The problem with passion — why most fiction authors can’t make a living and what that means for the rest of us

Billions read fiction, yet most fiction authors struggle to make a living — why?

It can’t be passion.

Writing is hard. Editing is seldom enjoyable. To finish a book takes perseverance seldom found without passion.

It can’t be skill.

Or, at least, not only skill. Any best-selling list includes one author who has little. And numerous highly-skilled and praised authors sell little.

It can’t be need or market size.

Many of us read fiction. The global market for fiction is estimated at almost $11 Billion in 2022. Clearly there’s a need.

That leaves customer expectations and competition.

Books have well-established price ranges. In the main, those price ranges only allow narrow margins — whether traditional or self-published. Low margins require high number of sales to make a living.

Competition is even worse.

More than five thousand Kindle ebooks are published each day. Amazon has more than thirty million titles. With so much competition, making a high number of sales isn’t easy.

Some do, most don’t.

Fiction books are undifferentiated. Sure, each story can be unique but to a customer one book is the same as any other. Categories can narrow the degree of competition, but also narrow the audience.

To make a lot of sales, one book needs to make a lot of noise to be found amongst all that.

Having passion, skill, need and market size isn’t enough. To make a living we need either high sales or high margins. It’s hard to get either with a product that isn’t different from all others.



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