The first month I published a book in 2018, I made $115. Which totally excited me! People were reading my book! I wrote and published a book! But the goal was always a CAREER. I joked (but not really) about building an Emma Empire.
Three years later, I made $26k in February 2021 and am slated to make over $20k this March. Want some takeaways? I’ve got ’em!
(In the episode for this, I mentioned a deeper training, but I’m not going to do that. You can still go to Deep Dive and find some good resources!)
LISTEN TO EPISODE 202- LESSONS LEARNED IN THREE YEARS AS AN AUTHOR
LESSONS LEARNED: MOVING FROM $115/MONTH TO $26k
Over the past few years, I’ve learned a lot. Many things… the hard way. I’ll hopefully share what I did wrong in another post, but here are some big takeaways as I’ve moved to a new income bracket.
At least, for now. Here’s the thing: this is a fickle business. Things are great now. I’m scrappy and smart, but things change month to month. That is super important to note. Also? If I’m not clear about this: there isn’t some simple success formula. I’m sharing what works and what worked for me, but there are so many factors involved.
I want the BEST for you, so here are my best tips and takeaways.
DON’T DO THINGS THAT WASTE TIME
Have I mentioned my biggest pet peeve? It’s other people wasting my time. I also don’t want you to waste your time. Can we all agree to stop doing things that waste time?
I’ve gotten specific about this in other places, like Episode 171 and Episode 148. As I worked and grew, I learned what things that might have worked when I was doing a lifestyle blog did NOT work to move the needle as an author.
Here are a few things that waste time:
Growing social media numbers, especially Twitter. These social things don’t usually bring in book sales and often the quick methods people use are growing NUMBERS not really READERS or FOLLOWERS.
- What you should do instead: grow your email list!
Blogging. So many authors are asking me if they should blog and what they should blog about. Blogging can work. It falls under content strategy. But guess what? Most readers just want to read books. The blog world has changed. Blogging CAN work (read this post on how), but it’s usually not going to bring book sales or traffic, and instead just be one more thing you’re trying to spend time growing.
- What you should do instead: write your books!
The biggest things that you should do: write books, grow your email list, and learn marketing as you go. Set aside some learning time for books, podcasts, YouTube videos, and paid trainings to help you on your journey.
DO GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST
This is always going to be the foundation of my author platform, and probably what I’ll always suggest for yours. I’ve explained the why of this before, but email has so many benefits. If you’re going to do just ONE thing, this would be the thing I’d suggest.
Here are a few resources:
Email isn’t everyone’s favorite thing. But we’re creatives! You can totally do this. It’s a great way to connect with your readers. It has been shown to sell more books than social.
DO BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER AUTHORS
Oh, man! One thing that really helped me was forging relationships with other authors! We have each other’s backs. We encourage each other. We help promote each other’s work.
Yes, there have been some rocky times, and I’ve got some tips to avoid those.
But overall, you can learn so much from other people in your space. Before I had books out, I tried to make myself helpful in groups. I gave freely, hoping but not expecting things to come back to me.
There are groups all over Facebook by genre. Find some groups for your genre and dive in. As always in groups, pay attention to the group rules and the feel of the group before you jump into posting or asking questions that might be answered in the welcome post or something.
DO READ AND KNOW THE MARKET
I did this all kinds of wrong when I first started. It’s not always easy, especially when you’re maybe studying a category that’s allllll over the place. Bigger categories usually are. Smaller ones can be too. But you want to learn to look at information like publisher–is it an indie or not?
You can try to market your books like traditionally published books, but remember those books have a publisher behind them. With money. And relationships with bookstores and Amazon that we don’t have.
Our covers need to be more on the nose. They need to be clear right from the start. Our books need to hit the tropes and things readers expect for certain genres. Spend time reading and looking at things like blurbs, covers, and reviews to see what people like and don’t like about the genres.
DO CONSIDER TRENDS, BUT DON’T CHASE THEM LONG TERM
The first series I started to write was my Sandover Beach series. I LOVE those books. I wanted to write beach books. And they just sold … okay. Over the years, especially after getting new covers, they’ve sold MUCH better.
But when I published my first billionaire book? I made it to four figures and stayed there ever since.
The funny thing is that I felt super eye-rolly about billionaire books and started writing one making fun of billionaire books. Like … a meta satire. Just for fun. And then I fell in love with the character and stories. I realized that as long as I wrote characters I liked, I could follow that trend I had rolled my eyes at.
Here’s the thing: trends come and go. Seeing and capitalizing on trends can help you. It definitely helped me find new readers as I was just starting out.
But chasing trends isn’t a great choice for longevity. If you keep chasing every trend that comes along, what will readers know to expect from you? Who ARE you? This will tie into the next one.
And you might want to check out my post on writing to trend vs writing to market.
EXPERIMENT, BUT WITH THE GOAL OF CARVING OUT YOUR OWN SPACE AND BEING CONSISTENT
I experimented a lot. I tried trends, I tried various multi-author projects and went down some rabbit holes. Sometimes you have to do that to find out who you are and to find out what works for you.
BUT. It’s important to land somewhere. Become the writer you want to be and keep it consistent for your readers. Let them know what to expect from you. When you deliver what readers expect, it builds trust. When you go off-path and off-brand, your super-duper fans may follow, but you may lose some people who are confused by the departure from your norm.
I’ve realized over time just how important this is, and I’m working on creating consistent content: clean romcoms with humor and heart. I have some backlist series to finish up, but my new direction going forward is this one. Period. Departures will go into a pen name.
Who are you? What do you want to write? What do your readers already expect? Can you find an intersection between what readers are looking for (trends) and what you want to write? That’s a happy place to be.
Then keep showing up with that kind of content.
Does that sound overly simple? Sometimes, I think it is. Find out what readers want from you and what you want to give them. Then hunker down in that sweet spot and get cozy.
I hope these tips help! I’m still working hard, watching the numbers, and planning to keep on building the Emma Empire. It’s taken some highs, lows, and for sure some frustrations.
But it is a joy to write things I love and also make money doing so! Isn’t that the dream???