Today I want to talk to you about perseverance and patience even though things aren’t going the way you want them to.
It takes time to become a full-time author and reap the benefits of success, especially if you’re self-published and need to work on marketing.
It takes even longer to make a full-time income off of your work and it can be depressing when you see other authors making four, five or even six figures a month. What about you? When will your time in the spotlight come?
Here are some thoughts from my personal experience.
Success is different in each of our minds and it takes time and energy to get where you want to be.
Looking back, I realize it took me almost four years to become a full-time author and make enough to pay the bills, afford ads, covers, editing and everything else that goes with becoming a full-time author.
So I’ll share the tips that got me there, but the most important thing I want you to know is that it takes time.
When you publish your first book, you might not see the results in 4 weeks. You might not see results in 4 months. Each of us has a different story and we must remember to put in the work, day in and day out.
Put in the work when it feels like you can’t sell a single book.
Put in the work when it feels like you’ll never reach your target audience.
Put in the work when you feel like going home and doing something else.
It took me 5 books and 4 years to make my first $50,000 from publishing books.
It took collaborations and studying and marketing.
It took taking a risk and trying new things.
It took thousands of dollars.
And let me tell you, I have bills and loans and things to do with my life. But my desire to be an author is deep and passionate. And even when my books weren’t paying for themselves I worked three different jobs to make it happen. I saved up for editing and book covers; I studied marketing and took courses. It was a long road but looking back I can say it was worth it. So hang in there. Keep going.
Follow these tips to put you on the road to success:
Write your best story.
Writing a story is hard but rewarding work. While there are many different ways to write a book, it’s helpful to study story structure. One of the many mistakes authors make it writing something without regard for industry standards. While the work may be good, it might not be something that readers enjoy. Pacing, setting and character development are a combination which makes books delightful to enjoy. Here are some of the books I recommend to help you succeed with storytelling.
Read this blog post for more about writing.
I used to turn up my nose at pre-made covers, but not anymore! It’s important to have an attractive cover in your genre, and you don’t have to spend an absorb about of money to get it. Covers these days range from pre-made to stockphotos to custom illustrations. After writing and publishing seven books I cannot stress the importance of a beautiful cover that fits with your genre.
Read this blog post for more about covers.
Study marketing (free and paid)
As an indie author, book marketing can make or break a career. Personally I consumed as much free information as I could and spent time working with entrepreneurs to practice the marketing basics. Some of my favorite sites for resources include:
Read this blog post for more about book marketing.
Build and grow your brand grow your email list.
Building your brand is essential for forming a fan base. Even if it’s nothing something you’re excited about doing, you can build your empire on automation. The start up steps take the longest, but I highly recommend having a website or landing page to collect email address. If you’re not a fan of email, you can also use a messenger bot and use that as your way of communicating with readers. Focus on both organic and paid ways to grow your list. Many tried and true methods include writing a short story (less than 10,000 words) and offering it as a free giveaway. This serves to give people a preview of your writing before they make a monetary commitment.
Read more about email marketing.
I remember releasing my first book, and trying to figure out how to get reviews. A few weeks after the release I booked a call with a book marketing guru to figure out next steps. A lot of people talk about launching a book but there’s so much more that goes on behind the scenes after release. How do you keep book selling? What marketing tactics should you use? Booking a call and getting help from other marketing gurus helped set off on the right path to success.
Talking to a marketing guru can be both good and bad, so I also recommend chatting with successful authors. Follow them on social media, read their emails and do everything you can to emulate (not copy) their success. I recall following some USA Today Bestselling Authors and the number one thing they did that I didn’t do was newsletter swaps. It was very eye opening because it opened up an entirely new way of reaching more people.
Aside from talking, it’s also important to do something actionable. Taking courses may not be right for everyone, but I love seeing video examples of what I need to do and following the steps to make it happen. A few courses I’ve enrolled in include a writing course, an Ads course and a few other marketing related courses.
Collaborate with authors in your genre.
