If there’s anything that is a constant, it’s the desire to be entertained, inspired, and educated. Because of this, writers everywhere are learning how to turn these three things into income. If you’ve considered starting a writing career to supplement your income or even replace income from an existing job, this book is written for you.
There are many people that wish they could become writers. Many feel they don’t have enough talent or anything new to share with the world. I’m here to tell you not to sell yourself short. If you are longing to write, and are willing to write consistently, you could very well turn that passion and inspiration into a thriving writing business.
If you’ve ever contemplated writing a book now is the time to do it! We are living in one of the best times ever to get into publishing and self publish books. About 10 years ago it became extraordinarily easy for people to write books and have them published without needing a traditional publisher. This created a major breakthrough for talented writers and artists alike, and has changed the way we get information. Big box publishing houses are no longer needed to become a published author, and the possibilities to earn a living while writing have abundantly increased.
The world has seen several independent authors and writers become success stories as they add to their repertoire of writing pieces. Several have gone from writers in a small, cramped office to a household name. Some have been able to change their lifestyles, and others have been able to pay off bills, debts and student loans as a result of their writing efforts. What has been an even better change has been the reader audience.
Readers are now, more than ever, taking chances on independent authors and writers. This has been providing an income solution for many people who have something creative to share, and has also created more work-from-home opportunities for creative people all around the world who have talent.
Obviously, the Internet has made all of this possible, and we are better connected as authors and readers as a result. You can now sell a book or a piece of creative work to a global audience in a matter of hours. You can now share that book in a Facebook group, your Twitter feed, or Instagram posts within minutes, and start making sales. What a wonderful, digital world we now live in!
Using your writing is just one of the many ways you can earn money to build a certain kind of lifestyle that you crave. If you’re willing to put in the work, be creative, and push yourself to improve upon the craft of your writing (while conquering a steep learning curve), you can learn to adapt, overcome, and conquer this ever-changing self-publishing market, which can be a very exciting and fulfilling time in your life.
I remember the first time I hit that “publish” button on my laptop. I felt an instant rush of adrenaline and excitement. The thought of sharing my ideas with the world was an incredible boost to how I spent my days. My book was being shared, sales were rolling in, and I just thought to myself, “This. This is what I want to do.”
This book is going to explain to you how I have made a living with my own writing and how you can apply the same concepts and skills to your own writing endeavors. You will receive realistic and practical advice with the aim of giving you actionable tasks. You can easily implement these tasks as depicted here as you go or after you’ve had a chance to digest this book. Each and every single chapter is going to give you ideas that you can use to document, research, and implement into your writing and publishing process. You could spend weeks upon weeks reading and researching about every single topic there is to know about self publishing. I’m here to send you down the right path – a simple one with basic decisions – which is going to save you time money and energy.
Writing is hard work, don’t get me wrong. You have to be able to put in the work in order to prosper from it. I am not an advocate for get rich schemes and writing nonsense 24-page books that are listed for $8.99 on Amazon. To draw an income from writing, your books and projects must be reasonable, practical, enticing to buy, or solve a problem. Not everyone who publishes or takes on writing even as a parttime activity understands this. Not everyone who publishes a book or writes for a living makes money.
However, despite these facts, it is quite possible for a writer or a blogger to easily make a six or even seven figures of income just from their writing or creative efforts alone. I myself have made a substantial income from writing and I know that it’s just a matter of time before my writing alone provides the millionaire status that I myself am looking to attain. I have set my own personal goals as it relates to my writing activities and hopefully soon in the next few years I’ll meet those goals. You will start to develop your own goals and define your own version of success for yourself as you read this book, because not every writer has the same definition of success or goals.
There is even a group on Facebook that focuses on creating 20 different titles to reach a $50,000 a year income. That is just one philosophy and strategy to follow. I do believe and agree with many self-published authors that it takes more than just one book to make a living. So as you read this book, plan on creating multiple books and using your knowledge and creative energy to plan out and design what we call a series of books or even a certain product line of books. It has been my personal experience that I have needed several books and several titles to make the kind of income that I am right now.
Surprisingly, my paperback sales are actually higher than my sales on Kindle. I was somewhat shocked by this initially, but as reports about book sales, particularly online book sales, started rolling in back in early January 2017, it made sense. Paperback books sold online (regardless of traditional vs. independent publishing) were on the rise. You may find that as you create your books and have a marketing strategy in mind, that you have mixed or even surprising results. We will talk about these surprises a little bit later on, as sometimes these little surprises work to your advantage!
The most important thing I believe is to continue to create, write on a blog, and market your books in an ethical fashion. I am not a fan of spamming or using what are known as click bots or even controlled “reportable buying” with paperback books. Too many authors try to cheat the system and get burned by the writing community in doing so.
I also believe that it does take a little bit of money to get a book go- ing initially and sometimes paying people for their time to read and review your book is appropriate because they’re providing a service. There will be those I disagree with the concept of paper views, however I would point them in the direction of Kirkus reviews and the notoriety that their own company has with readers. There will be things that you choose to do as part of the marketing of your book and there will also be things that you will NOT do either because of the principal of it or it just doesn’t feel right for your writing and author platform.
Regardless, you’re going to get a lot of information in this book that will steer you down the road of self-publishing or traditional publishing, and it will help you make some decisions on what you feel your own path truly is.
First I’d like to share with you a little bit about my own journey. I feel that it will provide some context for you as you read this book. I have a Masters degree in design, and a bachelor of science degree in business administration. I still use my design degree today in designing fonts, book covers, working with small and medium size businesses in creating a visual social media strategy for them. Having my degrees and the experiences I’ve had as a business owner has allowed me to be flexible with my decisions and how I spend my day. I am now self-employed and I homeschool my six children. My husband and I run a a goats milk soap candle store on our farm. So you can imagine how busy we are with our business and our children! You might be thinking, how on earth does she find time to write?! We’ll get to that!
Before I became self-employed and had children I was practically living in a cubicle for a larger corporate giant designing stationary letterhead and wedding invitations. That’s right, I designed those beautiful, coordinated invites and response cards you’ll find in the big binders at the local bridal boutiques. Essentially everything that I created became the property of a giant, and I was creating some beautiful stuff !
It’s an awful thing when you have a job that is only mediocre for your soul. While I was grateful to be employed, there was another part of me that aspired for more. Something where I had more control over the output. My job was often thankless and there was no reward associated with how many sales the company generated as a result of my design work. And when you don’t feel good about what you’re doing and what you’re creating, your creativity stuffers.
It was one of those things where it becomes detrimental to your creative spirit and it often will shut you down. Giving birth to my first child was my best excuse to leave my job and my fluorescent-lit cubicle to stay at home and work from there. And when you’re graphic designer and you’re talented, people recognize your work it’s very easy to get hired. So becoming a freelancer was one of the best decisions that I had in my life besides giving birth to children and marrying my now husband.
In 2017, we decided that we were done having children and that it was a great time for me to get back into writing again. I had written something before and just to test the waters but never actually published anything until 2017. The results that I had were amazing to say the least. The first thing that I did was I focused on my website. I wanted to kerrielegend.com to be something amazing. It was serving as a hub for other bloggers and designers to go to for getting advice and to learn. I shared how I was able to achieve certain metrics with my writing and my social media accounts, and gathered a following. I created a course on re-purposing blog content, which was very popular because people were looking for ways to re-use their content to reach a wider audience, and also re-purpose their photos. From there I was building a massive email list which would pay off later.
I knew that I had a lot of fiction novels within that I wanted to write about but I really wanted to focus on nonfiction titles initially. One of the things that frustrated me about publishing on Amazon was the amount that the company took. I wanted to find a better way to sell my book without giving so much of the sale to a middle man.
This past year I researched a lot about Pinterest and developed a course on this search engine giant. I quickly realized how easily it is to build an email list from scratch that includes a ton of people that are interested in what you have to say based on what they are searching for. I used that as a base for launching a book.
I also took my course that I built and I turned it into a book. I wanted something that people could read on their own without having to pay for a live course or a course online to learn about Pinterest or re-purposing content. So that was my initial first book. And then I started doing spin off of that book into different professions and am actually in the middle of doing a re-write due to the changes recently implemented at Pinterest.
Re-writes and updates happen a lot for non-fiction writers – with things that change or different functionalities in technology – this is just part of the game in order to keep your book current. So that it might be one of the downfalls of writing in nonfiction. However if you are interested in writing nonfiction I would recommend picking a topic that doesn’t have quite so many technological changes in the same year. I say this with a smile on my face and a heaping number of books to re-write. As a writer, you’ll never be NOT busy.
I did a lot of reading about writing books, marketing online, blogging, and podcasting. Podcasting is something that I recently took up and I really enjoy doing. I found that there was an audience willing to listen that might not have wanted to read. I started creating an audible bit on each of my blog posts so people could listen instead of read.
So it’s important as an author or writer to keep your options open and understand that you can turn something that you’ve written into something audio just as much. I focused on Pinterest as the main player for marketing my books. After I realized that I could get an audience much better on my own on without Amazon I decided to take Amazon out of the picture. Not completely, obviously, because my books are still on Amazon. However, I decided to focus the majority of my sales on my own website.
This has created a substantial stream of income that has made it easy for me to target my audience and provide easy downloadable links for them without my books getting lost on Amazon’s website. If you recall, going shopping on Amazon it’s very easy to get distracted by other titles and other things. By shifting my customers’ focus on my own site I am only distracting them with my own stuff which is available for sale. So obviously my sales have increased as a result because I’ve isolated their viewing to my own content and deliver quality content that easily converts into a subscriber.
The one thing about selling books on your own website is that you can see the sales, but obviously that doesn’t count towards Amazons ranking system. But, I also have that customer in my database and can market to them again in the future. As a writer sometimes you have to make important decisions and you need to either put your value on the income or some sort of ranking system that can easily be hacked or even be prone to fraud. Amazon Kindle has so many holes being poked in it at the time of this publication that authors have labeled it as practically useless in terms of being a fair playing field with distribution of KDP Select funds, review policies and copyrights.
I decided personally that it was more important for me to make sales and distribute my knowledge to other people by getting my books in the hands of as many people as possible than it was for me to focus on some sort of ranking system that I have no control over. Especially a system that could be easily manipulated by click bots, fraudulent book ordering techniques, review scams, and more.
By shifting my focus away from Amazon’s mind-boggling algorithm to my own website and selling my books from there I have made so much more money for myself and my family. This has brought me a level of happiness and a greater deal of focus in my work as I create future books. Writing for me has become meaningful work that I enjoy doing as much as I enjoy creating and designing. I’m much happier now as a writer and designer then I was working for someone else. And although the road was a bit rocky at first and I felt so lost; I’m sure sometimes overwhelmed, I overcame those obstacles when I did research and read about strategy in marketing books. As I implemented and tested my strategy, I learned a great deal. One of the key points was that not every single book (even in the same genre) can be marketed the same way.
Because of the research and writing that I’ve done in the first year of my career as a full-time author, I’ve been been able to grow in my reach of people online and have grown my email list. What started out as basic writing and publishing has grown into a strategy of strategic writing with a purpose in mind and an end goal. The income and amassing of creative digital assets in the last year has grown exponentially and continues to grow with each month. So part of my journey has been to share some of my knowledge about becoming an author. You’ll benefit from what I’ve learned and achieved and you’ll soon you know that it’s actually possible to take that leap and conquer your dreams.
The real question you have to ask yourself is what do you want to do with your life? Becoming a writer full-time or even a full-time blogger can be a scary jump to make if you’ve only had a full-time out-of-home career working for someone else. And this is something that you may want to proceed with caution. At least hold off on quitting your secure job until you can make sure that writing is for you.
What I recommend is writing on the side initially to make sure that it something that you actually enjoy and also that it fits with your lifestyle. Try blogging and putting out a small e-book on your site just to get started. Ask yourself if you enjoyed the process or if it was unbearably stressful. Before you make the leap or even gradually ease into full-time writing, you’ll want to make sure that not only is it your passion but also that it financially makes sense. This is especially true if you have children and a spouse/partner or dependents of some sort. You’ll want the transition to full-time writer to be one that you’re supported by and encouraged to do – not a choice that brings stress financially or upheaves a certain lifestyle. I will be here to encourage you – and if I can kick out a book or even 10 in a year with six kids in the house and a full-time home business then you can do it, too.
One of the lures of writing was the money side of things. I had something I could teach to people and have them learn from it. I have a marketable skill already demonstrated by income, and knowing that my children would benefit from everything I worked on 70 years beyond my death income-wise was a big draw for me.
Still, you are the one who has to decide if you want to continue doing what you’re doing and whether not you actually enjoy it. Life is too short as well is too long to be doing something that you do not enjoy. I would hate to have you lying on your death bed wishing that you would’ve taken the risk of writing a book than regretting it when it’s too late. I also wish for you to be successful with writing so that you can have more time with your friends and family than you might currently have now. Granted this may require some time investment initially but sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely of places and times. And from my own experience it has been my children – working with them during the day and writing around their needs at night.
Hopefully you will find the courage to write for your own reasons, whatever they may be. There is no right or wrong reason why people choose the writing path. And if you don’t write with a sense of passion initially and are using this book to formulate an income stream then by all means do that as well. You may be more of a “in it to win it” type writer, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Don’t let other authors shoot you down for writing strictly for the money. Writers come in all shapes and sizes, as well as backgrounds and have their reasons for writing.
Sometimes people follow their passion in a specific niche market and become great writers over time. Sometimes people follow their need for income and become a great writers that way as well. There is no direct path for writers that works for or applies to everyone. You’re going to have to figure out what works best for you. Sometimes writers become writers out of necessity to feed their family. Sometimes writers become writers to fill a need emotionally and are longing to tell a story. Sometimes writers become others to share their knowledge or for fame and fortune. Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a writer. There is no right or wrong answer and whatever your reasons are, are yours alone and no one else’s to judge or question.
You could easily write about your experiences using something, trying something, learning something, etc. The topic list for books is epically long and extensive. Anything goes these days. And before you count yourself out as not being an expert in something, you’d be surprised at how many people are able to sell books and spread knowledge to others that are not considered gurus or experts. Don’t sell yourself short here. You’ve got this, boss!
If you’re writing fiction there is an endless market of readers out there that simply want to escape or be inspired by a book. There are book clubs for readers and there are clubs for in the author world and there are fans of different genres that you will encounter. They will absolutely love every single word that you write. Granted, you will probably have a few trolls and haters out there eventually, and that’s when you know that you really made it!
The fact that somebody actually took the time to write a review is something that you will treasure or loathe. Either way they’ve heard of you. And you shouldn’t let this fear of getting a bad review on your creative work keep you from creating in writing. Your first books may even suck a little bit.
I remember my first 1-star review on my first fiction romance novel. “Horrible book. Did not finish.” I looked at it and was crushed for about 24 hours. I looked at the person who wrote it and they’ve never had the guts to write a book, so there you go. It hurt especially initially because she posted the review on my first day as a non-free book on Kindle. I had racked up so many downloads and then when I flipped the switch after my ranking got up a bit she posted a negative review. And so it goes. Fiction is subjective, and not everyone is going to like what you write. It’s what you do going forward that makes a difference. Don’t let the haters get you down. Keep writing and hone your craft.
Think of it as breaking down a huge wall or a barrier that you finally overcame. Your following books will be even better after you’ve gone through the first experience. And with practice and experience, you will fine-tune your voice (after you initially find it), and work your magic.
There are income reports all over the place about how much money independent authors actually make. Without an independent party doing a survey on both paperback and e-book sales along with getting all authors to participate it’s really hard to determine whether or not the reports coming out are skewed or biased in anyway. Some could be making six figures and not participate in the survey. Reports like this after often derived on self-participation and are not mandatory reports, and typically Amazon and Barnes & Noble release their stats each year, but this often leaves out revenue earned by independent authors from their own websites.
Some authors will not make a single sale on their book. They work hard, pay for editing, and something just doesn’t fly. Either their marketing was off, or their images were not professionally done, or their launch fizzled. Sometimes it’s really hard to determine what happened. And unless you get some practice and try one thing at a time, you’re not going to really know what works for that particular project.
Some authors make $5000 a year. Some authors make $30,000 a year. Some others make six figures. These numbers are largely based on the quality of the book, the amount of marketing that has been done, and the demand for the book. Certainly, what may be a little earned money to some others may be a lot to others. So it’s really hard for me to say what is a lot of money because every writer’s financial position is different. What you could gauge in terms of success is whether or not your income is paying bills. Real bills. Real financial responsibilities.
Also, whether or not your author business is operating in the black or in the red.
The question that you may need to ask is whether or not those sales are covering your time spent doing the work of writing. Could you have made more money doing something else? Or another way to gauge success is income and happiness level. Are you happier doing writing even though it’s not as much money? Do you feel creatively inspired? Are you a better parent or spouse as a result of your writing change career? Success does not always have to be defined in terms of income although for writers that are actively writing for the purpose of creating income – they need to focus on sales. For people that are writing for the sheer joy of writing to make an income of it they may need to focus on whether or not they’re getting enough creative inspiration to keep going.
Certainly it’s not my position to say that $30,000 a year earned from book royalties is a making a living based on US income statistics. Not many people or families can survive on $30,000 a year with all the financial responsibilities they have including student loans and other debts. With the rising cost of utilities in and living expenses, an extra $30,000 a year would make a bit of a difference but doesn’t necessarily replace the income that you would’ve had with a corporate job for another position, depending on your job and how much it pays. At $30,000 a year, you’d be making close to $15/hour doing writing full-time if your books and projects were bringing in that kind of coin.
As an author it’s my opinion that you need to have multiple streams of income that complement your writing or are a direct result of your writing. Don’t put all your eggs in one basic. That’s always sound advice when you’re self-employed, but just as important when you’re working for someone else. You can’t always count on that business to stay in business or for your employer to continue your employment.
Just as an example I’ll break down my own income so you know how my own writing effects my family’s source of income. I make 50% of my income from my course writing. Meaning around $500,000 a year comes from my courses. It’s popular for authors to supplement their income with their blogs and teaching courses online to others that are still learning basic skills. Now before you discount courses as a form of writing remember that in every course there’s often a transcription, handouts, workbooks, and other forms of written material.
I have transcribed and written books that complement my course is as part of their learning process. And some of those books are only available to my students and are not listed online. Approximately 10% of my income comes from affiliate sales where I promote the products of others either through Amazon or ClickBank or ShareASale.com. Approximately 35% of my income comes from my writing of books. The remaining 5% of income from my creative writing comes from my digital downloads either for digital bullet journaling for writers and entrepreneurs or graphic designers.
So all of my income is writing related because there is sales copy writing that is done to sell affiliate products, there is writing to be done for my courses, there’s the writing of my books and then there’s writing for my digital downloads. So now I have this income that is fairly steady and predictable and as I create more quality content, my income continues to grow with it. This has been an incredible journey of building, self-discovery, research, documentation and learning. I highly recommend it!
If we were to break it down about 50% comes from direct writing of materials and the other half comes from writing as part of maintaining a book business. From personal experience I would say that it takes about anywhere between 3 to 12 months to really get your blog established and get noticed by readers. So if you’re planning on making the jump from a full-time career to a full 9-5 writing career you were going to want to make sure you have enough of a cushion financially to support your writing endeavors. Plan for that period of time if not longer to turn your writing into a full-time job.
I have separated my income streams into three different segments just because some of my income is blogging platform-related as an “authorpreneur” and a lot of what I do on my website has to do with making videos and podcasting along with talking about social media and marketing. The rest is all book income. From those activities alone I’ve been able to drive an income that I never would have had if I had stayed at my job writing and designing stationery and wedding invitations.
Before we get too far into starting to write a book there’s a few things that were going to want to cover so you understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into. The author business is a big one, so big that I had to write a whole other book just on that subject. There’s a lot of moving parts and wheels, but take some notes and you’ll have a good running start.
