Setting Realistic Goals For Your Writing Career

If you want to be a full-time independent writer, however many fans you need to buy your work depends greatly upon your desired quality of life, and how often you’re able to publish a full-length book. We all wish that we could write the next Harry Potter, a book that conquers the globe in franchise-form, gets movie deals, makes us wealthier than the royal family of England, with raving fans that dress up as our characters at comic book conventions, and earns the Nobel Peace Prize for literature.

Now, while anything’s theoretically possible for anyone, you’ll have a much easier and psychologically healthier time starting off with more immediately tangible (and thus, attainable) objectives.

Most independent authors have the highest of expectations, yet never even make minimum wage with their work (Flood, 2015). This may not be because they’re not cut out to be writers, but more likely due to poor marketing efforts. There is no set algorithm to follow for winning a Nobel Peace Prize, but if, instead, someone aspiring to be a full-time author sets the goal to simply make a living with their work, then an actual formula can be written with hard mathematics, and that can be attained.

Applying Algebra To Your Writing Career

(And you thought that what you learned in school couldn’t be applied to real life! Pah!)

For example, let’s say a writer wants to make $50,000 per year with their work, then all they would need to do is take the amount of revenue they’d earn from each book sale and divide that by their annual goal—that would be how many paying fans they would need.

If “a” (annual pay) = $50,000 and “r” (royalties per book) = $2.30, then…

…of course, you can’t have a fraction or decimal for a fan, so you would round up to the nearest whole number, being 21,740.

Ergo, you would need 21,750 fans that follow you online to buy just one of your books per year in order to make an annual living salary of approximately $50,000.

Now, realistically, if you simply have a following of 21,750 people, each and every one of them may not buy your work, so set the goal for 35,000—that should do the trick.

Now all of a sudden, you have a real figure to work with that you can either strategize yourself to achieve, or employ StrataGem to achieve for you.

…but let’s say that you write two books per year, how many would you need then?

In that case, you would divide the result of a/r by however many books you would write per year. The formula would be as follows:

If p = however many books per year, then…

…you would only need 10,870 readers to buy your work twice per year, if you wrote that prolifically, which shouldn’t be a problem if you consider yourself a full-time writer who treats the craft as a legitimate job. If you make more than $2.30 in royalties per book sold, then you would need even fewer people to buy your work.

Now that you have a concrete numeric goal to work with, the rest is up to creating and following a step-by-step logical plan for achieving that, involving a website with a blog on which you can produce content that captures your target audience’s attention, respect, and gets them to follow you. Then, simply let your following know when you’ve published your book with a simple boosted Facebook post, twitter update, e-mail, and/or blog update…and then bingo—that’s payday for you.

The hardest part is merely getting started.

Analyzing Your Resources

After you’ve determined a target audience that you’ll stick with, assess how you’re going to reach them and convince them to follow you with a call-to-action (like what you’ll read at the end of this very article).

In order to do this, you’re going to need to assess how much money you have for PPC (pay-per-click) advertising that’ll bring people to your content. It’s recommended that you set aside at least a few hundred dollars per month for this purpose, which will help you gain your following extremely quickly if you write well enough.

If you don’t have any money whatsoever for advertising, then don’t worry; you’re in good company, because we don’t/didn’t either when we started this company. You’re going to have to do what we at StrataGem Internet Marketing have also had to do thus far in order to build our audience: bootstrap with guerrilla marketing on social media.

Setting Real Milestones For Your Career

Okay, so, let’s say for a hypothetical example that you want to publish a book from which you earn $4.00 from every individual sale. Your goal is to make $40,000 per year, and you only plan to write one book this year.

…you’ve got $400 to invest in PPC advertising for your blog every month that you set aside from your day job, because you’re not quite ready to make the transition to being a full-time writer yet. You’ve got a family to support and you don’t want to make any gamble with your finances by risking your family’s livelihood on something that may not pay off.

You write four articles in the niche subject that connects your target audience to what you’ll advertise as your book in the future. You publish each article once per week and share it around on social media, and then invest $100 per article to advertise with. Let’s say that your efforts attract you 420 fans (on average per month, which means that it will take you approximately 23.8 months (round up to 24), which basically means two years of effort in order to build the following you need to make the life-change to being a full-time author.

Release your book, and there’s your guaranteed pay day. Sales are guaranteed because by the time you launch, you’d have been blogging for two years. By then, your audience knows you and your writing style, trusts you, and looks forward to reading what you release next. At this point, you are more than just a person to them; you’re a brand name, and your following will likely buy from you not only because you’ve been nurturing them with relevant content for the past two years, but simply because you wrote it, simply because your name is on it, and they trust you. They want to buy from you.

That’s the same social power of big names like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy, etc. just on a smaller niche scale—because remember, you don’t actually need millions and millions of fans to make a decent living; you only need enough of a core true fan following that’ll buy what you sell (The Technium, 2008).

And the most amazing thing about this approach is that once you publish your book and promote it to the audience that you’ve established—they’re not going anywhere! Your fans aren’t going to leave you! You won’t have to make that investment ever again in life (so long as you stay true to your fans). That audience is yours forever, which means that once you have them, you can make that kind of money whenever you want, by publishing a book that appeals to them. So if you decide to write two books that year, instead of one, that’s almost a guaranteed $80,000 of revenue that you’re bringing in per year.

And what’s even better is that you’ll find that after a certain point, your audience is just going to grow on its own, because as you publish more and more content, your raving fans that have been following you and reading your work for so long will naturally share your work that they love so much already (especially if you ask them to!) which will make you exposed to their friends, and their friends’ friends, and so on, without you having to do anything more than making a simple Facebook update, Twitter post, and/or sending out an e-mail.

Not Fast Enough?

Let’s say that two years is too long of a time for you. Let’s say that you want a bigger audience, faster.

…no problem.

Though you may not like what our answer to that is, which is:

work harder.

Instead of publishing four articles per month and sharing them around (as if in the previous example), publish eight, twelve, or sixteen, etc. and/or set aside more money from your day job for advertising. If you want exponentially greater results, then you’re going to have to put in an exponentially greater effort. Your career as a writer, in this case, becomes a direct reflection of what you put into it. What you get is directly proportional to what you give.

…and here’s that call-to-action that I was talking about:

Follow Mike on Twitter and like him on Facebook in order to get updates on more articles like this about priceless insider information on the publishing industry, and how to make a realistic living as a writer!

See what I did there?



  1. Flood, A. (2015, January 23). Many authors’ earnings fall below $500pa, survey finds. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from
  2. The Technium: 1,000 True Fans. (2008, March 4). Retrieved September 22, 2015, from


Michael Norton
Michael is the bestselling author of Fighting For Redemption, as well as an award-winning essayist, Internet marketing strategist, and mechanical engineer.

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