The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

Making Your Long Tail

Over at his site (, the very wise Dean Wesley Smith laid down some math that spoke to the old RPG freelancer in me with its very simple formula: The number of words you write has a direct effect on the amount of money you make. When I was cranking out tens of thousands of words every month as a freelancer, that was true, and it’s even more true now.

By Dean’s math, to hit the point where you make $80k a year from writing you’ll need about 20 books in your personal backlist. There are a lot more examples and explanations as to how he arrived at that number on his site, and you really should go read what he has to say, but that’s the gist of it. If you want to make a living at this, then you’ll need about 20 books out there bringing home the bacon.

At first glance, that seems like an enormous library of books. And in a world where writers are throttled back to only release one book a year, it’s an enormous hurdle. But we don’t live in that world.

Based on what I’m reading and hearing, we live in a world where the author is in charge of his destiny in a whole new way. If you want to be successful, you need to put the hammer down and write books. The more you write, the more you sell and the faster you’ll get to that magical point where your writing pays all the bills.

But to get there in a timely fashion, we’re going to have to love what we write – because we’re going to be writing and reading it more than ever before. It’s an interesting time to be a writer, and I’ll be very curious to see how all this shakes out.

For now, though, I’ve got books to write.

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.