First of all you need to think of yourself as an entrepreneur who is also happens to be a writer. Many writers and authors struggle with the concept of being an entrepreneur because it sounds very e-commerce like and not very creative. Quite the contrary. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs on this planet are creatives. You have to remember that all of us entrepreneurs have something in common. We create valuable products. Products emerge from creative ideas. If you can at least agree with me on that, then you’ll understand that writers are the top ultimate entrepreneur type. This is largely due to the fact that we can take the creative ideas that we have and formulate books, e-books, paperbacks, hard covers, audiobooks, manuscripts, digital downloads.
Creative entrepreneurs have a lot of other ways of putting words together and turning them into something that is marketable and of value to the end consumer. We might be creating some sort of entertainment or we might be providing inspiration and motivation, or as writers and educators we can often help people learn how to do something new.
You’re now a creative entrepreneur. Sounds nice, right?! If you can get your head around establishing your own identity as an entrepreneur you’re going to find it a lot easier to understand what is going to be necessary to make a living as a writer as well as how you can turn some of those ideas into markable products. Entrepreneurs dream up ideas, share them, write about them, and make money off of them. You’re in a great club! This writing and thinking process is going to require you to learn new skills, but this is all part of the challenge and you will grow as a writer and individual as you go through this process and emerge as a smart, savvy entrepreneur writer.
Understand that as a writer your opportunities are endless. I once heard someone say that if you learn how to write sales copy, you’ll never be unemployed or without money a single day of your life. Writing sales copy, and many other forms of copy, is considered a craft. It takes practice and patience. And one of the main things that you’re going to be learning is how to write sales copy – this is an important skill to have and one you’ll be super glad you learned. Because even if you move on from writing (I highly doubt you will, though) you’ll have that skill to sell virtually anything online or on anything with words.
Next, focus on scaling your income. There’s only so much time in a day, and one book or one product is only going to take you so far. I know scalable or “scale it” is the new loathed buzzword in corporate America, but it’s one of the best ways to explain what you’re going to need to do as a writer.
Let’s suppose you work 40 hours a week and you get paid for those hours. If you don’t work you don’t get paid. Or at some point they’re going to say you’re no longer needed. Your work isn’t exactly scalable – you can’t make more for doing the same amount of work. You are somewhat limited. And you’re not going see that time ever again. With writing, you can change all that.
With something that is scalable you create something once and then you sell it over and over again. And this is something that I’ve set myself and my family up to receive – income that is scalable. I’ve created a variety of different books on the market and have been able to derive income from them every single month with very little effort.
Some writers will spend a whole year writing a book in the evenings and writing on the weekends. I honestly don’t know if a book really needs to take that long to write, but I’m not here to judge anyone else’s process. That time is spent once but that book can sell anywhere from one copy to 1 million copies. So you’re going to continue earning money for the life that you’re around and for 70 years after your long gone which means that your children will receive that income.
That is your copyright period. So your time is spent once but the income will continue for many years. And if you choose to have children or designate someone to receive the revenue long after you are gone or as part of your state you can give them rights to your title and they can improve them or put out a new addition or you can make some sort of transfer agreement. Check with your local attorney to verify what you’re able to do, as each country, state or province is a bit different.
What we’re talking about here is creating permanent digital creative property assets that will put income in your pocket for years to come. At first it might come in small chunks. You might sell one book but then it will increase in time as you add more to your portfolio. The name of the game here is creating as many property assets as possible that are of quality in a short amount of time. Some authors write because they need retirement money. This is brilliant, especially for those of us that lost a ton of money back in 2008 when the markets crashed. You’ll have some sort of retirement as well to look forward to and your children will thank you after you’re gone for all that income.
When I sit down to write a new title I no longer think about how many hours I put into it or how much I could’ve been making per hour doing something else. I’ve moved on from that. I now think of the book in terms of page length, the cover quality, content quality, the genre that I’m going to be marketing in, and how much I would anticipate the book will be making on a weekly monthly or even yearly basis. I know that the effort that I’m going to put in will be hundreds of dollars if not thousands every single month.
One of the best recommendations that I can give is this. When you first start out writing books start with something small and simple. It’s a lot easier to break down that barrier of going from a nobody into a published author. It also sets you up for learning how the process works. And it also helps you gauge how much interest there is in that particular topic.
You could always take the existing content (and as a writer you have the skills to do so) and elaborate even more and create a more fuller-scale book. So when you’re first starting out it’s good to try to balance the work that you do with the income it brings in – and you need to plan for 30 to 60 days of offset of getting paid either by Amazon or other retailers that will market your book. So putting out something small first (100+ pages) and getting a little bit of income in your pocket will offset your efforts initially.
Your time is very precious as a writer. So you don’t want to waste your time doing things that don’t matter as a writer. Many writers get unfocused and lose sight of the business altogether. Is what you’re doing scalable? Can you turn what you’re writing into something beyond a book – perhaps into video, movie or an audiobook? Maybe develop a series or a box set? Be sure that you maximize your efforts and think about what you can turn something that you’re writing into as you are writing it so that it doesn’t become just a one-off project.
For people that still work a full-time job and cannot afford to make the leap into a full-time author without having some sort of income, you’re going to have to put in some time at night and on the weekends. Eventually, as you begin publishing, you’re going to notice that your income from your books and other projects starts to offset what your income currently is with your full-time job. Save that money for later – you’re going to need it in a big way!
Once you get to the point where your income matches what you’re making with your full-time job then it might be a good time to leave your position. Don’t get too excited and rely on the first month’s income. Wait for the income to be consistent. I recommend waiting three months in this economic climate.
However, sometimes that things happen and people get laid off or they are forced to quit their job for various different reasons including medical or family, and need income straight away. In this case, it’s important to start small and work up to something bigger.
For situations such as this I recommend starting with something in nonfiction to get through the process and share something that you know how to do or something that you know a lot about. I’m not going to say that writing nonfiction is easier or easier to market even than fiction books. However, I have noticed in my own experience that nonfiction books tend to sell themselves with very little effort and marketing. They also tend to do extraordinarily well in paperback format. This is an easy moneymaker for writers if you have something intriguing to share or write about.
Another thing that you’re going to want to consider as a writer as you make this journey is to develop multiple streams of income from your writing. It’s important to understand never to put all your eggs in one basket. Back in 2008 things turned ugly in the United States. We had had a massive recession where small business owners were losing their jobs as well as their storefront businesses, no one was buying anything, and people were being laid off left and right.
It seems that we’ve hit the same type of scenario even today ten years later. You could have all of these marketable skills and experience and people still will not hire you. Students are often left with a mountain of student debt that they’re not able to pay back and are often having to live at home with their parents or sleeping on couches at a friend’s. There’s an expectation gap of where you thought you were going to be and where you actually are.
Writing for a living will help you overcome some of these obstacles because if there’s one thing that there is a constant of it’s the constant need and desire to learn. Hence, my recommendation to put out a nonfiction book initially and work your way up from there.
I’m in my late 30’s and have gotten a lot of experience in life so far, so here’s some sage advice from someone that has already done the career thing and entered the world of small business. You should never rely on a single company for your income and this includes your full-time career. We have seen time and time again where companies have fallen or corporate executives were ripe with fraud and the company takes a massive hit. Layoffs ensue and suddenly you’re out of a job. Never rely on your career. No one will have your back, and someone will always be there to throw you under the bus if it benefits them. This is a world of survival of the fittest. Always put back-up streams of income in place. Being a writer is one of the best things that you can do for your life and for the benefit of your children if you have or choose to have them. (I’m a mother so I naturally think about the safety and wellbeing of my children first).
Remember that nothing is ever stable or a guarantee, even if you have friends in high places or a corporation has been around for a long time. We’ve seen big empires fall to the ground time and time again, especially in the last 10 years.
If 2008 was not enough of a wake up call for you to realize that you need to do something different or do multiple different things to drive income into your bank account then 2017 should be your last and final wake up call. You can no longer trust your boss, headhunter or company to look after your best interests with your career. Nor can you rely on mentors, unfortunately, as they, too, are fighting their own battles with rising costs of marketing and creating new streams.
At one point we were able to get positions based on who we knew and what we knew, and talent meant something. That is no longer the case anymore. In some cases, there just aren’t jobs available that match what we were trained to do.
So as a writer, you’ll be able to make a living with your writing regardless of whether not you are currently employed and whether or not you are currently writing (assuming you have a book out). That book will carry you for as long as you’re alive and then some. This is true even in the writing world. Relying on one publisher, one self-publishing distributor, one marketing strategy, one group on Facebook to mar ket your book or even one client that you may have as a freelancer is a recipe for disaster. If you do rely on one single source of income you’re going to find yourself in a heap of trouble. I’m going to help you avoid that and guide you down this path of being able to create multiple different streams of income.
Also, consider thinking more on a global level, and more mobile. Too many authors right now are focused on selling locally like in their bookstore or writing content for people that they’ve know or that they have heard of. We live in a incredibly fast-changing, fast-paced world and you need to think worldwide instead of local or even regional.
Technology enables us to reach people all over the world. So when you consider your marketing it’s good to know who is looking at your work. Your writing may not just be popular in the United States or in your own country it could be in Australia, UK or in Asia. There’s a whole other world outside your own so it’s important to realize that your work is going to be exposed to billions of people with cell phones and tablets.
Expand your horizons with your thought process as a global entrepreneur because your future income is likely going to come from the rest of the world and not your local bookstore. I see a lot of authors on the local bookstore circuit and they’re not focusing enough on global options. I will admit that the concept of thinking globally is a bit overwhelming at first. However, along the way, you’re going to meet a ton of great writers, editors, and proofreaders and you will become a better writer as a result. That’s ultimately what is the best. ideal solution is because as you get better with writing you will make more money. If anything you’re going to have a great deal of fun learning about writing, learning about self-publishing, book building, marketing, and while learning you’re going to get so many new ideas. It’s a great deal of fun learning new skills.
What is your definition of success? What does being successful mean to you? There is no right or wrong or even morally correct answer here. You’re going to need to decide and define what your definition of success is. Success for me is being able to leave a business behind and solely focus on making a living with writing. But the definition of living in terms of finances is very different for several people and the definition of success is different for many people, because we all live in different parts of the world and have different experiences.
So let’s focus on a few different key things that talk about specifically to making a living as in making an income. Let’s break it down into numbers. How much do you make currently right now with your job? How much are your monthly expenses? What are you willing to change about your lifestyle currently to alter your current situation? Sometimes writers elect to live a lifestyle of minimalist nature or adopt a different kind of lifestyle in order to adapt to their new job. How much do you really need to make to make a decent living? How long are you going to wait to make the kind a change is necessary in your life? Do you need to de-clutter and sell some things to give you enough of a cushion to get some money invested in your business? (Believe me, if you have a full house of stuff, you probably have things you could part with that someone would gladly give you money for).
Consider these questions even if you don’t know what your definition of success is. Knowing the answers will help you make some decisions and put some numbers to your future life as a writer. Defining these questions with answers will also let you know that you’ve made it and give you a better path of how to get to your goal.
What I want you to do next is nearly write down your definition of a living and what it means to make a living from your writing. Define in terms of short term and long term – look at one year versus five years. Make sure your goals and definitions are achievable and not something that is rare, like an EL James type of a situation. This is the time to decide what kind of lifestyle you want for your writing career, what kind of books you want to be writing, and this will help you determine what you’ll write, how often you’ll write, how you publish and with what platforms, and what you will do for marketing your work.
In the author world you’ll see two distinct spectrums of what writers consider to be success. We have the multi-millionaires who have received traditional publishing house deals and they’ve sold millions of copies of their books. And then on the other end of the spectrum we have the writers and authors that want some sort of award or notoriety. They want to have badges on their books of prizes that they have won, for instance.
Somewhere in between there is the healthy mix of both or a leaning towards one or the other. If you want to be able to make a living with your writing and be able to provide for yourself as well as your family you’ll need to focus a bit on the money-making side of things. But you may also want to have some sort of recognition from the reading community in terms of the quality or uniqueness of your writing skills. My take on this whole thing is to focus more on sales initially so that you have some financial freedom to become more unique and develop your style and at the same time be able to do some marketing. You’ll be able to build that email list so that you can have a little bit more liberty and freedom with your writing going down the road. You’ll already have a substantial number for readers that will be willing to buy your next book, regardless of whether or not you won any awards.
I think you’ll find that there are a lot of great writers out there that want to be somewhere in the middle. Having commercial success seems to be a big focus area in a lot of Facebook groups and forums. There’s definitely a lot of discussion about marketing and what works and what doesn’t. From personal experience, I’ve found that the less you focus on the Facebook groups and work on your books, the more success you’ll have. Personally I think it’s important to get a book out there and ride the waves for a little bit while you work on your next book. Again, it boils down to getting the words on the page and doing the work, instead of watching how your existing work is performing quite so much on the market. There needs to be more of a focus on creating instead of marketing.
In reality, it’s not about what other authors think or what other authors deem to be the correct path. What’s really important to consider is what is important you and how you’re going to measure your own success.
My goal in writing this book was not to provide a “writing craft” book such as how to write, but it is important to recognize some of the systems of writing and one of those elements is productive writing.
How you go about producing books and being a creative writer is really the crux of what separates writers from people that want to be writers. If you are not writing actively, then you are not a writer. If you’re writing for a living then you’re not going to be able to start a project and write a few words here and there every other day. If you choose this path of being a writer you need to keep on it consistently as if it were a job. You’ll do doing a job that you actually love showing up for.
What’s important to remember here is that you can’t make money writing if you’re not actually doing the writing. Make sense?
While writing may seem really easy and come very easy for many, and trust me it has its fun moments, it’s actually really hard, exhausting work sometimes. Personally I think it’s one of the best jobs you can possibly have in the entire world, but it’s certainly not for everyone. I have some tips and tricks on getting the words down on paper that I am more than willing to share with you and they are listed below.
Define your routine and what works for you from a writing perspective. I recognize that every writer is different with style that every professional writer has some sort of routine to get words written onto the paper. Some may call this disciplined writing but I like to think of it as a positive habit instead. Habits tend to be behaviors that we do whether we like them or not or whether we choose to them or not. We just end up doing them. For example, as soon as my kids are in bed my body just knows to grab my laptop and begin line editing my work that I typed up during the day. I know that I can better scrutinize my writing at night with quiet in the house. I tend to write better in the day, and edit at night. I put out anywhere between 5000-8000 words per day. Some of them I keep, and I strike a lot, as well. If I don’t make a certain word count then I make up for it by creating a content upgrade and launch it on my blog.
With positive habits and behaviors with writing you don’t have to debate whether not you’re going to do it you just do it. Writing as I am experiencing in my own career ranks right up there as being as important as showering daily – it’s something that you do without even contemplating it.
If you’re still working and you want to write it for a living, consider getting up a little bit earlier so that your creativity process is fresh and you feel good about starting your day because you’ve actually achieved something before you’ve gone to work. Otherwise, some people choose to write in the evening after they’ve had a chance to get all their work done during the day. Keep in mind, however, this is often a time when you might be the most tired and unless you’re a night owl that thrives with creativity at night, you may find yourself getting distracted with your website, social media, or other social events. If you can create a habit of writing around the time where you are the most creative and most productive, that is the ideal situation. Regardless of whether or not you write in the morning or the evening, what matters is whether not you got words on the page. Do the work. It doesn’t matter when it gets done.
Some say that it’s easier to write when you have a day job. There’s a better sense of time allocation, and a better sense of discipline. Time becomes a restriction that has to be used carefully. When you’re self-employed you have all this time during the day not being dictated by someone else, and it often gets exhausted doing absolutely nothing! Believe me I would know something about this. As someone who home-schools children and chases babies around the house, I know firsthand about time slipping through the fingers and how easy it is to lose focus on your writing career.
When you’re still working a day job the financial side of things is still being addressed because you still have full-time income. There’s less pressure to produce a book and make an income. On the flip side it’s easy to put off writing the book because you have that income security. Would you feel different about getting words on a page if you knew that you were going to lose your job next week?
Chances are, because you’re reading this book, you want to switch to making an income you have some control over, and you want to know when the best time is to make that switch. Unfortunately I can’t tell you when the perfect time is for you to make that switch. Does it make sense for you to switch when you’ve started making 20% of your existing income? Or do you need to wait until you’ve replaced all of your income with monthly sales? I can’t make these decisions for you – only you can. You are the only one who is in control of your financial future.
If you had to ask me what my opinion was, though, it would be to make sure that you have steady sales for three months before making the jump. It doesn’t matter necessarily how much you’re making, just make sure you have steady sales. You can always add additional books on top of your existing work to make more money. But the sales have to be steady and not be a one-time thing like a fluke from a launch.
Defining what your routine is will help determine how many words you get on the page and the quality of the words. If you’re exhausted at night after coming home from work you may not be writing your best work. If you feel tired and then get your second wind by perhaps going to a library or having a quick happy hour before you start writing this may be the solution to overcoming that obstacle. You may find that you need to take a few weeks to figure out to what kind of routine works for you.
Here are some key things to remember when talking about creative production. I tend to be an evening person so I tend to write my best work in the morning before 11 AM and in the evening after 4 PM. This is if I do my outlining for the next day and plan everything out. Creating can be mentally exhausting. I found that writing fiction took a lot out of me and wasn’t as natural for me as writing nonfiction. Remember that your brain also needs rest so you may need to pick up a few different projects to keep yourself entertained and not so exhausted mentally.
I would also recommend changing your environment if you are using your home office for paying bills or doing other work like podcasting. You will find that your vocabulary starts to suffer if you stay in the same location consistently and use the same jargon over and over again. If you try to work out on your deck, basement or even in a coffee shop you may find your vocabulary tends to expand a little bit more.
The last piece of recommendation that I have is to keep track of how much time you spend writing and your overall productivity for the day. I use a digital bullet journal system that I created and you’ll find that on my website where you can download it. I use this to track how many words I accomplished during the day, as well as the percentage of completion based on how long my book is going to be, and I also record the level of quality and self-grade my writing time. I look for patterns and what works for me, and what caused my writing to either slow or go extraordinarily well. Keeping track of what you eat, as well, will help determine your triggers. Do cookies and coffee spur your writing or do you need more brain food like salads and fruits?
Another thing that’s important to do is to get the right tools to do your job. I’m not talking about pencils and paper here. Our tools as writers are pretty minimal and cheap compared to other businesses and other professions. Laptops are fairly cheap and so is an Internet connection even if you don’t have Internet at home – go to Starbucks or Barnes & Noble. Free internet!
I use an iPad to do my writing, because I initially dictate the big portions of my book. Then I use my laptop to do what I call filler work (the flowery stuff in fiction, and more details or screenshots for nonfiction), and do line editing with my laptop as well. The bulk of my writing of nonfiction titles is completed via dictation. I find that this is a lot more productive for me and it saves my wrists from unnecessary strain. I already work them hard enough with Photoshop and my design work while working with my Apple Pencil.
So the fact that I’m able to share information by speaking into Siri, who interprets what I say and puts it into words, works for me. This may not work for you. I know a lot of writers out there that still hand write their entire book. I know authors that still use an old-fashioned typewriter. I know writers that stick to the keyboard and use Microsoft Word. I know writers that use Scrivener like I do, too. Whatever you choose to use make sure that you’re not experiencing any sort of computer or data mishap. If you find that your software is crashing that is something that you were going to want to address immediately. If your dictation software is getting more words wrong than right perhaps you need to spend a little time training your dictation software. Or perhaps you need to clean the microphone or you need a different tablet. Whatever your issue is get it addressed so that you can use these tools to your advantage to get the job done. The job, meaning getting words on the page.
I love dictating my books because I can focus on the words and speak naturally and I find that my writing is less stuffy that way – so much less formal. It also helps me escape the addiction to social media because I have to watch what Siri is writing on the page. So I’m very focused with my writing that way. You may want to give this a try. My words per minute when I dictate with Siri into Scrivener has been around 97 WPM (words per minute). That beats out my typing speed of 42 WPM by a long shot.
