Indie Epub Authors: Let’s Talk Money…with Bestselling Author Theresa Ragan!

When I first started writing, I had no idea what publishers were paying and therefore no idea of my potential earnings. The only thing I knew with certainty was not to give up my day job and that I would be lucky to get a $5,000 advance on a book that took me five years to write. The only site that I knew of to find out what publishers were paying was Brenda Hiatt’s Show Me the Money.

Brenda is now collecting data for Indie Earnings, but she needs as many authors as possible, whether you are traditionally published and self-publishing or solely an indie author, she needs data!  Go HERE to see Indie Earnings data collected so far.

Personally, I like knowing what’s possible. For the past two decades, like many writers, I didn’t make one dime, but I kept on writing because it’s what I love to do. But, I also realize this is a business and as a business, I do need to earn money if I want to be able to stay home and write full time.

Stephen King is estimated to be worth $400 million dollars.

Stephenie Meyer is said to be worth $125 million.

J.K. Rowling is said to be worth $1 Billion.

We all know that King, Rowling, Meyers and, of course, E.L. James are rolling in the dough. But what about everybody else? I believe we are going to see more and more indie authors hitting the million dollar mark. Many already have. It used to be that once or twice a month I would read about another author making a sale to a traditional publisher. Now I’m reading about authors quitting their day jobs. How cool is that?! And, of course, it’s all relative–if you have zero kids and a husband with a full-time job, you’re probably going to be able to quit before the single writer with kids to feed.

Some indie authors, whether they are both self-published and traditionally published, or not, are making $20,000 a month and some are making $500 a month. And some have yet to make a total sum of $500. Not everybody who self-publishes is going to make a ton of money. I read an article the other day where the blogger stated that too many indie authors are telling other writers that there’s money to be made so hurry up and release everything you have and see what sticks!

I like to think that writers are smarter than that. Of course, there are always going to be people who are going to try to take shortcuts just for the sake of earning a quick buck. But why waste time worrying about those people? This is not a competition. It’s also not a good idea to compare yourself to other authors. Better books than mine will earn less money and vice versa. That’s never going to change. There are too many variables for it to be any other way (genre, story, pricing, timing, cover, blurb, luck).

Let the possibilities of big money motivate you to finish your book, but don’t let these same possibilities put unnecessary pressures on you, and certainly don’t let EXPECTATIONS ruin all the fun if you don’t earn $20,000 a month.

I believe more and more writers are talking about money now because they CAN (no confidentiality clauses when you’re an indie author), and because it’s pretty exciting that authors don’t have to give 80% of their money to publishers. We get to keep the money our stories earn. How cool is that?

I know writers who happily took a one thousand dollar advance and 6 to 8% royalties. Less than two short years ago, I would have taken a deal like that, too. And no, I’m NOT bashing traditional publishers. I would have taken that deal and I would have been happy because there weren’t too many choices back then. If taking that deal was the only way to get my foot in the door, I would have signed on the dotted line. I recently signed a contract with Thomas & Mercer. I might never know if it was financially the best move for me, but no matter what, I have zero regrets. I’m having a blast. I will have maximum exposure on the Amazon site and I love working with my editor and I have a whole team of people available to help me at T&M.

I don’t know about you, but now when I’m writing a novel, I like Knowing that all of my hard work might actually pay off in the end. It’s just ONE more way to motivate myself to sit in my chair and write. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be motivated by money. If an author is making money, that means people are buying their book, and if their book keeps selling, it probably means that their book is being recommended by readers. Word of mouth is powerful advertising. Nothing is more important than readers.

And for those of you who are curious like me and like to see real numbers, here are a few:

My newest release, Having My Baby, an 80,000 word contemporary romance, has earned over sixty thousand dollars in four months.

$523.76 is how much I earned after my first month as a self-published author (3/11).

$107,816.07 is what I earned in my best month as a self-published author (2/12).

So, what about you? Do you like to hear what other authors are earning? Do big sales numbers inspire you or hinder you? Have your goals and dreams changed since self-publishing?

The Best of The WG2E Talkin’ Money Wishes — Theresa Ragan

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Comments

  1. Lois Lavrisa says:

    Theresa , thank you for sharing:) Congratulations on being an overnight success after almost two decades (I believe that is how long you said it took) and Congratulations on your contract with Amazon’s Thomas and Mercer as well. I look forward to reading your books.

  2. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks for the post and sharing, Theresa. I think hearing about numbers can be good – and bad. Like you said, about not competing and comparing yourself to others, it can be difficult not to do this. But I think it’s better to look at the stats and see what’s possible and what’s out there. Thanks again!

