There’s more than one way to write well. By putting your slice of the human experience into words, authoring a book creates a lasting legacy for your values, stories and unique message. And since the best way to hone your craft as a writer is to write, the act of writing is never wasted.
But will you actually be able to pay the bills as a writer?
Writing for passion and writing for money aren’t mutually exclusive. As both an author and publisher for other authors, I’ve learned a few crucial things that can help boost your writing income and book sales no matter what your level of experience.
If you want to increase your income, salary or royalties as an author or writer, follow these 8 steps to success.
1. Find Your Authentic Voice
Good quality writing is about more than overcoming small grammar mistakes and sloppy vocabulary. What matters most is that your writing adequately conveys your message in your own authentic voice. If the ideas you think you’re communicating aren’t the same ideas your readers are receiving when they read your work, there’s a problem.
Luckily, today there is unprecedented access to large communities of writers who can offer writing prompts, reviews, and support (you can join our online writer’s group on Facebook here).
Make good use of this buffet of perspectives. Find the people best suited to give you the critical eye you need to maximize the quality of your writing.
Not sure where to get good advice on you writing? Follow this free guide to finding and hiring a great editor.
2. Connect with Your Readers Emotionally
Making a full-time living as an author depends on buyers seeing your book as a valuable and complete packaged product. Whether you’re self published or traditionally published or something in between, your book must look professional and appeal to your target audience.
What drives a reader to buy your book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is an emotional decision.
You can probably remember the cascade of good feelings that arose in the moments before you decided to make your most recent book purchase. It likely started as a scan of the cover. Your head started to nod. Bigger nods now, as you read the book description and start to understand the subject matter. Yes, you thought. This is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. This will be fulfilling to me when I read it. I would proudly display this in my house.
All too often writers get so bogged down in the details of their writing – addressing their key arguments, or hammering out the plot – that the emotional appeal of their work is forgotten. Tapping into your book’s emotional appeal will not only keep you focused on its success, but is a great way to push forward past writer’s block.
Make sure you tap into these same emotions when you are coming up with your book title, designing your book cover and writing your book blurb or marketing copy.
3. Choose a Bestselling Book Title
The book title is the first point of emotional impact for new potential readers.
Your title must be memorable, repeatable, and searchable.
Say you’ve boiled your book’s essence down to a simple premise, which will also work as its title: Change. Congratulations, you’re now one of 230,000 books that come up when you search “change” on Amazon.
And until you rack up enough sales and reviews, your book will appear at the bottom of those search results meaning very few readers will even see that your book exists when they type in Change in Amazon’s search box.
Fine, you say – you’ll instead title it Chaquilvinous, your crafty neologism born from the context of the book. Your book is now the only result under its search query. Too bad no one can find your book now because they always forget how to spell it.
When deciding on the title for your book, you must strike the balance between memorability and searchability.
Repetition never hurts either – the more you’re saying the book’s name in your marketing, the more it will sink in to your followers. The sweetest sound a person can hear is their own name – and books are the same way. If you have faith in your title and repeat it with confidence, your book becomes energized.
4. Design Book Covers That Sell
Other factors often come down to simply following the leader. The purpose is not to stuff you into a mold, but to avoid confusion. Let’s start with the cover.
Your book cover should be professionally designed, and should look like it fits in when compared to other best selling books in your market.
If your cutting-edge business insights come with a cover that looks more like a romance novel, you will be driving away the potential readers who need your book the most. Following the leader should not be seen as an invitation to be uninspired. Even if business books tend toward text, don’t get yourself overlooked with something slapdash and humdrum.
To inform your cover design, look to highlight the book title. When the design of your cover helps people remember your title, it becomes your ace in the hole.
5. Market Your Strength, Not Your Weakness
It takes years to get a marketing degree. Yet now the prevailing practice has become for writers to take on this additional career as well as their passion – often with little preparation and underwhelming results.
Here’s how to make it easier on yourself – and how to save some of the friendships of people who start to see you as a walking advertisement for your book.