One of the biggest mistakes I see authors make is collaborated across different genres. Someone who writes nonfiction will ask a fantasy author to promote them. Why is this a mistake? Because you’re not reaching the kind of people who read your book. It’s extremely important to collaborate with authors in your genre. It makes a huge difference in book sales if you are selling to the right audience.
Read more about author collaborations.
As a final note of encouragement, it’s possible to become a full time authors, but in most cases it takes more than one or two books to get there. So decide what you want from your work and get to work. Write your book. Read as much as possible. Save up for expenses. Take a risk. You’ve got this.
Want to chat further? Schedule a call with me.
Do you have the right graphics for your book launch?
Recently I released the first book in a new epic fantasy series I’m working on, marking my 7th book release. Since my last series (The Four Worlds) did so well, I decided to level up and focus on excellent visuals for my book launch. Whether you are releasing your first book or tenth book, here are some suggested graphics for your next release.
Before I dive in, a word to the wise. Book launching is hard and takes a ton of time and energy. Because of that, there’s no way I could do it all myself. I outsourced as much as possible and collaborated with other authors to make the book release a success.
During a book release I always run Facebook Ads. As a student of Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course, I like to spend time testing out Ads and determining what converts to clicks and sales. Ad copy can vary, it’s important to test different wording as well as different graphics. The three kinds of graphics I usually test include stock photos and branded photos.
Stock photos are usually downloaded from Pexels or Depositphotos, depending on what vibe I’m going for. Stock photos do quite well with Ads, however, on the flip side, I do want people to know I’m selling a book which is why I also use branded photos.
Branded photos use my book cover or associated graphics. See below for the three kinds of graphics I use.
Standard Cover File
Free in Kindle Unlimited
While I don’t often run Ads on Instagram, it’s fantastic for organic views and connecting with book bloggers. In all honestly, I often don’t have to the time to connect with book bloggers on Instagram so I hire someone to do it for me. However, posting daily on Instagram is an awesome way to get my book in front of readers who are looking for something new to read. Plus the cover is so pretty, it draws the eye. See below for Instagram graphics.
View my Instagram account here.
Bookbub Ads aren’t something I’m versed in. While Bookbub allows authors to run Ads on their site, it’s still something I’m learning. Bookbub Ads are usually a loss for me so I run them for visibility. Usually I can set aside a few funds that are strictly for visibility and not for ROI. See below for the one Bookbub Ad I used.
There you have it. If you’re looking to create graphics for your next book launch, here are the sources I recommend.
Realm of Beasts is an Epic Fantasy Adventure with Mythical Beasts.
Credit for this release goes to:
Shayla Raquel for Editing
Amalia Chitulescu Digital Art for Cover Design
Stephanie BwaBwa of Story Creative HQ for Graphics
Have you considered boosting your book sales with autographed paperbacks? As an indie author, one of the things we focus on doing is maximizing sales. We need those book sales and we need them to come in on a regular basis. One of the ways I’ve found that helps is having a store on my website. A store? But that’s what Amazon’s for…right? True…but I’ve found fans still enjoy physical copies of books, and while they are going to go through the trouble of purchasing a paperback, they might as well snag an autographed copy. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find the demand for autographed copies and specialized book bundles is there.
Here are a few reasons why you’ll want to have autographed copies in your store:
- Fans love a personal touch and sending autographed copies allows you add a personalized message.
- With autographed copies you can include a special note or extra book swag like bookmarks, candles, coffee mugs, etc.
- My store does between $100-$500 in book sales depending on the month.
- Paperbacks are a great way to help you recoup your return on investment from self-publishing and marketing expenses.
From my personal experience, I have found the demand for autographed copies comes out about a month before and a month after I release a new book. A few things that help is the covers are gorgeous and makes people want to have a copy to hold even if they own the ebook. The average order on my website is $30 which gives me a much higher piece of the pie than ebook sales.
Need an example? Visit my store.
How do you create a store?
My website is built out on the WordPress platform and I installed WooCommerce which is an e-commerce plugin. Now, there are a few things to know when you are setting up an e-commerce solution, regardless of which platform you’re using.
PayPal is a popular payment method and another payment processor is Stripe. Keep in mind if someone is making a purchase from your website, there are processing fees. Be mindful of these fees and if you need to, build them into the cost of your product so you don’t get blindsided by the extra cost.