I would seriously struggle without having my Scrivener software. I use it for writing my books as well as for my blog. I know this is not a typical system for bloggers to use, because there are editorial calendars on WordPress that you can use, but you can still create your content and keep a theme in mind by using Scrivener with your blog, too. This is a database type of software that you can use to outline as well as write, organize, store your research, links, and also manage your book. It’s an incredibly powerful tool, doesn’t cost a fortune (only $45) and if you want to maximize your usage and be a productive writer I recommend using Scrivener. I offer a course for bloggers and writers on my website if you’re interested in taking that. Look for the Creative Entrepreneur Mega Bundle Course, and you’ll get all my 52 courses, nonfiction books and workbooks for $97.
With writing there is going to be your first draft, self-editing, and then there’s final drafting. Word sometimes do not come out in the perfect order. Sometimes each word will be on the page as it will be in the final draft. Usually the first draft is just a splurge of words and ideas that will not ever see the light of day. Writers will spend loads of time free writing, editing and polishing until the book is ready for public viewing. You’ll find this to be true with traditional publishing house publication as much as you will with self-published books.
There are some exceptions of course but understanding that raining it’s a process and that this is to be expected, well, frees your mind. Sometimes your first words are your passwords, and sometimes your first words are the most awful words annual question how they even came out of your mouth! It’s important to remember that you can’t edit a blank page. I call this ugly writing. Sometimes you just need to write ugly in order to get all the ugliness out and onto the paper so that you can move onto ticket stuff.
Having a consistent flow of ideas is going to keep you very busy as a writer. I often talk about filling up a bullet journal of all my creative ideas and all the book ideas that I have that I want to write and then trust in the process that eventually they will emerge. Unlike a lot of different writers I don’t have a problem of having too many ideas and this will keep me busy for a very long time.
One of my ideas actually came from a Christmas where I had taken my children to a Polar Express experience on a steam train. As a result of this I realized that the story after the Polar Express ended and there was no furthering of that story. And that was sad to me and so I came up with a story called Frostbound that tells of a follow-up as an adult. That’s ultimately where I got the original idea for my Christmas story.
So the best recommendation that I can give you is to think of things that can either give people a solution, inspires them or solves a problem from a nonfiction perspective. Think about things that evoke some emotion for you like feeling sad about the Polar Express story being over. Or something about your children or something that is inspiring that you can twist into a story or even a series of stories.
As a writer I look for opportunities to expand on my books. I seldom do single novels. I will write multiple follow up books and specifically formulate my plots and stories for further writing. I use Evernote to record all of my thoughts, notes and all of my thoughts, which eventually get thrown into Scrivener when I feel that I’ve accumulated enough off of the Internet or from my brain. When I’m ready to actually put some of those thoughts down on paper I go straight to Scrivener to start recording my research and pulling websites together. This is my process and this is one thing that I would recommend doing. You don’t necessarily have to use the same software that I do but establishing what your process is, is really the end goal, because the having a process in place will lend to getting the work done.
For me it seems Evernote is the perfect solution for jotting down random, and I mean completely random, thoughts and processes when it comes to writing. Using that kind of software allows you to make notes and collect them all in various different notebooks. So even if you have sporadic thoughts you’re able to organize it later when you’re more apt to sit down and put things in order. You can use the Internet or your own personal experiences to get your collection of thoughts and ideas down on paper. For people that are trying to develop content such as plot or even characters I recommend visit acting a mall or even a zoo or go out to dinner sometime. Do some people watching and take note of their actions, behaviors, and things they converse about. It’s entertaining.
You’ll notice that with a little bit of practice and planning that the flow of ideas really starts to come through. A lot of people will talk about writers block and I believe that that is more of a symptom of not having a writing process down in place and less about not being able to figure out what to write next. I simply do not believe in writer’s block. I believe in broken processes that can be fixed. Your collection of ideas is essential. If you think you’re experiencing writer’s block please know it’s merely a matter of not having enough ideas and solutions to keep your mind and thought process flowing.
One of the absolute worst things that you can do is not write down spontaneous ideas. There have been times where I’ve had a moment of brilliance and then later on when I go to recall that particular moment of brilliance or even apply concepts that I had dreamed up of during the day and that fleeting thought is gone. Trying to recollect a moment’s random thought after a multitude of interruptions and events is going to mess with your brain. So be sure to keep some sort of notebook or electronic device handy so that you can record it right away and don’t ever let yourself con yourself into thinking that you’ll remember it later. Because the likelihood of you remembering it later is very small. Get used to writing things down because this will help prime the pump of your jars of ideas so much better.
The next thing you’ll want to do is find your voice. To achieve this you’re going to need to write a lot. Your first book is not going to be as good as your tenth book. This is because as you write and as you write often your writing improves. Your vocabulary will expand, and after working with an editor you will determine what phrases and words you tend to use the most and find alternatives.
Practicing and experience results in betterment of just about everything. Try not to get so upset and worried about your first book and spend years writing it. I realize that taking years might be considered a “process” for many, but if you want to make a living you’re going to have to produce written material on a regular basis. If you have a ton of self-doubt, try to remove the fear of failure and any sort of judgmental fears because believe me, the worst thing that will ever happen to you is a 1-star review. That’s it. You are not going to blow up in flames.
Self-doubt is going to keep you from publishing just about everything that you try. And you’re not going to know how well you write until you put something out there. And after your first time, if you get a lot of negative reviews then you know that you just need to practice more in writing to find your voice and hone your craft. Eventually it will start to emerge.
The best thing to do from my own experience is to write the book, then write another one, and then another one. Work with a professional. I edit each and every single book and learn from the experience of editing. Even after an editor works on a book I’ll still find little errors here and there. It’s easy to do when your job is working with words all day.
It also helps to stay active with your own personal reading. Read a lot and learn from other writers. You may want to even practice techniques when you’re writing. Try focusing on different aspects in every book that you generate. Finally, it’s important to remember to relax into your book and the writing process and not be so stuffy with your word choice. Writing should be a joyful thing and it’s not like you’re trying to write a huge novel your first time around. You may want to try to focus on purely trying to entertain your reader, educate them, or even inspire your reader. Then once you’ve achieved that, write your next book.
When you become a writer and you choose to make a living writing books or writing in general there are some mindset elements that you’re going to want to take into consideration.
So not only do you have to think of this process as an entrepreneur but you also have to think of this as a process where your feelings and your mind can be crushed by other peoples’ words if you don’t prepare yourself. Sometimes words hurt. Sometimes words bring us money. Be prepared for both.
The first recommendation that I have is to maintain a positive, healthy and proactive attitude. You’re going to want to approach each day with the mindset of getting something accomplished. It might be a certain word count it might be finishing a chapter or it might even be to complete an outline.
Make sure that you set yourself up in the morning for success with some sort of target goal in mind or have it firmed up on paper. Affirm to yourself that you can do this. I know you can. There’s no specific set of books or rules in place to define everything that you will need to do. You can do all the reading in the world on writing but unless you actually sit down and do the writing you won’t proceed or get anywhere.
And here’s where I recommend that as soon as you get done reading this book just start writing. There’s no better experience or learning tool other than actually doing the work itself. You’re going to want to play around with different publishing sites like Kindle Direct Publishing and WordPress, among others. But unless you actually start writing the book you’re not going to get anywhere.
There’s such a thing as playing it safe as a writer and then there’s the will to experiment and take risks. By taking risks and also by playing it safe you are going to get knocked down – those are two extremes on the writing creation spectrum. You will fail. And what you’re going to have to do she’s get back up again and give it another go. It’s just like the old saying don’t let the act of falling off a horse keep you from riding – get back on the horse right away.
If you let negative comments and public feedback get to your head it’s going to break the glass of those writing windows and stifle your method of creativity. Eventually as this happens you will become gun shy and not want to pull the trigger on launching another book. Another attempt. Think about how many times Walt Disney tried before he got his concept of a theme park going. Over 300. If you let negative comments get to you you’ll never amass a great theme park (metaphorically speaking).
You’ll probably receive some comments from writing groups or even Facebook groups who don’t even make a living themselves as writers. They may criticize your choice of genre or even writing nonfiction because nonfiction is “easier”. Instead of providing opportunities to improve your writing or giving constructive criticism or even suggestions to improve they’ll just cut you down. Be prepared for this and recognize it when you see it. These are probably the same people that are jealous that you were actually able to finish a book and publish it and had the guts to publish it and they probably did not. Or perhaps they did publish something and it’s just sitting there collecting dust on some bookshelf, not selling.
You’re also probably receive comments from your friends and family, your work colleagues or even other parents that you come in contact with that get nosy about what you do for a living. They might say something like “you can’t write – you never written anything” or “writing is kind of a waste of time there’s plenty of authors already – let the good ones publish the books”. Or my favorite: “self-publishing just means that you weren’t good enough for Random House”. Their ignorance is so precious!
You may even get a few one-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads that talk about your book being horrible or list any errors or other things that you could’ve done better. Don’t let these deter you. You can’t avoid criticism when you publish a book in the public eye. You’re going to need to learn how to rise above some of these waves that will knock you down and keep moving forward, always improving upon the last project.
Remember to make sure you stay focused on what your own definition of success is and try to ignore what other people say their own success is. You may find yourself chasing someone else’s dream. Someone else’s life is not yours. And neither is their writing career. You have your own writing career to worry about and focusing on what you define a success is what is ultimately going to help you stay on your path to become successful. It’s easy to get distracted into other things that you don’t want or necessarily need to do just because people say that you have to do them.
You may find that people get snobbish towards you just because you chose an independent or self-published author route. You have to take most of these comments with a grain of salt because there’s nothing wrong with choosing this path. You were simply maintaining creative and marketing control over your own work and your own career. You’re not leaving it into the hands of other people that do not care about your work as much as you do. You are not less than as a writer or other writers who have traditional publishing deals. In addition, you’re not a failure or lazy just because you have chosen not to submit your work to a traditional publishing house.
If you get snubbed by friends or peers or even from other people in the book publishing industry for your choice to stay self-published or independent, remember that they themselves either didn’t have the guts to publish a book or do not completely understand the intricate details of making that choice and why that choice may be appropriate for you. Only people that completely understand your life, your methodology, your needs, finances and definition of success will understand your choices. Be your own person and don’t let others dictate or put down your choices.
For me, the choice to go independent and self-published and not turn my work into any traditional publishing house was very easy. I didn’t like the idea of someone trying to change my work or change my voice. I wanted to be able to market my books the way I saw appropriate, and I wanted to do that through my blog and my online courses. I consciously made that choice even if that meant less sales than what they could theoretically promise me. I have seen way too many others burned by traditional publishing houses as well as vanity press publishers to allow someone else or even a corporate giant to take control of my creativity.
So just remember that you are not a failure just because you don’t have a major book deal. If that’s the path that you really want to go down try to remember that it’s going to take at least one or two books for a traditional publishing house to eally take you seriously.
You may find that as you continue to write that your definition of writing success may change. And eventually you may need to adapt your lifestyle or even your writing to what you may find as your true calling as a writer. Some writers only publish a book once every two years and some writers policy book every single month. What your fi- nancial needs are will dictate how fast you need to push out more con- tent.
Remember that every time you get a little bit distracted to refocus yourself on what you define success. Determine whether or not your actions that you’re taking during the day are helping you move towards your writing goals and whether those actions are aligned with that success goal in mind.
The next thing is you’re going to want to find your tribe. It’s important to find your own community of authors that will help you through some of the more difficult times that you may experience as an author. Watch out for who you can learn from. There will always be people who are “ahead” of you and then there are also people that are still “behind” you. Remember that it’s always good to pay it forward a little bit so you can call in some favors later on down the road as you need favors in the future when it comes time for your book to be presented to the public.
We generally call this social karma. Share others’ books freely with your friends and family. They’ll hopefully remember the favor, but I’ve experienced often times other writers who are higher up and more established tend to “forget” or let their ego trick them into thinking reciprocating isn’t necessary. It is. Share regardless of how big you get.
For this reason I tend to read a lot of blogs and follow some of my own mentors. You’re going to want to read a collection of books by both self-published and traditional-published authors to find a good mix on both the craft of writing, the business of writing as well as books that are just fun to read. I would recommend joining a ton of Facebook groups with people who have a positive outlook and encouraging attitude towards other writers. If you surround yourself with those people who actually love writing, you will be able to focus yourself a bit better and you’ll be able to avoid toxic commentary that tends to happen in some of these groups. You may even want to join the Alliance of Independent Authors. I am personally not a member but I hear positive things about it and thought it would be important to mention here as a solid resource.
I found my tribe after two months of publishing my first book, “Learn Pinterest Strategy”. I found that there was a collection of people who wanted to learn more about Pinterest in what made Pinterest so special in helping a book go viral. After a month of sharing some of my pins of my books I realized that my pins have gone somewhat viral and my sales were starting to spike just by doing something as simple as putting them on Pinterest.
And then I found some book and writer tribes on Pinterest and within a software called Tailwind that I joined that were very helpful in helping me spread the word. I have not found Twitter to be very helpful in getting retweets from my books but I have noticed that when I do publish tweets about my books my sales tended to spike a little bit more. Facebook groups have been a tried-and-true method of sharing the word and finding my kind of people.
But honestly it has been Instagram and Pinterest that have been my number one sales platforms that have gotten me the most amount of sales and downloads of my books. The other thing that I’ve done is I’ve made an effort to reach out to other writers and bloggers and have shared some of their book links on my profiles as well. I will sometimes talk about other people’s books and review them on Goodreads. This is just a part of establishing connections with other writers who will look favorably upon you and often will return the favor when it’s your turn down the road. This is all just generating positive energy within the writing community and I try to do the same.
I also recommend keeping up on learning all the time and expect things to change especially with social media. New tools will emerge in your Facebook feed as you do research and learn more about writing. If you want to continue learning more on a weekly basis I do offer a Creative Entrepreneurs Mega Course bundle that will keep you learning new things about marketing, designing, and writing every single week.
When many people think about writing for a living they often make that assumption that they have to get the traditional publishing deal in order to really make a living as a writer.
This is obviously a myth now because we have seen several times and in many cases where independent authors have made a substantial amount of income without the help of traditional publishing. Booya! Obviously, getting a traditional publishing deal is a dream that many writers have. Seldom does it ever work out this way, but when writers surround themselves with other opportunities to back up their major projects they find that they’re just a successful making a regular career out of writing as they would working for a large corporation, and sometimes that success supersedes any success they might have had with a traditional publishing deal. I’ll explain why in a little bit.
According to some reports in 2016, the average author made around $16,000 a year. Obviously that falls while below well below the United States minimum wage requirements. This is obviously not enough to sustain a livable reasonable income. Clearly the top 1% of authors that are now household names are making more than six figures but the reality is, is that the majority of writers are not making anywhere near that amount. It’s important to note that while authors are making the stated $16,000 per year, several of them did not put any effort or labor into other books and are simply collecting royalty income that they’ll have 70 years beyond their death. Imagine getting money without actively working for an entire year. Nice, right?
What has interested me most about becoming an author is watching other authors send out letters to publishing companies with a copy of their book. The author receives a rejection letter and pins it to some sort of inspiration or rejection board. This is a phenomenon I may never understand. This is definitely not the path that I have taken but it is a path at some writers do choose to take and you may find that pinning rejection letters on the wall or on some sort of canvas board may be your thing. Personally I don’t find rejection letters at all inspiring or even remotely motivating. That’s not to say that traditional publishing doesn’t have its own benefits by any means.
There is a certain sort of validation I suppose when it comes to traditional publishing. A lot of authors tend to wonder whether or not their work is ever good enough to be picked up by traditional publisher. And once they make it through that process to get an agent actually submit it to a publishing company for approval by their book selection gatekeepers this often validation enough. Even if the publishing company failed miserably on the marketing of the book at least somebody thought it was good enough for a major publication deal. But you have to consider if that’s worth taking a risk – getting a traditional publishing book but having the marketing go terribly, and realizing that you could have made more money had you retained rights to your book.
So if your definition of success includes a traditional publishing deal because of the reasons of validation or receiving some sort of level of prestige, then nothing else will satisfy you. You’ll definitely need to embrace your need for validation and go get an agent to work on your behalf. And if that is what you were looking for then this book probably is not for you, because I tend to encourage self-publishing for several creative reasons.
Traditional publishing deals often offer a special team to work with. Traditional publishers have their own teams of editors, cover designers, sub-writers, and marketing agents that are usually provided by the agent or even the publisher is part of a major contract. The amount of marketing effort that usually goes into international publishing deal is usually related to how much is actually invested into the project. So one thing to realize is that a $5000 advance is not much of an investment into a book. Even a $100,000 payment over a certain number of years does not really equate to a substantial investment on their end. The publishing company has to make that money back before you’ll see any royalties. In addition, marketing for publishing companies is usually to booksellers rather than to end consumers, and they tend to dominate the paperback and hardcover market rather than the e-book market.
With traditional publishing deals if you get a basic decent deal there are usually no upfront financial costs to you. But there’s usually some kind of a hold against your initial royalties. So in a traditional publishing deal you don’t have to pay anyone. If you were asked for money then it is not considered a traditional publishing deal. That is what we call a vanity publisher. You need to be extraordinarily careful with whom you contract with online.
Case in point, Tate Publishing out of Oklahoma City was charging authors close to $2000 just to have “Tate Publishing” written on the book. Often times bookstores will not carry independent authored books, so going through a publisher may have some advantages. But Tate Publishing was an “author beware” company. They once sent out an email with an offer charging $750 to authors they represented for setting up a Facebook page and other profiles, all of which could be done within minutes, absolutely free, by the author. Tate Publishing was a predator in the author community. They preyed on authors who desired getting a traditional publishing deal so badly that they charged authors just to get that status. Tate Publishing never made an effort to effectively market any books. Authors received a spreadsheet with local bookstore contacts, and many times, the bookstore list had invalid information or was not up-to-date. In addition, the authors were not making a lot of money, either. Tate Publishing was being sued by Xerox for all of the printed book copies it owed, and had no money to carry out the obligations it had made in its advertising. After receiving enough complaints, law enforcement moved in and filed charges.
That’s called vanity publishing – you choose to publish with a company out of vanity, instead of going about your publishing methods as an independent author. As of the date of this publication, the main owners of Tate Publishing are facing state and federal charges of several felonies including racketeering, money laundering and theft. I do not recommend anyone pursue vanity publishing methods for this very reason. Nothing but financial loss and heartbreak has come out of many vanity publishing “deals”.
Currently, as it stands, the average median author advance is around $5000 to $8000. What is becoming more popular is that authors are now excepting deals were there will be higher royalties in lieu of an advance or even no advance at all. It’s important to remember that often times advances go against future royalties, and are usually 7% to 25% of net price. So if you get an advance of $10,000 and you have to earn more than $10,000 out of your royalties on your book sale before you get any further money.
With traditional publishing, print distribution to bookstores is much easier. This is really where traditional publishing shines. This is their model and what their companies were designed to do. Sales reps will go around to the bookstores and make it super easy for all of the book buyers to select books that they like and pay later on an invoice minus any returns. Books are usually in the store for a month and will only remain there if they are repeat sellers.
If you’re looking for literary prizes and acclaim you’ll usually find with traditional publishing. Many literary prizes aren’t even open to any self-published authors. This is not something that I myself have focused at all on. It’s just not part of my business model. But that’s not to say that there aren’t authors out there who seek prizes and awards. It’s incredibly rare for self-published authors to even be allowed to enter some of these literary prize competitions. But if that is your thing, then by all means pursue that.
One of the benefits of traditional publishing is that there’s always the potential to become a brand-name or household name author. There are only a few household name others in the world such a Stephen King, EL James, Danielle Steel, Dan Brown, Nicholas Sparks, etc. These are writer mega-stars. They’ve earned those statuses and have a fleet of books!
Publishing houses rarely give their writers an excuse to leave them, and will continue to give out book deals time and time again. They get white glove treatment, and make a ton of money. There is still a chance that you, too, could become a publishing house A-lister with some hard work and effort on your part. It’s a celebrity status that I’m sure they enjoy. It’s definitely worth trying to do if that is how you define your writing success in life. The odds are against you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
Now, I would be doing a disservice to you if I didn’t tell you all of the things that I would consider to be cons against traditional publishing. Traditional publishing takes forever. Years. Sometimes decades. Just kidding. No, in actuality your book could sit for 4-6 years before it sees the bookshelf of a bookstore.
