If you want to write, you should write the stories that are in your heart. Follow your bliss, tell your truths… yadda yadda. But if you want to make a living at writing, there are some techniques that will increase your chances of making an early profit, thus putting you in a position to follow your bliss and write the stories that are in your heart.
Herewith, Patrice’s advice on how to make money–as of the indie ebook world in the spring of 2013:
Write AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Write AS FAST AS POSSIBLE
Personally, I have many different interests, and I’m currently concocting ebooks in lots of different genres, including science fiction/fantasy, political thrillers, chick lit, cozy mysteries, and funky short stories. So I don’t mind concentrating on what works best, i.e., gets me more readers, first.
GENRE – Romance, chick lit, sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, thrillers, are the easiest sells. I think that’s the current order of popularity. Not that you can’t write the great American literary novel. But perhaps try something hotter first.
AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE – This means that if you have a book out that hits big, and you have nothing to sell other than that, you waste a golden opportunity to convert readers to fans. They read the one, think it’s great, and have nothing else to buy… and nothing else to hook them in to you as an author. When you get the next book out a year later, they have moved on to other authors, and have bought their entire oeuvres. That could have been you! (Trad publishers, take note–one book every year or two is not making it any more for readers.) Of course you have to start with your first book. Just keep writing. Don’t wait to see if self-publishing is for you. It won’t be for you if you only write one book. I made that mistake. I had a phenomenal selling streak with my political thriller RUNNING in the hot days around Christmas of 2011 (eons ago in self-pub time). For about a minute I made $6,000 a week. Which slowly simmered down into the summer of 2012, when I made FAR less. I still don’t have a book to follow that one up in the political thriller genre. Which brings me to my next point:
AS FAST AS POSSIBLE – You have a busy life, I know. A day job, a spouse, a house, kids, the dog, friends, TV shows (you’re still watching TV?? You’re a writer. Writing is the new TV. Get away from the screen… unless you’re typing on it.) But write anyway. You may have heard of Hugh Howey, of WOOL fame. He wrote during his lunch breaks while working as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble. He scribbled in longhand part of one of his books while sitting in the audience at a book awards presentation… while they were up there congratulating last year’s bestsellers, he was at a table writing the next one. P.S. He made more than a million dollars last year on self-published ebooks alone. And then sold print rights for mid-six figures, and sold the book in 24 countries, and sold film rights and comic book rights and… yeah, don’t get jealous, just write your own book. Books!
SHORT – I have my newest short story out now, 8,500 words, and it’s selling for 99¢. That one short story is going to make me $700 this month. That’s at the 35% royalty rate. Multiply that by several shorts, and you get… more money. Short is fast, short is easy, and readers LOVE short. They can read it on their lunch hour. It’s ideal for iPhones and iPads. Now that the price point for indie ebooks is rising to $2.99 or $4.99, not as many full-length novels are selling for 99¢. Plus, even full-length is dropping in length from 80,000- 100,000 being typical for a print novel (and longer for fantasy and sci-fi titles) to 50,000 – 80,000 being considered a reasonable length. Joe Konrath calls anything over 30,000 a novel now, and anything over 15,000 a short novel. Barry Eisler sells 35,000 words as a novel…. You can now write THREE books with the words that it used to take to make ONE. Faster, shorter, more money for you. They still have to have a satisfying story arc, a beginning, middle and end. Just make the bits move faster.
SERIES – This is pretty obvious from all the millions of Book 1, Book 2, Book 37 titles you see out there. One set of co-writers is publishing “Around the World in 80 Men,” and they’re up to Books 21-25 (Puerto Rico, Nevada, Tahiti, Spain, Holland, FYI). They sell each ebook for 99¢ and collections of of five for $3.99. They’re going for, obviously, 80 of these. This sweet young waitress becomes a high-priced international hooker. (I suspect there is sex involved.) They’ve simplified the process for themselves–no not the sex process!–of preparing the books by using the same cover in different colors. I think these writers are going to make a mint. You don’t need that many fans if they all buy 80 of your books, or 16 compilations of 5 books each. And these writers are putting them out there FAST! I just read the first chapter of the first one, which is currently free, which is another wise move when you have a lot of books out… we could add FREE to the GAASS acronym, but then it would be GAASSF, and what does that mean? The first chapter showed this to be a fun, light read. About a sweet young thing who decides to travel the world and have sex for money. How much you want to bet she pulls a Pretty Woman and falls in love with Mr. #80?
So there you have it. The latest best advice on how to maximize your earning potential as an indie ebook writer. All so that you can make a few bucks and then write that esoteric masterpiece on ancient phlebotomy techniques among the Incans. Which, who knows, could turn out to be your biggest seller!
Because I believe in giving back, I am going to start critiquing (for free) your work. I’m a good writer–I’ve been writing novels for 20 years. I have an English degree (and a law degree and a grad degree in vocal performance, but I’m not sure they will help you much) and I’ve worked as a freelance writer as well as an editor. I’m the CEO of my own publishing company, and my ebooks are on the charts.
After each post I’ll pick one commenter and critique up to 10 pages or 2,500 words.
I don’t have many commenters yet, so your odds are excellent! A comment gets you one chance, a tweet of this post another. Linking to it on your site or FB page gets you another. Subscribing, friending me on FB or following me on Twitter gets you another. Increase your odds by doing as much as you can. And if you become a regular around here I’ll probably just pick you eventually anyway. If I read your pages I plan to be honest, so be ready for that.
So let me know in the comments what you are doing to promote this worthy, pithy, and free advice for fellow authors, and I will put your name in the hat for a personal critique by ME.
Thanks for reading!
Now go out there, fellow writer, and step on the GAASS. Or, GAASSF. Or maybe GAFASS… which sounds really bad.