- Writers are making good money by self-publishing through Amazon Kindle — without having decades of experience in the publishing world.
- Successful authors who make upward $10,000 a month share their most important tips for making money, like publishing books in a series in rapid succession.
- They also advise temporarily dropping the price of a book or books to 99 cents, and then advertising it on book promotion websites such as AuthorsXP or BookSniffer.
- Ensuring your book cover is professionally designed and your text professionally edited is hugely important. Solid covers can be had for around $100 to $200 or even less.
- And finally: "Don't assume that it's too late to get into this game."
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Have you always wanted to write a book? If so, you probably figured it would be a labor of love, something that would earn very little, or you might even have to pay to get it published.
While that certainly used to be true for most non-household name authors, it isn't true anymore.
These days, many people are making a good living, up to $10,000 a month or even more, as independent authors publishing their books on Amazon, even though they aren't famous and don't have decades of experience in the publishing world.
The key is to write books that people enjoy reading, publish them quickly in a series, and apply a little smart marketing so that readers will be able to find them.
Here's some advice from some authors who've done it themselves.
1. The more books you write, the more books you'll sell
This absurdly simple concept is behind the highly popular Facebook group 20Booksto50k, begun by indie author Michael Anderle, author and co-author of multiple book series and now CEO of LMBPN Publishing which publishes both his books and those of other authors.
The idea came about when Anderle was writing the third book of his first series, the Kurtherian Gambit vampire thriller series in Mexico. He'd published the first two as Amazon Kindle books and as Kindle Unlimited books (free to those with a Kindle Unlimited membership), a popular choice among indie authors. Amazon invites indie authors to publish Kindle books for free, and keeps 30 percent of the sale price, paying the author the other 70 percent.
At the time, those first two books were earning him between $7 and $12 a day, Anderle explained in a video interview at the 2019 London Book Fair. Some authors might have been disheartened, but he had learned that he and his wife could sell their Texas home, buy a condo in Mexico, and retire there on $50,000 a year. "If I could hit 20 books," he said, "I could hit $50,000 a year and then we could retire early."
In fact, he did much better than that. He published his first book in the Kurtherian Gambit series in November 2015, and by the time he published the fifth book in that series in January 2016, he was making five figures per month, he said. "By the twelfth and thirteenth month, I was doing six figures per month."
Publishing books in a series in rapid succession is key to financial success, Anderle tells Business Insider. "Fans of the series push the latest book up into the top of the charts and that, in turn, causes potential readers to notice the latest book and then go look for book one in the series and start there."
A similar approach works for non-fiction books, said Sally Miller, a former business analyst and project manager and now stay-at-home mom and coach who has published 15 books about how to make money in various ways, such as Airbnb, podcasting, blogging, and–yes–as an author. Miller now makes between $6,000 and $8,000 a month from royalties, and that number should continue to grow as she publishes more books.
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2. A little marketing goes a long way
"It takes a solid marketing plan to make all the pieces fit together, and it's more than one thing that has made me somewhat successful," said Tracy Fredrychowski, author of five books in the Amish/Christian fiction category.
Fredrychowski has a marketing company but she also found widespread readership for her blog and short stories about Amish lifestyles and values in Western Pennsylvania, where she lives.
When readers asked if her stories were available in book form, Fredrychowski published them as a book with a vanity publisher — and wound up selling less than 100 copies.
Because of her marketing background, she knew she could do better on her own, and she began self-publishing on Kindle. Five books into her series, she's making around $4,000 a month, and with three more books coming out in 2021, she said she's on track to double those earnings in 2021.
"I'm on the cusp of being able to hand over the reins of my digital marketing company to write full-time," she said.
To market her books, Miller has a professionally designed website and a professional looking newsletter that she sends to the 8,000 readers who have signed up for it. "I offer a freebie," she explains. "If somebody signs up for my email list, I give them a free book to put them on the journey, and then in the back of that book they can find my other books."
When it comes to advertising, successful indie authors recommend one very effective tactic. Temporarily drop the price of a book or books to 99 cents, and then advertise it on book promotion websites such as AuthorsXP or BookSniffer, which send out lists of 99-cent book specials to tens of thousands of voracious readers.
Fredrychowski also uses that sale time to run ads on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. "Normally, I don't pay more than $25 to $75 for an ad," she said. The promotion usually pays for itself. "Even though I've dropped my price to 99 cents for those days, my book sales are jacked up because I promoted that sale for five days in five different places."
3. Write a book people want to read
All the marketing in the world won't help you if you don't write compelling books that readers enjoy and want to read more of.
If you're writing how-to books, make sure they clearly and concisely teach the reader whatever he or she needs to learn, in a straightforward and readable way. If you're writing fiction, "you need to engage your reader immediately," Anderle said. "If a reader isn't engaged with your story in the first 3,000 words, figure out why. Because it's too easy for them to drop a book and move on."
He recommends having at least six or seven people read the first 3,000 words of your book and then give it one of three ratings: "I want to read more," "I'm noncommittal," or "It's not working for me."
Beyond that, he said, if you're working in genre fiction (such as romance or fantasy), learn the rules and tropes of that particular genre or you'll leave readers unsatisfied. "For example the romance trope requires a happily-ever-after. If it does not have that, it is not a romance." Anderle recommends using the TV Trope wiki to find tropes for the genre you're writing in.
It's also important to have your book cover professionally designed and have your text professionally edited, he said.
"Solid covers can be had for around $100 to $200 or even less, if you look around," he said. "The cost of editing can vary depending on where you look as well. There are companies and resources around the world that can deliver good quality at a reasonable price."
You need all these things for a successful series, he adds. "The cover sells the book. The story sells the next book in the series. If your read-through rate is less than 63% from book one to book two, or less than 86% from book two to book three, there are problems. Figure out what they are and fix them."
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4. Be patient
Those who've done it warn that it can take time to find the right formula and momentum, that not every book will be a success, and that if your goal is to make a living from your books, it can take perseverance — and many, many hours spent writing — to get there.
"Don't assume that it's too late to get into this game," Anderle said. "Success may happen fast, but it might not. Be prepared to learn, to grow, to be patient and figure out how to enjoy the trip."
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