When you write a book it could take a year to a year and a half or even longer in some cases for it to see any sort of bookshelf. This is because the process of writing and editing will still be the same regardless if you go independent or traditional. But then with traditional publishing there’s also the time element of finding an agent, which might take another year, and then you’ll need to get the agent to get you a publishing deal, which could take another year, and then it’ll take several months to two years before your book is actually published. For me, that length of a process is painful. It’s an incredibly slow process which is drives those of us who know that we could publish a book on Amazon within hours insane. And we will be paid 30 to 60 days later.
The next issue that I like to inform people about is that you will give up a lot of creative control over your book and you relinquish creativity rights when you sign that contract. The publishing company will license as many rights as possible. And you might get a cover a title or even a marketing campaign that you’re not in complete agreement with. Your book could very well get butchered into a completely different animal that what you originally intended it to be. But it’s too late. You sold the rights. There’s always the possibility, too, that you would be assigned to an editor who then becomes much like a ball and chain or you may not like how they make you feel, and there is no switching editors generally. Or you might establish a relationship with one and then they leave. As editors get more and more experience they tend to leave publishing houses and go freelance to make a lot more money with the experience they gained.
You also find that with traditional deals, you will see very low royalties than you would selling on your own or on a big site like Amazon. Royalty rates are a percentage of the sale of the book. They’re likely to be net of all of the discounts and returns, marketing costs, and overhead costs. So they are taking off the total before your percentage is even calculated. Sounds like a raw deal, right? Royalty rates for traditional publishing tend to stay in the range between 5% and 25%. 25% is usually on the generous and of things and is typically rare. The rates will also be different depending on the type of format. So what you would be paid in a royalty for an audiobook may be different from an e-book version. Again, it really depends on the contract and each one is different, so if you’re offered one, read it carefully and know what you’re looking for.
Royalties for traditional publishing deals arrive every six months for a specific period of sales. In talking with authors who have them, they’ve said that that the reports and payments are difficult understand and sometimes obtuse. They may also not relate with the amount of money that you get in your bank account. Therefore, authors who are traditionally published can’t really do a cash flow forecast for future income, which is another reason most need another job. Even with a contract in place.
There is a definite lack of marketing assistance when it comes to traditional publishing. More and more we in the writing world are finding that the authors are doing more of their own marketing and agents and publishers are looking for authors who are already developing their platform or already have one established – or at least an email list containing established readers.
If you want to go the traditional publishing route make sure that you have a marketing plan put together and documented because this is something that they might ask you for. A marketing plan and existing author platform may sway the decision from a “no” to a “yes” on accepting you. And traditional publishing houses are looking more than just a bookstore signing or another book in progress. They want to see social proof. They really want to see results and some real meat in your marketing plan.
Another reason why traditional publishing may not be for you is that the contracts are full of clauses. There are a plethora of contract clauses to watch out for that may limit your options and prohibit you from pursuing other publishing opportunities, including self-publishing something entirely different or uploading a new eBook to your website!
One particular clause you need to look for is called an agency contract. Sometimes agencies put in clauses into contracts where the agency receives a certain percentage (anywhere from 10-35%) of everything you publish, including anything you choose to write for self-publishing. This is incredibly stifling for a creative who plans to self-publish other things outside of an initial book deal. And, the agency or publisher might not pick up other books. This becomes a problem when YOU want to publish something you’ve written but THEY don’t.
Agencies can also make the argument that they will build your au- thor brand, and will be directly responsible for your own success, regardless of the money that you’ve spent that is directly tied to your book sales results. I’ve always felt that this is not case as I’ve watched authors be represented by agencies who could have been more successful with better marketing. In addition, we’ve moved past the internet phase of relationship marketing and have transitioned to authenticity, meaning people want to be able to connect with you on some type of level. Some clauses that specify that the agency only takes a portion of sales of what they represent and push are better – that way you’re able to still self-publish and create. Keep this in mind when you’re considered traditional publishing and working within contracts.
Another issue to watch out for is that some contracts may specify that they take all of the World English rights in all formats. I would challenge you to question why, or at least get it in writing when they plan to release the books in all formats in all English-reaching countries. The publisher is highly unlikely to use them, as we’ve seen so many times. If the money is actually worth it, you may want to retain those rights.
Your primary mission and that of your agent’s, if you choose to get one, is to maintain as many rights as possible when you’re entering into a contract to that you can benefit from them in other ways. Get an attorney to look over your contract and list out all these issues identified here and remember what you feel is your path to success. Don’t compromise if you feel the deal is limiting. For example you may want to sell the US and Australian rights but then maintain the rights to the rest of the world. This in itself is a good compromise because you could still have UK and Canada, as well as some other English-dominant countries.
I would caution you with relinquishing rights to audiobooks, as well, because audiobooks are on the rise and becoming even more popular than before. Many publishers will want the rights to audiobooks but end up not recording anything. Why do they do that?! It’s such a waste of an income stream. That is considered a lost revenue stream to you and definitely something you’ll want to avoid. The mission here is to capitalize on all possible income streams. You have a couple of options at your disposal. You can either keep the audio rights altogether or you can specify a length of time the publisher has to option them before the rights revert back to you. Maybe give them a year to get the recording done and if they don’t produce, exercise your rights immediately to open up that revenue stream.
Be sure to review the overall term length of the contract and the rights reversion clause in the contract. In the past there used to be out-of-print clauses, but these days with print on demand solutions in place there’s really no such thing as a book going out of print. You may have to contemplate when exactly you’d get your rights back on your titles, because what if the contract goes along poorly and you never want to work with that publisher again?! What a sorry situation that would be.
Working with the publisher is much like working within a marriage. What’s a little bit different is that you’ve done your part. Then it’s up to the publisher, and sometimes publishing houses fail miserably. You don’t exactly set out for your relationship with your publisher to fail but sometimes it just doesn’t work out and you may need to get out. AKA, divorce your publisher. As someone who has been married the second time around (and happier because of it!) you want to be able to get out of the relationship if it goes bad, or if the publisher isn’t selling as many books as you thought they would and you could do a better job.Wouldn’t that be an amazing thing? Outsell your big publishing house on your own books?!
Once you sign a contract for your book it essentially belongs to the publisher and they own it. It may belong to the publisher for the life of the copyright which is the life of the author +70 years after you die. And that is very long time and a very big deal so choose carefully.
You should also look at that do not compete clause (this is a big one!) because this could stop you from doing it any sort of publishing during the term of the contract under the same pen name, in the same world that you created, or with the same characters. One way around this is to start writing under another pen name completely right away after publishing your first book. It’s good to have a second pen name income stream going, and I have three total.
For example, you might sign on for a three book series deal with a publisher with one book scheduled to be released each year starting out in the following year. That gives you a year to kick the first book out. So that is a total of four years that you may not be able to publish anything else using your pen name, using the world that you’ve created and also with those characters. This is where you have to evaluate whether not that contract is really worth it.
Many authors tend to be hurried when it comes to contracts because they think they should just take whatever deal that they are after offered. Many authors will sign deals just because they’re grateful to have been offered anything. But this is not a good idea. Read it. Completely. Negotiate the terms. If they really want your book, they’ll find some middle ground. Otherwise, just walk away. That should be validation enough – they wanted you. You rejected THEM.
It’s also important to remember how important your royalty rates are over the long-term. Remember publishers are not there to hold your hand or foster your career. They are not doing you a favor. They are in the business to make money and maximize their profits. Do some simple math calculations and see if it’s feasible to make the same amount without releasing your rights.
Think of some of your favorite authors that you’ve found on Amazon. What is your favorite book? What is the author’s name? And what is the publisher’s name? You will probably remember the first two answers but not the third.
Most people will be able to name a favorite book that they know and the name of the author but they are unlikely to know the name of the publisher because most readers do not shop online or even in stores by publishers. They shop by covers, titles and content. Publishing names and imprints only mean something to authors. No one else. Those things only mean something to the writing industry and are not tied to the end consumer and this is something to really think about. Your book has the same potential on the Amazon marketplace as any other traditionally-published title. So your publishing options are more or less a question of what sort of results do you want to achieve and what your definition of success is. Can you make it on your own? Of course you can. The publisher name is not really what the reader thinks about.
So in traditional publishing this is how getting paid really works, and after I’ve educated you on this part, you may think traditional publishing is not all it’s cracked up to be. Authors are paid on a set schedule included in the contract and this is usually split into two different payments. Every contract is different, for example this could be the third on signing, a third when the book is submitted and a third on publication. They may be split again between multiple books. Let’s assume a $100,000 3-book contract.
Agent gets 15% or $15,000. Approximately $85,000 goes over to the author over three years, split into multiple different payments, some on signing and then payments on acceptance and publication of each book over time. So that could mean seven individual payments of approximately $12,000. Remember that you will need to pay income tax so let’s estimate that a 20-25% which means $2400 – $3000, leaving $9000 – $9600 that you’ll get a couple times a year. Is that enough money for you to live on? Suddenly the six-figure deal for three books is not so attractive, is it? Especially when there are authors making $9000 every single month who have self-published.
This is just one example and every contract with each publishing house for each project will be different. If you were offered a contract you need to work out how the payment schedule actually pays out over time and don’t be overzealous about signing it just because you were offered it. The initial figures seem really enticing but in actuality it’s really not that much money when you break it down over a period of years. If you want to make a living with your writing you’re going to need to understand how the cash flow will work and what dates the money will get deposited into your account.
Sometimes people, including my husband at times, will ask me if I would ever except a traditional publishing deal. I don’t think I would. I think over time as my writing improves I would intend to keep writing my book and hire a marketing team and stand on my own. Personally I have chosen not to spend my energy chasing traditional publishing deals because I enjoy having creative control over my publishing. I would rather have the cash now and how sales trickle in initially than have a $100,000 deal be spread out over three years. I know that with time and with practice my marketing will improve and get better and I will be in a position sometime down the road to hire a marketing firm. But that’s just my own position.
You have to do what you feel best is for you.
There have been some major upheavals in the publishing industry and as a collective we’re experiencing a lot of change. With the surge of the digital e-book emergence into the horizon it is doing things that the music industry did years ago.
These changes have brought forth a lot of uncertainty and fear for many in the pushing industry, but creators and writers who are willing and able to embrace this new method and model of business can do amazingly well.
We have seen a rise and digital e-book purchases from 2009 onward. In adult fiction sales in the US are nearly 71% digital. 30% of all US adult fiction books are by self-published authors. But what is even more interesting is that there’s a shift back to paperback sales and even with the rise in digital sales we have seen an increase in consumer spending with paperback and hardcover. E-book sales are still rising in countries other than just the US, UK, Canada, and Australia. This is largely in part due to the spread of faster Internet connections and the use of tablets and phones to read books. If you consider that most people in the world don’t live near a physical book shop, purchasing books on a cell phone will only increase over time.
What has spurred the most purchase behavior is that people will always want to be educated in learning things, they want inspiration, entertainment, and that will increase – only they’ll be able to get it through their cell phone. In some parts of the world they’re opting out of using desktop computers and laptops all together and moving towards the usage of smart phones. This could be an amazing shift in business model for writers!
There’s also a demographic shift in cities and small living places where they want to own less stuff. So this is where we see the increase of digital e-books, especially with the minimalists who choose not to own so many things. The same is happening with books through membership programs like Kindle Unlimited and Audible. People no longer have to own things – they can use services to have access to materials, and the market has reflected that they’re perfectly ok not owning the book.
Another interesting thing about the digital market is the difference between the generations. We have the younger generation who has lived on exclusively digital and we have the aging population which is primarily paperback readers. One of the biggest markets for tablet readers is now over the age of 60 because you can change the font sizes. Just a few years ago you could only get a small number of large print books and in the form of tapes from libraries. And being able to change the font size and listen on digital devices has opened up the reading world for the boomer generation which happens to be my parents’ generation. And the advance of in-home technology like Amazon Echo and Google Home may also increase the number of Audiobooks being consumed in coming years.
But let’s talk about print books specifically. I love the print book market because that is actually where I make my most money in my book income stream. Online print book publishing overtook in-store print purchasing back in March 2015. That means that more people are buying print books online then they’re buying print books in stores, which puts independent self-published authors on the same playing field with traditionally published authors. I have several print books for sale online and they have the same chance of being discovered as any traditional publishing author’s books would.
How self-publishing has changed things…
The word indie stands for independent. We’re at the point in the world right now where being an independent author or an Indie – it’s actually pretty cool. If you think of any musicians, filmmakers – what comes to mind? Original – less boilerplate. Unexpected. Surprising. Less mainstream. Creative. Thoughtful. Connected. Provoking. Edgy. Right? They have separated themselves from the massive labels that treat artist badly. They are more character driven and drive relationships with their fans, rather than Hollywood blockbuster types who seem to be out of some sort of fantasy world unlike ours and untouchable. I mean, bodyguards, for heaven’s sake. That’s just not the sentiment you get from indies. In many creative industries it’s almost prefer- able to be Indy or independent than to be linked with the major conglomerates that are tied to media companies with less-than-ethical interests.
Consider what you buy…
Do you have a tendency to lean towards new artists and films – think about Netflix? Or do you rely on major Hollywood blockbuster movies to be released? Do you drink small batch beer brewed locally by brewers? Or buy cupcakes and cakes directly from the bakery? Do you buy vegetables at your local farmers market as opposed to the supermarket chain? Do you buy artwork from artists directly or on Etsy? Have you supported a creative project on Kickstarter? If so, you probably lean a little indie in your personal life, and have come into contact with true artisans of their craft.
The general public are becoming more more likely to buy from us creatives directly and they want to support creative projects and connect with us on a deeper level. Even education is heading this way with the rise of online learning sites for individual courses on all types of different topics. I would know because I’ve created several courses myself and that has fostered my course career dramatically. So we’re in a writing, artisan new culture where the creator is increasingly being valued and that’s extremely exciting.
So… let’s talk about how you take advantage of this major shift by considering going completely independent with your writing career.
Going to Indie route – let’s talk about your publishing options on becoming an indie author. There’s a stark difference between self-publishing and becoming a professional independent author. The term self-publishing indicates you’re doing everything yourself and doing it more as a hobby. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this method of treating your writing that way and it’s wonderful to have writers in our world that have a love of creation. I self-publish books purely for my own use and the use of my children, when I create digitally illustrated e-books for them.
But I use the term independent author or an independent (indie) author for myself. This is a business for me – not just a hobby. I have a business strategy in place with my writing and goals to meet. Of course, many professional and new writers/authors start out in self-publishing as a hobby transition to independent author over time. And we all have to start somewhere! But if you are planning on being a writer who wants to make a living at writing, you’re going to have to treat your writing as an independent author and also as a business.
There are several amazing benefits to being an independent author. You get to retain total creative control over your own content and design. Many authors who have gone the traditional publishing route have expressed how excruciatingly painful and disappointing it was to have a cover or title that they absolutely hated, or to have editorial choices inflicted on them that they didn’t exactly agree with. As an independent author you can work with freelancers of your choice and you get to choose the ultimate look and feel of your book. Now as a pro it’s totally up to you how your book typically ends up and as an indie you can also change it whenever you want as I have done a few different times with some of my books. All you have to do is upload your file and you have a newer looking book or a different looking book in a matter of minutes.
This startup mentality and the mistakes that we learn from and failures we experience – it’s just stuff you learn along the way and the flexibility makes the process of publishing easier for independent authors. If you make a mistake it can easily be corrected.
Independent authors are awesome. We have more empowerment over the creative process. I think with traditional publishing there’s a lot of insecurities that can occur. There’s instances where authors have experienced just how negative a traditional publishing company can cause an author or a writer to feel about their creative process. The writers really didn’t see themselves as being able to make a decision along without having somebody approve it for them. Independent authors are able to take action improve upon themselves. Traditional published authors typically forget that they are the ones who are the creatives and the storytellers, forgetting that another company is capitalizing on their talents.
And if you compare that sentiment to that of the independent author who in general are very happy bunch people, it’s not surprising when you consider the research on control. One of the number one contributors to happiness is autonomy. It’s the feeling that your life is in your control and not under the control someone else. I think this is primarily why we have seen such a drive towards start-up enterprises and working from home as well as the start-up, bootstrapping entrepreneur.
People are tiring from having to answer to others and have the work diminished by others. After signing a contract a traditional published author has pretty much has zero control. This includes pricing, timing of publication, marketing, design, images, blurb, and sometimes over the cover, the title, and even the word selection. I’ve seen a book entirely stripped of its characters, renamed and entire story changed to fit what would make a great Hollywood movie. Some authors are willing to do this for the price of fame.
If fame is not really your thing and just making money from your creative work is, then keep reading. Independent authors can learn new skills, work with professionals that they choose, make mistakes as often as they want and learn from them, and earn money directly and interact with their own customers. They can also build their own email list which becomes an arsenal of revenue down the road. It’s certainly hard work but it’s very rewarding. The positive energy involved with being an independent writer can propel you so much further, and much faster than waiting in line for your turn with a traditional publishing firm. You don’t need permission. So stop waiting to be chosen and choose yourself to be successful on your own terms and time line.
As an independent author there’s also a faster time to get your book to the marketplace. You still have to spend the same amount of time writing and editing, but that is never going to go away regardless of going the independent self-published route or going with traditional publishing: the process is still the same. But with being an independent author you can upload your files to Amazon and other online stores within a matter of minutes. Your book is usually for sale within 8 to 72 hours and you’re paid 30 to 60 days after the end of month of sale.
And if you’re doing print books you can get your book up for sale within 24 hours if you proofed your book online with the online viewer. Or you can order a copy and it might take about a week to receive it but essentially it’s incredibly fast to get your book up for sale. This is incredibly ideal for those of us that like to see instantaneous results and who get excited about their book being done. Finished. Ready! You want to get it out there and share with people and get it selling. You don’t want to have to sit on it for several years while gets passed around within the company and not have any sort of glimpse into what’s happening next.
With self-publishing there is an option to get higher royalties. If you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99 on Amazon you can get a 70% royalty. And traditional royalty rates usually fit in the range of the 7 to 25% bracket, averaging around 10%. You would only need to sell a few books in order to make the same amount of money with self-publishing.
But it’s definitely not a get rich quick scheme. This is really important to know. You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make any sales as you would have done with the traditional publisher or indeed any sales at all. That has a lot more to do with the genre, investment in marketing, and sometimes luck by hitting the Internet at the right time. And an author can’t build a business overnight but rather over time, and they can learn a great deal about marketing and authors have had to learn how to do the skills these days regardless of how they publish.
Another benefit of being a self-published author or an independent author is that you can sell by any means and in any global market as you retain all rights. My books have sold in several different countries and are for sale in about 200. I like to look at my sales map to see which countries I’ve sold to in the last quarter. It’s amazing to me to think that even while sales trickle in initially the sales will grow exponentially as other countries start picking up my books and gain readers in those countries.
I have been selling internationally ever since I started writing. We’re fortunate to have people learning English in other countries which has made the reach of my books even easier in traditionally non-English-speaking countries. Many traditional publishing offices have sold World English rights for all formats and yet have barely sold outside their usual country because their books aren’t even available in most places in the world. Many authors have sold their audiobook rights but the books have not yet been produced. So if you’re in that type of situation you might want to revisit your contract. What do you hold the rights for? You can self-publish in countries were you haven’t licensed the rights so get on that!
Niche books can reach a specific target audience and this is one of the main reasons why being an independent author is so wonderful. You don’t necessarily have to sell a ton of books in a niche area to make money. You can specialize in a topic and help people learn more. Publishing houses tend to have an expectation of a certain number of sales so if you’re writing a book on a particular type of yoga style, for example, then you might have the problem of the market being too small for a major publisher. But the market size of the niche topic perhaps will satisfy your own definition of success if you publish as an independent author. You can price it as you like as chances are that your book will be popular based on the focus of the topic, and people tend to be willing to pay higher prices for focused topics.
