A Strategy for Making Money as An Author

Today’s post is inspired by a new author who was on Facebook and wanted to know how to be successful.

Successful in this case means “make a lot of money”. Very few authors actually ever come right out and say this, but that’s what “success” and “successful” mean. So that’s the approach I’m going to take in this post.

First of all, I see nothing wrong with a writer who wants to make money. What other profession out there will demand someone do the work for free? A book is a product the customer can consume. The author is providing something someone else can either learn from or enjoy. And authors have bills to pay just like everyone else. So there’s no reason to shame any writer for wanting to make money. Also, there’s no reason to shame any writer for wanting to simply have fun writing and publishing without giving any thought to money. I get tired of these endless debates over whether writers can be called a “serious” writer if they make money or not. A writer who is serious about writing is a “serious” writer.

Alright, that mini-rant aside, let’s get to my advice to new authors whose goal is to make money. I really only have two main points.

1. Write what will sell.

This means you have to think of the market when you create your book. Yeah, I know that sucks for some of us who are driven by passion. This is why my mission isn’t to focus on writing for the sake of making money. I used to do that, and I made way more than I do today, but I wasn’t happy writing for that reason. So I shifted to writing for fun. My income has taken a drop because of it. I still make some money, but it’s nothing like what I used to make. The kind of books you write will impact your potential for maximizing your income. In addition to writing books that are popular in your genre, you will need to get an awesome cover and an awesome book description. Also, the book will have to be good. It has to be interesting enough for readers to keep reading. So you need to hit multiple levels in this approach.

There are a lot of You Tube videos, articles, and books on how to write to market (some will call this writing to trend). You can also browse bestselling books in your genre. What things do those books have in common? Remember, NEVER copy anyone. Plagiarism is wrong. But there are some general tropes and story themes that are used so much that they’re fair game. Plenty of people have already done the work narrowing down how to write to market, and this information is free if you take the time to search for it. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on courses to learn how to do this.

Now, I will add that while looking into writing what is popular in your genre, you can look for ways to mix in stuff you enjoy. This is a way to merge writing to market and writing for passion. Some authors do this very well. It’s the angle I went for, and it did yield good money. It also helped to sustain me for the long term, though eventually I ran out of ideas I was interested in and had to switch completely to writing for passion. Your mileage will vary. You might be able to do the market/passion blend indefinitely. No two authors are alike.

2. Publish fast.

Unless you have income coming in from other sources, you will need to get books out frequently, especially if you’re in a genre where readers read fast. The faster they read, the quicker you should be. I’m in romance, and those readers tell me they can read 2-3 books a day. So if I were to publish a book a week, that would work just fine with them. However, there is no way I can write that fast. I’ve tried different ways of increasing my word count, I settle on 6 (maybe 7) romances a year that average 60,000 words each. That’s only a new book out every other month. That is SLOW in romance. There is an author who writes 120,000 words a month, and she finishes three or more books in three weeks. I think she has full length novels and novellas. She makes a lot of money. I don’t. We’re both in romance. Speed is a factor in making money. You’ll have to research your genre to figure out the right amount of books you need to produce in order to maximize your income potential.

If you are unable to write at a speed that all will allow you release books at a consistent and fast pace, then I recommend hiring ghostwriters. I don’t hire ghostwriters because for me, the goal is to have fun creating the story and working with the characters. That is the payoff for me. The money is just icing on the cake. But if money is something you are most concerned about, I see nothing wrong with having help. Ghostwriters could use the money, and they’re willing to do the job. As long as readers enjoy the books, that’s all that matters. I know this is a sensitive topic in the writing community, but we’re talking about how to make the most money possible. This is a business decision. If you can’t write fast enough to make the kind of money you want, then this is a method to help you get more books out.

