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Author Topic: What makes a 100k author?  (Read 61879 times)  

Offline Usedtoposthere

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What makes a 100k author?
« on: June 08, 2017, 09:31:45 AM »
A survey by Writtn Word Media on what makes a 100k author. Interesting in light of some perennial discussions here.

https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/2017/06/07/100k-author/

I will point out that these are general statistics, and of course anybody can point to Author X who does her own covers or Author Y who made it to 100k on two or three books. (Or one.) I personally fall on the "wrong" side of about half of them. But it's a good basic list of commonalities. Most of it will seem like common sense, but it's good to see it laid out.

In brief: (but the article has cool graphs and much more info)

1. Time. 100k authors have generally been writing longer--3+ years.

2. Indie: most 100k authors answering were indie or hybrid. (Of course we can all point to megawatt tradpubbed folks. Again, general rule.)

3. Wide or KU isn't a divider--100k people can be either.

4. Covers: pro covers. $100-1000 in general.

5. Editing: pro editing, mostly $250-1000.

6. Paid marketing.

7. Less likely to have a day job. (Obviously)

8. Work more hours and have more books out.


(Me again.) I've been interested lately in the divide between people who do well for a while and the people who keep doing well after 5, 10, 15 years as this industry keeps changing. The big things I see are

1. Continuing to work hard and get books out. Lots of people do well then sort of stop or slow way down.

2. Smart decisions and calculated risk taking: venturing into other media and platforms, new series, new subgenres or genres to build an audience.

3. Adapting to the market. I don't see some of the big names anymore who were killing it with very short stuff for KU1. Other folks shifted with the market. Still others (I'd be one of those) write less trendy and create their own market in a way. People like Jana DeLeon and Penny Reid--two authors I admire who've done things very much their way and succeeded hugely.

4. Strong voice and author brand.

I'm sure other people can think of things I've missed. Interesting to think about.

Offline EB

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2017, 09:49:26 AM »
I've been interested lately in the divide between people who do well for a while and the people who keep doing well after 5, 10, 15 years as this industry keeps changing. The big things I see are

1. Continuing to work hard and get books out. Lots of people do well then sort of stop or slow way down.

2. Smart decisions and calculated risk taking: venturing into other media and platforms, new series, new subgenres or genres to build an audience.

3. Adapting to the market. I don't see some of the big names anymore who were killing it with very short stuff for KU1. Other folks shifted with the market. Still others (I'd be one of those) write less trendy and create their own market in a way. People like Jana DeLeon and Penny Reid--two authors I admire who've done things very much their way and succeeded hugely.

4. Strong voice and author brand.

I'm sure other people can think of things I've missed. Interesting to think about.

Good article, thanks for sharing it.

I'm interested in the longevity as well.  Lately I've noticed that a couple authors I follow who did well with short works are not sustaining it.
I think you've discussed before how you've found your niche and you know how to write for your fans & I find that advice quite valuable. I'm trying to emulate you in that respect. I've branched out with a few other things in the past and haven't been happy with the results. It seems like when I consistently write to my niche audience, though, things get better every month. I think I am going to go balls to the wall for the next 8-12 months and focus on my niche market & reassess from there.

Offline elizabethbarone

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2017, 10:08:22 AM »
I'm working on those four things now. I'd love to be a 100K author, though I'd be perfectly content to support my family and buy a house. 😊

I've had health issues slow me down in the past -- grr -- but I keep coming back, and I think that's what's important. Even when I can't release anything, I stay in touch with my readers.

I'd decided to focus on romance and suspense, but lately I've drilled down. I'm writing in f/f romance and another subgenre that I'll be shouting to the world soon.

I'm far from an expert on this, but I think it's important to find a balance between the market and what you love. Personally, I'd exhaust myself if I tried catching every trending wave that rolled in. Chris Fox's advice in Write to Market was a gamechanger for me, because previously I stubbornly kept writing outside of genre, just riding the waves of whatever story popped into my head. Now I've learned how to combine my ideas with market research, and even reverse-engineer and build a story around tropes.

One thing I think I've nailed is my voice and brand. I have readers who will faithfully insta-buy everything I publish because they love my voice. It's happened over years rather than something I did intentionally, but I'm still really proud of that. Now if only I could clone those readers into an army, I could have my 100K career. 🙃

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Offline anniejocoby

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2017, 10:19:01 AM »
I'm working on those four things now. I'd love to be a 100K author, though I'd be perfectly content to support my family and buy a house. 😊

I've had health issues slow me down in the past -- grr -- but I keep coming back, and I think that's what's important. Even when I can't release anything, I stay in touch with my readers.

I'd decided to focus on romance and suspense, but lately I've drilled down. I'm writing in f/f romance and another subgenre that I'll be shouting to the world soon.

I'm far from an expert on this, but I think it's important to find a balance between the market and what you love. Personally, I'd exhaust myself if I tried catching every trending wave that rolled in. Chris Fox's advice in Write to Market was a gamechanger for me, because previously I stubbornly kept writing outside of genre, just riding the waves of whatever story popped into my head. Now I've learned how to combine my ideas with market research, and even reverse-engineer and build a story around tropes.

