Indie publishers have taken on the challenge for the purpose of making money. What things can you do to increase your chances of profitability?
A couple years ago, Ricci Wolman of Written Word media, looked at this question. They surveyed three segments of writers to find out what mattered. The segments were
1) Emerging writers.
2) Writes making 60K+/year from book sales.
3) Writers making 100K+/year from book sales.
There were few surprises! The elements to making a living at writing have been clear for a long time. But they emphasized the critical importance of a few things.
First, write the best book possible. That’s easy to say, but hard to do! If your manuscript is the first one you’ve ever written, I’m sorry, but it has little chance of success. Writing is a craft that can be learned, but it often takes a couple years. I know you won’t believe me, and will likely publish that first manuscript anyway. Fine. You’ll learn from it.
Second, write and release more books. Emerging writers had about six books, while 60Kers had 22 books, and the 100Kers had 28 books. When you publish that first book, it carries the entire burden of producing income. When you have 28 books that’s spread across all the books; to reach 100K, each book only needs to generate an average of $3571/year. Much easier! Each book incrementally adds to your bottom line.
PUBLISH PROFESSIONAL WORK
Third, treat your publishing as a job. The 100Kers spend a median of 32 hours/week writing (or four eight-hour days). 60Kers write 28 hours/week, while emerging writers only spend 18 hours/week. The more you can write, the more you can publish. It’s simple, really.
Fourth, hire professional editors. 78% of 100Kers work with copyeditors and/or developmental editors. 68% of 60Kers find editing a crucial step. Emerging writers employ editors 56% of the time. The indie publishing industry has grown up since it’s early days and readers just won’t tolerate spelling, punctuation, and story problems.
Fifth, like the text, the covers (and picture book illustrations) need professional illustrators. 48% of emerging writers use professionals for their covers. 72% of the 60Kers and 80% of the 100Kers use professional artists. While the survey didn’t cover illustrated picture books, I’m sure the statistics will hold true for them, as well.
Sixth, find effective promotional strategies. The 100Kers ranked promotional sites (such as Bookbub, Freebooksy, BargainBooksy, etc) as the most effective marketing. Effective, but less so, were Amazon ads, social media, Facebook ads, in person promos, Bookbub ads, book giveaways, and newsletter swaps.
Seventh, it’s fine to go exclusive with Amazon for ebook sales or to take your ebooks wide to a variety of distributors. Either strategy worked. The key is to choose and stick with it.
Eighth, price to market. One of the starkest differences in their survey was that 100Kers often have a free book, and often price lower at $3.99 - $5.99. These exact figures can change depending on genre and as time goes on, trends may change. Still the key is to price to market.
Surveys like Written Word Media point up the crucial points to remember if you wish to make a living from your writing:
Write! A lot!
Produce a professional book.