    • Hi Tamara, I know it’s difficult not to compare…and it’s all so new for writers to have something to compare to at all. Even on an individual basis, it’s still such a new concept that self-published writers can now watch their sales go up and down. It takes some getting used to, which is why writing, IMO, feels more like a business than ever before. Sales are going to spike up during the holidays (I hope!) and then during the summer sales will be lower, etc. Two years ago, writers couldn’t see any fluctuations on a daily basis. It takes some getting used to. Now I set yearly goals instead of monthly goals.

      On another loop I am on, there was a discussion about self-published writers making $40,000 a month and more. Denise Grover Swank, who might be stopping by to comment today! said this:

      “The very best thing I ever did was realizing that my books are a PRODUCT and I am BUSINESS WOMAN. Last December I made a twenty-three page business plan. I realized that I could actually make real money selling my books. I came up with an amount of money I wanted to make each month ($6000) and how many books I had to sell to make that happen. Instead of just putting out books whenever I got them done, I planned release dates. I have my editors booked through the end of 2012. I have firm, hard dates that I hand my manuscripts over. I work very, very hard. I have high expectations for myself and my work output. My business comes before a lot of things in my life, but I’ve never been happier.”

      • D.D. Scott says:

        This is just terrific scoop from both you and Denise, Theresa! And I sooo agree with both of you!

        We’re each running our own businesses now and business plans are a must!

        I also luuuvvv what you said right here and totally live by the concept too:

        “Two years ago, writers couldn’t see any fluctuations on a daily basis. It takes some getting used to. Now I set yearly goals instead of monthly goals.”

        This is just gonna be a heckuva great discussion today!

        Thanks sooo much, my friend!!!

  3. Adan Lerma says:

    big congrats theresa, good to hear details of someone who’s struggled, and made it

    thanks so much ;-)

  4. D.D. Scott says:

    What a fantastic post, Theresa! And wow! Congrats on your superfab success! I’m over the moon thrilled for you, my friend!

    It’s sooo important that we share our Indie Epublishing Real Numbers. That’s the way we can all learn from each other and inspire each other by showing first hand what works and what doesn’t. Every time I see a new set of numbers that beat mine it makes me set my own personal bar even higher and come up with innovative ways to reach those new sales levels and readerships. I luuuvvv that challenge! :-)

    And boy oh boy have my dreams and goals really changed since I self-published/indie epublished just about two years ago (August 2010). If you would have asked me then, I never would have imagined that in just two years I’d be an Amazon and B&N Top 100 Bestselling Author, that I would have sold over 100,000 Ebooks and have made over $100,000, and be growing my readership by over 10,000 new readers per month!!! And partnering with such wonderful peeps as all of you?! Wow again!

    We’re setting all new levels of possibility by having the courage to share our real numbers and real experiences!!!

    Go, Us, Go!!!

  5. Julie Day says:

    For me, it is taking time to build sales and readers. My main aim this year is to hopefully reach the sales mark where I have to get an ITIN number. I am half way there so far, but plan to publish two more romance novellas, one more YA novella and a short story. Oh yes, and hopefully be in the spooky anthology too. Keeping my eyes open on what happens.

    • Hi Julie, I love how you’ve set goals. Get an ITIN number and then publish those novellas. Sounds like you have a busy year planned. We’re keeping our eyes on you and wishing you mega sales! Keep up the good work.

  6. Hello, D.D.! Your posts and comments always make me smile. You’re an encourage and positive force and I love it!

    I agree with you about setting your own personal bar a little higher when it comes to seeing what other authors are earning and doing to market themselves and their books. So many clever, out-of-the-box thinkers!

    Encouraging and helping other authors, sharing tips and information is a win-win for everyone.

  7. I love that not only do writers have the opportunity to make a real living as an author now, but the transparency of income is helping authors build REAL plans instead of guessing.

    When I started out querying and trying to break into the traditional publishing world, I had NO IDEA how much money I could make. I had dreams of making enough money to live off of. And perhaps I could have if I lived in a third world country. But the fact is I didn’t know and not only that, I would have GLADLY signed on the dotted line to get published.

    In traditional publishing, there are authors who make mega bucks and there are authors getting no advances and small royalty checks. The reality is that in self-publishing, there are authors who are making big money ($100,000 a month of more) and there are authors selling a couple of books a month–if they are lucky. But that changes from month to month. I work hard at being a writer and writing the very best book that I am capable of presenting to my readers (with the help of a developmental editor, a copy editor, proofreaders, professional cover designers and formatters). But I also work really, really hard being a business woman promoting my books. They are two different sides of me. I need both to be successful.

    • Good morning, Denise. Thanks for stopping by!

      You said, “But I also work really, really hard being a business woman promoting my books. They are two different sides of me. I need both to be successful.”