One thing I think I've nailed is my voice and brand. I have readers who will faithfully insta-buy everything I publish because they love my voice. It's happened over years rather than something I did intentionally, but I'm still really proud of that. Now if only I could clone those readers into an army, I could have my 100K career. 🙃

Good luck! It sounds like you have an excellent plan - you did your research, found an under-served but hungry genre, and are reverse-engineering the best-sellers. IIRC, Annie Bellet said that she reverse-engineered the hottest sellers in her genre, and was rewarded with a series that exploded out of the gate. Sounds like you have the fundamentals down to get into the 100K club.

Me, I was a member of the 100K club for two years. I can trace my success back to one thing - BookBub. Yeah. That's about the extent of it. I had two BookBub ads a year for two years in a row, and they blew.the.roof.off.the.house - all four of them. Then I became persona non-grata with them, and I stumbled completely.

Now, I'm trying to get back in with a much better, more sustainable path that doesn't rely on the caprices of one site. I really want to take control of my own destiny. I'll see if it works.

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Offline Chris Fox

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2017, 12:30:15 PM »
I found the difference in hours spent writing was really telling. Six-figure authors work a lot harder, and had an average of 30 books in their backlist. It seems to correlate with my experience. The harder I write, the more my income goes up.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2017, 12:36:56 PM »
I found the difference in hours spent writing was really telling. Six-figure authors work a lot harder, and had an average of 30 books in their backlist. It seems to correlate with my experience. The harder I write, the more my income goes up.
To be fair, six-figure authors are also much less likely to have a day job. People who earn less aren't necessarily working less--they may just have less time to spend writing and marketing.

Offline lincolnjcole

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2017, 12:43:33 PM »
To be fair, six-figure authors are also much less likely to have a day job. People who earn less aren't necessarily working less--they may just have less time to spend writing and marketing.

Really great and useful information! Thanks so much for sharing this and I agree with your analysis.

I would be terrified to do any of this if I actually had to make money!

Offline GeneDoucette

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2017, 01:02:56 PM »
I'm a six figure author as of this year, and I have a full time day job and I only have 12 titles right now. (13 if you count an anthology.) I'm a long way from figuring out how to sustain it. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if I can succeed by following my bliss and writing only what I feel like writing.

Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2017, 01:15:16 PM »
I'm a six figure author as of this year, and I have a full time day job and I only have 12 titles right now. (13 if you count an anthology.) I'm a long way from figuring out how to sustain it. Right now, I'm trying to figure out if I can succeed by following my bliss and writing only what I feel like writing.

And you remain an inspiration to this full-time day jobber and full-time writer. :)

Offline Morgan Worth

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2017, 03:52:27 PM »
To be fair, six-figure authors are also much less likely to have a day job. People who earn less aren't necessarily working less--they may just have less time to spend writing and marketing.

That's a good point. It's important for us to work hard, but it's also important to remember not to be too hard on ourselves!
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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2017, 04:49:41 PM »
Thanks for posting Rosalind.

I write so much less than the typical 100K  ::) But I think I'll get there as my backlist grows. Slow and steady may not win the race, but I'll still get to the finish line.

I hope you're right about people who branch into different genres, I'm about to do that soon. So far, a lot of my fantasy audience has followed me into sci-fi ... apparently I get emotions right,  and I'm funny, and that's what they really like.


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Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2017, 04:55:54 PM »
Thanks for posting Rosalind.

I write so much less than the typical 100K  ::) But I think I'll get there as my backlist grows. Slow and steady may not win the race, but I'll still get to the finish line.

I hope you're right about people who branch into different genres, I'm about to do that soon. So far, a lot of my fantasy audience has followed me into sci-fi ... apparently I get emotions right,  and I'm funny, and that's what they really like.
Some of that may be my own prejudice showing. Personally, writing different things makes me a better writer and broadens my base in the long term, I believe. Other authors will cite evidence that dancing with the one what brung you is a much better success strategy. It's probably down to personal preference in a lot of places--if you can write the same kind of book and keep your readership and yourself engaged. (I don't think I could.)

Offline katrina46

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2017, 05:46:16 PM »
That's a good point. It's important for us to work hard, but it's also important to remember not to be too hard on ourselves!
I work 4 days a week, 32 hours and get 3 off in a row. On my days off I put in 30 hours, so I it's almost full time. I just squeeze it all into 3 days. I realize to get to the next level I probably need to go full time and do 50-60hrs a week, so I save my royalties. I should have a years worth of wages in the fall and then I'll quit in time to enjoy the holidays. For me that's the best way. I want enough money in the bank not to worry about market shakeups, which do happen from time to time.

Offline Benjamin Douglas

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2017, 07:00:12 PM »
Rosalind started a thread!