Don’t shoot yourself in the foot – make sure you’re not losing money when you ship out books.
I order books from Createspace and I can calculate how much the book costs me to purchase and ship to myself. Typically books cost me between $5-$10 depending on the size of the printed book (I write big books that are an average of 500 pages). As always, the more you order at one time, the lower the cost.
For shipping I use the flat rate shipping from USPS.com. If I’m shipping one book, I can also use Media Mail which costs $3-$4 per book, however, Media Mail takes about a week or so, and I prefer for my customers to get their books fast. Therefore I can also use the $6 flat rate envelope from USPS.com.
If I’m shipping 2 or more books, I use the medium sized flat rate box which is $13. The higher priced shipping makes my cost go up, so it’s only effective if I’m shipping 2-4 books.
My out-of-pocket cost for one book is around $11-$15 so I sell books for $20 in my website which includes the cost I paid to ship books to myself, how much it costs to ship books to someone who made a purchase plus a nice little royalty for myself. If I’m selling books in person, I can sell them for cheaper because I can take out the cost of shipping.
It’s important for me to capture the email addresses of people who make purchases from my site, so I can email them when deals and sales come up. Plus it’s a no-brainer way to grow my email list. WooCommerce integrates with MailerLite and creates a list of people who purchase from my shop.
Coupons are a way to reward customers or give a limited time offer to increase sales during a specific time period. WooCommerce allows me to create coupons for a certain percentage off a product or free shipping.
I have 5 books which can be shipped out as autographed paperbacks as well as bookmarks and candles. One of the best practices I try to implement it always to have books on hand. I never known if/when someone is going to order an autographed copy, so my best plan is to have 5-10 copies of each book at home at all times. If I run out, I’ll place an order which tends to take a couple of weeks.
If you run out of stock, be up front. Add a notice to your store or add it to the product description. Let people know when the books will be back and stock and when they’ll ship out.
There you have it. Creating a store for autographed paperbacks is a fun way to boost your book sales, plus you can add book swag to your store and thrill your fans with fun book-related items.
Need help creating your website or adding a store to your website?
Have you created a store for your books?
Can you afford to be an indie author? As independent authors, we have to be aware of the way cost plays into self-publishing. Cost can mean the difference between turning book publishing into a business versus having a very expensive hobby. The question is, how much is too much? When do you know if your books are bringing in a positive return on investment?
Truth be told, some authors make back the investment they made into their books, while the percentage of authors who don’t make back their money is larger. As I enter my 4th year of writing and publishing, I’m taking a hard look at the cost of book publishing versus what I can recoup back. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do want to break down expenses a bit and help you figure out when too much is too much.
Let’s start with the time commitment. When you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. The time commitment is certainly something to factor in when you’re writing. Do you have the time? Are there any relationships or other business commitments that will suffer?
My very first book cover and associating book swag cost $900. While I loved the cover, I realized, if I want to write and publishing 2-3 books a year, paying $900 per book cover doesn’t work for me. There’s no shame in stepping back and taking a hard look at finances and knowing you need to make a change.
Personally, I decided my budget for cover art a max of $300, and after some searching, I found some fantastic designers with price points that meet my budget. In fact, the response to my covers were so encouraging, I had my new designer redo the $900 book cover.
Sometimes we associate price with quality and that’s not always true. There are pre-made covers that I’ve seen as low as $50 while custom covers range from $250 – $3000. Your budget is up to you, and so you shouldn’t feel pressured to hire a designer in a certain price range if it doesn’t fit your budget.
In 2015 before the release of my first novel, The Five Warriors, I wasn’t going to hire an editor. I know, I know, what was I thinking? I can see the look of shock and horror on your face now, but no worries, I listened to my beta readers and proceeded with hiring a proofreader for about $600. Since then my budget has stayed around $1000 or less for book. With 2-3 books coming out every year, editing costs tend to add up.