I have an author friend who uses ghostwriters. She comes up with the story idea and outlines it. Then she gives the job to the ghostwriter who writes it out for her. Afterwards, she goes through it to make sure it’s something she’s happy with, and then she publishes it. She does this while writing some books, too. She can’t keep up with the pace in her genre. Her words of caution, for anyone thinking of going into this, is to make sure you get a sample from the ghostwriter first. Give the ghostwriter a prompt and have them write a couple of paragraphs to give you an idea of their writing skills. Then you also want a ghostwriter who can work on a deadline and turns in work that doesn’t have a ton of errors in it. She also has more than one ghostwriter so that she always has a new book coming in to polish up and publish. She doesn’t have an assistant to help with this, but if you make enough money doing this strategy, I think an assistant to help with this would help you be even more efficient.

While I’m thinking of assistants, a lot of authors have them. Even ones who write all of their own books hire them. Assistants do a variety of jobs. They can upload the book, maintain the blog/website, post to social media, sort through emails to eliminate junk, and any other task. Assistants can help you in your quest to publish books faster. So that would be something else you can look into if it interests you. When looking at assistants, I would recommend getting personal recommendations from other authors they’ve worked with, if possible. I’ve never had an assistant, but it should be someone you can trust and be comfortable around.

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That’s it for my strategy for the authors out there. There are other things like advertising and such to help with the money side of things, but I don’t feel like going into the weeds on that. Without a good backlist, the ads and other forms of promotion won’t get you very far. If you do have a good backlist, then I would combine this information with other marketing strategies. There are plenty of books out there on this, and I personally hate marketing so I have no desire to write a post on it.

Elana M Johnson has written a Indie Inspiration for Self-Publishers series on rapid releasing, writing cover copy, and marketing. I have all three books, and while I’m personally not interest in doing over half the stuff she mentions, I did like the information she provided. These are books meant for writers who are looking to make money. This series is available across multiple retailers. I’m not going to take the time to put down all the links. Just go to your preferred retailer and search for her. She’s easy to find.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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8 Responses to A Strategy for Making Money as An Author

  1. I can get behind “write what you sell” to some degree. I mean, I think I tend to write stories that I can see being sold to publishers or directly to readers. Whether or not they are is another story. And while I can see the stories I write being sold to publishers, I mostly write them because the idea intrigues me and sounds fun. Otherwise, I wouldn’t write in such a niche market as horror.
    As for “publish fast”…sounds tempting, but that would require not only a higher output, but more time, money, and editing skills than I have. Plus being able to create covers, which is something I only have rudimentary skills in, and marketing. So I think I’ll pass.

    • The “write what you sell” is based on making money. Enthusiasm and passion have nothing to do with it. If you happen to like a genre that is already popular, it’s not hard to blend passion with the market, but it does wear you out if you aren’t 100% into those tropes. I burnt out because I was only about 50% into them. Some authors who are making good money hate what they’re writing. A couple have actually broken down and cried about it in the writing groups. To me, there’s no point in writing if you hate it. There are easier ways to make money.

      Horror typically doesn’t earn money. I’m not sure why. It’s a hugely underappreciated genre, in my opinion. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t give people the warm fuzzies, and most people want to feel all snuggly and comfortable.

      Yep, publishing fast would require money. It’s a pay-to-play setup with how the retailers (esp. Amazon’s KU) work. They reward fresh and new books. I swear, some authors can really crank them out. It seems like the majority of them hire an assistant.

      I pass on all of it, too. It holds no interest for me.

      • Well, there’s always the chance we’ll become famous later in life. In the meantime, better to work on what we’re passionate about, publish when we’re ready, and enjoy the fanbases we have. Am I right?

        • My gut tells me that those who write what they enjoy will win out over the long term. Books have intrinsic value, and those that are written from the heart are the ones that, I believe, will have meaning to those who read them years from now. People can tell when we write what we love. I also agree about enjoying the fanbases we already have. Those are people who are invested in us. They want our books because we wrote them. No one else can come in and duplicate what we’re doing. You can imitate tropes, but you can’t imitate passion.

  2. I think you nailed it! And nailed the reasons I’ve gotten sick of writing, LOL!

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