Financial Indie: Financing Your Writing Career


Note: “Financial Indie” is a series of articles designed to help writers finance their careers. If you have an investment question, please post it, and I’ll try to incorporate it into a future article.

Financial Indie 1I cheered when I saw my Apple (AAPL) stock jump nine percent on April 25 after another great quarter, earning, perhaps, a better return in one night than I will from a year’s worth of effort to sell books. It made me wonder why so many writers chase book sales to earn a living when so few are successful, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in an article about the self-publishing industry. While writing is an admirable calling, the economics of the publishing industry suggest that most writers need alternate sources of income to support themselves financially, at least at the outset of their careers.

After I started writing full time, I found no lack of information on how to write and publish books but few resources on how writers, particularly those with limited budgets, could finance their projects and supplement their income. Most articles I’ve read dealing with the financial aspect of writing focused on how to save money or publish on a tight budget. A few suggested doing freelancing and editing jobs. Those are viable ways for would-be authors to make money, but they can also be time consuming. Every minute a writer spends working for someone else is one less minute spent on their own writing projects. There are other ways to earn extra income that take less time and offer a higher rate of return. Investing is one.

Self-publishing a book is not cheap. A writer may pay more than U.S.$1,000 to write, edit, and publish a book (excluding marketing expenses). It costs hundreds of dollars, if not more, to hire a professional editor to polish a manuscript and a designer to create a book cover. An e-book cover can cost as much as U.S.$100; a print version more than $200. The writer will need to purchase an ISBN from W.W. Bowker for each book medium and copyright it. Although Kindle Digital Publishing, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords publish and distribute e-books for free, publishers usually charge for premium services such as expanded distribution and print-on-demand. Marketing expenses vary. If a writer is good at using social media, they may pay nothing to advertise. Some pay thousands of dollars to hire professional marketers. Those looking to hire an agent and publish through a traditional publishing house should expect to spend money to pitch their book.

What this means is that writing costs money in the short term, and until you earn a respectable income from book sales, you’ll need a way to finance your efforts. For most, it means working full time and writing when you can, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By planning ahead and investing wisely, you can build a stable income that will support your writing and help you move away from depending on a paycheck toward becoming a financially-independent writer.

I’ve been investing for a long time. It took me years to build an investment portfolio that gave me the opportunity to leave my day job. It wasn’t an easy option waiting to launch my writing career, but my patience was rewarded last year when I took the plunge and left my job to write full time. It gives me piece of mind knowing that investments such as Apple will support me until I establish myself as an indie author.

If you don’t have an investment portfolio, you should. How do you get started? Should you buy shares of Apple at more than U.S.$600 a share and hope they reach U.S.$800? No. Chasing returns is a fool’s game. I don’t recommend chasing “hot” stocks, even one as mighty as Apple. You can purchase Apple by owning shares of mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETF) that limit your exposure to price swings.

Start by writing a personal investment plan. Determine your financial goals and set a timeline. How much do you want to earn, and how long will it take to achieve it? Look at your budget to see how much you can set aside to build your financial portfolio. Just as you would outline a novel before you write it, you need a plan before you invest.

Figure out how much you can save each month and write it down. Setting aside a small amount in the near term can go a long way to supplementing your income in the long run. Look at your cash flows and decide what discretionary spending you can eliminate – including from your writing budget — and how much you can save. If you stop buying what you don’t need, how much money will you have to grow?

See if you can set aside about U.S.$100 per month. In future articles, we’ll use this as a base to help you build your portfolio.

Click here to read the next article in the “Financial Indie” series.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is founder of Brilliance Equity LLC, an investment firm.

Edwards is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Return to Ko Kret, Thailand


In September 2011, my family and I visited Ko Kret (Koh Kred) Island in the Chao Phraya River north of Bangkok, Thailand. Our outing then was cut short when we were stopped by the rising floodwaters that inundated the river. You can read about that adventure here.

Six months later after a long dry spell, we decided to try visiting again, this time on bicycle. A two meter decrease in the water level since late last year made the island much more accessible. Here are some photos showing the flooding six months ago and after the waters receded:

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My wife, son and I hauled our bicycles to the ferry dock at Wat Sanamnau Buddhist temple across from the island and carried them over. Along the way, we ran into places we had seen six months earlier that had been flooded during that visit. This time, they were dry.

The ferry ride on the rickety wooden boat overloaded with passengers was an adventure in and of itself, especially with bicycles in tow. The passengers rushed on and off the ferry and fought for space, making it a logistical challenge to negotiate passage.