      I do think whether you are traditionally published OR self-published you have to promote yourself. But doesn’t it seem more apparent than ever?? Maybe because we can see if blogs and interviews and advertising works. I don’t always know exactly what “thing” I did works, but just getting your name out there and promoting yourself AND your books certainly can’t hurt.

      A great promoter and marketing genius is Brenda Novak. I think she might have majored in marketing. Many people and writers know who Brenda Novak is because she is a marketing queen and is friendly and helpful and she writes great books.

      I’m getting off track, but my point was to reiterate what you said, Denise, about needing to write a good book and do a lot of work with the business side to be successful. AND, of course, there are always those few who don’t do any marketing at all and do just fine…

      • Somehow I missed this!

        Yes, promotion is the name of the game, no matter which avenue you use to promote. It’s getting your book in front of reviewers, guest blog posting, etc. Sometimes they are just tiny pieces (like a grain of sand) and you really don’t think they are doing much good. You don’t see a big increase in sales. But they all join together to make something bigger (like a beach) so when you start to do well you can’t really point to one thing, it was a combination of all of it. If that makes sense.

        And I’m the first to admit that there is a bit of luck involved. One book becomes popular and other books get notice because they have a similar tone or theme. I tell indie authors with lagging sales that just because your book isn’t selling well now doesn’t mean it won’t pick up at some point. Just keep writing the best book you can, promoting to the best of your ability and you’ll start making money.

  8. Christina says:

    I’ve come to believe that checking sales daily is like weighing yourself daily. You’re going to see ups and downs. Maybe you had Chinese food last night and suddenly you weigh 6 pounds more than yesterday. Maybe you had a big lunch and skipped dinner so now you’re down 2 pounds. It’s draining to see that, and sales rank is the same way. Watching sales rank go up and down can be excruciating. Falling from 1000 to 20,000 to 70,000 to 200,000 and below – that’s hard. It’s hard to wean off, though. I’ve been checking sales maybe every couple of days and making notes about expenses on my spreadsheet so they’re not forgotton and updating my spreadsheet for sales weekly.

    I like hearing about other author’s success. I’m happy for them, whether it’s $500 or $1000 or $100,000. There’s more than enough room for us all. I don’t operate from a place of lack or a place of “there’s only so much to go around, so pick me.” No, we live in an abundant world and there is more than enough room for us all. This is a great time to be a writer. We’re in a world with virtual shelf space, a place where our books will live forever. FOREVER. It’s mind-boggling. In a forever world, we’re eventually going to be read.

    I have a production schedule that runs through next year. I haven’t really made a business plan because I’m not sure what I can put in it. I can budget for expenses, which I do. I have deadlines for covers and editors and promotion on my calendar. But I can’t control sales. I can only control the writing and promotion I do daily or weekly. Sometimes I get frustrated because life gets in the way of those things, but I’m still on track with my production schedule and I remind myself daily, “This is a marathon, not a sprint.”

    Sometimes I do feel like a lot of others have a two year headstart, but two years ago I wasn’t ready for this. Life was too up and down two years ago. I am in the perfect place right now, though. So I’m not late – I’m on time, for me.

    This time next year, though, if my production schedule isn’t too crazy, I should have 10 books released between myself and my pen name. I can’t control how they sell or if they sell, but these are stories and topics I want to write about. Reaching their audience is important, and I don’t need $40,000 in a month. It would be nice, though :) I do have a goal – $3,000 month. We’ll see if I’ve reached it by next year.

    • Great comment, Christina. You gave me chills! I especially loved this:

      “This is a great time to be a writer. We’re in a world with virtual shelf space, a place where our books will live forever. FOREVER. It’s mind-boggling. In a forever world, we’re eventually going to be read.”

      SO TRUE!

      And this: “I am in the perfect place right now, though. So I’m not late – I’m on time, for me.”

      LOVE IT! Everyone’s journey is going to be different and it’s nice to see when someone appreciates where they are at this very moment. :)

      Thanks, Christina.

  9. Sheri Alexander says:

    Hi Theresa & D.D., Thanks for this great post! I’ve written three novels (thrillers) in the past year and will be posting my first one for sale on Amazon this weekend.

    I’ve worked really hard at educating myself over the past fourteen months – on the writing craft as well as the business side – and I really appreciate informative and motivating posts like this one.

    I love it that technology has removed the reins from the publishing industry. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that all those agent rejection letters won’t mean a thing if readers are buying my books! I’m keeping my fingers crossed and working hard to approach this dream on a truly professional level.

    • Hi Sheri, I love your comment. It’s sounds like you have the right attitude and are taking the right approach. Professionalism and hard work!

      Wishing you mega sales and all the best!

  10. CC MacKenzie says:

    Thank you, Theresa, for sharing the good news!

    I’m a tiddler in the pond and am having the time of my life writing and meeting such fantastic people who’ve been a huge support, especially on WG2E – thanks, Dee Dee!

