Last month I wrote a post showing my sale numbers and other numbers a few authors have shared with me. Today I have the wonderful Liz to talk about her earnings.
Hello. My name is Liz Schulte and I am a self-published author of mystery and paranormal romance. I recently read Rachel’s article about what a self-published writer can realistically make. I have been publishing for around three years and this past year (in June) I became a full-time writer.
I find when I tell people that they tend to think it is because I am married and have another means of support, but that isn’t true. I am single, I have mortgage, and I have two dogs. I am living on my writing income 100%.
Rachel asked me to share with you guys my story about my journey to being a full-time writer. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think the best way is to first explain a few misconceptions I had and I see other new writers coming into this with, and then I will hit you with my numbers for all three years.
- So-and-so author did it this way, so it will work exactly the same for me. False. It is important to remember that everyone’s story in self-publishing or any form of publishing is different. What works for one person may not work for others. It is always good to research and know what others are doing, but if it doesn’t impact your sales, try something different. Find your market.
- One book will make me rich. False. Very few people release one book and skyrocket to fame and glory. Very few writers will ever skyrocket to fame and glory. Yes, some do it, but most don’t. Look at any artist industry: music, acting, art, etc. There are three types of people: the elite standouts, people who make a living, and the rest (the majority) who work day jobs. It is the reality of the industry. Making your place in this industry is hard work. It isn’t a 9-5 job. I work all day and most nights every single day of the week. All other aspects of my life have suffered in order for me to get here. It takes dedication and determination beyond anything your non-writer (muggles) friends and family will think is reasonable.
- I am an excellent writer and I don’t need to hone my craft. (This one is going to hurt.) False. It is great to have confidence, but no one’s first book is ever their best—nor should it be. Everyone needs an editor, and everyone should continue to study and grow as a writer. If you are not willing to do those two things, you probably aren’t going to last very long.
Now for the numbers.
**Note: All numbers are before taxes, and I always have travel, conference, and professional membership expenses, but I do not consider them a must-have for publication so I am not including them here.**
2011: 2 Books published – Earnings- $462.67; Expenses (advertising and production) – $2,591.13 NET LOSS
2012: 3 Books published and one short story (total of 5 books and a short story for sale) – $61,102; Expenses (advertising and production) – $8,916.39
2013 (so far): 4 Books published (total of 9 books and a short story for sale) – $100,987.24; Expenses (advertising and production) – $9,111.56
These numbers probably lead you to a few questions. What are “production costs”? How do I advertise? And what changed between year one and year two?
- Production costs. Included in this are cover, editing, and formatting. A breakdown of my expenses in this category looks something like this: copy editor – $2.50 per page (250 words per page), proofreader – $1.00-1.25 per page (250 words per page), cover design (all formats) – $50-150, and formatting (all formats) – $70-100. These are the essential things you have to do to publish a book.
- Advertising. The truth to this is that I try everything at least once. Some work for me and some don’t. I have had the best success with Pixel of Ink (free), Bookbub (paid), and Ereader News Today (free and paid). Blog tours are great for growing a fan base and improving your SEO, but I have never noticed a huge jump in sales from them.
- The majority of the money I made in year two was made toward the end of the year. The factor that changed was that I published the third book in a series and made the first book free then ran ads with the three places mentioned above. It gave my books and series the boost they needed to get noticed. I don’t recommend using free books or having sales when you only have one or two books out. It is best to wait until you have multiple books so you get more bang for your buck.
- More than anything—and I cannot stress this enough—write more books, continue writing ebooks. Stop stalking your sales, returns, ranking, and reviews and write.
This has been my experience with self-publishing. I am happy to talk to anyone who has questions. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, or my website.
About the Author:
Many authors claim to have known their calling from a young age. Liz Schulte, however, didn’t always want to be an author. In fact, she had no clue. Liz wanted to be a veterinarian, then she wanted to be a lawyer, then she wanted to be a criminal profiler. In a valiant effort to keep from becoming Walter Mitty, Liz put pen to paper and began writing her first novel. It was at that moment she realized this is what she was meant to do. As a scribe she could be all of those things and so much more.
When Liz isn’t writing or on social networks she is inflicting movie quotes and trivia on people, reading, traveling, and hanging out with friends and family. Liz is a Midwest girl through and through, though she would be perfectly happy never having to shovel her driveway again. She has a love for all things spooky, supernatural, and snarky. Her favorite authors range from Edgar Allen Poe to Joseph Heller to Jane Austen to Jim Butcher and everything in between.
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Easy Bake Coven:
For Selene Warren being a witch is no big deal. She dabbles in harmless magic with her friends and never thinks much about it. However, when a stranger who seems to know her shows up at her studio and her grandmother is brutally attacked, her simple life becomes complicated.
A world of elves, half-elves, fae—and one peculiar Sekhmet named Femi open up to her. She will discover that fairy tales are real, politics are ugly in any world, and there is a lot more to her life than she ever dreamed possible.
This new reality threatens swallow Selene whole, but with a forgotten past beating down her door, she will have to dive in to save her future.
Kia Heavey saysNovember 23, 2013 at 8:47 am
Thank you! Excellent and informative article. I am in the “day job too” category and dream of earning enough through self-publishing but I always suspected an author needs multiple titles to make it happen. Will keep plugging away!
Liz Schulte saysNovember 24, 2013 at 3:46 pm
You can do it! Just keep writing.Good luck!
Janie Junebug saysNovember 23, 2013 at 12:11 pm
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard to achieve success. Thanks for sharing your story.