You can use the fact that you are an independent author to get into the publishing game, too. If you self publish and do it extraordinarily well, agents and publishers will come to you, seeking to make deals with you. You don’t have to write letters and get rejected when you have a variety of excellent books on the market that are attracting a great deal of attention. The power balance shifts – it then becomes reversed and the empowered independent author can get a much better deal than your typical first time author with no evidence of sales.
You could easily serve a little time as an “apprentice” – learning the author business and write your second book. There’s a steep learning curve to learn and you’ll need time to build social proof and your email list anyway. Put your time in, build your platform, and let the publishers and agents come to you after you’ve put out two or three books. Give it time. Don’t rush it. If transitioning from self-published to traditional publishing is your game, then let them come to you and reverse the power struggle to your favor. You’ll be able to remind them during contract negotiations “hey, you came to ME wanting to make a deal – not the other way around”.
Now there are definite cons of being an independent author, and it’s not for everyone – especially those writers that are not willing to put in the time and effort. There are always going to be positive or negative sides about everything. You need to do it all, meaning everything from writing to marketing, by yourself or find qualified professionals to help you. As with learning any new skill, this one is going to be a steep learning curve and often times expensive one. You still have to do the writing and the marketing but you also have to do the publishing, pricing, networking, communicating, etc. You will need to involve an editor and a cover designer to work with if you’re not designing the cover yourself. Then there’s the title decision making, getting your work formatted into all the various different types of print and digital versions. If you plan on publishing a book in just about any format that you want, find suitable for professional to help or at least teach you how to do file conversions and formatting.
And this is exactly the time where deciding on your definition of success really comes into play. You’re going to need to run all the aspects of this self-publishing business that you’re starting if you want to go play with all the other professional independents on a similar route. Lots of spinning gears and wheels that you’ll need to keep turning and moving. But once you get the hang of things, it’s really quite easy to scale it all and start making some serious money.
From many people this is a negative and very much a deterrent, because they don’t have the time to do everything or they don’t enjoy doing some of these tasks. And they’re absolutely necessary to do and get done well. I’m lucky because I absolutely love being an entrepreneur. I live for this. I love all the aspects of what I do including all the marketing and the process of generating ideas including the work of getting words on a page. I also love the technical and creative side of things around formatting and everything in between.
These are things that naturally come easy for me as a graphic designer. For someone starting out there will be things that will be challenging because there are certain rules and obstacles you’ll need to overcome that are specific to this particular author business. Over the years I have found the work to be perfect for me and perhaps you will as well (I hope!). If you can manage a project, have some sort of project management experience or you’re a dedicated blogger, you can learn to do a lot of these self-publishing strategies and tasks and then you’ll likely enjoy it, too. But this writing for a living thing – it is certainly not a life for everyone. And I’ll get to that here shortly.
There’s very little validation by the industry. Sure, you might get the occasional “congrats” on Facebook when you announce that you’ve completed your book, but in reality it’s a lonely road to be driving on. You’ll be snubbed sometimes for not having a big publishing deal. (You don’t need it, trust me.) The independent author stigma seems to get lesser and lesser every day but if your definition of success is wrapped up with what other authors, agents and publishers think of you then this might not be the best choice. Of course, if you really only care about readers and generating sales then becoming an independent author is a great option to exercise and add to your life.
You’ll need to budget upfront if you want to be considered a professional author and have a positive result upfront. These days you’ll likely spend a pretty dime on editing before submitting to an agent anyway so plan on at least spending money on editing, as well as books and courses for writers. Everyone spends money on a hobby or something they love. If you find yourself getting excited about buying a course on book formatting this very well could be your trade. And if you’re like me and you’re intending to make a living from this journey as a writer, you’ll need to invest money in creating assets for the business with the intention of getting a return on the investment and time spent in terms of multiple streams of income. Either way, you will need a budget and collect some working money upfront if you want to get some professional results. Or you’re going to have to learn a TON. It’s totally up to you.
Another downside to self-publishing is it’s also very difficult to get your book in print distribution into bookstores. It’s not impossible, and if you care about this distribution then look at options with Ingram Spark. They’re a bit more expensive print-wise, and you’ll spend money on an ISBN in order to publish with them, as opposed to CreateSpace who will give you one for free (but you’ll have limitations on selling your book elsewhere). But the reality is you’re much more likely to get your book in stores with distribution through a traditional publisher. That’s essentially their business model and has been for a very long time. They are the experts at printing and distributing physical product. My personal choice has been to use print on demand through CreateSpace so my print books are available all online on online bookstores and in various libraries that stores can order from.
You were often be snubbed as an independent author. If your definition of success is literary notoriety and praise in the form of awards and prizes you’re probably better off going the traditional publishing route. Unfortunately there are still people that think that your writing just may not have been good enough to get a traditional publishing deal and this is an ignorant stance to take. Many authors purposely choose to independently publish their own works in order to maintain complete creative control. It has become much more of a personal choice and not so much as a determination of the quality of your writing. Don’t allow the ignorance of others keep you from pursuing your dreams and relinquish control just out of peer pressure.
Self-publishing and independent publishing has now become much more of a hybrid model and you no longer have to choose between traditional versus self-publishing exclusively or deal in the absolutes of this marketplace. The industry has dramatically changed. Many authors are now taking a hybrid approach to publishing where they can pick and choose which projects they publish a certain way.
You just have to be careful with signing those contracts so you don’t exclude yourself from creatively producing more titles. They may eventually make the decision per book or per series and by particular rights using the independent model for some things and taking a traditional route for others. This is incredibly empowering for the author to make these decisions in being able to choose the best possible route for each project. A career is not built in one book. So it’s important for independent authors to make this decision selectively as they see fit. The most important thing here is that you the creator are empowered to make these decisions on how you would like to see your book progress. What may be right for one book may not be right for another.
There are other publishing options as well. I’ve used a couple of publishing options myself and these days there are options springing up left and right for many others. There are new companies popping up practically every single day, always wanting to take a piece of your creativity in exchange for them marketing or listing your products for sale. The company owners watch the sense of desperation in authors in forums and groups and unfortunately, we’re an easy target to pitch an emotional sale to. Some offer a great deal and some are just dangerous sharks who will take your money, run, and leave you incredibly disappointed. Make sure you do your due diligence and get testimonials and referrals from other authors before buying into any sort of service and before you sign up for anything. Referrals and testimonials are a MUST. If it sounds too good or too easy, it’s probably a scam.
Evaluate all your book and writing distribution options. I always like to determine how a company makes their money and what kind of cut they get out of my creative projects when I sell them online. Traditional publishers should pay you in advance against future royalties. So you get the money first and then they make money back as your book sells. If a publisher says they need you to pay them, run the other way. That’s vanity publishing. Going completely do-it-yourself or DIY which is what I do means that you could publish for absolutely free on all of the direct retailers and take a percentage of the royalty. They only make money when you make money, and that is a system that works pretty well for the majority of self-published independent authors.
Let’s talk about the basics on how to self-publish a book. There are a few basic steps and you can definitely need to follow and you can use my own process for reference. This may look complicated if you’re going at this for the first time but like anything that you learn in life, it gets easier every time you do it, and with a little practice. The actual process of publishing really doesn’t take hardly any time at all after you’ve done it a couple of times. It’s the writing, editing and marketing that take the most amount of time and that is true no matter which choice you select in forms of publishing your book.
There are a few key things, before you publish, that you’ll need to have in place before you click that “publish now” button. The first thing is you need a great book. It needs to be written well and essentially fall under the category of being educational, entertaining or inspiring. A professional editor can help you with all of this, and take a mediocre book and turn it into something fabulous with you. Editing these books can range from a half a cent per word to three cents per word. I am not of the belief that the highest rate means the best quality. You will find editors that tout their services as having landed bestseller books but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your book will necessarily become a bestseller just by proxy. And I’m not entirely sure that editors are directly responsible for the marketing of that book either regardless of its quality.
I have seen several books of very poor quality, in my opinion, make it onto the bestseller list. Unfortunately authors out there sometimes are mischievous and it’s almost as if they can buy the bestseller ranking with tricks and manipulation. It’s all a matter of marketing and hiring people. So evaluate that information as you will and make your own conclusion. I have found that there are some great editors out there that charge just a little less than one cent per word and I think I’ve been very happy with their services. A great book in my opinion is one that people can learn from, is inspiring, or takes them into world that allows them to escape the normal reality of every day life. If you feel that your book is accomplishing that then you’re probably ready for your editing process.
Choose a title that is easily searchable in search engines and entices readers to take action. Go for a dramatic or play on words effect for fiction, and for nonfiction books obviously you want to use titles that contain the keywords that people are searching for online. For example in my “Learn Pinterest Strategy” book I use that title specifically because people were searching for ways to “Learn Pinterest” and also searching for “Pinterest Strategy”.
You can get some great ideas for your title simply by searching on the Amazon search bar and seeing with the drop-down contains. I’ll admit I had a hard time with another one of my books with “Re-Purpose”. Often times it was left without the dash as “repurpose” and I was hoping that Amazon search would bring up my book in the search results despite the nuance. It did. Thank goodness! The keyword phrases are displayed there in the search bar and show the most popular searches that have been entered by Amazon customers. Use this little tool to your advantage when selecting a title.
Choosing a title is much more about resonating with your genre and giving the initial impression of your book. This is a little bit more difficult. You can change your book title but it is a bit difficult as I found when you re-title novels. Initially my first book was called Pinterest Secrets. But then I decided to change it to Learn Pinterest Strategy because really there are no secrets when everything is listed and available online and anyone can learn it within a few week on their own. Secrets was not exactly a searchable term, either, so I went with “strategy” instead. You may find that you start with a title and then realize you could have gone with something a bit more search friendly or obvious. Sometimes, I have learned, simplification is best.
Let’s talk about cover design. Your book needs to have a fantastic cover design and this is something that you’re going to want to spend some time looking at. Take a look at all the top-selling books in each category you’re targeting on Amazon and it will show you the type of cover design that is most prominent with readers. What do they have in common? Are they using dark or light colors? What kind of fonts? Notice how all the covers are usually original and do not use the cover-maker templates you’ll often find for free. Take some screen prints and work with a book cover designer (myself included or I can refer you to people who will do an amazing job) to create a fantastic cover. If you choose to create your own cover be sure to use professional tools like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator and make sure your sizing is correct, because there’s nothing worse than looking at a pixelated image or one that has been clearly stretched.
Designing the cover is a very critical step as your book cover is the first thing that consumers will see. I cannot stress enough how important this is as it relates to your overall book marketing strategy. You can change the cover later as many of us do, especially if we choose to market it in a foreign language or another marketplace. Traditional published book covers tend to update everything after several years to revive sales. It’s definitely worth doing the same especially if you have older books. This is often why you may see multiple kinds of covers for the same book, in case you’ve ever wondered.
Sometimes books require a little bit of modernization or even a fresher looking cover with a different font design. We’ve seen a surge in the use of brush fonts lately and that’s not exactly a trend that is going to last very much longer. If you have existing covers for your book or are you have self-published in the past check that you have the rights to the cover. If you reverse search and find that the image being used on your cover actually has a copyright on the image you’ll need a new cover. Make sure when working with a professional designer that you are free of copyright violations and that the work is original. Sometimes unscrupulous “designers” lift images just to get projects done or because they lack talent or time and they violate another photographer’s or designer’s copyright. This is a big no-no and could land you with not just a civil lawsuit but also a theft charge if the designer or original owner of the artwork happens to live in your state. Your book, your cover, your responsibility. And just because the image is on the internet does not mean it’s there for you to use as you please. You can easily reverse search the image being use to find out where else it is being listed online because you’ll definitely want something that is original and not overused stock.
Next you’ll need to write your sales description or book description, also known as the blurb. Blurb writing is considered an art and one that we are all trying to improve upon. Your aim is to tantalize the reader into downloading a sample or hit the buy button. There are many aspects to a good sales description and one way to get into the mood for writing a blurb is to look at the top ten selling books in your genre. There’s a definite system and style in place for top-selling books and it’s good to copy the same system and mimic it. Don’t copy the blurbs word for word. Use your own words. Copy the sales description for each and break it down into segments. What do you like? What resonates with you? What words do they use? Are they using power words to sell? Is there a call to action? Model your own on those. Pay special attention to adjectives – that’s a great place to start.
Blurb writing is much easier for nonfiction titles, in my opinion. You get to be exciting, use power words, show that you have expertise in the subject matter, and sell, sell, sell! You have to demonstrate that the book is going to answer the readers’ questions or solve a problem right there in the blurb. You can also include a table contents to show them what’s inside. You may even want to include review quotes from other authors and writers’ reviews but it’s not required of you to do so. Non-fiction blurbs are fun to write as well because you can use a lot more sales copy than you would traditionally a self-published fiction book. It’s great practice writing nonfiction blurbs to get yourself used to writing sales copy for your other books and your website, as well.
Next comes the formatting of the book. You need to have your book in a .mobi file for Kindle and .epub file for other platforms. There are plenty of software and online applications that will help you with the technicalities, so don’t let these put you off. There a number of options for book formatting. I myself use DraftToDigital for my formatting because it’s a lot easier to use when I’m in a hurry. Otherwise I use InDesign, and that takes me about a whole day to get a long book formatted. I also use Microsoft Word for my paperback versions because I like my books to be formatted a specific way as they’re a little more complicated in terms of sizing and formatting in paperback format.
You can upload your documents and it’ll auto-format your files. This is really only good for plain text and you won’t be able to fix up any formatting that you don’t like. So there’s definitely a trade-off as opposed to taking the time to format your book in InDesign. Or, you could do it yourself using Vellum book formatting software. A lot of people use it now and it creates gorgeous e-books. It is Mac-friendly only (and it costs a pretty penny) and you can find it online in the app store or on their website. Or you can pay a professional for book formatting, too. There are a lot of professional formatters out there now who just love doing book interiors. You can also ask other authors for recommended service providers. I offer book formatting, too, but it’s not my passion. I do have Microsoft Word templates for your book formatting available on my website, though, and you’re more than welcome to check those out.
Some authors don’t want to mess around with e-book files and just do paperback or hardcover. I used to feel like that too and went strictly paperback for a while. I didn’t like the idea of someone being able to “lift” my book with a downloaded file. I also didn’t like not making as much with an eBook royalty as I could with paperback. But if you’re going to be pushing a lot then you want to have a hand in the eBook market. And you’re going to want to have a digital version of your book because people will be asking for it. It will bring you lots of money and if you’re doing this on the long term it’s best to learn this process of converting files to various formats because most of us update eBooks regularly with new back-end materials as new books are published or would like to fix outdated content.
Finally, publish your book. Again, there are a number options. You can go direct to the retailer such as Amazon Kindle for the best royalty rates and control. I used to have my books available on the KDP Select program (Kindle Unlimited) but I found that I made more money without participating in the program eventually. I use DraftToDigital to publish my book on all the other channels including Nook so I don’t have to worry about logging into 10+ sites to re-upload a book that has had an update to the contents. It’s a good idea to post a book to the retailers directly where they are for free. When you get going and start publishing a lot of books, it’s ideal to save time by using an aggregator.
I highly recommend using an aggregator like DraftToDigital or SmashWords. You can use one of the sites to distribute your book to all the stores which will cut down on the number of platforms you have to monitor and make changes to. You can reduce your stress level in uploading your book everywhere, although you could use NookPress.com if you wanted to but that’s just another upload process that you will have to monitor and update down the road. Sometimes it’s worth pay a little extra out of your royalties to be able to have all your book sales reporting all in one place. I don’t have time to be logging into ten different sites to see how my books are performing. Two maximum. That’s all I can handle!
During the publishing process you’ll need to you choose your categories carefully when filling out the descriptions. Categories are genres and subgenres that tell the bookstore what your book is really about. You’ll find them online using a BAISC code classification system. In bookstores for example, books are categorized by romance, thriller, etc. Then they break it down into subgenre. Sometimes shoppers specifically look for books by clicking on the subgenre links so you definitely want to make sure you select these options carefully. Don’t try to play the game of putting a romance book into a niche category like knitting just to get your book discovered by a focus audience. Your book will get flagged and re-categorized by Amazon, and you may get a dirty email from them. It’s all about discovering your book using good choices for categories.
Think about how people shop on online stores – they will usually drill down into the subcategory that they like to read. For example, I like to read romance as well as contemporary romance fiction and in nonfiction I will always do a search in the search bar typically for marketing books. I’ll typically find the top 10-15 books in that category and can look at the book descriptions from there. You can choose to apply your book to two or three categories on most online stores but a lot more on Apple if you publish direct. Just log on to whatever store you’re pushing on to check the drop-down of categories to see your options that are available.
Next you get to choose the territories to publish to. Why not do them all if you can? If you are self-publishing and you haven’t signed a contract for any rights you can choose all but if you have sold some of your rights then you can still sell at some select territories depending on your contract terms. For example, many authors have sold rights in the US and Canada territories but could still sell over in the UK and in the rest of the world. It’s really important to think about this because if you want to make a living with your writing you’ll want to be putting your book into all of these different territories to maximize the distribution of your book.
The price is right! Or, at least you’ll hope it will be. There are so many debates over pricing in the author community and the best advice is not to get too upset about this when you have only a couple of books. Your main focus should be getting initial readers which may mean pricing your book a bit cheaper than mainstream authors so people will take a risk on a new, unknown independent author. Sometimes I’ll see writers make the argument that they spent over a year writing their book and price it online in digital for $8.99. At that price, they rarely make any sales and the book just sits. They’ll collect maybe $12 in royalties in the first month from family member downloads and that’s about it. Had they launched their book corrected at $.99 initially to get some reviews and purchases, they could have increased the price eventually after gaining a reader following. With pricing, lose the ego until you’ve made a name for yourself. Then, slowly increase your prices after you’ve established yourself as a regular, productive writer.
Once you have a few books you can price them at various levels. This is good exercise to do and test your book marketing on. For example, I have most of my books ranging from $2.99 on up. Full length fiction usually ranges around $4.99 and novellas (shorter stories than novels) are usually at $2.99. My nonfiction books are higher at $4.99 to $9.99 depending on how many box sets I have. Prices over $9.99 are not recommended on Amazon as the royalty rate drops but for Apple and Kobo you can still go higher and still receive the top royalty rates. The readers are often willing to pay more higher prices because those are platforms where PayPal is accepted, and some people make their money exclusively on PayPal and do not have banks.
A couple of more useful points are that many of the platforms now use a series field to group your books that are related together. Make sure that you spell the series exactly the same in every book’s details so that they are correctly linked together. This is critical for the various algorithms to recommend the books as a series on the stores. And if you’re not writing or thinking about series why not? It’s the best way to make more money as an author. I am grouping my books together strategically so that not only will I be able to give more value to my readers but also make more sales in the process by giving them more options. You can always use pre-orders on the retailers which have various guidelines. This is useful if you have a series planned out and you know more books are coming and want to make that known to your audience. You can drive sales over a longer period or time rather than waiting until launch week and then trying to hustle to get the attention of the entire world on that oh-so-crucial period of time of launch week!
So how does the money work? Now we’re getting into the fun part – getting paid! The percentage my royalties differs per retailer and almost per region. This is also true whether you’re in Amazon exclusively on the KDP program or elsewhere like on iTunes. You can read more about the pros and cons of exclusivity with Amazon KDP on my website. The range is usually from 35 to 70% of the net price but you get to set your own rates. You will generally receive payouts 30 to 60 days after the month of sale so at the end of August I receive royalties from June sales with digital books. You can paid 30 days after the end of month on CreateSpace. Some retailers pay using PayPal monthly and some quarterly. It really depends on which platform you’re publishing on and what their terms are. I can see my reports at any time at all the main retailers about my book sales and I can forecast my cash flow that way so I know what to plan for when I check my bank account.
