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6 Ways to Make a Full-Time Living as a Self-Published Author

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 6 21 2021 6 Ways t

Let's talk cold, hard cash.

While you probably didn't get into writing for the money, if you're being honest, the thought has crossed your mind. What if you could spend the rest of your life writing novels and getting paid?

It's not that far-fetched of a dream. It does happen. But how do you go from an aspiring writer who’s pining away in obscurity to a renowned author with a loyal fanbase and a steady income?

Let’s talk about it.

1. Don't Do It Part-Time

Your first step to a sustainable income is to fully commit to the process. If you want to earn a full-time living from writing, you can’t go into it as a part-timer.

If you want to earn a full-time living from writing, you can’t go into it as a part timer.

That doesn’t mean that you should quit your day job. Instead, think of it this way: You now have two full-time jobs, one that pays you currently and one that will pay you in the future.

And your job doesn’t end with writing the book. As a self-published author, your real work begins where your writing ends. Self-published authors are book formatters, cover designers, and marketers. (Unless you hire a team to help, but even then, you’re the boss and will need to make all of the decisions.)

2. Stick With One Genre

To build a sustainable income with your books, you need to build a fanbase. When you have fans, your next book is practically guaranteed to sell. And your books sell faster because people already know your work and like it.

People who like your work will buy from you again and again.

But that won’t happen if you skip around genres. People who like one genre probably won’t follow you to a totally different genre. A fan you won in whodunit may not be a fan of your young adult novel.

It’s perfectly okay for you to experiment with different genres, especially if you love writing various types of content.

But… Don’t sacrifice your fanbase to do it.

Here’s what you do instead: Adopt a pseudonym when writing in a second genre. This way, you can win a new fanbase in that genre without confusing, disappointing, or frustrating fans that found you through a different genre. If you don’t separate the two, you may end up losing your previous fans.

Multi-passionate, and not sure which genre to choose? Start writing in the genre that you love writing and reading the most.

Earn a Living as a Self-Published Author

3. Market Your Books

To make money, you’ve got to get exposure for your work. You’ll do this through marketing.

Marketing is essential for all authors, whether you’re promoting your first book or your 50th. But when you don’t have name recognition or a fanbase, you’ll need to invest a lot of time and/ or money into gaining that recognition.

Book marketing includes:

Cover design - People judge books by their covers. Potential readers use the cover to determine whether the book looks like a good read. To attract readers, your cover should be professionally done and in line with other books in the genre.

Book description - If you make it past the cover test, your next challenge is the book description. To craft a winning book description, write like a copywriter. In other words, engage the reader, massage their emotions, and persuade them to buy right away. Book descriptions are designed to sell your book.

Email list - Whether or not you set up a full-blown website (more on that next), you need a landing page for each of your books so that you can build an email list of your fans. This way, you can continue to stay in contact with them, and generate excitement ahead of your next book launch. Then, when it’s time to sell your book, you can get book sales right away.

PPC ad campaign - Sometimes, to make money, you need to pay for ads, and the easiest ads to go for are pay-per-click (PPC) ads on Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. But don’t worry. There’s no need to take out a second mortgage to cover marketing costs. Only spend what you can afford, even if that’s only $5. A little can go a long way.

4. Set Up Your Author Platform

Expanding on the last point, it’s crucial to build an author platform. An author platform is everything you do to find and win readers. It includes the following:

Setting up your Amazon Author Central page - People who find you on Amazon may want to learn more about you and what other books you have available. By setting up your Amazon Author Central page, you can tell people more about you and showcase your library of books. You can also boost your visibility on Amazon by maintaining an active Amazon Author Central page.

Creating an author website - You can’t depend solely on Amazon for your author presence. Why? Amazon is rented space. You also need your own slice of the Internet. You’ll do that by creating a website that talks about you, your book, and how people can reach out to you (through email or your social media presence). You can also invite them to join your email list.

Set up an email list - As mentioned above, you need an email list to stay in contact with your fans. However, people don’t easily part with their email address. So, in exchange for their email address, offer them something valuable, like the first three chapters of your next book for free.

Other ways to expand your author platform include starting a podcast, getting active on social media, and blogging.

Earn a Living as a Self-Published Author

5. Feed Your Fans

The next step in the journey to making a full-time living is to nurture your fanbase.

Even if you only have three emails on your list (and one of those people is your mom), you need to regularly send out newsletters. This way, you’ll stay at the top of mind and your emails won’t end up in the spam folder. You can also give away exclusive “first looks” at your next book.

6. Write a Series

You won’t be able to make a living off of just one book. The secret to making a full-time living is to write a series of books where you follow the same cast of characters. This way, you can hook the same fans who loved your first book.

It’s a good strategy to delay publishing your first novel until you’ve finished writing your second one (and possibly your third). This way, you can release your novels in quick succession so that your audience has a new book right away.

Writing a series also allows you to make more money later, after your series is complete. You can bundle them together as a boxset. To justify the cost, you can add new content (such as an introduction) and redo the covers for the special edition.

The Bottom Line

If you want to make a living as an author, you'll need to think like a businessperson. It's not just about putting out an amazing book. You also need to think of marketing, budgeting, and nurturing your fans to ensure that you create a reliable income stream. But you can do it! Good luck.

Before you go, check out these related posts:

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