We know when we’re being marketed to. We also know the amount we’re being marketed to – a lot. Night and day, from all sides – the expense it must take! The resulting impulse is to fill up every available channel – because a half-hearted share of clickbait is better than silence, right? Wrong.
Before you begin to hire or outsource your book marketing, the best way to market yourself and your book is to pick the channel that makes most sense for you and your brand.
Do you love YouTube, but can’t stand Twitter? Don’t bother with Twitter. You can automate tweets to link to your videos. You can’t reclaim the time you spent trying to push out content for Twitter just because it’s “the thing to do.”
Though we love to watch numbers go up on social media, in our hearts we know that quality is far more important than quantity. When it comes time to express a thought, stick to wise broadcasts that keep your audience in mind. Focus on your strengths and skills and use the social channels that allow you to connect with your ideal readers the best way you know how. Stick closer to your writing.
6. Powerful Book Promotions
Though many see book promotion as interchangeable with marketing, this is not the case.
Promotion is centered around launches and short-term results. Here, we can afford to be more aggressive and further-reaching with your messages. After all, why shouldn’t you be? Promotion is a celebration. You’re not engaging in a distracting chore to keep up appearances; you’re shouting your new hard-fought creation from the rooftops to get as much momentum as you can.
Here’s a list of the top book promotion sites you can use to sell more books right now.
7. Write and Publish Multiple Books (Preferably in a Series)
Full-time, steady income from writing is almost exclusively enjoyed by authors of multiple books. Show me an author who earns a full-time income year after year from a single book and I’ll show you a unicorn.
In the world of fiction, the first book can seem like a huge hurdle. Despite the enormity of the task, you can’t stop after getting that first release published. Celebrate, promote, market – but don’t stop writing.
Consider the fact that authors of books that come in a series enjoy double the earnings per published book of authors of stand-alone books on average. This is also good to remember if your novel is on the long side.
Once a novel surpasses 100,000 or so words, it may be best to break it up. Every Facebook group and online forum for authors has had its share of posts about the 300,000+ word novel, but we know from data and experience that these extra-long books just don’t perform well.
By breaking up extra long books into shorter novels or novellas, you’ll enjoy the benefits that serial authors enjoy, and your books are much more likely to be purchased and read.
Multiple releases also give you the chance to test out different pricing strategies – higher prices on the new release, discounts on some others, and special promotions from time to time.
8. Measure Your Success and Understand the Numbers
As 70% of US ebook sales and 80% of UK ebook sales are on Amazon, full-time indie authors must count on being there too.
You must also learn how to read the ratings systems for books on Amazon.
“Here’s the deal: 4.3 stars – not 3 – is the true average of the Amazon stars rating system.”
Apathetic reviews are not the ones people feel compelled to post. In fact, most of the people who take the time to leave a review of your book will leave a positive one. Factor in the inevitable negative reviews, and the average marker for success actually drifts higher than 3 stars to an average of 4.3.
If your book has less than a 4.3 star average on Amazon, your book is rated BELOW average (you wouldn’t believe how many authors write to us saying their books have great reviews on Amazon, but their average is 3.6 stars or so, placing them in the bottom of the Amazon book heap).
The wise full-time author will know how to read this. Those average ratings of 4.2 and 4.1, while comprising encouraging praise, are also telling you that a big piece of the puzzle is missing.
It falls on the writer to then reflect on the reason your books are rated below average – was it the writing? Or was it because of something else in your control where the reader felt slighted?
Luckily, you don’t always have to guess. You can look at the reviews of your book and other books in your market to find out what provokes a response, and what your readers really want.
It is also worth noting that average ratings aren’t a good metric until you have at least 30 or 40 of them. If your book fails to reach these numbers, this is also a sign to revisit your promotion and marketing strategy, and to make sure you’ve set your book up for success with great branding and packaging.
Success for Authors Requires Good Writing and Smart Marketing
This whirlwind tour of the basics of publishing and marketing is meant to inform beginning writers. If these aspects of the business are already things you’ve been thinking about, you are well on your way to that elusive full-time income.
You just have to learn the balance between wearing your writing hat and wearing your marketing hat if you want the world to appreciate what you put out there as much as you do.
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