If you are going to be a serious writing professional right off the bat then you’re definitely going to want your book in print. Having a print copy allows you to take pictures of your book and share it on Instagram as well as Pinterest and any other social media feed. Print books are a symbol of an accomplishment, and they’re fun to sign, too. It’s a “hey I did this” type statement that you’re able to make. And there will be times where you want to be able to send out sign copies to your book fans or use them as giveaways.
Not everyone on the planet has made the transition to e-readers or tablets, and some just generally enjoy the feel of the book in their hands while making a scent connection with the pages. For many readers, the smell of books is euphoric. Print sales in general are still very high and there are still many readers that will only read books in print and not on the tablet. Therefore this is still a revenue stream that you will definitely want to capitalize on because there’s a market you will want to be able to reach.
The Bookseller reported that the demand for online printed book sales had overtaken in-store printed book sales back in March 2015, so having a book in print for sale online can still be extraordinarily effective. And it doesn’t seem to matter how many pages are in the print book either. My book in its first edition, “Learn Pinterest Strategy” only had around 120 some pages. So even as a slim book, that barely had a spine on it, it was still making around seven dollars in royalty fees (that’s profit in my pocket, and you’ll have the same success, as well). In addition, if you ever choose to attend a book fair or a book signing it’s good to have books in print for marketing and giveaways. If you don’t have a book in print some people don’t even consider you to be a “real author”. I realize this may seem rather silly but people still put stigmas around status. We still have a long way to go with convincing the public about the choice of self-publishing as a business model rather than by skill.
Having a print book available is also good for comparison pricing for consumers trying to decide between a print book versus an e-book or Kindle book. If you go on Amazon there’s often times a price differential indicator showing a “savings” if the consumer buys the Kindle version. This is where having a good pricing strategy with the difference in price is beneficial. And if the customer sees only a small savings they’re more likely to buy the print version in my experience. I would rather have print royalties and I am careful with how I price my kindle books and my e-books online. And I would rather have my customer in reader have a print version because then they would actually own their book. When using Kindle or another service they don’t actually own their copy. They are merely paying for a service to access the content, and it can be revoked for numerous reasons.
So what are the options for print that I recommend? There are essentially two options for publishing print books. Print on demand or “POD” and “short run print” are the two basic options. Print on demand is one of the best options for people that don’t want to have boxes of their books in their house (me).
With print on demand, you will finish your book and cover design files and upload them to one of the print on demand service companies. What happens is you can pay for the cost of printing of the book and drop ship it to a customer without ever having to touch the book. So you’ll get it at print cost, or what some would consider their “below wholesale” cost. A 250 page book, for example, will run you about $2.56 to $3.50 depending on the company you choose to print.
Now, if you price the book at $14.99, your profit is anywhere between $11.49 and $12.43. Getting books this way also makes the requirements of having to keep an inventory at your house completely obsolete. There’s no upfront paying for random printing fees and you can just print one or two copies as you need. Therefore there’s very little risk in dealing with a huge inventory that you somehow have to get rid of at if your home office or your garage. There’s also no trips to the post office or to the UPS Store. Bonus!
With a short print run, you’d be working a partnership publisher or just a printer to get a certain number of copies printed before distribution or purchase by customers. You will need to pay for these upfront before you sell them, so it will mean a significant financial commitment out of your wallet (hundreds if not thousands). This option is only recommended if you have a distribution method in place, e.g. you have a book signing, are appearing at a boutique store with books to sell, selling books at the back of the room from a speaking engagement or fair, or if you have guaranteed sales. I’ve never needed to do a short run and really you shouldn’t ever need to unless you’re appearing in person or someone is selling them on your behalf on a consignment basis. If you want to do a short print run, remember to factor in shipping and try to ship at media rate with tracking, as books are fairly heavy weighing in at 1 lb. for approximately 250 pages, and this can add considerable cost.
Before you publish, you will need to have a formatted interior and a book cover ready. No one will be doing this for you when you upload, so it needs to be ready in print-ready format. You’ll need to decide the size of the print book (typically 6×9) and either make the files yourself or pay a professional formatter to do this for you. I would recommend using DraftToDigital.com for your first try because they do a pretty excellent job with their online formatting software.
Your interior formatting can be completed a variety of different ways. You can use the free templates on CreateSpace which are format- ted correctly to their sizing requirements, you can get my templates at kerrielegend.com at the online store for $15, which is a lot less expensive than some of the other professional formatted templates that you’ll find online (and no licensing requirements, either!), or you can pay a professional formatter to prepare your book’s interior design for you. Either way, you’re going to need Word and PDF formats of your book files, and be sure to date the version them so you know which one you uploaded!
There are two main options for print on demand, both recommended by many authors.
Createspace is Amazon’s own print on demand company. It has a simple step-by-step process that goes from establishing your title all the way to choosing your category and channels you’re going to make available to the public to buy. You’ll upload your files, be provided the base cost of the book and then you can add the profit you want to make. All of this is automatically calculated for you. Once the files are submitted, it’ll go into the review process. If you do everything right, you’ll get an email congratulating you and then you can proof your book for approval. Otherwise, the company will let you know if there are image or technical errors that they could not correct in the process. You can then make changes and re-upload for another round of approvals. Approval takes anywhere 12-24 hours to get completed. It’s absolutely free to publish your book – no costs to you unless you choose to buy a physical proof of your book. You’ll be paid your portion that you choose every time someone buys your book. The extended distribution option means that your book will be available at online stores around the world.
If you want to have your books available in physical bookstores, then IngramSpark is a better option than CreateSpace. You’ll still have to get the bookstores to order the books which is a subject for a whole other book, but retailers are more likely to stock books that come through IngramSpark. There are some minor set-up charges such as ISBN and the print charges are a bit higher than with CreateSpace. There very well may be other charges you’ll incur depending on what you’re doing with your books. The main thing to remember if you want to sell in stores is to ensure that you factor in discounts and returns, which can severely impact profitability. Many professional independent authors use CreateSpace for Amazon and then use IngramSpark for the extended distribution option to bookstores.
You’ll find that many authors are passionate about print books. Personally, I choose to use only CreateSpace, but I may end up getting a fleet of barcodes in the near future in 2018 to start a new line of books and focus on getting into Barnes & Noble and other major retailers. I love having print books, but in my business as an author, bookstore sales are not an important part of my business model. Online book sales are, though. You’ll have to decide for yourself how print books fit into your definition of success and whether or not you’ll want to spend the time getting the books into major bookstores.
Many independent authors consider ISBNs to be important and there are discussions centered around this very topic. ISBNs are essential if you want to sell books in physical bookstores. They are also essential for store ordering systems to track books. But you don’t need ISBNs to make a living with your writing – they’re not a critical part of your publishing process if you choose to model your book business like mine and so many other authors. I don’t use them myself unless they are CreateSpace provided, and have never seen any evidence that having an ISBN helps independent authors make more money than they would have with one purchased from Bowker. For eBooks and audio-books, you don’t need them.
For print books, I just use free CreateSpace ISBNs. This has made no impact on the copyright of the book, and it’s just a number. A field in a system somewhere says that CreateSpace is the publisher, which really has no bearing on purchasing because who shops by publisher anyway? Again, you need to make your own decisions on this topic. How do ISBNs fit into your definition of success and do you really want to spend $125 just for 1? Or buy 10 for hundreds of dollars? Finally, you’ll be paid by direct deposit or check (depending on your country and currency) at the end of the month following the month of sale, so within 30 days of month-end. Perhaps if you’re considering buying your own ISBNs you can save your initial royalty proceeds and use that towards the purchase of your own ISBNs. Again, it’s totally up to you on how you want to proceed with that.
There is now a huge, booming market for audiobooks and this is incredibly exciting. I think people have gotten tired of listening to the radio and want to be educated and entertained by authors instead! There have been some big technological advancements that have made it possible for authors and writers like you and me to reach a whole new audience. We’re broadening our reach while reading our words.
People can now stream audio in cell-phone apps, which means easier access, easier to buy and easier to listen to audiobooks and podcasts. Back in 2016, Google Auto and Apple Carplay brought streaming to cars. And now with Whispersync technology, you can be listening / reading to something on your phone or device at breakfast, and then get in your car and continue listening where you left off in the book or cast. Amazon is also bundling up audiobooks with the Kindle version, so if you buy the Kindle book from them, the audiobook will be less expensive. Much like the price markdown if you buy the paperback and want the Kindle version, too.
It’s still a relatively small market in comparison with that of the paperback and eBook market, but it’s growing in size. You’ll have a better opportunity of standing out from the crowd if you get going early on rather than later. It’s a rat race when there’s new technology and opportunities for writers and authors alike. Unfortunately, buried in contracts somewhere, most traditionally published authors have signed away their audiobook rights forever. Many of the companies will not even turn those titles into audio format, so independent authors have the big advantage of a possible faster take down of this growing market’s opportunities.
If you want to create an audiobook version, use ACX. It’s the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where authors and rights holders can collaborate with narrators, voiceover professionals and producers to essentially self-publish audiobooks. It’s the same process as writing a book, basically, only you might be working with more professionals on these projects. There’s auditioning, recording, and editing the recordings. It’s a great opportunity if you want it for sale on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
ACX.com is currently only available to authors in the US and UK, but hopefully they will be expanding to other territories over time. This could obviously change at any moment. There are ways to do audio without ACX but they are more difficult (and I’m not going to get into that here because it’s just a pain – stick with ACX!).
The process works pretty smoothly, and there are a lot of opportunities for recording artists to get jobs in this field. The rights holder of the book or author can log into ACX, and claim their book with the Amazon ASIN – the number Amazon assigns to every book on the store. You have to legally own the rights to do this. Obviously, you can’t record an audiobook of yourself reading Harry Potter. You don’t own the rights, although that’d be pretty cool if you had a talented voice.
Next, you enter in all the extra details about the book that may be relevant for narrators to know so they can determine if they want to audition for you. What type of voice would be best? Raspy or brilliant tone? High pitch? Low pitch? You also add in the information about reviews and sales, because this matters with what I’m going to share with you in a little bit which is related to the narrator making income, too. All of the details are important if you want to attract an experienced narrator. This is not a place to be vague.
Then, you decide on the contract that you want to use. You can pay the narrator an amount per final audio hour and you retain the entire royalty (do it this way – you’ll retain the rights exclusively), or you can do a 50/50 royalty split with a narrator with no money upfront (cheap version, but you’ll never completely own your audiobook), or lastly, you can record the audio separately, with yourself as the voice or with an external narrator, and then upload the files to ACX and retain the entire royalty. Decide on whether you will go exclusive to ACX, just like you would if you chose to go with Kindle’s KDP Select program. If you go exclusive, you will get higher royalties but you won’t be able to sell outside the channels of Amazon, Audible and iTunes. I’ve never been a fan of exclusivity, but again, this is a person choice. This may be a good time to think about your audience and where they’ll be listening to you. Perhaps conduct a survey to see what they use so you can get a consensus.
Finally, you can upload an excerpt from your book for narrators to audition with – this will serve as their test to hear their voice and see how well their pronunciation is with your book’s characters, setting and title. Narrators will be get an alert to your book and will be invited to audition for you, and the hope here is that they will accept. When auditions come in, listen to them carefully. Does their voice match what you had in mind or is it even better than you had imagined? You’ll have to decide whether or not the narrator who auditioned for you is what you’re looking for. You can always decline or reject the auditions and give feedback if you so choose. If you’re not getting any narrators to audition to narrate your book, it’s probably because your book doesn’t have enough reviews or sales on it, and they’ll want to be part of a book that actually sells. And they’re probably not going to audition for a book that you just published as your debut novel. You can also find narrators through your author contacts and go looking for them instead of waiting patiently. I record my own audiobooks as part of my DIY attitude, but I may find a mature Australian female voice for a few of my upcoming projects. I just love the accent.
When you find the right narrator, accept the audition and make a plan to work together and how that will happen, and then decide on dates for production. You’ll need to check the quality of the files, listening and checking the words as well as any issues with microphone spikes or other foreign noises. Narrators are professionals and remember the audiobook file is merely an adaptation of the original. Don’t be overly picky about every single little thing. Focus on pronunciation and obvious word errors. Once you finish with quality checks and give your approval, the audiobook will go live. What’s cool is that you’ll get some coupon codes to send out to fans to get you going with reviews and then sales should hopefully start rolling in.
Let’s discuss the money side of audiobooks. My own studio costs are about $50 an hour. I can finish a recording of a book with a $600 investment into it. And I’ll own the files forever. But if you split royalties with a narrator, there is no money paid upfront and ACX will split the royalties for you. This can be amazing for some authors on an extreme budget, but it’s a preference of ownership issue for many authors like myself. Again, you’ll have to do some soul searching to determine what you feel is best for your own platform.
I’m going to assume that you want to make money. That you’re going to take the process of earning money as a writer seriously because you’re starting to see everything you can do. And maybe you already cheated and skipped to the back chapters to discover income opportunities! Naughty! So, this chapter is going to focus on how to get the money in the bank. Period.
(1) You need to write books. Many of them. And they need to be good books. Not mediocre books. This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how many authors spend so much money marketing that first book without focusing on book 2, 3, 4 and so on. Energy is lost. Money is down the drain. Now what? You cannot have just one product and make it work. You need a store. No grocery store sells just one thing. People like to shop. Don’t deprive them of shopping.
Look at Danielle Steel and all the A-list authors. They generally have huge numbers of books and they’ve been writing for a long time. Many of them write multiple books a year (Stephen King). They are constantly writing. It’s their business to write. If you want to make money and love to write then this is what you have to do – write more books. The more books you have, the less you will have to market them. I can speak from experience on this as I grow my own portfolio.
If you have 20 or 30 books, and each book sells a few copies a day, then you’re still going to make more money over time than someone with just one book. One book with a great launch might have a spike of sales initially but over time the numbers will decrease, unless another book comes along to boost and revive sales again. The more books you have, the more you will sell. This is so simple. And, of course, as you write more books, you will also become a better writer. Win! So get writing and outlining those books and plan them out on the calendar with start and finish dates. Get moving.
(2) Write books that people will actually want to buy – factor by genre or category. Just because you write 20 books on Roma tomatoes doesn’t mean they will sell well. Sure, you got a niche. But what if it’s a category that just doesn’t sell? You’re screwed, right? Do some research. I use KindleSpy to check categories and subgenres that sell. If your books aren’t selling in a dead genre, no amount of marketing is going to fix it and you’re not going to make money selling books that way. There has to be a market for the content.
Writing with integrity means you should write what you know and research what you don’t. And if you’re really passionate about Roma tomatoes and desperately want to do a book on that topic, then by all means follow your heart and do that. But try not to spend your writing career on poetry and short stories. Those are not the real money makers (seriously). Visit authorearnings.com to see the data on what people are buying. 70% of the top 200,000 eBooks are genre fiction – romance, mystery/thriller, sci-fi and fantasy. I’m in a lonely group of nonfiction writers, but hey, I’m ok with that! I have my niche, know it well, and thrive on it. You need to find the point where your passion topic meets marketable magic.
Write what you love to read, if you want. Spend time looking at book structure and systems of writing. How are they put together? Use a peg board and index cards to really lay everything in a story structure out. Start plotting yours. You’ll see holes, commonalities, and areas where you can improve your writing.
Next, check the rankings of the top books per sub-genre to work out which ones are selling best. Yell at your screen with the results listed and say “You there! What is your story? What is it about you that people love?” in a loud, booming tone. It’s fun. Evaluate covers and the titles, as well as the sales descriptions (blurbs). What do the images, blurbs, descriptions, subtitles, colors, fonts and style all have in common? Can you mimic that? If you can, go forth and conquer.
(3) Write books that people will actually want to buy with applicable search terms in the title or subtitle. Again, I had to be strategic with the re-naming of my first book. I launched, sold a bunch of copies, and then it fizzled. I couldn’t figure out why initially. “Things were going all too well!” I exclaimed. “Why?” I screamed up in the arm, shaking my fists. Oh. Duh. “Secrets” really isn’t something people search for. They search for “learn” and “strategy”, though. So I changed my title and voila, my sales are up again on a consistent basis and now all sorts of people are learning from my book. Cool, huh?
People want a book for one of three reasons: entertainment, inspiration or education/information. If you’re not a household-name writer already, your non-fiction book is more likely to be discovered and purchased if it answers someone’s question or helps them solve a problem that they’ve been struggling with. People want to learn. They want to solve challenges in their life to make things easier, become skilled and be inspired. That’s what is SO great about writing nonfiction, and why I love to support nonfiction writers almost exclusively.
So you might be asking, how do people find these books? What they’ll do is search by category on the bookstores and they also use the search bar to try and find something relevant. Keywords are used, phrases are used and they’ll start clicking into links that have descriptions or previews of what they may be looking for. If someone is searching for something, I can almost guarantee they are ready to 1) buy or 2) learn. This is why it’s so important to use keywords in your title to help people discover you because the purchasing part is so easy – there’s already interest in buying and there’s not much persuasion needed if your blurb addresses the challenges they’re facing. It’s a glorious time to be a non-fiction writer. If you’re writing fiction, use keywords that you find in most of the blurbs in your genre and subgenre. They are put there for a reason!
(4) Write a series and get people hooked on your lengthy story. Or, write a box set (for non-fiction writers). The shift in our culture is one of binge watching, binge reading, and consuming every last possible storyline we can get our hands on because we fall in love with the characters and the plots and crave more. So, write like that for your own audience. I got to be this way with “Dexter”, “Suits” and “The Ozarks”. With books, it was the Babysitters Club, Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys.
So if you prepare or plan for a series of books and people buy one book and they like the characters, they are likely to buy the next one and follow you loyally throughout the series. I really love what Denise Grover-Swank has done with her career on the fiction side of things. She has a tremendous strategy with a series built around a character and she has pulled off a series quite well. So well, it reminds me of the quality of Nancy Drew without the whole college-level detective theme. Having a series maximizes your revenue per customer. The goal is to create an addicting series, like you’d experience with movies and TV shows. Romance authors in general do this very well and are experts, really, in captivating their audiences with their characters’ love stories. You can do the same with any genre. Take a look at Star Wars and how all the episodes were laid out. Indiana Jones. The TV series “Alias”. Harry Potter. Look for what they all have in common. Multiple stories within a bigger, epic story.
It also works for non-fiction, too. This is what I’ve done with my own nonfiction titles. I started a series for creatives and I’m able to create various combinations of each book, maximizing the sales potential. People who buy one of them are likely to buy more, which is something I’ve experienced, as well, with my readers coming back for more titles and requesting topics via email. My readers are keeping me busy!
The trick here with series is to have the next book ready, waiting to be released anywhere from a month to two months as you publish the current book. They’ll want a follow-up. Keep them hooked and addicted while the iron is still very hot. You can keep promoting the first book in the series to get people hooked in to the storyline, and it doesn’t matter if it was published a while ago because it’s always new to someone just discovering you. Once a reader has discovered you and loves your writing, at whatever point in the series, they will likely go back and eat up and buy the whole backlist (all the previous books before you created the one they just read). Lots of readers have done this; I personally cannot attest to this because I’m a creature of order and can’t read books out of order. If an author has a one-off or standalone book I can read that, too, just not in the middle of a series.
The key to all of this is planning and outlining (again, topics for a whole other book). You can also write a great deal faster if you write and plan out a series. Notice I said plan. You’ll need to outline each book in detail! The nice thing about this is you don’t have to reinvent the characters, or the world. So if you get attached to characters or your book’s topic it’ll totally be okay and you continue writing in that world. All you have to do is come up with a new plot or topic focus area, and that helps add books to the list, along with combinations of sets, resulting in more income.
(4) Think globally and not so myopic. Most authors have a a myopic, narrow view about where they want to sell their books, even on- line. Explode and light up ALL your available channels. Get them out and exposed to the public for reading and consumption. Many authors consider the local physical bookstore, or listing their book for nation-wide sales. But the world is changing, we’re coming closer together in this reading market, and (if you own your rights) you can sell your books all over the world, including putting them in all sorts of languages.
