000, based on the pretty standard 50,000 word count, but I always provide reductions for clients who already have substantial research compiled and some form of outline in place. She had both, hence the $3,000 off. The client had no qualms with my final price tag. I assure you, there are many other wonderful clients like her out there. Go find them and quit wasting your time on folks who think $500 is an exorbitant budget.
(Don’t know what ghostwriting is? You can learn more in two previous posts: Ghostwriting 101 and 10 Things You May Not Know About Ghostwriting.)
Okay, let’s get back to numbers.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
These are the down payments for the YA mermaid novel and the fertility book. The adult fantasy novel’s down payment was invoiced in October.
MANUSCRIPT EDITING: $777
This is from a short thriller-esque novel copy edit, a blog post proofread, and the middle payment on a fantasy novel copy edit.
This section is normally allotted to affiliate income and consulting projects, but I didn’t have any of those this month.
WHAT DID I SPEND MONEY ON?
This month, my expenses came from my Publisher’s Marketplace membership, the small fee FreshBooks takes on each paid invoice, Stripe payment fees, and Reedsy’s “finder’s fee.” In exchange for providing a platform that directs ghostwriting clients to me, Reedsy charges 10%.
AM I ON THE RIGHT TRACK TO MEET MY 2018 GOALS?
GOAL 1: ANNUAL GROSS INCOME OF $30,000
Last year, I did not meet my old income goal of $25,000, but I’m still aiming higher this year. $30,000 is what I would charge for a full-length (75,000 word), from-scratch ghostwriting project that required research and an outline crafted before beginning. It’s also around what my husband made at his 9-5 in 2017, so I think doubling our income is a good goal now that we have a baby to provide for.
I am happy to say, I am only $2,000 away from meeting that gross income goal! I can most definitely do that. I’m ecstatic! Especially since I had started to worry in August, when I was really struggling to pick work back up after being absent for maternity leave. Now, I want to challenge myself further to try and earn $30,000 net income, meaning the income total after factoring in expenses. We’ll see how it goes.
You know what I made last November? $1,057. Sometimes it’s good to look back.
GOAL 2: SHIFT PURPLEINKPEN’S FOCUS TO MANUSCRIPTS 100%
Since I began freelancing, I’ve always taken smaller side gigs like English tutoring or writing product reviews for extra cash, if they came my way. But I’m ready to let those go. I was 90% of the way to that goal when I wrote April’s income report, and I said that by December 2018, I wanted to be so slammed with book work that I couldn’t even fit anything else in if I wanted to. Well, I’d say that I’m at about 99%. I’m still taking on one long-term blog editing client’s pieces. I enjoy providing that service for her, and I’ll keep it up until I absolutely cannot find a spare fifteen minutes to read her posts (it’s starting to get to that point).
I’m still counting it as goal completed. Sue me.
GOAL 3: LAND ONE BOOK GHOSTWRITING GIG WITH A PAYOUT OF $15,000 OR MORE
Ever since raising my rates back in early 2017, I had only landed smaller-scope rewriting projects … until this month. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed all those past jobs, but I really wanted to land one full-length, from-scratch ghostwriting project. $15,000 is the average of what I would charge for a 50,000 word book. That’s also half of my income goal from one project, so I think this is a tangible and worthwhile goal.
Well, this is a bit tricky. See, I just landed a 50,000-word ghostwriting gig, but because research and a basic outline were provided, it didn’t quite hit $15,000. Do I still count it? I’m thinking I might.
The price for the coauthored mermaid novel came even closer to the $15,000 goal, even after the big deduction I provide for coauthoring arrangements.
I think, if I combine those two wins, I could probably say I met this goal … but maybe I’ll carry it over into 2019’s goals anyway.
GOAL 4: SELF-PUBLISH PRINT COPIES OF MY NOVEL, ARCAMIRA
Well … even though the copies aren’t actually in print yet, I did it! Vanity publishing/hybrid publishing/book packaging is a form of self-publishing. It wasn’t the form I initially intended, but when John Hunt’s Cosmic Egg Books imprint offered me a reasonably priced deal that would mean I didn’t have to find and hire five different professionals to get my book in print and distribute it to sellers while adjusting to motherhood, I jumped. And I’m very happy with my decision thus far.
Woo-hoo for another achieved goal!
IT IS POSSIBLE!
I hope this has been helpful. I hope it’s convinced you that this career path isn’t a pipe dream. I’m not a veteran, best-selling ghostwriter commanding $1 per word rates (yes, those rates and even higher are out there and attainable with hard work!). I started this right out of college with no “real world” experience, sweet samples, or any sort of clue, but I have come a long way in the past three years. It takes time to build credibility in this niche, but with dedication, it can become very lucrative. You also don’t have to start out naively charging a few hundred per book, like I did. I look forward to the day a book I collaborate on reaches the best-seller list and my website boasts rates of $1+ per word, but for now, I’m grateful for what I’ve already achieved.
If you’re interested in this niche, I hope I’ve given you some ideas on avenues to explore. If you aren’t looking to get into the manuscript business, but you’re starting out as a freelance writer or editor of any sort, I hope I’ve been able to assure you that freelancing isn’t a fairy tale only achieved by people with tons of free time or years and years of experience in a lucrative 9-5 field.
Please feel free to connect in the comments if you have any questions or if you have any awesome stories about how you’re making a living as a freelancer. Are you on track to meet your 2018 business goals? Are you working toward landing that first “big break” gig? Did you kick this month’s butt and make more than ever before? I’d love to hear about all of it. Thanks for reading!
5 thoughts on “How I Write and Edit Books for a Living: November 2018 Income Report”
Hannah, that’s absolutely amazing, I’m so thrilled for you. It really is a list of huge achievements, along with having a baby too – you should be very proud of yourself. I’m so glad you’ve got two really good book writing projects to work on as well. I love following your journey and learning from your blog, and it’s been great to see all of your hard work pay off. And very well done on getting so high in the Google rankings, that will really help I think. I’m off to a meeting of independent authors tonight which I’m looking forward to – it’s a rare chance for me to meet up with other writers. And I managed to complete NaNo this year, which I’d not tried before. It came down to the wire, but I did it! Well done for a fantastic year, and thanks for sharing so much valuable information.
Claire, thank you so much! And huge congrats on completing NaNoWriMo! The one year I did it, it also came down to the wire, and then my stupid butt forgot to “verify” it. I’m still slapping myself over that one.
I’d love to hear about your novel! Genre, characters, plot, anything! I’m super curious.
Also, have fun at the independent author’s meeting! Sounds great.
I am so glad you shared this article! I follow you on twitter and the headline was so intriguing, I had to read it. I am trying to get back into freelance writing again (so much life has happened since I was last able to) and so reading this was quite encouraging.
I love the fact that you are a ghostwriter that is not afraid to charge what they’re worth and that you are finally realizing one of your dreams by publishing Arcamira. I have been considering working on one of my old book manuscripts again in my free time, and you gave me the courage to do that again.
Thanks so much for sharing! Will be looking forward to your next post.
Carise, thanks for the huge smile. So glad I could provide some encouragement. You should most definitely pick that manuscript back up again. If you still love the characters, they’re worth the effort, because someone else is going to love them, too. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. Happy writing! And best of luck with jumping back into freelancing! Please feel free to share any wins or ask any questions, either here in the comments or in an email.