    I cannot wait for this time next year when I’ll have more books out and hope to have hit a spot. As Christina says it’s all about reaching our audience and I’m doing that slowly but surely.

    Great post!

    • CC, what a great comment and your confidence shines through. Slowly but surely is the way to go. Patience is key. One day at a time, one page at a time. Our books will be on the shelves forever. There are so many great authors that I didn’t discover until ten years into their career. It’s amazing to me how discoverability works!

      Good luck with your books. Can’t wait for your update this time next year!

  11. Christina,

    Honestly, I couldn’t have made a business plan when I published my first book a year ago in July. I was told to expect to sell 20 books the first month and double every month after that. My goal was to sell 1000 copies of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes by the end of the year. By December 31, I’d sold 5500 copies.

    It wasn’t until December when my paranormal thriller Chosen was in the Top 100 on Amazon list and #1 in contemporary fantasy that I realized if I had priced my book more than $0.99 I would have made much more money. I wrote a business plan strategically planning to raise the price with a free period on KDP Select. I wrote my expectations for continued sales thorough out the year, but honestly, it’s all a guess. I never predicted Chosen would do so well after my free promo. So in a sense, my business plan isn’t carved in stone. It’s a flexible, organic document.

    • Good point, Denise. You have a business plan, but it’s not carved in stone. Just like the synopses we write…they change! ha! I had a plan of 10 or 20 books a month and I just kept raising my goals, little by little. And that’s when I started to see that no matter how much planning I did, some months were going to be better than others. Now I’m sticking with yearly goals that I think are attainable. We’ll see!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      I love the idea of a flexible business plan. Hard work is a big part of success, but so is luck–and *choosing* to ride the good luck train or get off the bad luck one is a bit easier when you have a larger plan. :) Denise, I look forward to your biz plan post.

      Theresa, it’s always incredibly inspiring to read your posts and see how high you’re climbing. You’re one of the people who can open others’ eyes and show them what’s possible. Nothing’s guaranteed, but heck, what an amazing upper limit. (g) And you keeping shoving that ceiling higher!

      And thanks to you and Denise for the IRI shout-out. :)

      • Cate Rowan was one of the authors I first talked to and she convinced me to go indie. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge in the right direction. Thanks for that, Cate! Talk about a life changer. And thanks for starting the Indie Romance Ink group. What an encouraging, helpful group! Over 1,000 members and growing…

  12. Happy to see more and more conversation about indie authors. I’m so excited to be entering the arena at this time in history. I’ve worked on the business plan, have made my goals for 2013 and will be releasing my first book in January (after making it as good as I can). It’s very encouraging to have such great acts to follow. Thanks so much!

  13. Great post, Theresa! Congrats on all your successes. I’ll be publishing my first this fall. It’s good to know there are people making a living at writing. I definitely hope that with a huge amount of hard work and a little luck I can be one of them. And I wish all my friends at WG2E much success!

  14. Brenda Hiatt says:

    Theresa, thanks so much for the shout-out about my surveys! I’m super appreciative of the authors, both traditional and indie, who’ve sent me their figures so far. (Note to everyone: I keep absolutely EVERYTHING anonymous! I don’t even save names myself, so I couldn’t tell you who earned what if I wanted to!) I know it’s kind of a pain to compile all your earnings for individual indie titles (one of the FEW ways publishers’ royalty statements help us out) but it’s a tremendous service to all writers if you can take the time to do it. Besides, it’s info YOU should want for yourself, too, so you know which of your titles are selling better over time, which months have been better, etc. Amazon and BN.com both lay out earnings by month in spreadsheets, by title, that make it pretty easy to tally things up.

    Every time I do an update on the indie side, it’s an eye-opener. People are making REAL money out there! No, not everyone is making it big, and it’s possible I get more data from those doing well than those who aren’t, but the numbers keep growing. That’s SO encouraging! In fact, it’s lit a fire under me to get the rest of MY reverted backlist up before Christmas, if I possibly can! And that YA series I’ve been shopping? Well…. I just might go indie with that, too!

    Excellent post, Theresa!

    • Hi Brenda, I’m so glad you stopped by. I love your site and have been checking in for YEARS! Thank you for all of you’ve done…all the time spent compiling information and sharing the data. Love it!

      How often should we send you updates? Every six months? Once a year? I know it’s time for me to update the info I sent you over six months ago.

      Also, good luck getting your backlist up before Christmas and I hope to see your YA listed as a new release sooner rather than later!

      • D.D. Scott says:

        Count me in, Brenda! I followed you for years when I was travelling the TradiPub Road to Publication, but had no idea that you were now tracking Indie Numbers too! U Go, Girl! I’ll send you all my data!!!

