Blake Atwood is a freelance editor and writer at EditFor.me and the author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad. He’s proofread Texas legislation, led communications for a large church, written copy for a law firm, and edited hundreds of articles for a niche content marketing platform. Today, he offers affordable editing and writing services to self-publishers. Download his Self-Publisher’s Checklist: 33 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself Before Self-Publishing for free by subscribing to his helpful email newsletter for writers.
Tell us who you are, how and why you decided to be an author and where you’re at right now in your career.
Every serious writer wants to “graduate” to become an author. Seeing your name on the spine of a book is every writer’s ultimate dream. Whether we admit to it or not, there’s validation there—the fact that something I created out of almost nothing exists in the real world.
I became an author because I wanted to prove to my insecure writer self that it could be done.
Two months after starting the initial writing of my book, I quit writing, sure that no one would be interested in what I wanted to say about a critically acclaimed show I thought few people had been watching.
Then fate intervened.
I knew that if I was going to self-publish, I at least wanted to take advantage of free publicity and have the book’s release date coincide with the final season premiere episode of Breaking Bad. Following those two months of having essentially given up on the project, the powers that be announced that Breaking Bad would return to the small screen one month later than it had in previous years.
As if by magic, I’d be given back an entire month.
That’s when I became an author. That’s when I got serious about finishing my book regardless of public reception. That’s when I got up at 5 a.m. almost every day for weeks on end to write for one or two hours.
Four months later, I had an author page on Amazon.
It’s been a year since then, and that one book has opened doors for me that would have never been opened otherwise.
Though I’m adamant about encouraging self-publishers to always start the next book after they’ve finished their first, I’m terrible at taking my own advice. I have yet to start another project of my own, but I’m getting restless about it. Plus, my highly encouraging wife keeps goading me about the next book.
What was/is the hardest thing about balancing writing with everyday life and/or a day job?
Before I began freelancing, I assumed that having myself as a boss would grant me at least an hour or two out of my work day to write my own words, but my outside work has been consistent. Consequently, if I want to write and publish another book, I’ll very likely have to revert to the daily, early-morning discipline that helped me write the first book!
For me, the hardest aspects were (and still are) finding the right time to work on a book, being absolutely dedicated to the writing for that time block, and working as hard as I can to meet deadlines, even if they’re arbitrary.
Tell us about your schedule and habits from this time (or what you’re doing now if it hasn’t changed).
Even though I’m freelancing, it’s still a full-time job, and I have to be intentional with how I spend my time. When I was employed by a company, I had to get up early to write. There was simply no other way the book would ever be written, as I certainly wasn’t going to sacrifice time with my wife, family, or friends in order to write (though I’m sure that happened on certain occasions).
Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.
Now that I’m fully in charge of my own time at work, there’s less urgency to giving time to my own writing—and that’s not a good thing. Some boundaries can be a hindrance, but many are necessary, especially for the do-it-yourself writer and self-publisher.
I need to get back into the habit of rising early to write my own books, else they’re likely never to come into existence.
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?
With my wife’s blessing—because I wouldn’t have done it otherwise—I quit my full-time job in July of 2014, but it wasn’t because of my book sales. When I made the transition, I felt equally excited and terrified.
If you’ll allow it, I’d like to offer a specific word of warning to first-time authors considering quitting their day jobs to become full-time writers: don’t.
I’m going to be far too honest here and share my current book sales and revenue. This is neither gloating or bemoaning. Such numbers are something I wish more first-time, self-published authors would share, which is why I’m doing so here.
As of the end of July 2014, or nearly a year’s worth of sales, I’ve sold 1964 copies (digital, print, and audiobook versions), given away 1274 copies, and have made $2447 total for an average of 110 books sold per month with an average monthly revenue of $245.
Considering that some sites say most indie-published books sell less than 500 copies in their lifetime, I’d like to think my book’s done well, and that’s the point. Even with generous royalties and fairly good sales for a seldom-marketed book with a no-name author, I’ve only made $245 per month.
I’m absolutely thankful for that income, but it’s nothing to quit over. At this point in my life, it’s an important part of a larger business plan, but I’d like to caution would-be writers and self-publishers that, unless you strike the lottery with your book, quitting your day job after releasing one book (or even two or three) isn’t encouraged.
But you should still write that book. Having written a book is such a larger achievement than having made money from it.
What is one thing about your author career that not many people know of? Alternatively, what are some of your other hobbies/interests outside of writing?
The actual genesis for my book started in 2010 with this article. I had no idea then that I’d ever write a book about the show and was fairly certain the website wouldn’t even accept the article.
Outside of writing, I read and drum, though not at the same time.
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?
Be patient and focus on the task in front of you. That’s two pieces of advice, but they’re two sides of the same coin. Trying to write a BOOK is much more difficult than trying to write a page of a book—and even that can be difficult at times.
By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.
Maybe you want to build a writing career on the back of that book, but that’s far too much pressure to place on yourself and your book, especially while you’re writing it. By focusing on each step as it comes to you (outline, draft, revise, revise, revise, publish, market, market, market), you’ll prevent yourself from burning out.
Yes, this will take longer, but the reward is worth the focused effort.
Is there anything else you’d like to touch on?
I’m happy to offer an editing quote for any self-publishing authors. And whether or not you choose me to edit your book, promise me that you’ll pay some qualified editor to edit your book. Everyone needs an editor!