To help maximize editing, I focus on self-edits. I have my advanced readers send me mistakes they find, and use programs like ProWritingAid to help me catch errors before I send the book out for professional editing. The more I read through the notes and comments from editors, the more I learn about my style and how to consistently improve my writing. Although my writing continues to improve, professional editing isn’t something I want to give up, but understanding my budget helps me to choose. Additionally, I’m finding that often I just need a proofread instead of a line-edit, and that helps to bring the price down. My editing budget is typically around $1,000 depending on the editor I’m working with.
This isn’t to scare you, but quite frankly, a good book launch plan is $1,000. While I won’t break it down to 100% for you, I do want to hit you with some hard facts. You don’t have to do a book launch, heck, you don’t even have to market your books. But if you believe you can hit publish and then sit back and work on your next book, without doing any marketing, you are setting yourself up for failure. During a book launch you should be gaining reviews, running ads, posting on social media…basically telling the world about your book. They aren’t going to magically find you. You have to do the work to make your book visible and let people find you.
On the other had, what if you don’t have $1,000 to spend launching your book?
Check out these 7 things to do that cost little to no money.
This is where you need a budget. Personally I have a book marketing budget of about $200 a month, this tends to range up to $1000 when I have a new release coming out or am involved in other promotions. I know once that $200 budget is empty, I have to focus on other ways to bring in revenue. Now I will say my books do pay for their own book marketing budget and bring in the funds. If you don’t have the funds newsletter swaps, giveaways and contest and email marketing are all ways to grow your author platform.
This doesn’t cost you anything and is a great way to get your book in front of readers in your target audience. As an epic fantasy author, I keep my eye open for other epic fantasy authors I can do a newsletter swap with. What is a newsletter swap? I promote their book in an email to my email list. Plain and simple. Here’s an example.
Giveaways and Contests
Typically, giveaways and contents have an upfront cost while your reap the benefits in the long-term. Now that you have a budget you can determine if the cost is worth it for you. Is giving aways a $25 Gift Card going to break the budget? Is paying $25 – $50 for a list of 2,000 – 4,000 subscribers worth it? Think about these things before you make impulsive decisions. And keep in mind, while giveaways are a fantastic way to drive traffic to your site, you’ll also gain a percentage of freebie hunters.
Book fairs are a great way to sell more books. Often the cost is anywhere from $0 – $15 to participate in a book fair. Book fairs help you sell your books to your target audience, and typically the organizer of a book fair will compile a list of 10-100 books in a specific genre. All participants will send emails to their email list, telling them about the book fair and then sit back and wait for the sales to come in.
Here’s an example.
Honestly, if you don’t know too much about advertising I recommend taking a course so you can get the most bang for your book. There’s nothing like shooting in the dark and being unable to figure out what you’re doing.
Currently, I’m enrolled in Ads for Authors by Mark Dawson and it was like seeing all the lights come on with my advertising. It’s a relief knowing what keywords to use, how to pull reporting, optimize ads and recommended budget spend.
There are several sites where you can advertise including Facebook, Amazon, and Bookbub, but the cost can add up. Watch your budget. Is this something you need to do?
Promotional sites like Robin Reads, Freebooksey etc. are excellent for getting a boost in book sales as well as a hike in sales rank. However, it’s difficult to measure your return on investment unless you focus on longevity. Your $50-$100 is probably better spent on advertising.
Software and other tools
Depending on what email marketing provider you’re using, and how many subscriber on your list, pricing can range from free to hundreds of dollars. I currently use MailerLite to keep costs down, especially because my list is 10k. If you’re list building, the cost of your email marketing provider is certainly something to consider.
Instafreebie and/or Bookfunnel
Both of these site provide a safe and convenient way to deliver ebooks to your audience for free or to your advanced review team. I use Bookfunnel to send advanced review copies to my review team and Instafreebie to provide free sample to readers. Instafreebie is better for list building while Bookfunnel has the edge on delivery. There are times when I’ve used tools which costs around $35/month. This is something else to consider. Are you getting enough bang for your buck?
Grammarly or ProWritingAid
Self-editing is a popular term and something I highly recommend. Both Grammarly and ProWritingAid provide you with the software you need to catch some mistakes before passing your book along to your editor for professional editing. I’ve used both but prefer ProWritingAid for now because it also tells me what words I’ve repeated too much in a chapter, when I dive into passive voice, and other styling issues.