Liz Schulte saysNovember 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm
Leisl Kaberry saysNovember 24, 2013 at 11:09 pm
Thanks Liz for being open about your experiences with self publishing and being willing to reveal your financial successes. Very interesting and helpful to know. I am finding from recently publishing my first book that I just don’t know what I should expect, or perhaps what not to expect haha. I know everyone’s story will be different but is good to have some idea about how it works and now I feel I’m kind of on the right track… One book published, lots of publishing and promotion costs…no doubt will be a net loss within the year. Anyway feeling like there is more hope… Just need to get the next two in the series out. Phew! 🙂
Liz Schulte saysNovember 25, 2013 at 2:37 pm
Yes. Keep writing. More books equals more money. Writing is a business and the more business minded you are about your approach the better it is.
Jan Moran saysNovember 25, 2013 at 8:01 am
Liz, Rachel, and Kate – Great article, thanks for sharing. This information is vital for authors to know! I see many talented authors who stop at one book because of the economics.
Being an indie author (or indie musician, artist, etc.) is really being an entrepreneur. Your production costs, promotion, and time is your initial investment. Indie authors need a business plan to keep them on track. Easy to become disheartened unless you have a long term plan to stay on track.
Happily, there are more tools available free on online than ever before that make an indie look like a pro at a fraction of the old-school price. If you can outsource, great, but it helps to be familiar with the business tools of the trade. (FYI, I have a Resource list on my blog of those tools I rely upon.) This keeps initial overhead low, and keeps you in the game.
Thanks, Liz, for being transparent, and sharing how you achieved your numbers. Good to know what works for you. Would be interested in reading another segment on your promotional strategy, ie, ad frequency, pricing, emailing, street teams, etc.
Much success to all of you–thanks!
Liz Schulte saysNovember 25, 2013 at 2:38 pm
I completely agree about treating writing like a business. Emotion should be saved for the stories we write. Best of luck!
Di Horsfield saysNovember 27, 2013 at 10:01 pm
Thank you Liz and Rachel fir a very interesting and informative article. I’m still in the ‘should I, could I’ group and you’ve given me a lot to think about.
Congratulations on your success and long may it last!
Liz Schulte saysNovember 29, 2013 at 4:57 pm
Thank you. Good luck with your decision.
Cathy Spencer saysNovember 29, 2013 at 5:36 am
Inspiring article, Liz. Congratulations on your success. I’d be interested to hear what formats you publish in and who you’ve published through. Also, how did you come to focus on Pixel of Ink, Bookbub, and Ereader? There are about a gazillion sites to choose from when it comes to advertising. Cheers!
Liz Schulte saysNovember 29, 2013 at 5:05 pm
Thank you. I publish on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Create Space. I have tried every book site that I have come across for advertising, but I am sure there are more than I could keep up with. The three I mentioned give me the largest impact on book sales for a single advertisement. They all have an exceptionally large reach and the larger the audience the most likely you are to find an audience for your work.
Cathy Spencer saysNovember 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm
One more question, if you don’t mind, Liz. What do you think about belonging to professional writing organizations? Aside from the social and professional development opportunities, does membership provide self-publishing authors with a type of credential?
Liz Schulte saysDecember 3, 2013 at 5:06 pm
I don’t know what you mean by credentials. I belong personally to several. I am a member of my state writer’s guild and local chapter (I have even been the guest speaker at the local chapter meeting). I am a member of Romance Writers of America (best writing conference I have ever gone to. Fantastic organization), Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers of America. I like to join these for information and networking. Not all treat self-published writers as fairly as RWA, but I hope we continue to pioneer new pathways into these groups because all writers (traditional or indie) need to stick together.
Robyn LaRue saysDecember 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm
Thank you for sharing such personal information. It really does help those of us deciding which publishing route to take and how much work is involved with each. I hope to bring my book out in the spring and find the process a bit overwhelming. 🙂 Thank you also for the names of the sites that worked for you. I’ll be looking them up.
Liz Schulte saysDecember 3, 2013 at 5:07 pm
Good luck, Robin. Just keep doing what you love and learning every day and you will do great!
Sherry Roberts saysDecember 3, 2013 at 3:36 pm
Liz and Rachel,
You guys tell it like it is, and that is what indie publishers need most. We all approach this business (note I said business) with stars in our eyes. It is tough to become that hybrid: the starry-eyed writer and the realistic, grounded entrepreneur. We must be both. We must meld the creative with the business. Twain did it. Dickens did it. Through the years, writers have gotten out of that habit of taking care of ourselves. Now, we must learn it again. Write smart and publish smart.
Liz Schulte saysDecember 3, 2013 at 5:08 pm
Absolutely. It isn’t easy but it’s worth it. Good luck, Sherry!
Jeanette Bennett saysDecember 4, 2013 at 9:31 am
Thank you for the post. I kind of get sick of everyone promising you vast riches if you buy their book on “How to be an Indie Writer” or exaggerating to impress readers. I figured I would have to be in this for the long haul. It’s nice to know I’m on track. I have to admire your tenacity since I am lucky enough to have a Sugar Daddy (aka supportive husband.) We are finally at a point where we can survive on his wages. I guess one has to ask themselves what is more important: material things or writing? I’m glad you are now beyond Top Ramen and church rummage sales.
Mohana saysDecember 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm
When you say you made the first book free, do you mean on Kindle or in print? I know your formula may not work for everyone. Trying to get my head around pricing structure now that I’m heading into the world of paperbacks! Thank you and Rachel for giving us inspiration, confidence and information.
Bianca Sloane saysDecember 16, 2013 at 6:55 am
Great advice that always bears repeating. And many congrats on all your success!
Lesley Lodge saysJune 6, 2014 at 5:46 am
This is the most realistic piece of advice I’ve read for a long time. Encouraging and makes sense too. Thanks!
Rachel Thompson saysJune 6, 2014 at 9:51 pm
quite welcome. I’m always happy to share experiences that can help other authors. I’m glad Liz’s story is helpful to you — and encouraging!