        And thanks again to you, Theresa, for treating us to this wonderful scoop on Brenda’s latest data collection!!!

  15. Stacy Green says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Theresa. My first book is releasing with a small press in November, but I plan to go Indie after that. I’d love to know some of your marketing efforts and what you did for your sales to climb.

    In regard to a business plan, I love that idea, but as a newbie still, what all needs to go into that? Firm release dates? Editors? Budget (that’s a bit tough because for me, that will depend on revenue from books in part), cover artists, etc?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Stacy, I know there are some great marketing tips on this website. I will find the links and post them for you. Click on the “resources” tab and you’ll find all sort of great stuff!

      After I self-published my first two romance novels, I spent three months, 24/7, commenting on blogs and building a free website and posting at least once a week. I signed up for a blog tour, which is time consuming but I really do think every author who is just getting started learning how to promote themselves should give it a shot. Maybe other people here can give you a good blog tour to start with. I used IBC and like I said it’s all time consuming, but you just want to give yourself a little push in the beginning. I do think the fact that I had been writing for so long and I knew so many writers and finaling in the Golden Heart…I think all of that helped get the word out that I had released a few books.

      As I mentioned in an article here at the WG2E, I also made a movie video trailer that I posted on Author Central over on Amazon.com. That’s probably the least of your worries, though. Get your website going, free using Blogger or WordPress, and then show off your book covers and blurbs on Facebook and Twitter. Get your name out there!

      Hopefully more people will chime in with what they did starting out.

      Your business plan could be as short and sweet as: I plan to release 1 book and 1 novella before Christmas 2012. I plan to make $500. In 2013, I plan to release ___ # of books and so on….

      If you write romance, you can join IRI. You can find lists of editors and cover artists and much more. Here is the link:

      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndieRomanceInk/

      • I second Theresa’s suggestion to join IRI. It’s a great group of indie romance writers who are very willing to share their experience and encourage you when you need it.

        • Denise, I know you’re super busy, but if you get a moment can you share more details of what went into your 23 page business plan?!

          Thank you for sharing such great information already!

          And everyone here might want to check out Denise’s bestselling The Chosen series!

      • Stacy Green says:

        Thanks. My novels are more suspense and less romance, so I’m not sure if they’d be willing to take me. My debut novel is more romantic suspense than the one I’m going to release in the spring.

        I do have a blog, and my feature post, Thriller Thursday, is going well. Have been blogging about 18 months. Will have a web site up and running before book launch. I actually have two blog tours planned out, one for charity and one a more traditional tour, and will also be doing a tour with Partners in Crime. I’m also pretty active on a lot of blogs and try to be on FB and Twitter as well.

        And I agree, I would love to hear more about Denise’s business plan.

  16. I’d be very interested to see how things parse out by genre, i.e., how much, on average, would a romance novelist self-publisher earn versus a fantasy novelist who is self-published. Comparing these numbers to traditional advances/earnings would provide some really interesting data, and might be a good reality check for people’s (read: my) expectations.

  17. Sheri Alexander says:

    I can’t resist chiming in with a comment on how the type of genre an author writes in affects her/his ability to readily get useful input. A writer definitely has a ‘leg up’ on the situation if they are writing in any form of romance because there are so many great contests and groups to join within that genre.

    I write RS and thrillers – but there are very, very few writing contests out there for thrillers. It’s really kind of sad, but it says a LOT for how supportive the female-author community is compared to the largely male-dominant thriller community. ITW is one of the few out there.

    So, with that said, MUCHO KUDOS to the powerful and smart women in writing who are enabling the emerging ones. Blessings to all of you!

    • Sheri, please do keep chiming in! You make a great point.

      I hope everyone will keep chiming in, whether it’s about genre, pricing, money, business plans, marketing! Chime away, write D.D.?!

      And DITTO on what Sheri said about KUDOS to all of the powerful and smart women who are nothing but encouraging and supportive of all writers! Love this.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Sherri, can Indie authors join ITW? They don’t accept my publisher for my debut, and I suppose my indie release will be more mystery suspense, but I’m leaning more toward thriller/suspense with my trilogy. Thanks!

  18. Sibel Hodge says:

    Woo hoo – super congrats!

    “$107,816.07 is what I earned in my best month as a self-published author (2/12).”

    I’ve just picked myself off the floor :)

    • LOL, Sibel. I remember the first few months in 2011 when I realized that I actually might not have to get a “real” job after my youngest daughter headed off for college…that moment when I thought gosh, I just might be able to stay home full time and write. I told my husband that I might actually make some money writing my novels and he just smiled and said, “That’s nice, Honey.” Ha. He’s always been super supportive. He’s the one who would come home and seem me weeping as I read another rejection letter and say, “You shouldn’t write if it’s not any fun anymore.” And yet, I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone when I saw that I might make a couple of thousand dollars because nobody believed me…not until the first two deposits were made into my account. :)

      Thanks for the congrats!