Grammarly costs $30/month unless you are willing to pay a year in advance.
ProWritingAid starts at $50/year depending on the license you need and how many years you’re paying for at once.
What does this look like from a yearly point of view? Well, if you’re a serious author who’s publishing 3 books a year, your expense budget could look somewhat like this:
Book Launch: $3000
Email Marketing: $600
Other Software: $230
Obviously you want to ensure you’re making back more than what you’re putting out. A business can only run in the red for so long. Before you roll into a ball and sit in the closet and cry with a bottle of whiskey, here are some tips for managing your budget as an author and working on gaining a positive ROI.
Make a budget – understanding what you are willing to spend is important, and knowing what’s involved keeps you from being surprised when unexpected costs come up.
Track your budget – when you keep track of your dollars you’ll understand where they are spent, how they help your budget, and where to cut back. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars growing your email list, and you aren’t seeing growth, it’s time to cut back or change tactics.
Focus on book marketing. If you don’t have a plan for book marketing, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Learn more about getting a Book Marketing Plan here.
Spill the beans, can you afford to be an author? Are you making a positive return on investment with your books?
This is a guest blog by Laina Turner of Writing Warriors Collective.
When it comes to a fiction author platform, it’s a bit like the chicken and egg dilemma.
What comes first? The book or the platform?
The answer is BOTH! Doesn’t that fill you with joy? The idea of writing your novel AND building your author platform at the same time!
All sarcasm aside I’m not joking. You have to juggle both if you want to sell books. It’s the single most challenging part of being an author, in my opinion. If your goal is to sell your books, you must also market them. People can’t buy what they can’t find.
Marketing and writing aren’t easy, but they’re doable.
It’s about creating a consistent and manageable list of tasks. The key word here is manageable. Don’t set yourself up for frustration by creating an impossible list. You might not want to take the slow route, but it’s better to be realistic. You’ll still get there, and the journey will be much more enjoyable.
What IS an author platform? Many writers think it’s interchangeable with the phrase, book marketing, but it’s not. An author platform is PART of book marketing, but it’s by no means the whole thing.
Jane Friedman said it best. The author platform is, “an ability to sell books because of who you are or who you can reach.”
Read the full post here.
Your marketing efforts contribute to building that platform.
I know you might be thinking no one cares who you are but you’re wrong. Maybe no one cares right now except your family and friends, but you can change that. Your goal should be to find and engage readers who will be clamoring for your books as you write and publish them.
So how do you build your platform if you’re just starting out? I like to think of it in 3 buckets:
The tools, the content, the strategy.
Your author platform needs an anchor. The place your fans know they can find the latest and greatest about you. Usually, that’s a website though it can be a social media platform. Keep in mind social media isn’t controlled by you and it can disappear at any minute. Much better to buy your home (website) rather than rent (social media).
You do need to have a social media presence but don’t think you need to jump on every social media bandwagon. That’s guaranteed to leave you frustrated.
Find where your ideal audience lives and cultivate that social media stream. Get to a good place where you’re in a routine, and it’s easy. Then layer in the next.
In the online marketing world content is king. Whether that’s a blog post, social media post, or images you use for the previously mentioned.
Creating good content helps you build an audience by attracting them to what you have to say. Building an audience is the key to creating a sustainable author career. Any top-producing salesman knows that it’s easier to keep a client than it is to get a new one and while you’re an author you’re also a salesman. That’s why it’s so important to get people hooked on your first book. Getting them to read your next books is an easier sell than a new reader.
However, building an audience isn’t about constant one-way self-promotion. It’s about engaging your audience and building a relationship with them. You want readers to like your books but also to feel connected to you as an author. That’s the part that builds the loyalty where they’ll read whatever you publish.
Let’s face it. Marketing can be a lot of throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks. You can’t ignore the importance of having a clear marketing goal and a strategy to get there. So if the spaghetti DOES stick, you’ll know what you did and why it’s sticking so you can repeat the behavior.
