This is likely my last indie author income report, so it’s a bit more personal, emotional and rambling than usual.
Just over one year ago, I quit my six-figure executive job
to become a fulltime “author-preneur” and asked publicly,
“How long will it take me to make $100,000 as a full-time writer?”
Each month, for the last 12 months, I’ve chronicled my wins, losses and income. I hit that six figure mark after six months, in December had $14,500 in book income alone, and broke $200,000 for the year. And I’ll get to the detailed financials momentarily, but first…
Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about quitting my job and am blessed with the success I had in my very first year as an indie author. But the way I feel–what I hear from just about every indie author I talk to–I usually just feel overwhelmed and exhausted.
Sure, having a full-time job and waking up at 5 A.M. to write before work is also exhausting. But I think in that phase it’s in a way, simpler. Not easier, but simpler. The full-time job keeps the wolf away from the door, and writing is a passion or the pursuit of a dream.
As a full time indie author, you definitely feel like the walls will collapse if you don’t do that next thing. And unfortunately, that next thing is rarely writing. It’s finding a cover designer, or an editor, or uploading files, or fighting with WordPress, or screwing around on social media trying to build your tribe, or accounting or…
I went into this whole thing knowing that to make the money I wanted to make I would need to diverse my income. I knew I’d need to spend time speaking, and creating online courses, and marketing. And I don’t track my time so I’m not sure what I’m truly spending it on. But I can tell you what it feels like.
It feels like I spend 5% of my time writing, and 95% on other stuff.
And it feels financially scary even when you have a $15,000 month. The voice in my head (the imposter syndrome?) wonders, “Maybe it was just a good month, will next month tank? Wonder if that’s the last time anyone will hire me for a speech? What if my email open rates don’t keep pace?”
I can remember when Hugh Howey was on a book tour for Wool. He was finally a full-time writer, sold a lot of copies, sold paperback rights for around a million bucks I heard, and he said he was struggling to find time to write. The same as when he worked full-time at a “day job”. With his success came life on the road with book tours, press interviews, meet and greets, publisher meetings, contracts to review and on and on. He said it’s always a struggle to make time to write.
Here it is, the last day of January–one twelfth of the year is gone–and I haven’t written one word of a new book!
How can that be? What the hell did I spend my time on as an author-preneur?
Well I tweaked the content to my online course. I wrote a sales page, a video sales letter, and even a webinar script to sell the online course. I wrote six articles for various websites as a way to “build my platform” and grab new email opt-ins. I was interviewed by 8 different podcasters as a way to sell my existing book. I traveled and gave a speech. I recorded a bunch of episodes of a new podcast that I’m launching, as a way to sell my previous book. And I hosted a webinar for my superfans and launch teams.
Definitely not goofing off, but not a word of writing.
That is my failure.
December Results = $14,499 royalties
December is a neat month to look at because there was no speaking income or elearning revenue at all. Pure book stuff. Here is the detail with some thoughts next to each:
- CreateSpace Print = $5,747 (Yep, my print sales a bit higher than my ebook sales. Still have no idea why so many ebook authors don’t also offer print versions)
- Kindle = $5,553
- Audible/ACX = $2,319.77 (This is all from just one book. I’m new to ACX and agree with the current hype. Definitely wish I had started doing audio books a long time ago and it’s a high priority to create audible version of my other books)
- Non-Amazon Books = $689 (I only recently tried non-Amazon sales using the Draft2Digital service. It’s only about 5% of Amazon sales but at this volume it seems worth it. Probably wouldn’t do it for a small niche book, but a mass appeal higher dollar amount book seems to be worth the effort). The breakdown for the “non-Amazon” platforms:
- IngramSpark (LightningSource) = $342.09
- Apple iBook = $303.70
- Barnes & Noble = $21.96
- Scribd = $11.88
- Kobo = $9.72
5. Amazon Associates $190.54 (this is the commissions generated from using affiliate links to my own book. Again, not much at all, but $2,000 a year is still worth the effort)
2015 Full Year Results = $242,042
For the year, I had $72,000 in book royalties and $170,000 in speaking fees. I’d like to reverse that ratio in the future. In terms of creating things to sell, over the course of the year I:
- wrote one kids novel which was a failure; no sales.
- wrote a non-fiction book (15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management) which has been a big hit.
- created and delivered two online courses that had some revenue, but not yet worth the time or money involved in creating them. Believe they have big potential, but need to relaunch in 2016. Definitely assets that could return big dividends in the future.
An immeasurable benefit of going into 2017 is that I’ve learned so much. I learned:
- How to create an audio book
- How to create and record a podcast
- How to get booked on other people’s podcasts
- Who to work with for editing, cover design, audiobook editing, etc.
- How to run Facebook ads
- How to test book titles on Facebook
- How to host my own webinar
- How to negotiate foreign rights (got Russia and Korea lined up already)
Secrets To Success
Obviously there are no real “secrets” and the analysis or advice would be more than a single blog post can cover. But a few keys to my six figure year include:
- I’m writing primarily for a business audience, and businesses hire people to speak. As I’ve written about before, I don’t go looking for speaking gigs, but one of my books is about a popular business topic so companies buy the book, then sometimes ask me to come speak to their executives. If I was writing about green smoothies, or dog walking, or getting six pack abs, those speaking opportunities wouldn’t exist.
- The “secret” to getting 100+ book reviews is having a large street team (launch team). And the secret to getting so many people in your launch team is to make a lot of remote friends over time. I answer every email I get, I review a lot of other people’s books, and I’m active on social media. Once or twice a year when I ask for the favor of a review, many people oblige.
- The secret to overcoming the 30-day fall off a cliff phenomena, is that I work hard to KEEP promoting my book. I don’t assume the launch will keep it selling well forever. Every single month I’m doing guest posts, interviews on podcasts, social media campaigns, a little bit of Facebook ads (just recently) to keep “tickling the ‘Zon”
Plans for 2016
I want to write more and speak less. So I need to up the demand for my speaking so I can up my fee, thereby reducing the demand back down to a lower rate while still maximizing the income.
I want to convert my old books to audio books and write two to three new shorter books in the area of productivity.
I also want to test the waters of traditional publishing, so will be looking for an agent and see if I can get any big offers from publishers. I’m not expecting to, but would like to validate my skepticism. 😉
And some other top secret stuff that I don’t want to share because I may procrastinate on it for another entire year.
And One More Thing…
Thank you! It’s been great meeting so many of you during my first year journey and I know a lot of you have supported me by buying and reviewing my books.
As always, hit me with any questions, just say hello, or let me know how I can support you but sending me an email: info at kevinkruse dot com.