      • Lynn Cahoon says:

        Theresa,
        I love your candidness. My hubby is very supportive, even though since I work full time, I spend more time on the computer at home writing than with him. (Wait, maybe that’s his evil plan…. LOL)

        Right now I’m making pennies, but I’m learning. And for me, that’s worth the price of admission. Will I self publish? More than likely. I just want to make sure I have the best book I can out there for readers to love. And then a few more.

        Thanks for giving us a road map.

  19. LC says:

    Great discussion! Thanks, Theresa and D.D. I just tweeted about this post. Very encouraging to Indies.

  20. Alison Pensy says:

    Thanks for the great info, Theresa! I am going to check out Brenda’s website and send her my data. I didn’t even know it existed. Yet another piece of knowledge I have learned from this amazing site. Thanks!

  21. Oh, my goodness, what a fantastic post, Theresa! I so appreciate your sharing the actual numbers and steps taken to get where you have gotten. An overnight success and it only took you 20 years!

    Thanks for the link to Brenda Hiatt’s page. I’ll check it out and post my numbers, too. I have set a goal to do 4 books a year and so far I’m on track. #3 comes out the first of September and #4 will be out by Thanksgiving. In 2011 I did not set a schedule for myself and I can see how it kept me from producing what I am this year. It’s butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, with a goal of so many words per day or words per week.

    By the way, I love your writing style. You’re doing a phenomenal job!

  22. David Slegg says:

    Hi, Theresa.

    Wow. What an inspiring post. It sounds like you’ve made it to the promised land. Thanks so much for sharing.

    I wish you continued success and happy writing.

  23. This is a terrific discussion. It’s encouraging to see so many authors taking control of every aspect of their careers and making a living (modest or more).

    I just released my first novel this month and am on track to have 100 books sold. That exceeds my initial goal, and I can only hope to double that each month. But when I started down this path (self-publishing and writing, in general), I created a 10-year plan with my ultimate goal to be earning $50K per year. I’m definitely a tortoise when it comes to writing, but slow and deliberate is how I produce my best work and, ultimately, if I’m not happy with the final manuscript, I can’t feel comfortable offering it for sale to readers. This is my product, and I need to be able to stand behind it 100%. While it’s too early to tell, I suspect my sales will be slow and steady, just like my writing, and eventually I will win the race.

    • Hi Monica, I LOVE the 10 year plan idea! And an ultimate goal, etc. this is great. Slow and steady will definitely win the race. Wishing you all the best!

  24. Hi, Theresa! Great post! I love your attitude and the way you continue to inspire other writers! My sales are just starting to break into the numbers I’ve worked so hard to gain. But of course there is alway more to do. I keep that Nora Roberts quote you once gave –about not believing in writer’s block — on my desk right where I see it daily. Congrats on your success. It is so well deserved. :)

    • Hi Alicia, I have a new quote that I have on my white board and I look at it all day. It says…”Be Norah. Focus!”

      It keeps me writing when I get distracted. :)

  25. Liliana Hart says:

    Theresa!

    Thanks again for always being so open about your numbers and your journey. I love to hear the updates, and I love to collect data about the business from so many authors who are doing so well. I’ve been self-pubbed since June of 2011, and I love that we’re all in control of our own careers. I never imagined I’d be making the kind of money I’m making today. My first month self-pubbing I made $283. By January of 2012 I was making almost $20,000, and that blew my mind considering we’d been living on one teacher’s salary. Last month I made just under $100,000. IN ONE MONTH!

    I do agree that no author’s journey is going to be the same as another’s. But I believe that if you continue to write good books and build steadily over time, then you can have a very satisfying career and make a living doing this with a lot of hard work and elbow grease. I work all the time. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I agree with Sherri that romance definitely has a leg up on sales and the writing community in general. It’s a group who are very supportive of each other, and everyone is willing to share and help out if someone needs it.

    Great post, Theresa! Your success is well deserved, and I know you’ll keep building your career higher and higher. The sky is the limit.

    • Liliana, I think we’d all love to hear how you went from $283 the first month to almost $100,000 is a little over one year. I know I’d certainly be interested.

      • Mia says:

        From looking at the book list on Liliana’s site, it looks like she had built up quite the library of unpublished books (19 in 7 years or something similar in her bio). Releasing 19 books would drive sales up so quickly, if they are good reads… anyone who finds one of the 19, reads it and likes it, is likely to buy the others.

        Point being, she had a big unpublished backlist. I think it is much harder to do that kind of monthly sales figure with a single book than it is with many books where the sales are spread amongst them.

