I really love the posts Written Word Media come up with. This one looks into a survey results from over 1,300 authors. Here is the post if you want to read it.
Today, I’m just going to focus on the things that stood out to me while reading their post. There is a lot of information in that post. I think it’s worth taking the time to read through it.
My initial thought while looking at the chart in the post was that Bookbub Deals is still credited for having a good marketing impact. From the Facebook posts I’ve seen this year, I was under the assumption that Bookbub was no longer as effective as it once was, but this survey seems to argue that Bookbub is still a good player in an author’s marketing arsenal.
My second thought was that authors making good money are not necessarily writing all the time. They’re also not marketing all the time. This means these authors have time in the week to pursue other things. So this idea that a writer has to be stuck at a computer 40 hours a week in order to make a living at their work, is a myth. When I’m not trying to move, I typically spend about four hours a day out of five days a week on writing. Then I spend about maybe ten hours a week on marketing. Knowing what you’re going to write before you sit down at the computer goes a long way in making the most of your writing time. Even a panster (like me) can make some good progress if I know what is going to happen when I sit down at the computer. My trick is to leave a writing session with a couple of sentences that lead into the next writing session. Plotters will have a more defined system in place. But it is good news that an author doesn’t have to wear themselves out by putting in long work days in order to complete their books.
Also, it’s good news that you don’t have to wear yourself out by marketing all the time. Seventeen hours a week was the most authors in this survey put in for marketing, though it’s more like ten to thirteen for some. Marketing is a large category. It’s not just ads. Marketing can be things like updating your site, making a blog post, doing a video, and engaging with readers in some way (including social media and emails). Every little bit adds up. Now, the priority should be the writing. It’s hard to market a book that isn’t published.
Stage 1 writers (those making $0-$249 a month) do most of their own editing or have family/friends edit for them. In my opinion, people should not hate on these authors for choosing this method of editing. These authors are barely making anything, and with people feeling the effects of inflation, it is hard for them to have the spare money to spend on a professional editor. We should also not assume that every indie author lacks editing skills. Some authors are acquainted with the grammar rules and have a solid feel for storytelling. As for what these authors spend on covers, you don’t need to spend a lot on a cover in order to have an attractive one. There are pre-made covers that make it very affordable to get something of good quality. I spend about $100 on my covers. If you have the money to spare, then by all means, invest in a professional editor and a cover artist. If you don’t, don’t go into debt for this stuff. You need to cash flow things when you’re a writer. Writing income is too much of a roller coaster to take on the risk of debt. Also, you can always barter services to get your stuff done. You don’t need to spend money.
Stage 2 writers (those making $250-$499 a month) find social media to be a waste of time. I thought that was interesting. I agree with them about social media taking up way too much time and yielding too little results. Time is better spent elsewhere if you’re going to market your book. I don’t participate in newsletter swaps because it is so hard to find someone who writes books comparable to mine, but I did find it interesting that quite a few authors benefit from this strategy. If you are going to engage in newsletter swaps, you need to be a good fit for that swap. You are looking to gain an audience that another author already has and vice versa. It makes no sense for a steamy romance author, for example, to do a newsletter swap with a clean romance author. Also, it does no good for a wide author to do a newsletter swap with a KU author. The two have very different audiences. So if you do these swaps, make sure you are a good fit for it.
Stage 3 writers (those making $500-$999 a month) take the initial dip into audiobooks. You start making some good money by this time, and that prompts you to start thinking about alternative formats to get your books into. Each format is a different avenue to get onto a reader’s radar. I also found it interesting that this particular group pointed out free books as a key element in their success. If I had to choose between running a promo on a free book versus running an Amazon or Facebook ad, I would go with the free book promo. I realize this doesn’t work for all genres, but if you’re in romance, I would definitely give the free book a try, esp. if that book is the first book in a series.
Stage 4 writers (those making $1,000-$2,499 a month) have not ruled out editing their own books, though it’s a smaller amount than those in Stage 1. I thought that was interesting. So not all the “poorly selling books” out there have been self-edited. Some books that have gained traction have authors who do their own editing, too. As I mentioned earlier, you can’t say that all authors are unqualified to edit their own book. That aside, I thought it was also interesting that this is where the value of in-person events took a downturn for most authors. I have found in-person events to be a waste of time if you’re looking to make money. Most people will just sit and talk to you without buying the book, and while that is fine if you have a lot of free time on your hands, it’s not fine when you need to make the most of your time. Online sales is where the bulk of the money is at.
At Stage 5 (those making $2,500-$4,999 a month), writers are starting to hire assistants to help with marketing. This tells me that quite a few authors would rather write than market. That makes me feel better since I hate marketing. I would rather just sit and write, too. But I have met a few authors who would rather market than write. (It boggles my mind, but I’m sure I make no sense to them, too. :P) Anyway, this group of writers also seem to realize that doing most of what works is better than wasting your time on every new thing that pops up. This is the stage where most authors get focused. I think it takes time to figure out where each individual author finds the most success. We all have different strengths to pull from. Just because one author sees wild success in one area, it doesn’t mean another author will. At this stage, my guess is that these authors are finding out where their sweet spots are.
From this point on, the blog post pretty much came up with same results that boiled down to this: authors making the most money will be more likely to pay an editor, a cover artist, and someone to help with marketing. These authors have the money to do it, so it makes sense. Also, they have learned that the by giving someone else these tasks to do, it frees them up to write more books. So even if an author can edit their own book, make their own cover, and do their own marketing, they might not want to do it simply so they can do more writing (or maybe they want to spend more time with family/friends, etc). We don’t all end up wanting to seal ourselves in a room to write all the time when we’ve been at this writing gig for a good number of years. It’s easy to be consumed by writing when you’re starting out. It’s like being in love. At first, you want to spend all of your time with your love interest, but the day comes when you’d rather hang out with a friend or be alone. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the person; it just means you remember all the fun you had with other people or by yourself. Writing is like that. It consumes you for a while, but eventually, you start to want to go back to some other interests, too. This is why I think that none of these authors are writing 40 hours a week. We want to also have a life. 😀