I’m a firm believer that if you don’t have a destination in mind, a goal, you’ll have a hard time getting where you want to go.
Your initial goal for your author platform is to connect with readers and get them on your email list. If you don’t have an email list yet then developing one should be your priority.
Angela has a great post on the topic here: 5 Ways to Use Email Marketing to Sell More Books
I can’t stress enough how important this step is to building your overall platform.
If you’re starting from zero, your first 30-day goal might be to add 30 people to your list.
Now you need a strategy to get there.
First, you need to create something readers want in exchange for giving you their email address.
- Offer a free short story.
- A free chapter.
- The backstory on a favorite character.
Then you need to engage potential readers, so they see you have this awesome free content. You can do this through social media, promotion of blog posts if you blog, and word of mouth (an often overlooked communication method).
Slowly you will begin to build your author platform. You’ll have hundreds of readers who will feel connected to you as an author, and your writing and marketing machine will be in constant motion.
Laina Turner is an author, educator, and blogger. When she’s not writing fiction or working with other authors, you can find her at the local coffee shop writing or people watching.
You can find Laina at Writing Warriors Collective or connect with her on social media:
Dear Indie Authors,
Please stop giving away your books for free.
One of the popular reasons authors give away books for free is to build a readership, and to increase the sale through of other books in their series.
However, there’s one problem with free books. If you want to make money with your books, giving them away for free is an issue because subconsciously you’re teaching your audience that your book is essentially worth nothing.
In the indie author community, there’s a false mindset you have to give your books away for free before people will be willing to purchase them. If the first book in your series is free, someone will pay $0.99, $2.99 and even $5.99 for your full priced books. In truth, I’ve been seeing the opposite effect and heard from indie authors who have had the same experience. Here are some examples:
Free books are swooped up by freebie hunters who have no intention of buying books, and why would they need to? There are thousands of free books available, they can just move to the next free book instead of buying books.
No price = no value
Free books teach people that your work is not valuable. There are marketers who teach people that in order to gain a readership, you have to giveaway your work. If people enjoy the story, they will purchase and read your other work.
Books are too expensive
People can’t afford to buy a book for $5. Honestly… when was the last time you spent $1-6 on something and were so angry, you returned the item and demanded your money back? I hate to use the coffee illustration, but think about how much a cup of coffee costs, or a meal from a fast food restaurant versus a meal from a sit down and eat restaurant? Think about how much we spend, day to day, on things we believe are necessary. Books are powerful, there’s no reason people can’t invest in a $5. If they REALLY want to read it, they can purchase it.
Although there’s a powerful case to giving away books for free, the truth is, the market is constantly changing and growing. While perma-free books used to be a great marketing strategy a few years ago, 99 cent books are the new perma-free books.
Personally, I used to download free books on a daily basis, and I noticed one consistent action. Since I did not pay for the books, I did not associate much value to the books, and I did not end up reading them. There are dozen of books chilling in my Kindle Library that I have no intention of reading, simply because they are free. Additionally, the ones I have read have been a disappointment, and books I would give 3-star ratings to if I did read and review. On occasion, I have found an excellent, entertaining free book, however, it’s like finding a diamond in the rough.
All this being said, how do you grow your readership without giving your books away for free?
From time to time, I do give away books for free, but for the most part, I offer a preview. If they like what they’ve read so far, they can purchase the book. Even though the book sells, I’ve noticed that if I offer a preview, my sales are much higher than if I give the book away for free.
Recently, I did a Black Friday deal where I offered a free book if people bought my Book Bundle. The bundles includes three autographed paperbacks of my fantasy series and goes for $40. People swooped it up without hesitation, which goes to show you, there is still a market for paid books, even if they cost more than $5!
As a final note, don’t get me wrong, free books still have a time and place. Here are some examples where free books still apply:
- When you’re working with an advanced review team who will read and review your book when it’s published
- When you’re working with book bloggers who will read and review your book on their blog
- When you’re working with beta readers who will help improve your storytelling
Share your thoughts below, have you had success with free books? Do you think indie authors need to charge more for their books?