We made it across the river safely and stopped for lunch at a roadside food stand that offered Thai cuisine. I ate Pad Thai, the national dish of Thailand — always a “safe” dish to order if you don’t recognize any other dishes on dingy laminated menus with faded photos and Thai descriptions. My son ate crab fried rice, and my wife a seafood soup that looked a bit iffy to me but that she claimed tasted good.

We left the market located next to the ferry dock and set off on a five-kilometer (2.5 mile) bicycle ride around the island. We first headed toward the “Koh Kred Pottery Village.” What we thought was another pottery market was in fact a functioning township home to pottery makers and several large brick kilns where local artisans baked ceramic pottery.

We rode past some Buddhist landmarks, including Wat Chimphi temple, where I spotted one of the few golden phoenix statues I’d seen in Thailand, as well as shrines dedicated to the elephant god Ganesha and other Buddhist deities.

Small canals and homes elevated on stilts added to the flavor of the island.

We turned inland and rode on raised concrete thoroughfares that passed above canals and swamps dotting the island. Although the passageways were generally flat, we ran into a number of dips, speed bumps and dogs that could have sent us tumbling into the murky water and marshes on either side. In spite of the risk, the scenery made for some beautiful photo opportunities.

My wife, son and I rode through countryside filled with homes on stilts, soggy fields growing whatever the locals could cultivate, Buddhist temples, and the occasional store lining the road. The buildings were in varying stages of decay or disrepair. The hot, wet weather and repeated flooding took a heavier toll on structures here than it would have in other climes.

Turning once more, we rode back to the central market on Ko Kret. We stopped for coconut ice cream moments before a rainstorm passed over and dumped buckets of precipitation, a common but unpredictable occurrence during the rainy season. The coconut ice cream — a local concoction topped with fruit jelly, condensed milk, and sticky rice — was a real treat. Vendors who waited beside us for the rain to stop shared laughs with us without exchanging a word. We couldn’t speak Thai, and they couldn’t speak English, but the auspiciousness of eating dessert while waiting out a rainstorm transcended our language barrier.

After the storm, the vendors swept away the water with brooms, and we inched our way through the narrow, crowded alleyway with our bicycles. I joked to my wife that we got wet every time we visited Ko Kret. Getting doused by rain was a sight better than succumbing to a flood.

The rain started again as we left Ko Kret Island, and we darted back to our car with bicycles in tow. Although we ended up soaking wet, we enjoyed a great day riding on an island that’s not far from Bangkok — but a world away.

To read about our previous visit to Ko Kret during the Bangkok flood, click here for part one and here for part two.

Map picture

buythumb[3]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Majesty of Kilimanjaro


buythumb[3]Mount Kilimanjaro looms large in my book, Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a chronicle of my attempt to summit the highest mountain in Africa.

The iconic mountain is a sight to behold. I can think of nothing better to capture the feeling of what it’s like to behold this magnificent peak than to share with you some photos of the mountain and short excerpts from the book. I hope that they will give you a glimpse of the majesty that radiates from Mount Kilimanjaro and put you on the mountain.

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“I slithered out of my tent and stumbled into an incredibly majestic view of the Kilimanjaro summit. The clouds parted and the sun appeared, brightening the landscape and warming the air. Kibo Peak rose high in all its glory, as if to say that only those who were worthy could behold her full beauty. Lacey folds of snow lay gently in crevasses made by long-vanished glaciers that raked the mountainside. I was mesmerized by the amazing view and gazed at it for what seemed like an eternity. At that moment, there was nowhere else on Earth I wanted to be.”

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“Kibo Peak reached for the sky yet looked close to the touch, and it beckoned me to head for the summit, a temptation that flattered me with a false confidence. I could not have chosen a better relief for my morning stretch. I faced the mountain and stretched in ways that made me look as if I were performing a sacred rite. I bowed and prostrated my body like a supplicant in a traditional ceremony, casting my arms and legs about in an elaborate ritual. The sunlight painted the landscape in surreal colors. The rock was more brilliant and the shadows deeper and more pronounced in the sunlight. I turned around in mid-exercise and beheld the Serengeti unfurling for miles across the plains into Kenya. Some claimed that Mount Kilimanjaro offered the best views in the world. Looking down on the world below, I had to agree.”

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More About Mount Kilimanjaro:

Click here to learn more about the book Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill about the author’s attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain.

Click here to read about the flora and fauna on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about the dedicated guides, porters, and cooks who work on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read the story of the iconic wooden sign on Kilimanjaro’s summit and the metal one that replaced it in January 2012.

Click here to read about the vanishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro.

Click here to read about The Snows of Kilimanjaro, the 1936 semi-autobiographical short story by Ernest Hemingway, the 1952 film, and the main character, Harry Street.

buythumb7M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. His collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2012 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

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