The biggest market for ebooks is still the US, UK, Canada and Australia. We are seeing a rise in mobile hyper-connectives. This means that readers are discovering books through apps, and now with translation software out there, it’s going to be incredibly easy for a person speaking a lesser-known language to read your books – even when they’re in English. Many of those people don’t live near a bookstore and many live in impoverished countries, but they have access to some elements of technology and learning tools. Online retail – even via cell phones – will be the way they consume entertainment, inspiration and information. Your books can be read by people all over the world. So don’t limit yourself to just one market and open up all the channels for your books.
The next ten years will be an extremely exciting time for the eBook market for global sales. I anticipate sales will increase for myself and thousands of author authors because the eBook market is still emerging in other countries. Right now it’s the most popular in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. The rest of the world is still catching up. Position yourself for a win knowing this market could change for the bigger and better!
(5) Write in multiple genres and try to write multiple lengths of novels. Don’t constrain yourself to just one genre. It’s good to be a topic-hybrid author these days. Many of us have two separate businesses as writers – the nonfiction side where we can educate others in our field as well as newcomers, and the fiction side that shows our creativity and imagination. I’ve differentiated my fiction from my nonfiction with my name – Kerrie Legend for my nonfiction books to match my brand, and KC Legend for my fiction books. Sales will experience ups and downs in every market even in the genre-specific markets, and having a balance of both genres or a multitude of genres will help you weather those storms.
I also find it easier to switch between fiction and non-fiction during the day. I can’t usually write fiction for more than about two hours straight, so I can ‘cleanse my palate’ by writing non-fiction for a while. It uses a different part of my brain and this means that I can write more books over time.
You can use multiple author names if you like. This works well if you have different audiences. If you’re switching genres, don’t confuse your readers and audience and keep your pen names separate. I only have one other pen name outside of my KC/Kerrie Legend which I keep anonymous.
Novellas, or shorter non-fiction books like this one, are easier to consume for readers and offer great value at a cheaper price. You almost definitely (there could always be a fluke) won’t get a print deal for a novella (around 20,000-40,000 words) but you can definitely sell that as an eBook online. They are also much easier and quicker to write, and work great for putting together an anthology or a collection of novel- las and short stories. There is definitely a market of novella readers, and you might want to write something smaller starting out and try your hand at that. But they definitely don’t work very well in the print mar- ket. We’ve found that in print, fiction readers like a little beef in their book in terms of page length.
(6) Consider the up-selling or using content upgrades. There is an established “going market” price point for books. It’s usually anywhere between free (no income, remember) and around $100 max unless it’s a textbook in which case they can get incredibly expensive. Most prices for fiction novels are around $14.99 or less. In bookstores, obviously prices are a bit more elevated into the $14.99-$22.99 range for paper- back fiction. Pricing is largely dependent on page length, reputation of the author and the genre. The reader market has been conditioned to expect those kinds of prices so if you try to price outside of your genre’s range you might experience some difficulty.
Try repackaging groups of your books together, create series and establish value in your pricing methods. You’ll have great success in packaging your books together in various different ways.
(7) Focus on growing your own email list and use a sophisticated email response system to deliver value to your audience. You have many options with what kind of content you deliver to your audience. Typically authors grow their lists over time and offer freebie things occasionally, and publish their releases via their email newsletter. This pushes out sales left and right every time they pull the trigger on an email. This is one of the best ways to start charting on the bestseller list. But that is for down the road when your email list starts seriously growing.
A combination of these things are really all you need if you only want to make money from books alone. But if you want to take your income into other areas, to help steady your income while you wait for royalties to arrive, then read on.
Content marketing. BIG deal. This chapter focuses on streaming in all the lovely people of the internet to your site via content marketing. If we were to take the books you’re going to publish out of the equation, what would the other possible income streams be from your writing activities?
Here are some basic ideas, just to name a few, and in the following chapters, I’ll be going into detail on several of these. There’s product sales like digital books, online courses, physical products like t-shirts and candles, merchandise, etc. Then there’s services likes consulting, coaching, speaking engagements, freelance writing, sales copywriting, etc. Finally, there’s advertising and sponsorships along with affiliate marketing. These can be based on traffic like on Pinterest and YouTube or even on a podcast. So there’s lots of various ways to ethically make money from your website and as a writer.
What exactly is content marketing? Content marketing is a means of attracting people to come visit your online domain. You’re going to need readers, customers and fans to spend money on your products or services, which puts money in your pocket, pays your bills and provides value to them in various means in return. But how do you get customers to come to you? With excellent content marketing.
With books, the customers are already shopping and searching on the retail stores like Amazon, Kobo and iBooks. So through search engines (and Amazon, Google and Pinterest are all search engines) you just have to maximize your chances of being found with search engine optimization. If you can write lots of books, that IS your content marketing strategy, because you’d be dominating your chances of being found. The more books you have, the higher chance your name will pop up. Your books are the primary content that drives people to your other books. But if you’re not writing a high volume of books right away and you need or want to expand into multiple forms of streamed income, then you have to find some other way to attract customers, and giving them quality content is what is going to drive that for you.
There’s paid advertising methods and then there’s content marketing methods. I don’t buy ads just to get people to read my material. They find me. I like it that way. I know they’re interested in what I’m sharing. In reality, content marketing is essentially creating quality content that is entertaining, inspirational or educational (just like how you’ll be writing your books!) in order to attract a certain target market. This can be through written articles/blog posts, podcasts/audio, video or images, and all of these will enhance your website and show off your writing skills.
With your blog, you’re going to start building what we call an author/blogger platform. It’s essentially a way to be able to contact customers, whether by email list, a blog, podcast or subscribers on social media. I use Ontraport for mine, and it works like a breeze. Before you start posting an article or a blog, remember this one thing. There has to be a point to your content if you want to make money! What’s the purpose of writing the article? Certainly not for your health. After they read the article, what do you want your audience to do?
Never just throw things up on the internet without having a clear plan for what should happen next. It should be abundantly clear. The aim is to get people to join your email list, subscribe/follow/like you, send them down a sales funnel for a paid course or content upgrade, and end up buying your books or other products/services. I call this the “Curated Content Driver” method – you’re curating content you know your audience will be interested in, giving them content upgrades for free, and eventually this will drive them towards your other products and services. Brilliant.
Look at your website and really scrutinize it. How does it compare to big bloggers and authors you know? How about mine? Is your site abundantly clear on what the visitor should do? Do you have a way to subscribe or get free things off your site? Is there something of value for sale that they’d want? What do you want them to do next?
Another online platform benefit is to build your authority profile, social proof, and brand, which provides other opportunities such as speaking, appearing on podcasts, having people ask to advertise on your site and being seen as a powerful force to be reckoned with in your industry.
My site, kerrielegend.com, is content marketing aimed at authors, writers, and creatives. It has a ton of articles, links to my podcasts, videos, an online store, courses, books, freebies and all sorts of things including a whole membership platform. It’s pretty robust and “big” in terms of what it brings in financially ever single month.
I like educating my visitors and giving them insight that they wouldn’t find elsewhere. I provide my own experiences and findings in my articles, and show them ways to do things on their own websites and books. So, it’s not always about money on my site. A lot of it is educational and beneficial for my readers.
Think of your site as a global publishing platform. It’s your way to connect to billions of people, whether that be through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, podcasting, YouTube, and any other channel you choose to include or embed within your site.
Because we’re writers, though, let’s focus on why blogging and writing your blog is so important. It amplifies your voice and you’re able to create something new – a new experience – for the world to read. Sometimes you can change peoples’ lives, especially some blogs that I’ve written about the dangers of vanity presses. That has turned authors in the other direction. Or maybe it was the fact that I said “RUN AWAY!”
I think they got the hint. I got several emails after that blog post and it changed lives. They were about to hand over thousands of dollars in desperation to get published, without really thinking they could just do it themselves for free. Wow. Money saved! Lives changed. All in a good day’s work, right?
Blogging is great exercise. You’ll find your voice and relax into it. You’ll be able to communicate effectively without sounding or coming off as stuffy. You’ll eventually want to move towards online courses or find other speaking engagements. Blogs give you that opportunity. And, you’ll attract people who are interested in the same things you are. You’ll develop friendships and help other people rise to greatness. You’ll know your niche and be proud of it. As you get comfortable, you can dabble and experiment with other things. Wonderful, right?
So content marketing is going to drive people to your site, you’re going to wow them with your content upgrades – hint, take my Creative Entrepreneur Mega Bundle of courses as you’ll learn 30 ways to create content upgrades (because one thing won’t be enough) – and then you’ll have subscribers galore to sell to. Now, onto selling and developing those important products!
After you’ve published your book(s), create a product page for each one with all the different links available to various retailers so people know where they can buy your materials. But books aren’t the only things that you can sell to customers, fans, and readers. You can sell digital products, such as guides, resources, blueprints, courses, multimedia, memberships, photos, etc.
Digital products are essentially those that can be instantly downloaded by the customer from a web page or an online store. These days, various DIY platforms like Selz, Shopify and Gumroad have made it super easy for authors to sell their work and talent online. These files can also sometimes be watched or consumed online or are delivered by email. They don’t need physical shipping or storage, and there’s no overhead! This means that the profit margins are generally much higher than with physical goods. Here are some ideas for digital things that you could sell:
● A guide or a resource book digital download pairs well with non-fiction titles on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and other stores. You could also make a PDF version and sell it from your website and price it a bit higher that you could on the e-stores. Sometimes a guide or resource has a better ring to it than “book” or eBook. This is a great way to get around the $20 maximum for a lot of stores, too; a cap is often placed at $20 for digital products.
● Try putting together an online course. In the last few years we have seen a huge growth in promoted online courses, taught by everyday people like you and me. You can find examples at Udemy, Coursera, Thinkific, SkillShare, Teachable, CreativeLive and Masterclass. Sometimes people don’t want to wait for community classes or take a college course. They want to learn things now – on demand – and do so at their own pace. Even if that means they stay up all night learning something new! You can easily create your own courses and host them on your own site or use what I do – Thinkific.
Here are some tips on multimedia courses. I’ve created numerous courses in the past couple of years and I have some tips if you’re thinking about offering a course. Make sure you do your research and make sure what you’re offering is something people would want to buy. Don’t create something you THINK they would need. Survey your audience and use Twitter voting to determine what people would pay for as well as what they’re looking for in a course.
Make sure you choose your title and graphics carefully. The same marketing principles that apply to books also apply to courses. Be benefit-focused and use a search-friendly title that will be optimized for search engines. Stay focused with your course content and don’t try to cover all the things. Videos need to keep the audience’s attention and should be around 10-15 minutes at maximum. If necessary, do several smaller videos to break up bits and pieces of information so they can grasp the concepts and intricate details much better. Your audience is going to have interruptions at home and at work while they’re trying to concentrate on what you’re saying. So be sure to keep the videos shorter so it’s easy for them to replay or start them over again without having to scroll through a massive video feed looking for the point where they left off.
HOW TO MAKE MONEY WITH YOUR WRITING 105
I have zero customer service. Zip. Zilch. It’s just me. Exchanging emails with my readers or purchasers of my courses and other digital products answering questions. Sometimes people have technical issues like lost passwords or can’t find a handout they were looking for. I can easily help people with that. When you launch a course, be sure to have how you’ll handle your subscribers, members and course members with issues or questions. I recommend keeping things simple and not so formal. You don’t need to hire a firm to handle issues if you set everything up correctly. Be sure to state when you’re available and when they can expect to hear back from you. A good 24 hours is usually acceptable for most people.
Physical products actually are really popular! They have mass, they take up space and they require physical shipping. The most obvious physical product for writers is the clearly a signed print book. Many authors have little PayPal stores but if you really want to get classy, try Selz, Shopify, WooCommerce or even SquareSpace. I personally think it’s a pain to have inventory in your house to have to ship out, but you could always run your online store with drop shipping instead and only charge a nominal fee to have it shipped direct to them.
Many authors also do swag items and other merchandise from their websites and have this stuff at book fairs and book signings. You can keep a stock of author gear and ship it to your house or business, or you can use on-demand services. I’ve seen everything from candles to bookmarks, t-shirts to leg warmers. You could really go nuts merchandising your online store with your unique content and images. Even quotes from your books or things you’ve said.
Selling physical products online is a huge topic to cover, and there’s a lot of intricate details that go into doing it properly, so if it greatly interests you, definitely do your research and due diligence. Personally, I sell a ton of physical products and there’s a lot more to it – tips and tricks galore. I’ll save that info for another more in-focus book.
Then there are the payment processing options – you have a lot of them. You can either go full scale with a merchant account that requires credit check and underwriting, or you could keep it simple with PayPal, Selz, Gumroad and such. It’s very easy to take payment online now and you don’t need a special bank account setup to do it. Options include: PayPal buttons – the simplest solution for many authors is a popular one but there’s a lot of people that distrust PayPal. So use that with caution and offer a different payment method, as well. Gumroad, Selz, Payhip or e-Junkie all have integrated product delivery, social sharing and options to pay with debit/credit cards as well as PayPal. Woocommerce, Shopify and SquareSpace have more extensive shopping carts for users with bigger inventories, and can handle integration with your existing site pretty nicely.
If you love sharing products and services that you’ve used and benefited from with your audience, then making money with affiliate income is most definitely going to be your thing. It’s essentially commission on sales that you get credit for whenever a person clicks on the link you share. Only promote products and services that you have tried and you believe your audience would actually be interested in. There are plenty of affiliate marketers who don’t care about reputation. They care about money in the bank. For me, trust and reputation is far more important than easy money. That being said, there are three ways that you can make an income by becoming an affiliate.
•You can recommend products and services (ethically, that you’ve actually tried) that you feel are beneficial and useful to your readers. You share a link through posts, articles, videos, podcasts, pins on Pinterest, Instagram posts, Facebook and more. Tell them about the product and why you love it so much. Include a list of the reasons why it’s so awesome and all the benefits you got out of it. Personality really gets people to click through! You could easily do a webinar with the creator of a product to explain its usefulness and why you like it. This is always a fun type of thing to watch. You could also do a video tutorial of a product that you enjoy using as part of your writing or niche topic. A great thing to do is to create a page with all of your recommended products to use, like I’ve done on my website with “Products I Love”. With your email, include an affiliate link to a product in your signature area. Or update your autoresponder with something new that you tried and include the affiliate link there. They can click on that while they wait for you to kindly reply back.
•Use Pinterest to pin your affiliate links. Pinterest has their own policy on affiliate links, but it’s a great way to get money rolling in from your affiliate accounts.
•You can also buy traffic to send people to a product page of a product. Figure out a niche market for a target audience and work on your paid advertising method to get them there.
The blog post strategy is one of the easiest. For me, Pinterest has been the number one source of affiliate sales. The paid traffic model is one that definitely works, but it hasn’t been my focus. You can certainly try doing it that way, though, and share your results!
It’s quite easy to become an affiliate marketer. Many do not require applications just a bunch of information. Others may choose to review your site (like ShareASale programs) to determine if it’s a good fit for their product. You may get accepted or denied based on their own reasons. Never hurts to apply for as many as you see working for your audience. Again, make sure you’ve actually used or tried the products.
•Amazon Associates – do not make the mistake of linking your own book as an affiliate. This has been shown to drop reviews of your books. Link to other recommended products, instead. Find unique products that you have tried that your audience would be interested in!
•Apple Affiliates – for apps, books, music, etc. sold on iTunes, iBooks and app stores. If you’re reviewing books, this is a great way to make some extra income by linking to others’ books on the Apple store.
•ShareASale.com, AdThrive, MediaVine – sites you can sign up at to get ads on your site that work in an affiliate-type manner.
•E-Junkie.com or Clickbank.com or Udemy.com marketplace – for courses.
Some products and services are more invitation-oriented and are based on the relationships you have or in a specific niche you write about. You’ll be approached by select companies once you’ve reached a certain audience level to promote their products. Do so ethically and with caution.
As a writer, if you’re putting out content on the regular that entertains, educates or motivates people chances are you will get people contacting you who want to pay for your expertise in various forms.
You can set up different kinds of services ranging from something you’re an expert in, something within your niche, a virtual assistant type role, etc. There are so many options. Think of the things that people similar to you struggle with. Make a list of things that you educate people about that they may not have all the skill sets to accomplish those things. You can easily put up a services page such as a Hire Me, Book Me or Work With Me pages. Add a button with Selz or PayPal and you’re on your way to making money with a service offering. Your writing will be earning money to fill in the gaps.
I coach nonfiction authors with building their author platform and building their email list. If you want to be a coach or consultant like I am, here are some tips and tricks on how to put your best self out there:
•Clarity is everything when you’re offering services. Go through what your coaching sessions will include and what else they will receive. Consulting is more of a one-time or a series of sessions where the client does the bulk of the work, and coaching is more hand-holding a client through the process. Be clear. Be abundantly clear about how payment works, as well. Often times even in our small business we get asked if we take payment plans or if we can ship things and invoice for later. That has never worked for our business model and I choose to have payment upfront because I don’t want to spend my time chasing someone down to get paid for something they’ve already received. If you’re not comfortable with payment plans in your services, by all means, do not offer them.
•Testimonials are great especially if you can have your client do a “before and after”. Screenshots are much more believable and links to the client’s website are great. Turn your happy customers into people that will attest to your service quality level and you’ll land more writing clients this way. Word of mouth travels, as well, so don’t discount social media when sharing testimonials.
•One way to weed out clients and thin out your workload – raise your rates. If you’re burning out on discounted work or fee you’re doing much more work than anticipated, raise the rates to cover your time and effort. Demand for your services will eventually slow down. You can always unpublished your service page if you get too busy or establish a waiting list for people that you still want to help down the road. Waiting lists are great to accumulate because then you’ll know you’re in demand and can increase your rates even further.
•Use your website and establish a “feeler” inquiry form so you know what the client may be looking for help with before you arrive at your first session or introductory consultation. This is a great tool to use to find out what they specifically need and want out of you as their service provider. If they want something that you’re not comfortable in providing or it’s out of your scope of expertise, kindly refund them and refer them out to someone else.
•You can use Google Hangouts or Skype for recording sessions and to add value to the consult. Video tends to be a bit more personal. I tend to stick to the phone as I have to walk around a lot while I talk. But to make up for the video thing (which I’ve never been comfortable with) I provide a detailed action task report and add value to my clients’ sessions in other ways. This helps my clients summarize what we talked about and where they need to go or do from there.
Action task: make a list of everything you can offer in terms of a coaching, consulting or service-based business that centers around your niche and your writing skills. Go!
When you’re a blogger and a writer, over time you’re going to accumulate an audience. Once that happens, people will want to be advertising on your site or even sponsor your content on an ongoing basis. If you have an audience, people are likely to want to advertise on your site or sponsor your content on an ongoing basis.
Ads and sponsoring include:
•Banner ads on the sides of your blog, blog headers, footer ads and within-post content ads. This could also mean a mention on your Twitter feed, your email newsletter or podcast.
•There are also companies that will pay you to promote their product or service within a video or a blog post.
•YouTube advertising is hot because it’s constant passive income – you can choose when to turn the ads on/off but you don’t get to select the content of the ads
•Sponsors are more long-term and ongoing relationships with companies. They typically pay upfront for time or space on your blog or podcast, and have sponsorship banners and visuals embedded within your content.
•Sponsorship from your community means that people will often pay for a certain level of sponsoring and then the money is collected and set by PayPal on a monthly basis. You can do this quite easily with Patreon.
Part of running an ethical and authentic website to promote your writing and services is to remember who your audience is. They trust you. They come to your site for a reason. Don’t give them a reason to ditch you. You’re being paid by ads and sponsors to access your listeners and readers. This is a relationship you have built up over time, so don’t jeopardize it with content and ads that are questionable or not something you’d recommend using or buying.
Also, never sell your email list. Don’t allow companies to embed anything into your site to siphon your leads or disclose your customer information. There will be companies that will approach you to get your data. Hold on to that data with a firm, tight grip. Never share it with anyone. Respect the integrity of your data and your audience by not disclosing the data that you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.
