I often read about success stories in the writing community. Personally, I learn more from failure than success. Plus, success stories make me turn into the Jolly Green Giant of envy. So, hanging my head in shame, I will share my failures with you today. Please be kind or at least turn away before snickering at my ineptitude.
First of all, a little background in case you haven’t heard of the 20 books to 50k community. It’s somewhat self-explanatory. The idea is – if you have twenty books, you should be able to earn $50,000 a year and retire comfortably in Cabo San Lucas. Not where I’d retire but it’s not my idea either. No, this is the copyrighted brainchild of Michael Anderle. (Interested in learning more? Here’s the link to the FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/20Booksto50k/)
Sounds good, right? I thought so. Only problem is I completely and utterly failed at this. On July 29th, my twentieth book releases and – barring some major miracle happening – I will not be anywhere close to earning $50,000 this year. In fact, I’ll probably gross about half of that.
So, how did I go wrong? In oh so many ways. Let me count the ways:
Not writing to market
Writing to market does not mean finding the latest trend and writing books in that genre. It means ensuring the books you write fit into the genre you market them in. I totally failed at this.
When I first published my Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives series, I thought they were fun chick lit. Readers thought differently and shoved them into the cozy mystery genre. I thought – okay, why not? Wrong. Dena. Wrong. These books contained swearing and some sexual scenes. You know what cozy mystery readers really, really hate? You got it – swearing and sex scenes! I recently spent a month editing the novels in this series and re-launching them. My reviews have gone up and sales as well.
You’d think I would have learned from the above disaster. But no, I didn’t. When I wrote my next cozy mystery series, the Death by Cupcake series, I thought it was okay to have a stripper on the cover. I should have realized something was wrong when my blog tour operator refused to take my business. Of course, I’m pigheaded and went about my business. Can you say idiot? Luckily, I finally caught on and updated the covers to match the market.
All those experts who tell you your blurb needs to be short and catchy are right. Listen to them! Do not go ahead with that blurb that you think tells the story. The blurb is meant to entice readers. This all sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Apparently not to me who continued to write long meandering blurbs for years. I highly recommend listening to podcasts and taking courses to learn how to write better book descriptions. (Bryan Cohen is the guy who finally got through my blockhead.)
Here’s an example of what I mean:
Not writing in series
There is absolutely, positively nothing wrong with not writing in a series. BUT – and it’s a big but thus the all caps – if you want to earn money with your writing, writing a series is the way to go. Once I decided to dip my toe in Facebook and Amazon ads, I quickly realized advertising for standalone books is way expensive. (The experts are not kidding when they say book selling is now a pay to play market.) I could make it work short-term, but not long-term. And long-term earnings is what I’m looking for.
Not building a newsletter
Like many authors, I started a newsletter and then felt guilty whenever I sent one out. No one wants to hear from me, I thought. So, I only sent out a newsletter when I had a book to talk about. But guess what? That means every time my newsletter went out, I was asking my subscribers for something. I wasn’t giving them anything. They had no incentive to remain subscribers. With dwindling subscriber numbers, I decided to start taking this whole newsletter thing seriously. I studied Newsletter Ninja and then wrote a novella to give away to new subscribers. I’ve since learned one free novella is not enough. You need to constantly provide new, enticing content for subscribers to keep them subscribed – giveaways, free content, exclusive teasers, etc.
Not building an advance team
I initially scoffed at the experts who advised an advance team to help launch your books. Why would anyone want to be on my advance team? I’m a no one. In the meantime, I’ve realized how much time and effort I put into finding reviewers and bloggers for each book I launch. Considering I’m increasing my productivity and thus the number of books I launch, I can’t keep this up. My advance team is now officially launched. There are less than ten members, but you have to start somewhere!
Writing in different genres
I’ve written about this a lot of the past year, but I’ll repeat myself here – if you write in different genres, you need to use different pen names. Here’s the problem: I write cozy mysteries that are clean reads and I write romantic comedies that are most definitely not clean reads. Cozy mystery readers are often offended by my romcoms. And my romcom readers often find my cozies silly. With my newsletter and social media, I only have one pen name meaning I’m advertising my romcoms to cozy mysteries who aren’t interested in romcoms and vice versa.
Not writing fast enough
Don’t get me wrong – you don’t have to write a book a month to be successful. But you do need to write constantly at whatever speed you are comfortable with. I initially farted around – writing a chapter here and there. In the past year as I’ve taken earning from my writing more seriously, I’ve worked on writing faster and on a schedule. I no longer schedule lunches and fun stuff during the daytime, and I try to write three chapters a day (just over 5,000 words). This allows me to bring more books to market. More books equals more money (or at least, that’s the idea, fingers crossed).
Approaching writing like a hobby
I saved this one for last, but it’s my biggest failure. When I started seriously writing, I had the luxury of not needing to earn money. My husband was making good money and anything I earned was simply frosting on the cake. But things change and now I regret my early attitude. Instead of having built up a bunch of super fans over the years, I feel like I began anew last year when I started taking all this writing and marketing stuff seriously.
I’m sure there are plenty more mistakes I’ve made, but these are the big ones. Anyone else feel like sharing their mistakes, so I don’t feel alone and naked out here in total honesty-ville?
This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox! Just click on the graphic to take you to the list.