An avid snowboarder from Utah, Ben Hale grew up with a passion for learning. This thirst for knowledge led him to sports, music, and academic endeavors. After a year of college, he did volunteer work in Brazil and became fluent in three languages. Graduating from the University of Central Florida, he started and ran several successful businesses before publishing his first novel in June of 2012. By the end of the year he’d sold almost ten thousand copies of The Second Draeken War, and he began writing full-time. Now spanning 10,000 years, ten titles, and two series, The Chronicles of Lumineia represents a sprawling YA series that has sold over 100,000 copies, and continues to expand its readership across all ages. Each of his books has been inspired by his wonderful wife and five beautiful children.
Introduction: Tell us who you are, why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.
I am an author of a sprawling fictional fantasy world that spans 10,000 years, 13 books, and 3 series. Unlike most writers I didn’t set out to be a writer. Instead I had a story I thought about as I would fall asleep at night. One evening my wife asked me why I could fall asleep so fast and I told her about my story. She asked me to tell it to her thinking it would help her fall asleep. It took me four days to tell her the entire thing, and it didn’t help her sleep. Her prompting is what drove me to write it. Four years later I was publishing the first and soon after it became my full-time job. Now I’ve sold over 100,000 copies and am preparing to publish my 14th, 15th, and 16th books this year. I also have an audio firm that bought my audio rights, and have done incredibly well with them.
What was the hardest thing about balancing writing with a day job? What is the hardest thing about writing for a living now?
Discipline on both counts. Writing when you have a day job requires discipline to stay consistent. Writing when it’s your job requires even more discipline because there is no immediate consequence for not writing. To be successful as a writer at any point requires daily discipline.
Tell us about your schedule and habits back before you made the move to full-time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).
I dedicated an hour a day to write. Owning a business gave me the flexibility to do that, and I stayed consistent except during the busy season. I didn’t worry about publishing or marketing, I just focused on the story and learning how to write. I also did a lot of drafts. My first book I published the 24th draft, and I still think there are errors.
Now I write 3,000 words a day, or edit 60-80 pages a day when I’m editing. This year I wrote my first book in 7 weeks and edited it in 6. (13 drafts) I hope to write 4 books next year. Regardless of where you are in your writing career consistency is key.
If you don’t mind, would you tell us how your sales first started out? How many books did you have out before you started seeing traction?
My sales on my first book averaged about 2 per day. Over three months they crept up until they were selling 20 per day. Then I published my second book and they both averaged 25 per day. Two months later I published my third and they took off, averaging 350 sales a day between all three. Keep in mind I had already written the three books, so publishing them was easier.
At what point in time did you make the decision to support yourself/your family as an author? What was that decision like and how did you feel afterward?
I took the plunge when my books were earning more than my business was. I also set aside about $10,000 dollars in case sales went down before I could publish more books. I ended up using every cent of the reserve before I managed to stabilize my sales.
Do you support yourself completely from writing books or through a variety of work? If so, what else do you do to pay the bills?
I’m fortunate to be able to write full-time while my wife is a stay-at-home mom. We have five kids so she works a lot harder than I do.
Was there ever a point when you felt like quitting writing or didn’t think you’d ever become a full-time author?
More times than I can count. At one point my sales dropped so low I earned less than $600 for the month. Without my reserve I would have been sunk, but I persevered and kept writing, putting out a new book that helped things bounce back. As much as some might think a great book will make you set for life, that is rarely the case. Most writers that are successful write and keep writing. For most writing a career because they made it one, not because one book took off and it was given to them.
Starting out, what were some misconceptions you had of life as a full-time author? Were there any unexpected challenges you never realized before you got to that point in your career?
I’m sure I had the same image that most people do, that a writer gets to do whatever they want. The truth is that it requires just as much work as any other job. Fortunately I came into it with a background as an entrepreneur, so I viewed by books as products and my series as a product line. I managed to avoid most of the major pitfalls that new authors often face, but caution and courage were my watchwords.
What’s one thing about your author career that not many people know?
What I do for research. I rock climb, play sports, video games, and snowboard, all in the name of research. I can’t perform magic, but I try to do things that create sense of the magical. It’s where I get a lot of my ideas from.
What’s the single best piece of advice you have for authors who can’t support themselves with their writing yet? What should they be focusing on?
Don’t get too attached to your work. Your writing is a medium to convey emotion and ideas. It is not you, or your child. It’s merely a tool to convey what you want. Critiques, reviews, and opinions about your writing is not a referendum on you, it merely helps you know how your medium is being perceived. Never grow so attached to your writing that you ignore editors, friends, and readers.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to touch on?
Take courage and be patient. Writing is a long game, and few are able to make it a financial success in a year. Your success in that time has very little to do with your success ten years from now. Remember, you didn’t become a writer to market and do business. You became a writer to write, so do what you love.