How to Make $4,000 Self-Publishing a Novel on Amazon

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I know what you’re thinking.

No, really.

You: “Sweet! Another article full of dope ass Amazon self-publishing tips that I can start implementing immediately, thereby netting me the exact same results as the person who wrote them.”

Yeaaaaah, not quite.

You see, I’m not bragging about making $4,000.

This, my friends, is a cautionary tale.

What I neglected to mention, in that totally not clickbaity title, is that it took me over EIGHT MONTHS to make $4,000 from ONE BOOK. For those of you good at math, you’ve already figured out that’s around $500/mo.

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Actual shot of me attempting to create a $500/mo budget

If you recall, I quit my job to pursue a full-time writing career last year and projected that I would make about $2,500/mo my first year (lolz). I don’t know why I projected that (I’m a millennial) but I did.

Mind you, $2,500/mo would have been a financial squeeze for me. It would have meant giving up ‘Wine Wednesdays’ with the girls every month but hey, it was a sacrifice I was willing to make. (#onmygrind #nosleep #work #etc.)

So What Happened?

Well, ya girl did some extremely stupid things and neglected to do some extremely important things.

But y’all know I make mistakes so you don’t have to and if you want to know how to make $4,000 from a self-published novel, then read on. And if you want to know how to make more, uh also read on, but like further. Cool? Cool.

A List of the Dumb Sh#! I Did or Didn’t Do

1. No Social Media

Yep, I was one of those people who refused to whore my book out on social media. I was convinced that my novel was so amazing, I didn’t need to promote it on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

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When my book launched I had the following:

  • A Twitter page that I had created a year ago, that had five posts and was followed by TWO people.
  • That’s it.

Yep, I had two flipping twitter followers and no other social media or promotion whatsoever. Now that I think about it, it’s insane I made any money at all on my first book.

2. No editor or beta reader

For those new to the self-publishing biz, a beta reader is someone who reads your novel before it’s published and gives you honest feedback.

Sometimes they check for stuff like sound story structure and POV violations but their main job is to read it and tell you whether it sucked or not and maybe some of the ways in which it sucked.

Nah, didn’t bother with one. Shoot, I knew my story better than anyone. I didn’t need no stinking beta.

As for an editor…to be fair I didn’t have the money for a good editor (still don’t) but there were other options I could have explored but didn’t. Not that big of a deal, right? LOL.

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Yep, that’s one of my actual reviews from Amazon. (And yes it’s from my 2nd novel because ‘surprise surprise’ I didn’t have that one edited either)
Good reviews = sales.
Bad reviews = no sales.
You can see how this hurt my bottom line.

3. No one reads paperbacks anymore. Right?

Oh, but they do. Mistake #3 is that I only offered my book in digital form. No physical copies. No audiobook. Just digital.

And while yes, many people have no problem reading on their phones, tablets or e-readers, there are just as many people who prefer a good ol’ fashioned paperback (or hardback) copy.

Not to mention audio. People are busy. People like to multi-task. People are lazy. Whatever. People freaking LOVE audio books.

I estimate (don’t ask me how) if I would have released my first book in paperback and audio, I would have made at least another one to two thousand dollars. Possibly more.

Le sigh.

Sidenote: Going forward, all of my novels will have a paperback version available and as soon as I save up the money to hire a good narrator, audio will be next.

4. I Wrote at a Snail’s Pace.

It took me over 5 months to write one book. A book that I had already started writing years ago.

So really it took me over 5 months to write 70% of a book.

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I know.

Let’s just move on, shall we?

5. No Review Squad

Have you ever noticed how on its launch day a book might already have several reviews? No? Oh. Well anyway, it’s a thing.

Smart writers use what is known in the industry as ARCs = Advanced Reader Copies.

ARC’s are exactly what they sound like. A week or so before launch day, you send your novel out to a team of nice folks you know (probably through Twitter because I swear, whole ass careers can be made on Twitter).

They read it, then rush to Amazon to write a review. They do this because 1) You’ve essentially given them a free copy of your book 2) You’ve so sweetly asked them to.

Guess who didn’t send out any ARCs before her book launch.

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Shocking, I know.

Anyway, right about now you might be thinking, “Eh what’s the big deal? Just wait for people to buy it and start leaving reviews.”

