How To Make A Living Writing Fiction
If you’re a writer there’s nothing better than getting paid for it. Having that monthly bank lodgement from Amazon, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital hitting your bank on a monthly basis is one thing all writers would love to see, and that’s what I’m going to cover in today’s blog post. So, how to make a living writing fiction, read on to find out.
I’ll be upfront it’s a little longer than I usually write my posts, but I wanted to give you as much good advice as I could.
How To Make Money Writing Fiction.
To self publish or not to self publish that is the question. Well actually it’s not a question, the only answer is to self publish your work. I’m not going to get into the argument of why traditional published authors are better than self published authors, because there is none. Well there is, traditionally published authors, as Zig Ziglar would put it, ‘Raise skinny kids.’
If you’re one of those people that would rather hold off on your earning for a little pat on the head, go for it. But because you’re reading this post, I’ll take a wager that you’d rather make money as soon as possible and make lots of it to boot.
As I said, if you want to make money writing fiction the only option for you is to self publish. Self publishing your work allows you to be in total control of where your work is being sold and for how much. But as Uncle Ben from Spiderman would say, ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’
If you bring a book to market that’s got a poor book cover, lousy description, hasn’t been properly edited and proofread properly, your market is going to let you know with poor book sales and scathing reviews.
So although you’ve got the freedom of where and how much your work is going to be sold for, it’s up to you that make sure your work can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the traditionally published writers.
* That’s one benefit of having a traditionally published contract, but you’re paying for all those services with a reduced earnings. 🙂
But before we get further into the topic of how to self publish your work you’ll need to see what’s actually selling, because there’s nothing worse than writing for an audience that isn’t there.
Look At The Marketplace To See What’s Selling
While there are many ways to see what’s selling, by going into the Amazon kindle store and looking for the best selling book in each category, you need to be aware that not all categories in a given genre are the same.
Taking the romance genre for example, you’ll find it breaks down into subcategories. These include, historical romance, contemporary, romantic comedy, new adult & college, suspense, fantasy, and military. And these are only the top options, if you want to you can go even deeper than that.
So although a romance book, based on military romance, could be a bestseller in the total store ranking, the rest of the books mightn’t be doing so well because it’s a weak selling category. And if you set out to write a military romance based on the little research you did, you may be surprised to find it flop and make very little sales.
Other factors might have gone into the spike in sales for that book could be due to the author pushing sales to the book using Facebook ads, Bookbub ads, or a promotion that you’ve no knowledge of. In this case it’s wise to check out the top ten in each subcategory and take note of their sales rank in the Amazon store.
If you’d like to find the book sales you’ll find the sales rank, if you scroll down the page. It looks like this…
* If you’d like to see how many copies a kindle book sells based on sales rank, this is a handy calculator to use.
Another handy tool you can use to find bestselling categories is the KDP Chrome/Firefox addon you can find here.
How To Make Money Writing Fiction Online
By now you should have an idea of what genre you’ll want to write in. If you haven’t, it’s time to narrow down your choice. Things you should take into consideration are…
- That you like the genre.
If you’re not in love or at least like the genre you’ve picked your work will show for it. It’s one thing to want to make money writing fiction, it’s another thing to sit down every day writing for a genre you’ve no love more. If you can’t get excited by your work, you can’t expect your reader to get excited your work.
- You know the tropes involved in that genre.
If a unicorn made it’s way into a historical romance, or a killer robot trashed up a fantasy novel, your readers would rightly tell you that they weren’t happy about it. If you don’t know what a trope is, it’s what your readers expect to happen in a genre.
If you’re not up to speed with what the tropes are in your genre, go to the book reviews and see what the readers loved and didn’t like in the books they read. Make a list of both and make sure you have more of one and less of the other.
- Your book should be in a series.
A lone book may light up the charts for a little while, but once your reader’s got to the last page they’re off reading something else. You don’t want that. Because of that you want your books to be in a series. Book one should lead straight into book two and on it should go.
Having a book series means you’ll sell more books, have a bigger chance of being discovered, and keep your readers for longer. Think of your book series as a tunnel, once they get in they can’t get out until they reach the other end. Then when they reach that, they’ll find another tunnel of yours to enter. 🙂
Making Money With Fiction Writing
Once you’ve got your manuscript, which of course should be proofread and edited, remember even though you’re going to self publish your book you want it to stand side by side with anything traditionally published.
