20 books to earn $50k a year? Snort. I failed this mission – spectacularly. Here’s how. Please learn from my mistakes. Someone should. #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #WritingCommunity #AmWriting

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.


Blurb Failure

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.

authortoolbox 5

23 thoughts on “20 books to earn $50k a year? Snort. I failed this mission – spectacularly. Here’s how. Please learn from my mistakes. Someone should. #WriterWednesday #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #WritingCommunity #AmWriting

  1. DRShoultz says:

    D.E. I found your post to be very informative and quite open and honest. I, too, have suffered many of the same learning experiences (I won’t call them mistakes). I’ve self-published 7 novels (actually 9, but my first 2 are out of print), and I’m nowhere close to clearing $25K/year. Given the massive competition for readers, you are doing well. You’ve clearly made great strides in understanding your work and your market. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jimmy Kindree says:

    Thank you for sharing this wisdom. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot. I’m definitely guilty of some of these–I want my writing to be just an expression of what’s in my heart, and that’s great I suppose if I only want to write for myself, but thinking about markets and modifying my writing to fit is probably where I need to pay more attention. Thank you for sharing, and kudos to you for what you have accomplished.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Carmen Lezeth Suarez says:

    So, I read all of this and first, thank you for sharing it all. It’s so helpful to be able to gain insight into the world of a writer trying to make a living doing it — who is not a celebrity (yet) and/or some already established brand. BUT — and I say this with so much love and kindness — you are really hard on yourself! I wish you wouldn’t be. You are somebody. These are NOT “mistakes” — this is part of the learning process of being a fabulous human being! Thank you again for sharing it all. It’s making me rethink how I’m moving along in my creative process. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • D.E. Haggerty says:

      Thanks, Carmen. I’m good at learning from my mistakes. I actually spent way more time than normal working on this blog post, so I could get everything straight in my head. What I’ve done in the past and how I want to improve in the future.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. nooranandchawla says:

    Wow congratulation on 20 books! No matter the mistakes, that is a huge feat in itself!! Thanks for candidly sharing where you went wrong, it really helps newbies like me to be better prepared.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Annelise Driscoll says:

    This is a great post! I’m definitely guilty of the whole not-having-a-launch-team-or-new-letter thing. :/ I definitely need to work on that. But it’s always exciting to identify past mistakes and fix them for future projects! (P.S. LOVE the newer “Death by Cupcake” cover!)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. S.E. White says:

    Whew! This is a big helping of truth and baldfaced facts, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your experiences. Every point you make is valid and I want to bookmark this article so I can refer back as I continue writing.

    Also, twenty books! That’s amazing! You deserve a huge congratulations for that career milestone. 50K a year in return would obviously be nice, but whatever else comes of it, you’ve written twenty entire books. Pretty awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rosepoint Publishing says:

    Excellent article! Nailed it on so many points. One of the biggest hurdles is bull-headedly trying to do things your way and discovering it is just NOT going to work. Pitching the proper genre is one. I almost had to laugh at the cover example. So not going to work. I’m thinking now with what you’ve learned, you’ll start seeing a big difference in sales–like your update edits to the cozies. And you are right–I want no f words or big romances (much less sexual content–shudder) in the cozy i read.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. J.Q. Rose says:

    Congrats on #20!! Gulp–that’s a LOT of books to market. I am guilty of several of your “mistakes.” But my piano teacher always told me when you hit the wrong note, that’s okay. Learn from it. Just change it and hit the right note next time. Sounds like you’re playing a lovely tune now!! Love your upbeat writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. richiebilling says:

    I love your honesty! But it’s so important to critically reflect on what you’ve done both right and wrong in order to improve and tackle what isn’t quite working. I’ve been through a lot of what you have too. The mailing list issue is a big one. I invested a lot of time building it and then let it languish for a while, which has done me no good. I’m also guilty of not writing fast enough. Distractions are too easy to come by and hard to defeat!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. bethmcqueen says:

    That cupcake cover is a vast improvement. I think that being an author is about continuous improvement, and just because you may get it wrong in the beginning, doesn’t mean that can’t tweak and make things better. It’s baby steps towards success.

    Liked by 2 people

Comments are closed.