Here are some tips in gaining advertising and sponsorship dollars:
•Remember that it’s actually a good thing if someone unsubscribes from your newsletter that wasn’t your target audience. Your niche audience is key. You should communicate with them on a regular basis. You can do this via YouTube, podcasting, a Facebook page, Twitter, Periscope, Instagram… whatever channel you choose.
•Use Google Analytics or a similar measuring tool to gauge the size of your audience and have those stats available and ready to share with companies that may approach you to sponsor your podcasts, videos, etc.
•It’s hard to know initially what to charge rate-wise when you’re first starting out. Advertising rates for blogs vary depending on the niche. The amount of traffic, views, listens and rank will often determine how much your space is worth. Increase your rates as your audience grows and don’t allow sponsors to lock in rates for too long. You could easily grow into a hot commodity and will want to increase your rates accordingly.
•The ethical thing to do is work with companies and promote them only if you’ve actually transacted with them and if they fit your niche crowd. This keeps you reputable and above-the-level morally when being paid for ads and sponsorships. You’ll want to keep your audience happy and if you are just accepting any company on your site you may find yourself losing readers and followers.
This will be a small but steady stream of income that is an offshoot of your writing business. It has quite the potential to grow but is not one of those things you want to spend a lot of time on. Wait until you’ve had some growth to start going down this path. Make sure your sponsorship relationships are ones that will have mutual benefit for your readers as well as yourself.
Freelance writing is not writing for free. It’s essentially writing for hire. Not everyone enjoys writing, so they hire people like you and me to do it for them. This may be for business websites, magazines, blogs, books or reports. You get paid typically by a fixed cost for the job or by the word count. You don’t own the rights to the finished work, though.
Of course, it’s non-scalable income, and takes up your time. It’s a one-time type of earning but you can always accept future jobs to add to your income stream if you so choose to do that.
I’ve done a small degree of freelance writing when people sought me out to do their writing for them. My main non-scalable income stream is graphic design, but I’d love to turn writing into my 100% income stream. Soon enough I’ll get there, and you will, too. Just takes work and time.
Freelance writing is an obvious choice for many writers who want to earn money. But one of the downfalls is you’re not building assets that you will own outright to build your books and your brand. The point is, long-term, to build as many repeat selling digital and physical assets as possible. And do all this before you die! (I say this jokingly but time is precious and think of all the money you’re leaving on the table if you don’t get started today.) Balance the time you spend writing for others and the time you spend writing for yourself. Make sure you’re fulfilling your own needs on the page before you fill the needs of others.
Now for the tips – some things I want to convey based on my own experiences that will make your decisions on freelancing to go oh-so- much smoother.
•Don’t work for content or writing mills. They’ll burn you out rather quickly, and the pay isn’t that great. Only apply and accept jobs that match your needs and will be easy yet challenging for you to complete. If you’re going to write, you might as well push yourself intellectually.
•Writing on in-depth topics will net you more money than basic articles. Try to find a client with steady work so you don’t have to apply for jobs so often. Don’t assume to know what the client wants – do what they want, and exactly to a T. They may have reasons for wanting the product to turn out a certain way so don’t use your creativity here. Deliver as asked and you’ll be sought out for work again. Listening plays out well here. Sometimes writers don’t understand that and blow the job just by thinking that they could do something even better than what the client originally wanted.
•Check your invoices and bill regularly. Make sure that the money you earned is being deposited. Keep track of every job you submit to, and follow up when necessary. Your terms and conditions should be followed and if someone hasn’t paid up, it’s time to blow the horn, gently of course.
•Stand out with your writing and don’t undervalue or undercut yourself. There’s no point in undercutting your rates just to get the job. People will be willing to pay a bit more when you’re an expert on the language, and your writing samples will speak for themselves. Cheap work nets cheap results, and there are plenty of business owners looking for writers who will get it right the first time so they’re not wasting their time. Time is money. They’d rather pay a bit more for quality than to use someone charging $5/hour for work that is going to sound choppy and juvenile. You may have to do some initial work for free, but don’t that for very long. You are valuable!
•If you write in a niche, having your website on display with examples of your writing will work out wonderfully. Put together a portfolio! People can then come to you instead of the other way around. Make sure your site is professional-looking and you have information about how to work with you as well as your rates.
•If a job is not really your cup of tea, then recommend the job to another freelancer who might appreciate the referral. Freelancers are a tight knit group, just as much as bloggers and authors, and social karma is super important to maintain. Relationships are super important in this arena. You’ll get return favors when it’s your turn.
Up until this chapter, I’ve talked all sorts of ways you can go about making money by attracting the right audience to your website and publications through content marketing. You can provide education through various means, give people inspiration or provide entertainment to people. Eventually if they decide that they like you they’ll buy your book, products or other services. Content takes time, not necessarily money. This is why I help writers and entrepreneurs focus on the best us of their time by staying productive.
I use a combination of paid advertising as well as content marketing to get an audience that identifies with the material I put out. Paid advertising is a topic that well deserves its own title, but content marketing definitely fits in with making a living as a writer. I have some tips based on my own blogging experiences, writing for search engines, doing YouTube videos and more.
Before you begin a project, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Figure out how you’re going to monetize a blog before you build it. What sort of buyers or consumers do you want to attract to your site? How many ads will you have on each page? How do you plan on educating or entertaining your audience? Do your plans contribute to you making a career and living as a writer? How will you make your website very clear from an action standpoint – will your visitors know what the next step is and what to do next? What’s the point of your blog?
This is a good time to look at other top blogs and model your own after other successful bloggers. This is basically how everyone starts out initially with blogs. Typically blogs and websites have a “system” in place that have people subscribe to something and get specific with various topics. Then the subscriber will receive a series of emails that they’ll benefit from either educationally, financially or entertainment-wise. Go ahead and sign up for some blog subscriptions so you can see their style and how they’re running their blog. Figure out how the mechanics, nuts and bolts of their blog work well for yours. Then, start building and taking notes for your own. Task yourself with improvements.
Too many authors and writers are not serious enough with their online presence. Own your own site and do not use freebies often offered by WordPress, Blogger, Wix and Weebly. You will be extremely limited with what you’ll be able to do and they’re just not professional enough. Free sites are not within your control and can be easily taken down. And remember, you don’t “own” your social media accounts so do not rely on them for your marketing platforms exclusively. Things will continue to change all the time and you will not have any sort of influence on those changes. Starting your own website is quite easy, really, and cheap. There are plenty of WordPress and website construction videos available and I recommend you watch a few if you’re new to website building.
When designing your website, make sure it’s mobile-friendly and easy to use. Include a lot of refreshing white space and balance it with images and text. If your website is not optimized for Google and other search engines, your site will be “penalized” and not rank as higher. Break your text up into sections using headers and subheaders for visual reading purposes.
Building your own email list is a critical step that many writers do not put enough focus on. If you master the art of building an email list, you will thrive. I use Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter to drive the bulk of my website traffic to my email list. In my course, “Learn Pinterest Strategy”, I discuss how the power of a content upgrade can really boost that email list to new heights. Prepare to give, give, and give some more. Provide them with something of value – a checklist, a how-to, a tutorial, or a free course. Communicate with your email subscribers on a regular basis so they’ll be excited to hear from you and receive what you’re offering. This is a great way to engage with your subscribers and fans. You’ll have people ready and willing to purchase just about anything from you once you master this art.
To create extraordinary content is to win the internet. There’s an abundance of generic information and entertainment on the web. Choose to be extraordinary. Be real and keep your content authentic to your brand. You could choose to blog daily or weekly, focusing on really beefy articles or short ones. Google tends to favor articles 2000 words or greater, so keep that in mind as you’re developing your content release editorial calendar.
Be personal and authentic with your blog so your readers get to know you and who you are. What do you represent? Why did you start the blog? Be sure to share your personality freely with your readers and tell them your story. People crave connection on the internet, so give that to them. The more personal that you are with your readers, the more they’ll connect with you. This is a great way to find “your people”. I unsubscribe from blogs and podcasts that are not entertaining, useful or benefit my brain in some way. I also can spot weak content that has clearly been written by a corporation to promote their product for the blogger’s website. If something reeks of affiliate benefits, I leave.
You will get to know and write about your niche better than anyone else. Not everything about your life and what you do should be on your blog. Keep it focused. When people visit my site, they know straight away that I help entrepreneurs write and design for social media and search engines. My focus niche is nonfiction writers. This is abundantly clear on my website. I have links to my other blogs, but that’s about it.
Strike a balance between consuming information and ideas and creating and implementing them. If you’re on Pinterest as much as I am, you can get an overwhelming sensation to create “all the things”. This needs to be balanced carefully with writing and developing content that has resonated with me. What did I like? What do I want to try? What could I create in my own niche that my own readers will benefit from? What experiences could I share? These are things to balance – consume information and create it, as well. Keep up on this process so your list of ideas is never empty and you’re always ready for the next project.
Writing a book is not the same as engaging in copywriting material. There is a stark difference. Both require a great deal of skill and work. If you write fiction books, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re great at blogging or writing sales copy. Sales copy is written to get people to engage with a call to action (CTA) after you’ve developed a product (like a book). Writing books is a process to develop a product. Copywriting is a skill set that few attain, and you may need to work on it to understand what triggers consumer behavior. How do headlines work? How to get people’s attention? These are things that you can learn about and there’s a ton of information on this sitting there waiting for you on Pinterest.
Share website traffic and link to other blogs like yours to increase your rank. Linking helps tell search engines what your website is about. You’re curating information for your readers, and helping them discover new things. You are not the only exclusive source of information, and this bodes well for gaining a generous reputation and fuels social karma in my experience. Share often as long as the content fits well with your audience.
As a graphic designer, I’d be shorting you if I didn’t tell you to use original images and other forms of visual media. Canva.com is a great place to start if you’re not a graphics designer. It’s fun, easy and simple. Even designers, like me, in a hurry to get content out, will use Canva to get some basic images produced for content. Powerful, original images will help your blog stand out in a very busy internet world. There’s so much noise and it’s hard to be seen or heard with all of the fluff. Videos are just another way to get your content shared and reach a new audience that is more video-oriented.
While commenting seems to be a key to whether or not your blog is popular, understand that the conversation about your material and writing may be happening somewhere else. I don’t get a lot of comments on my blog, but I do get a lot of Twitter comments from my tweets and lots of engagement and sharing on my Pinterest and Instagram accounts.
If you find that your blog isn’t working, just let it go or take a class on how you can get better. Remember my Creative Entrepreneur Mega Bundle courses? Try taking that and learning some new skills. The reasons behind why your blog may not be working out could be something very simple – color, font, etc. Make sure you’re passionate about what you’re blogging about. Readers can see right through thin material and writing. Put your voice in there! Be original! But if you’re not passionate about it anymore, make a “Frozen” move and let it go.
Make sure you give your blog a chance, though. Give it time to grow. My website traffic has increased month by month. Consistency with blogging, image work, visuals, product availability… these are all things that will take time to work out and get the attention of your visitors. Never give up unless you’re no longer passionate about your writing subject.
If you want more information on marketing with your writing, be sure to check out some of my other books, which are all available at KerrieLegend.com.
Hopefully this book has opened your eyes a bit on all the possibilities you have about how to turn the simple act of writing into a full-time career and make a living from it. Now, it’s time to turn you loose and let your creative juices start flowing.
There are some final tips I have for you before you jump into everything. There’s definitely a manageable process to converting your life into that of a writer. If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to writing greatness. Below are some steps to get going with writing.
(1) Start writing on a regular basis for the public to see it
You will not be writing for the fun of it or journaling your process. What you’re going to be writing is material that people will benefit from. This could include blogging on your website, your blog, on Wattpad, Medium, writing some chapters in a book to give to an editor, or even a basic how-to post that people can learn from.
The important thing here is not to dwell on the writing or set it aside. Give yourself a deadline to live by with the piece that you’re working on and finish it. So many writers start projects that they never finish, and end up never publishing anything of value. You need to get used to being read by people, having comments posted on your posts or pieces, and it can be scary. This is the first step to overcoming the whole fear factor bit.
The goal here is to prove to yourself that you are capable of self-discipline, that you can write on deadlines, come up with ideas on the fly, and stick to a schedule. Half the battle of working as an entrepreneur is self-discipline and actually doing the work. Getting into this routine will allow you to absorb all the emotions that come with accomplishment, putting yourself out there to be read and evaluated, and handling feedback. You’ll soon relax into your writing, words will come easier than before, and you’ll find your voice.
(2) Find authors you’d like to emulate and what your niche will be
Before you start jumping in and blogging all the things, it’s a smart idea to spend time thinking about your definition of success, what kind of material you want to write about and how you want to go about making income from your writing. One great way to do this is to look at other authors or writers that you identify with or would like to be like. Figure out whose career you would most like to have and start researching. Find your niche – your specific group of topics – that you want your writing career to be about.
I may not be the best one to follow because I’m nonfiction as well as romance and might even pursue young adult or new adult fiction. Once I get a firm grip on nonfiction these are areas I might go into. So basically, find anyone other than me! I may not be the best example to follow as I’m dabbling in all sorts of things. What kind of business model do they have? Do they have series? Boxsets? One-off books? A significant blog following? Courses? Really evaluate what they have their hands in and start drawing out the aspects that are most pleasing to you.
How do you find models to model your own career after? Search your niche. You’ll find the top ones straight away in the top search results, but may even have some luck on Pinterest, as well. Read their blogs. What do they have in common? What do you like about the way they right or how they manage their platform? Take a course or two that they offer, read their books and you’ll soon be able to determine whether or not they will serve as a great model writer for you. Word of advice – don’t play the “can I pick your brain” game with your role models. Ask questions, but make it about their material and not about what you need advice for with your own platform.
Sound advice – do not follow, listen to or feel less-than other people who are not making a living in the way that you want to. You have choices, and are making your own. Other people do not pay your bills, live your life, wear your shoes or write the same way you do. There’s no rulebook that says you have to be on specific channels of social media. There’s no requirement that you absolutely have to have a blog. The only way to make a living by writing is to do just that: write. Then sell. All the other stuff-the blog, the social media, the search engines – that will work itself out based on your writing style, where your audience is at and how you want to go about making money.
(3) Create something you’ve written and put it up for sale – then sell it!
Start with something small(er). Try your hand at an ebook Or your could try a mini course, or selling a small service that you offer as it relates to writing. Once you see that first deposit roll in you’ll be hooked, and this will also prove that you can sell. In addition, on a small scale, you’ll be able to learn by doing. As your projects get bigger you’ll still have the same confidence you had when you first put something out there for the world to consume. Finally, you’ll realize that you are capable of earning money in other ways.
In the first part of the book, there were several options listed and lots of ideas for you to get started with. Set a deadline, set a word count, and stick to the goal. So many people don’t achieve what they want to because of a multitude of other things – watching TV, movies, playing on their phones, etc. Don’t let this be you. You will be different, and you will publish and accomplish great things. Stretch yourself. Focus on your writing and cancel plans that are out of obligation and not so much out of want or desire. Doing things that take away from your writing which do not foster your creativity or soul could very well be limited with the perfect excuse. You’re busy writing. You’re working on creating an income stream!
(4) Grow your social proof and audience
Social proof is the number of followers you have as well as the number of subscribers you’ve collected. Building your email list right off the bat is one of your first focus points. Collect subscribers – they will be the first people you go to when you launch a book.
I use Ontraport as I am a power blogger by nature with over 30 content upgrades and sales funnels as well as an author, and I highly recommend that software. I know several people who are writers and authors user Aweber, Mailchimp and ConvertKit. It’s really a preference choice, but I would recommend a system like Ontraport to help you start creating sales funnels right away. If I had to do everything over again that would have been the system I would have started with. You can build and learn about sales funnels over time and work on your email writing skills. Work on your website a little bit every day, and you’ll find great fun in the creativity process. Remember that your website is a reflection of your writer/author brand! Having that email list is like using your ATM card whenever you need money from the bank. Your email list (derived from your website) is your key to having access to that virtual ATM machine every time you launch something new with your writing. Many authors do not focus on their email list building methods enough.
Now, with those points in play, it’s time to scale your income.
(5) Grow the number and improve the quality of the products you’re selling
It’s only a matter of time before you have people spending $10-30 on one of your products, be it digital or physical. Over time, as you create and collect more digital and physical assets from your writing efforts, you’ll be able to transition into higher price points with bundles and packages. But it’s also important, at the same time, to continue to increase the number of products you have. You can write more books, courses, audiobooks and add more affiliate marketing to the blend of product offerings. Once you have your system in place, those price points will eventually continue to increase over time. I know some bloggers offer thousand dollar courses and they actually sell. Something to definitely consider.
(6) Create your plan to transition to becoming a full-time writer
Take this in chunks. Every month, set a goal to replace your normal income with a certain percentage of your existing income. Save that extra money – you’re going to need it for marketing and graphics as well as social media tools to help you automate your author business.
Next, calculate how many books you’d need to sell based on the royalty you think you’ll be making. Start working towards that goal and see if you can hit it. But don’t solely focus on selling and marketing – continue to write and develop new products so you have your next available book to sell. Once you’ve hit five or so books, your income per month could very well be anywhere between $500-2000, depending on the quality and degree of marketing you’ve done.
Consider other streams of income. For example, put some Google ads on your site. Link up some affiliate products. Start taking Pinterest seriously and take my course on it so you know exactly how to benefit as an author by using it. Set income goals for each and every stream of income and don’t treat the income as “oh that’s a nice little extra money to have”. You earned it.
If you’re dedicated and willing to put in the time early on in the morning or late at night when everyone else is in bed, you will get there. If you use your time wisely and plan your writing projects, you’d be amazed as to how many words you can get on a page in a sitting or even in writing spurts. Eventually you’ll have amassed yet another writing project ready to sell. Keep repeating this process and kick out more and more books, honing your craft, and eventually you will have a steady income built up just from writing.
(7) Get off of social media, focus, and remember that time is precious.
I’ll admit that my focus has shifted a great deal this year to treating my writing more like a business. Something hit me – we were in the shop developing a new product line (whipped soap) and one of my boys approached me. He wants to visit Tennessee to see Ruby Falls and I looked at him so lovingly, and said, “hey, we can’t make that work this year”. See, we’re still somewhat chained to our home business with the soap shop that we can’t just up and leave it. We’d have customers needing product that we wouldn’t be there to deliver.
I knew right then and there, that even though I wasn’t working for “the man” anymore, there were still balls and chains keeping us from having a life without restriction. Writing could solve a lot of that, and eventually we could sell the business and just live off of my writing efforts.
So I focused. I wrote. And that is the ONLY way the job of writing gets done. If you’re not writing, you’re not working. Some people wonder how people can kick out 10-12 books a year, sometimes even more. The difference is that we have chosen to spend our time writing and not on Facebook or other things.
We all have the same amount of time to work with. You will get results based on what you choose to focus on.
I want this career. I want to write and as a result, I write daily. I get the words on the page. While other people are online chatting and debating about this and that, I’m churning out pages of what will be the next book. It’s all about choices and what you’re willing to commit to.
If you feel the same way – that you can commit to writing and make a go of it with your writing talent – you, too, can make a living from your writing.
Now, go write.
I have several “upgrades” related to marketing, websites and writing, and you can become a member on my website just by signing up. Just visit kerrielegend.com and sign up for the resource list and get a free author/blogger media kit for free in the process.
I have a podcast and talk about entrepreneurship there along with what’s happening in the news related to writing and marketing. I hope you’ll find it helpful! Be sure to subscribe and get my latest podcasts.
If you’d like more help with your creative pursuits and your writing process:
•If you’d like more detail on how to run a business as an author, check out: Author Business: How to be a Writer Entrepreneur which is available in ebook and print
•If you’d like to learn more about book marketing, check out Book Marketing: How to Market a Book Effectively and on a Budget
•For free weekly audios on writing, social media, publishing, book marketing, and being a creative, check out my podcast (link below)
•To learn more about establishing yourself as a successful author and how to put all the skills you’re going to learn along the way to work, be sure to check out some of my other books, all of which will help you grow your email list
Finally, I always love to hear your comments and feedback, so you’re welcome to email me at email@example.com.
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