But if you haven’t, I recommend that you hire someone to did it for you. Places you can go to are Fiverr.com, UpWork.com or any other popular outsourcing websites. When looking for some to hire, bear these points in mind.
Price – If shopping the bargain basement is where you mind is at, stop right there. You get what you pay for. Of course you may find someone advertising their services at a low price to get their foot on the ladder, but if you want experience and talent you’re going to have to pay for it.
Country – I’ve nothing against people from other nationalities, but if you’re thinking of hiring someone from the India, Pakistan, or the like, you’ll have to keep in mind that English isn’t their first language.
And if your audience is English speaking and reading, their level of grammar will be at a higher level so they’ll notice it. There are tests on some sites that outsourcers have to pass, like English grammar, but you don’t know if that person did it themselves or got someone else to sit it for them.
Then there’s also language and time zones to compete with. Hiring someone in India might seem attractive, but if you’re living in the US and you have to wait 24 hours to get a reply, it can get very frustrating very fast.
Skill Set – You will find someone outsourcers that have a skill set as long as your arm. They can do book covers, WordPress blogs, press releases, write fiction and can also unblock a kitchen sink. The last one isn’t true but you might find someone that would try to offer you this. Be aware of the old saying , ‘Expert of everything, master of nothing.’
Chances are if they’ve got lots of skills they can do, they can’t do any to an expert level. So if you want to hire a proofreader or editor, go for people who’s sole gig are only these. The work you get back will be a lot better than hiring anyone else.
What Else Should You Outsource?
As you’ve probably gathered by now, if you want to sell books and make money writing fiction, you’ve got to see it as a business. It can be expensive to hire people to do editing, proof reading but it’s a one time expense that’s going to pay for itself in the weeks and months ahead. Once you’ve got that text all tidied up, that book could be making you money in 20 -30 years from now without ever touching it.
Because of that you’re going to have to pay attention to other areas of your book.
Book Cover – You may be tempted to try your best using free image editing software like Gimp, or Photoshop, but fight that urge. Nothing screams self published like a poor and weak book cover. You don’t want that. Hire someone at either one of the websites I mentioned earlier, Fiverr, Upwork, etc, or buy a ready made book cover and have it edited with your name and your book’s on it.
Book Description – There’s a skill to getting people to open their wallets with a few sentences of words, it’s called copy writing. If you don’t know the first thing about it, or don’t know how to write a compelling and enticing book description, hire someone to do it for you.
Book Promotion – Although I’m jumping the gun, you will need to take this into consideration when the time comes. No book ever leaps up the charts, or gets in front of new readers without a little push. And this is where book promotion comes in. Of course you could handle this on your own, but I’ve found that the time wasted doing this would be better spent working on writing your follow up book.
Self Publishing And Selling Your Fiction Writing.
Now we’re at the part where you’re going to upload your work and hopefully collect money on the other side. Now when I say hopefully, there a lot of things that make a difference to how much money you’re going to make.
Your writing, book cover, book description, book promotion, the fact they you’re writing in a popular genre, have follow up books, and more can make a difference in how many copies you sell and how much money you make. But if you’ve taken care of these elements, like I mentioned earlier, you’ve given your book and you a greater chance of being successful.
Now when it come self publishing your work the choice on where to publish your work is up to you. Want to give Amazon exclusive rights to sell your book? Then tie it into their KDP platform and you’ve locked yourself in for 90 days. But if you’d rather publish it to as many online stores as you want, then I’d recommend either Draft2Digital.com or Smashwords.com to do so. (But out of the two mentioned, Draft2Digital has an easier dashboard and software to do it.)
To self publish your book you’re going to need a manuscript in .doc format, a book cover in .JPG format, and your book description and keyword list.
Manuscript – Your manuscript should be laid out like how you see other published books look. First page – title and author name, second page – copyright details, third page – chapter links which should be clickable to send the reader to the right place, then your novel, and finally a mention of your next book, your social media accounts/website/or an offer to join your mailing list (most important part).
Book Cover – This as I said, should be in a .JPG format with a clear and attractive image on it. It should also convey the genre it’s in without any book description. For example a romance book and a horror book look completely different and give a different feel when you see them. They’ve also got distinctive fonts.
Romance has lot of curls and twirls and is usually pale or white, while horror has thick fonts in dark colors. Your book cover should also look like the others in your genre. There’s a reason why big publishing companies don’t stray from them and neither should you.
Book Description And Keywords – Having your book description at hand means it’s a simple process of copy and pasting it into the publishing dashboard before moving onto to filling in the other text details you need to add to your book. One of those that’s vitally important is your keywords.