Question
When you’re shopping on Amazon, what’s the first thing you do after you click on a product of interest?

That’s right. You read the reviews. If you’re deciding between two lamps and one has a 5-star rating and has been rated over 120 times and the other has absolutely no reviews, which one will you buy?

Exactly.

Honestly, there’s a bunch more stupid stuff I did that contributed to my lame ass first-year sales, but I’ll save those for another day. Or maybe I’ll write a book. Hmm…

Hey, y’all should let me know in the comments if I should write a book about all this craziness. I’ll call it something super cool like, ‘I survived my first year as an indie writer and all I got was this stupid book.’

Or not.

Alright, so basically if you want to earn $500/mo, make sure you disregard everything you just read and throw your book onto Amazon with no planning whatsoever.

Everyone else, read on.

This fiscal year I would like to make more than $4,000.

$13,000 to be exact.

That works out to a little over a thousand dollars a month. Which is definitely less than ideal, but I’m after progress, not perfection.

How to Make Tons of Money on Amazon or at least $13,000

1. Become a Whore, Socially that is

I now have an active Twitter account with almost 200 followers to date. It may not be a lot but I’m proud of my lil’ Twitter army.

I also have a Facebook page, an Amazon Author Page, a Goodreads page, a Pinterest Page in its infancy (seriously there’s nothing on it, don’t go there…fine, do what you want but you’ve been warned), and a flipping blog (oh hi there).

Over the next few months, I have plans to start an Instagram account, do something (anything) with my Pinterest account and continue beefing up my social media presence.

2. ARCs, Betas, and Editing, Oh My!

Through the magic of Twitter, I found two awesome and experienced beta readers for my next novel.

Sidenote: If you’re a writer, you need to be on Twitter. Twitter is practically made for writers. You will find your people and more importantly, your people will become your readers and your betas and your editors and anything else you could ever need. Seriously.

I plan on sending out many many many advanced reader copies and hope to hit Amazon with at least three reviews on launch day, fingers crossed.

Le Editor. Yes, I still cannot afford one but I can afford something that’s, well not as good, but close.

Pro Writing Aid is basically editing software designed especially for writers. You just run your manuscript through it and it gives tons of suggestions and corrections.

And yes, I know there are free online grammar checkers (cough Grammarly cough)

While Grammarly is better than nothing, it only fixes grammar issues.

Pro Writing Aid not only corrects grammar but fixes issues you didn’t even know you had. Things like passive sentences, vague wording, stale sentence structure and waaaay more. Again, it’s not an editor, but it’s damn close.

It’s $60 but I figure if I can avoid getting a one-star review about my shitty editing, it’s definitely worth it.

3. Treat Her Like A Lady, um I mean Like A Business.

Last but not least I’m going to start treating my self-publishing career as an actual business. Because it is one. A business, I mean.

I am a business owner and if you’re out here in these self-publishing streets alongside me, so are you.

I know what you’re thinking, “But I’m not incorporated and I still have a day job and I don’t have a business checking account and all that’s confusing and whatnot.”

Hush, none of that matters.

If you want to make a living in the world of self-publishing, you must start to think of it and treat it like a business. You are a business owner, so it’s time to start acting like one.

Track all your publishing/writing related expenses on a spreadsheet. Try to use one account or credit card for those expenses. It doesn’t have to be a business account, but trust me, come tax time you’ll be glad you did.

Start building your author brand. Expand your website, consider additional revenue streams (podcasts, guest blogging, etc), create a marketing plan for the year and split it into quarters. Google ‘how to run a small business’ for Pete’s sake.

And girl buy a damn calendar! Sheesh!

Uh, sorry that one was for me.

Look, I know you’re an artist and you hate dealing with boring stuff like math. I feel you. I hate that -ish too. But it’s a necessary evil and it will save you money come tax time. Promise.

In Conclusion

Okay y’all, I know making $4,000 my first 8 months as a self-published author isn’t really bad per se. And I’m sure tons of other writers would love to make that.

But when you put all your eggs in the proverbial ‘I quit my job to follow my dreams’ basket, well four grand just ain’t going to cut it.

Hopefully this time, next year I’ll write a post entitled ‘How to Make $13,000 Self-Publishing Your Novel on Amazon.’

Stay tuned.

 

evelyn dar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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