    • Hi Liliana, thanks so much for sharing your numbers. I love it! $283 to $100,000 in a year. That’s awesome. And I see a common thread…hard work and putting in the time seems to equal more sales. Not only with the writing, but with the promotion and marketing.

      Love your attitude!

  26. Theresa,

    A year ago you were my inspiration for stepping into the self-publishing arena. The transparency of your sales numbers encouraged me to do some research into how well self-published books were performing in my genre. What I found convinced me to pull the manuscript from the agents considering it, and publish it myself. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

    So I think it’s fitting that I add to the sales data for everyone. 11.5 months ago I self-published a romantic thriller. I was an unknown author, with no name recognition and no publishing background. I did a month long blog tour to introduce my book, as well as set up other guest blogs through sites I knew readers gathered. I also posted the book, one scene at a time, to Wattpad, where it quickly gathered a following. Some of my first sales were to wattpadders, as we’re my first reviews.

    I published the book Sept 7th, 2011. September’s royalties were right around $400 dollars. In mid-October about half way through my blog tour, the book took off. Since then my lowest monthly royalty was $2800 for October. My highest monthly royalty was $12,800 for Febuary. Most the time it averages between $4500-6000 a month.

    I sold the book, along with the next three books in the series to Montlake Romance last spring. Earlier this week I pulled my version of the book down since Montkake will be publishing their version soon. Since Sept 7th, in 11.5 months, this book has sold 42,635 copies (KDP select borrows are included in this figure. Since we get paid for them, I count them as a sale) and earned me $82, 608 in royalties.

    If I hadn’t run across your sales figures last summer, I wouldn’t have looked into self-publishing, which means I wouldn’t be living my dream of making my living off my writing.

    So thank you, your transparency help make this possible.

    • I think that it’s important to stress that Trish’s totals are for ONE BOOK.

      • Oh yeah,

        Thank you for pointing that out, Denise. I meant to mention at the end I only had the one book out. Which means I have nothing up now, and I am going through dashboard withdrawals. December, which is when I’ll be putting up my next self-pubbed title, seems so far away.:(

        • Trish was fantastically lucky with her sales on one book, but if you have sales of 500-700 a month for each one of MULTIPLE books, you don’t have to have massive sales on one to make money. Plus, books/series peak and fall, then with promotion peak again. The key is to try to time your series so that when one is falling, another is climbing.

          • There’s no doubt the authors who are making the “crazy” money have multiple books up, and often multiple series. Series within certain genres can be a gold mine.

        • Super exciting though! December will be here before you know it!

    • Ahhh, Trish, this gives me chills and I think you’re probably giving me way too much credit but it’s so nice to hear! Thank you!

      Major thanks also for sharing your story and your numbers. Like Denise said, those are some serious numbers for ONE book! Awesome.

      I had no idea that you did a month long blog tour or that you used Wattpad. That’s good to know! I love your story and I’m wishing you MEGA success with Montlake. They are lucky to have you.

      • My first blog tour was through Bewitching Blog tours. But I did a second one through Chic-lit blog tours in early spring. I credit the books early success with its first blog tour and posting it to Wattpad. But it’s ongoing success was due to enrolling it into KDP select and working the free promo.

        • Thanks so much, Trish. Did you keep your book enrolled in KDP the entire time…since it’s release? When you did FREE, did you do one day at a time? Do you think FREE has the same power it used to have?

          Curious minds want to know every detail! :)

          • I enrolled in KDP Select in the middle of December, this was after three months of trying to spur sales on B&N, Apple, Kobo, and Sony and having little luck. By then I had figured out ways to goose Amazon sales, but the other distributors alluded me. To give everyone an example, after three months I’d sold close to 10,000 on Amazon and less than 200 between all the other distributors combined. When Amazon offered Select, I took a wait and see attitude and sat back and watched what happened to the books on it. It didn’t take me long to realize the power of the free promo, and how much more money I could make by enrolling in Select, so I did.

            The free promos back in Dec-March had incredible power. I did two days on the first one and it netted me 40K free downloads, it hit number 2, in the free store and when it went back to paid it dropped all the way down to #30 in the kindle store before it started to climb again. The first week after going back to paid it sold over 7K books and made around $12,500. It took two months to reach the rank/sales it was getting prior to going free.

            Of course that was during the glory days of the free promo. Amazon seemed to change the algos for the free promo at some point in May. But I’ve found it’s still fairly easy to push sales through the free promo if you strategise the timing of the free run. You can usually push sales for at least another six weeks. The more downloads, the better the book performs post free, so going free for longer than two days now will give most people better results. If you have a string of books you can rotate through Select, I’d do one book every two months and run the full five days on it, get the maximum amount of downloads and when the sales start dwindling do the next book for five days.

