zero to bestseller how a non-reader taught herself to be a top-selling author

I want to share my story of how I went from 0 to $100,000 per year in royalties.

How My Writing Journey Began

I know this might surprise some folks, but growing up, I didn’t aspire to be an author. I didn’t enjoy reading books in school, and English was my worst subject. It’s funny how you expect your life to go one way and then fate throws you a curveball.

One day, after watching the Twilight movies, my sister-in-law handed me the final book in the Twilight series. I’d seen the first two movies, but when I opened the front cover, a new world opened as well and I felt like a kid heading for Disney World.

It was then I discovered how wonderful books are—how they are much more detailed than movies and how they allow us to use our imaginations to make the worlds they contain real.

From then on, I read every vampire, shifter, and alien romance I could find. I must have spent thousands of dollars on books, trying to catch up on the years of reading I’d lost. And then one day, I decided to write my own. Here’s where it gets… funny, for lack of a better word.

I started learning about self-publishing and I was blown away. The terms were all foreign to me at the time—Microsoft Word, formatting, hyperlink… what? I’m forty- something… yeah, not telling you my exact age. But it was a challenge picking up something that far out of my experience, I’ll tell you that.

Can you imagine writing a book when you have terrible grammar and few computer skills?

So what did I have, you ask? An imagination! Everything else can be learned, but you must have an imagination to write a sci-fi book. So, here’s where everything begins, and what I’ve learned along the way.

Learn Everything You Can

Before I really got started, I did my research. I subscribed to newsletters from Tom Corson-Knowles, the founder of TCK Publishing, who wrote about an author who wasn’t a great writer, but whose book kept readers engaged and wanting more.

It gets a little fuzzy when I try to remember exact details, so don’t quote me on this. But I remember one key point: he said the best advertisement was to simply write another book, and so that’s just what I did. I made more than $100,000 that year simply by writing another book!

I took his advice to heart, and it paid off big for me.

Find Your Publishing Team

Next, I joined Goodreads. Yes, I’m admitting that I didn’t even know about Goodreads. Sad, isn’t it? But I learned! There, I met an aspiring author who told me about Another world opened when I found that website.

On the site, I found someone who made book covers; he charged me a whopping $15. By now, I had mastered Word and was ready to upload Jakke, Book 1 in the Azziarin series. I’d written a couple of books before Jakke, but this was the book that changed everything. Within weeks, Jakke ranked #1 in First Contact and #207 overall in the Kindle store. I received emails from readers asking about Book 2.

Woah. I never expected it to take off like that. Overwhelmed is an understatement, and I rushed to catch up. I needed a website and a Facebook page… at the very least. I needed an email server like Mailchimp to handle numerous emails from readers wanting to be added to my newsletter. I wasn’t prepared.

I turned to once again and hired someone to redo my website and add MailChimp. He also did my Facebook author page. The next thing I needed was an editor. There are so many people out there advertising to edit books, it can be overwhelming.

How do you decide who is legit?

It’s very hard to decide who can help and when you are wasting your money. After a couple of tries, I found someone who did a great job. Reviewers no longer mentioned editing problems when commenting on my books, so that was a clear sign that my editing was getting better.

Play to Your Strengths

Now that everything’s in place, let me talk about the books themselves. As a person, I am impatient and lose interest very easily. That’s why most of my books are on the short side. I write what I like to read. That is very important!

If you try to write what you think will sell, you’ll fall short every time.

Write your passion, not someone else’s.

Write and Publish Fast

I’ve written and published 10 novels in about 18 months. Most authors never get 10 books published, so that alone helped set me apart from much of the competition.

The other great thing about publishing so many books is that it has kept my readers actively engaged. They can’t wait for my next book, and many of my fans buy all of my books. If I waited a year or two between releasing a new book, there’s a good chance some of my readers would forget all about me.

So, if you want to keep your readers and fans happy, keep writing and publishing new books as fast as you can. Readers have less patience today than ever before, so don’t keep them waiting too long between book releases or you might lose a lot of your momentum and sales.

Make Your Book The Best

I am convinced that you must have an amazing, eye-popping book cover to draw readers in, to make them click on your book instead of choosing someone else’s. I have no doubt that Jakke’s cover propelled the book to #1 in its category. You need to find a great book cover designer and don’t settle for putting out mediocre work.

Of course, the book must also be entertaining, or readers will quickly lose interest.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to edit, too. I know some people can’t afford an editor, so at least have two or three beta readers look for misspellings and give you honest feedback.

Always Be Improving

I read a Goodreads blog where a famous author said she didn’t look at reviews. That’s wonderful if you’re an established author with a concrete fan base. Me, I read all my reviews and take the criticism in a positive way.

Most negative reviewers complained that my books were too short. With Aydan, Book 6 in the series, I slowed the book down and added more detail. The reviews were more positive, so now I try to do that with all my books. Be open and amenable to constructive criticism, to an extent, but don’t compromise the book.

Write More

As far as book promotion, I took the advice of Tom Corson-Knowles to heart. The best advertisement for your book is to write another book!

I can’t tell you the number of readers who have sent me an email saying they found my latest book and then backed up and read them all.

If you’re writing a series, make sure that every book is written so it can be read like a standalone.

That makes it possible for readers to start from anywhere and get hooked into your series whether they buy book 1 or book 7.

With my latest book, I took out a Facebook ad, and now I’m looking for other ways to promote my books. Specifically, I’m looking for ways to help launch a new book on release day. I haven’t decided on anything, but I follow my gut instinct.

If I can leave you with a small piece of advice, I’ll tell you what I tell my kids. We are living in a wonderful time where anything is possible with the help of social media and the internet. Dream big, work hard, and you can achieve anything. I’m proof of that.

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