This post originally was part of the For Love or Money Facebook group. That group is now gone, but this post has helped so many authors, I decided to clean it up and repost it here for everyone. Please feel free to share with those that are just starting out or struggling.
It is no secret I write part-time, at best. I am a pastor, a father, a husband, and a full-time software developer. I think you can imagine my time is in high demand.
Often I am lucky to get even 3 hours a week in with hands on keyboard. I also tend to write only the longer form books. My newest release, The Elwyn Chronicles, is just a little shy of 150k words. For those of you that think in pages, that’s 500-600 pages in mass market paperback. This means I put out a new book once every 9-12 months, at best. Sometimes it is longer. My first book dropped in 2010 and here is what I did:
1) Self-made cover using a single untouched photo and a “scifi font”
2) No professional editing (and it REALLY needed it)
3) No marketing
4) No sequel/series
As a result, I did not sell any books for the first six months or so. BUT it is all about goals and targets. At that stage, I was shooting for “published” not “bestselling.” So the launch was a COMPLETE SUCCESS. That is, I accomplished the goal I set out to accomplish. I was a “published” author. You could go to a real store and buy my book. It was the coolest thing ever.
I also had a plan. I told myself: “Dude, you are in this for four books, or not at all.” So six months later my second book came out, and my first finally went free. I was still working completely alone and had no idea what I was doing. This was 2010 when self-publishing was on the rise, but still a geeky hobby.
I had talked with a publisher and they were somewhat interested. They were actually a client of mine, so I had a in. I almost with forward with them, but the relationship fell sour for reasons unrelated to the books. That is probably the best thing that ever happened to my career as an author. But one thing they told me was “readers will not trust you until you have four or five books out.” I took that to heart.
Book three drops and some people start actually buying the books. Not many, but actual strangers were buying copies and leaving reviews. This is 2012 now, and ebooks are really becoming a thing, but print was still king. With book three I finally hired an editor. But I was still doing my own covers and they were pretty cheesy.
Book four drops and I have started networking and talking with authors. I started learning the trade and start thinking about marketing. Yes, you read that right. I was four books in before I started to actually learn the business. Not the best plan!
Fast forwarding to 2015. I have a seven book series out with plans to continue, but I am still struggling to make enough to cover costs. My series which was now five years old was showing the weak foundation of its start. I did replace all the covers and had every book professionally edited, but it is hard to build on the weak foundation. So I decided it was time to start over.
In June 2015 I released “The Wanderer,” a permafree novella I wrote to launch into the public my new series, “The Dragon Masters.” With this series, I was bound and determined to use all that I had learned after the first five years in the book industry and hammer this one right.
I had six books lined up and ready, and a short story, “The Storymasters” slated for an anthology I was invited to. I held back the release of The Wanderer to time with the Bookbub advert on that anthology. Once the Wanderer hit, I started a cycle of releases every three weeks. It takes 4 weeks to fall off the new release lists, so that kept me on them. I hit the “hot new release” more than once during that time.
Keep in mind, I fixed EVERYTHING I did wrong with my first book:
1) Multiple professional edit passes
2) All professionally done custom covers
3) Marketing and timing
4) Added Pre-readers and ARCs. Launched with FIFTY reviews.
Well, that changed everything. I moved from barely scraping buy to paying my mortgage with book sales, which was good because this all hit when I was facing some very real economic issues that are unrelated to this book story. Let’s just leave it at, if it was not for the blessing of this timing, I would have faced a very dark time financially.
Fast forward to today. I have released the second season in The Dragon Masters, the eighth book in Lost Tales of power, and sales continue to climb. My income comes from having a backlist, not from hitting the best sellers lists. USA Today has never heard of me, and probably will not anytime soon. That is fine, they are not on my lists of “care about” right now.
What I hope you take away from this is that anyone can do this. Set reasonable goals, achieve them, then raise the bar. My first goal was to get published. BOOM success. Celebrate that success. Next goal, sell 1 book. BOOM achieved. Celebrate that success. Raise the bar and repeat.
My final words of wisdom, a quote I have been saying for many years now:
Persistence over skill, every time.
Or in geek parlance: Never give up. Never surrender!