            There’s no doubt that non KDP select books can goose sales with free by trying to get Amazon to price match a free book and using that to goose their other sales. And this has worked very well for alot of authors. I don’t know what these authors sales are like at the other distributors, but most the books I see on Amazon that have had the most successful free runs have been through Select. You can strategise the promo in KDP, which really does effect sales, not just of the book that was previously free, but of that authors backlist.

            Gennita Low and I are going to do an experiment with her books, see if we can boost them to the top of the RS Bestsellers list, and run up her sales through some free promos. She has prime books for some serious sales- they are military thrillers which are huge on the RS Bestsellers list. But she hasn’t gotten the visibility she needs. So we are going to see if running some free promos strategically will change that.

        • Stacy Green says:

          Trish, how do you figure out how to utilize the free promo and get your books up in the algorithms? I’ve heard it’s possible and that it’s not possible. I’ve heard KDP select is good, and I’ve heard it’s not good anymore.

          Thanks!

  27. As a newly published indie author (July 2012) who is making between 2-5 sales a day on Amazon without any marketing except for few tweets a day and one blog post a week, I see the potential and possibility of indie publishing. It is an exciting time to be an author, and the people who are writing about their success stories on this site are incredibly inspiring. More than anything, we are so lucky to be living in a day and age when we can make our writing dreams come true. My mother wrote her entire life, saw many rejections, and now, in her 70s, is only now seeing the possibility of finally seeing her books in print. We live in a wonderful time . . . a time when we, as authors, are finally in the driver’s seat and can actually make our own dreams come true. We don’t need to wait around hoping to be discovered, we don’t need to rely on gatekeepers, we don’t need industry connections. All we need are writing ability, hard work, belief in ourselves, and perseverance. It’s a wonderful time.

  28. Riley, wow, what a terrific comment!!! It really is an exciting time to be an author. It’s been said many times, but that’s because it’s so true. And good job on being patient with your sales…2 to 5 books a day and you’ve just begun. Wonderful!

    And go, MOM!

  29. Lynn Crain says:

    What a great post! There are so many good suggestions here…and…amazingly I’ve been doing a lot of them for years. I’d taken a Franklin Planner class in the 1980s and knew the promise of planning things out. Eighteen months ago when I thought I might do the self-publishing thing, I ran the numbers. I practically do everything by numbers.

    I have a daily plan, a weekly plan, a monthly plan, a yearly plan, a five-year plan and a ten-year plan. Some are big goals, some are little. All of them get somewhat incorporated in my business plan that I started over ten years ago. That plan has shifted three times in the last 18 months. I had some life issues: a move to a foreign country as well as an illness this past spring that made me adjust things slightly.

    When I ran the numbers, I used word count as my basis for pricing my books. I then ran those prices through my own shredder and came up with what I could earn by selling them through the various venues. I looked at those numbers then figured out my break even point with each price. I then made a budget for each book and knew exactly what I had for editing, cover art, proofing, formatting and the left over for paid promotions.

    While I’m slowly earning it back on my first two books, it’s not the windfall that most people expect. The first one I went through an aggregator called BookBaby and have decided that will need to change a little. They have some venues that no one else has. If those prove to be money makers, I might justify the cost but right now, never again. The only other place I put the first book was Smashwords and ARe.

    Now, the second I approached differently. Did the Amazon, PubIt, ARe, Smashwords and BookBaby route. Sales have been slow but I just got my first Amazon payment of about $15 and I’m jumping for joy only because it’s the first. Yes, it’s on the lower end but the fact that I just published in June and it takes time to build readers up, makes up for the low number.

    In this business one needs to be pragmatic, resourceful as well as realistic. The cliche ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ could easily be translated for writers to say ‘Your writing career isn’t built in a day.’ The word expectation should be replaced with the word hopeful as that is truly what people need to be. If one plans the work, then works the plan…you will get exactly what you want…patience is the key.

    I just had a discussion on the IndieRomanceInk/Author Network loops about my lack of patience. Right now that is my biggest source of discontentment as I look at my ‘To Do’ list and know that I’m precisely where I should be in my current business plan.

    Again, thanks for a wonderful post…it’s is truly something to look forward to achieving.

    Lynn

  30. Hi Lynn, thanks for the thoughtful post. I really like the way your outlook and I so agree that patience is key. Also, just a thought, but I wonder if the initial rush writers felt to hurry and get their books out there was because it took a while to see that more and more people were buying ereaders and that the digital age was here to stay! We have time to write great stories, hire an editor, and write a business plan, too. :)

  31. Such an inspiring post — thank you! I’m on the cusp of making the leap into self publishing, and it is amazingly helpful to read posts by authors who have made it happen. I know it’s hard work, but to be able to follow a life’s passion? What could be better? Thank you again for a terrific post full of encouragement but also nuts and bolts.