The supposed gold rush has come to a close. Gone are the days where you could use your KDP Select free promotion to makes tens of thousands of dollars. Some authors exploited the Amazon algorithm or the customer review system to net a boatload of cash from 2010 on. The loopholes are closing and the number of books is swelling. Authors who want to earn a living from their books in the next five years will need to worry less about formulas and more about good old-fashioned hard work.
If you’re looking to make six-figures a year from your time as an indie author, then you should prepare to work 80-100 hours a week for the next few years. That being said, it’s possible for authors to earn supplementary income by combining daily writing, effective marketing, and targeted networking. Unless you have a massive breakthrough, 15-30 hours a week of work won’t net you a big payday, but you should be able to creep into the four-figure per month club by the end of a calendar year.
This four-part article goes over all the steps you’ll need to take to reach your goal of $1,000 per month. It assumes that you have all the fundamentals in place: professional-looking covers, a well-edited series of books, captivating blurbs, a website, and a mailing list. The following tips are unlikely to help if you don’t already have a solid foundation. Take the free Selling the First 100 Copies of Your Book course on the Author Marketing Academy and follow all the steps within to hit the bare minimum level for starting this process.
Once you’ve got your ducks in a row, make sure that you’ve secured 15 to 30 hours per week in your schedule for the entire year. This is non-negotiable. You can’t expect to take a few weeks or months off in the middle of the year and maintain the momentum you’ll need to build your business. Block out the time to take action, or you’re unlikely to reach your income goal.
With your schedule and a firm understanding of how to deliver a professional book in pace, here is a 12-month overview of what it’ll take to earn $1,000 from your monthly self-publishing sales:
1. The First Quarter: January – March
The first quarter of the year is your time to get good habits in place for the subsequent nine months. The publishing, marketing, and networking habits you establish now will help you build your brand exponentially as the year goes on. Many authors concentrate on writing their first book and save the other four tasks for later. That would be a mistake and it could set your income goal back indefinitely.
Task 1: Write Your First Book
You might say to yourself, “I’m already doing this.” There’s a little more to it than that. Writing your first book has a lot to do with playing the percentages. Let’s say you have three ideas for stories. If you want to make a living from your writing, then it behooves you to pick the most popular genre with the greatest potential for a multi-book series. The artist in you might resist that sort of thinking, but you have to make a choice. Use your inner artist to write something that could be popular and earn you some money or spend your time on a passion project that probably won’t sell. For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the former: the first book of a series in a popular genre.
Writing your first book in this series will be a challenge if it’s your first piece of work overall. You’ll need to establish a workable system to write additional books in the series. Many authors have found that system through creating story beats, using that outline for a rough draft, and then editing with the help of beta readers. We’ve previously covered a sample 90-day writing plan, which you can use as a template for this 12-month system. Writing and finishing this book is key, but it’s not as important as figuring out a repeatable procedure that you can use over and over again to write more books.
Task 2: Set Up Your Website and Email List
While you’re working on the first book of the year, it’s time to set up your website and email list. Blogging is becoming less important for authors as readers start to take in content in a variety of ways. Your website is really just a hub for your books, special announcements, and your email list signup form. It’s a necessary base of operations, but you also don’t have to spend top dollar or 20 hours a week keeping it up to date. Set up a simple, easy to follow site through WordPress or a similar platform, and put up a home page, a page for your books, a mailing list signup form, a contact form, and your social media links. Aside from collecting email addresses and allowing people to contact you, the website will probably not factor deeply into your monthly income.
The email list, on the other hand, is one of the most important tools in your arsenal. It’s where you’ll connect with and engage with potential fans. It’s how you’ll spread your reach to new readers. Your email list must be set up early on if you want to have any hope of expanding your audience.
Task 3: Choose One Social Platform
It’s too much to keep up with more than one social media platform at a time. There are plenty of authors who do it, though it’s doubtful that many of them see big results from the time they put in. Instead of spending hours of time on social media outreach every week, pick one platform to focus most of your attention on. There’s a spectrum of social outreach that goes from most time-consuming and rewarding to least time-consuming and valuable. Putting consistent time into things like podcasts and video will likely yield the biggest results. Spending all your time with Twitter and Facebook may lead to returns, but it has a high potential of being a time-waster. Pick one platform and spend 90 percent of your social media time there. It’s fine to dabble a little bit in all the platforms, but if you don’t have one front-runner, it’s unlikely you’ll see many results from your efforts.
Task 4: Create Your Habits
We’ve already discussed writing habits, but you’ll need to set up repeatable tasks in every area of your business. Figure out systems for sending your emails, posting on social media, and balancing your life and work tasks. Motivation and deadlines will drive you to complete projects, but these habits are what will keep you in line between your goal completion dates. Continual improvement of your systems will result in increased efficiency, organization, and income.
Task 5: Start Gathering Data
Use tracking links and analytics from your website to determine where your customers come from. An effective tracking system will tell you if your social media efforts are worth it. They’ll let you know which of your emails has been the most effective, and who your top readers are. The more data you’re able to collect, the better you’ll be able to set up marketing in the months and years ahead. For an example of tracking to the extreme, check out Steve Scott’s quarterly income reports.
Click here to read Part 2.