If you don’t know what keywords are, they’re what people type into the bookstore search engines. If I want a historical romance book, I’d type in ‘historical romance’ and be given a result of those books. This is what you want for your book, you want it to show up for the right keywords. And when I say the right keywords, I mean buying ones.
Not all keywords are the same or as popular. For example, ‘Romance book’ wouldn’t have the same power or definiteness as ‘Mail order bride romance book.’ The first could be a general query, the second one is one where the searcher knows what they’re looking for and is probably more inclined to buy.
If you’d like to know more about finding the right keywords, I recommend yo take a look at the Google chrome/Firefox plugin here. It uses a simple traffic light system to not only tell you what’s the best keywords, but how the books in your category are selling.
Now that we’ve gone over all the things you’ll need on your shopping list it’s a simple matter of visiting either Draft2Digital, Smashwords, or Amazon KDP to publish your book. You can publish to all if you like, but be aware not tick the book giving Amazon exclusive rights to you book for the next 90 days.
All websites have more or less the same forms to fill in and it’s a simple matter of filling these in, agreeing to a price for your book, and hitting the publish button. Once that’s done, you’ll receive an email to let you know when your book have gone live.
Promoting Your Fiction Writing Online
How you promote your fiction writing is up to you, but the more people that know about it the better. Like pushing a broken down car, it’s going to take a lot of effort to get the ball rolling but once you’re aware that the promotion you do now will pay off down the line, it’ll get easier.
Things you can do to promote your book are…
- Promote it through your social media accounts and your followers.
- Try and find groups of people that have a love of fiction and get in front of them.
- Facebook ads – although costly if you don’t know what you’re doing. A small spend can give your book a push until the book stores take notice of your sales and promote your work.
- Hire someone on Fiverr, or Upwork to do the book promotion for you. Again, look for an expert that can guarantee that your book gets onto as many websites and in front of as book promotion sites as possible.
Once you’ve got your book up and running there’s also another point that’s going to be the make or break you and fiction writing…..having an email list.
The Make Or Break For Fiction Writers
Want to know the difference between the authors that are struggling and those that make good money consistently? One has an email list, the other doesn’t. Like building a house without a foundation, not having an email list puts your publishing business on shaky ground.
Having a list of readers you can talk to on a regular basis allows you to…
- Ask for reviews
- Test out book ideas
- Promote you and your books
- And much more.
Imagine for a moment that you had 100 subscribers on your email list. Now imagine that you’ve just released a book on the Amazon kindle store it’s sitting there with a big fat zero reviews on it. One email to your list and over the next few days zero changes to 10, 20, 30 reviews.
Imagine for a moment that you’ve got a new book idea. Should you write a book on character A, or maybe do a prequel to the book you’ve just finished. Send out an email, and using something like SurveyMonke.com to host a poll on, you find out that 70% of your readers would love to get their hands on the prequel idea.
Imagine for a moment that you don’t have a dime to promote your new book. A quick email later, and 60 people on your list, post your book link to Twitter, Facebook, GoodReads, over the next 2-3 days.
I’m sure you see the benefits of building an email list. If you can’t there’s no hope for you.
But seriously, ….having an email list and an account at Mailchimp.com or GetResponse.com will help sell more books for you than anything else.
Not only is it a great way of communicating to your list, but you can set your sequence of emails up to run on autopilot. So anyone that buys your first book and signs up for your list get’s added into a chain of mails, all of which promote other books by you, your blog, your social media accounts, and anything else you’d like to make them aware of.
Emailing to your list regularly also allows you to build up a relationship with your readers. So you go from John, the guy who wrote that Steampunk book, to John the guy who’s a big fan of U2, loves watching Marvel movies with his kids, and gets all of his writing ideas when he goes out for a walk.
Keep in contact with them on a regular basis and you’ll also become, John the Steampunk guy. So whenever they think of steampunk books your name will be the one that their mind jumps to. Because that’s what you want. So whenever they think of your genre you should the only name that comes to mind.
And that’s it. Of course I could have wrote much more and give you more details on each part but I’m sure you’ve got enough for now. But if you haven’t I highly recommend you download my free report ‘How To Sell More Books.’
Inside you’ll find lot’s of great tips, tricks and mistakes to avoid when you’re trying to make money from your fiction writing.
Click the link here or image below to download your copy.
Best of luck with your fiction writing.