*Gets ice cream*
*Reads and rereads posts already in said thread from all the kboards gods; smile upon me, ye gods*
*finger hovers over refresh button for the foreseeable future*

 :D

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2017, 08:09:41 PM »
Six-figure authors work a lot harder,

I'm not an established writer (I've been published a whopping 2 months), but my goal isn't necessarily to work harder, but rather to work more efficiently and effectively.  I suspect writers who have consistently maintained a 6-figure income over time have developed practices, routines, habits etc that serve them far better than my 'okay, so what am I going to do next?' approach.

Offline Word Fan

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #15 on: June 08, 2017, 08:23:44 PM »
I think I am going to go balls to the wall...

I don't really think you can do that, can you?  :o

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2017, 08:37:16 PM »
I'm not an established writer (I've been published a whopping 2 months), but my goal isn't necessarily to work harder, but rather to work more efficiently and effectively.  I suspect writers who have consistently maintained a 6-figure income over time have developed practices, routines, habits etc that serve them far better than my 'okay, so what am I going to do next?' approach.
Haha, well, not me, but I'm sure SOME of them have.

Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2017, 08:45:35 PM »
To be fair, six-figure authors are also much less likely to have a day job. People who earn less aren't necessarily working less--they may just have less time to spend writing and marketing.

This is very true. There is a ceiling on how much most people can work during a day and keep is sustainable. I would love to focus more time to writing, but unfortunately I work 9-5 and it's just not feasible to really do much more than I do. I manage about 1k words a day though, which I think is pretty solid.

But yeah. I have days where I write more, obviously. But the way I look at it, it's better to have an achievable and sustainable workload then forcing oneself to overload themselves and burn out. Might make success come a little slower, but probably makes it more realistic.

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Offline LMareeApps

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2017, 08:47:32 PM »
Haha, well, not me, but I'm sure SOME of them have.
;D  Perhaps I should scale it back to 'they've got a bit of an idea what they're doing when they go to work'...

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #19 on: June 08, 2017, 08:50:38 PM »
I made six figures in year 2 and most of it was due to book 4. I did an analysis of the top selling indies in my chosen category (erotic romance) at that time and wrote my own version and that did it. Books 1 - 3 were low sellers by comparison.

My first year, first 3 books:



My second year with 4 books: Book 4 earned $97K and Books 1 - 3 the rest.



So it's important to remember when looking at averages that they are a fiction. They give you and overall idea of things. There is no guarantee that writing 30 books will earn you 100K. I know of authors with 15 and 20 books that do not sell. I know of authors with one book that earn six figures and more.

It's the book. The more you write, the better chance you have of writing a great book that earns six figures, but writing more is not a guarantee.

There are no guarantees.

Study your craft, work hard and work smart. Those are keys to setting yourself up for success.

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #20 on: June 08, 2017, 09:07:01 PM »
I made six figures in year 2 and most of it was due to book 4. I did an analysis of the top selling indies in my chosen category (erotic romance) at that time and wrote my own version and that did it. Books 1 - 3 were low sellers by comparison.

My first year, first 3 books:



My second year with 4 books: Book 4 earned $97K and Books 1 - 3 the rest.



So it's important to remember when looking at averages that they are a fiction. They give you and overall idea of things. There is no guarantee that writing 30 books will earn you 100K. I know of authors with 15 and 20 books that do not sell. I know of authors with one book that earn six figures and more.

It's the book. The more you write, the better chance you have of writing a great book that earns six figures, but writing more is not a guarantee.

There are no guarantees.

Study your craft, work hard and work smart. Those are keys to setting yourself up for success.
Very true. Averages can be deceptive. Averages aren't individuals. As I said, I only fit about half of those criteria myself. Sometimes, you do hit just right and get that traction from the beginning that makes everything easier. I didn't study, I think I just knew the market of women like me and wrote something appealing. I DID know it was appealing. I knew it was a great idea. That's what I'd claim from my own success.

There isn't much "fair" about this business, but there are some truths. I think most people would agree that pro covers, pro editing, steady work habits, and regular releases (which don't have to be every month) are pretty basic success elements. That doesn't mean you WILL succeed in getting to the 6-figure mark. It means you've given yourself your best shot.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 09:14:25 PM by Rosalind J »

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #21 on: June 08, 2017, 09:16:11 PM »
Very true. Averages can be deceptive. Averages aren't individuals. As I said, I only fit about half of those criteria myself. But much of the advice--pro covers, pro editing, steady work habits--is pretty basic.

I agree and should have added that for my first three books, I got a free edit from a family member. I did get pro covers. The books were not written to market. They were a mishmash of 2 categories and satisfied readers of neither. :(

Book 4 was written to market. It had a pro edit and pro cover. It is still my big earner.

I have 13 full length novels, 3 novellas and 3 short stories (I think) published. I get everything professionally line edited and proofread. I buy professional covers. I pay for advertising. I write for about 20 hours a week. I work on my business about the same amount of time, so a 40 hour week.

I always advise new authors to put out the very best product you can. Beg borrow or steal (not really!) so you can get pro covers (even premade for $35 - $50) and get someone to -- at minimum -- proofread you work. You have to compete with the top sellers for visibility. Treat yourself like a pro. Pros get pro editing and pro cover design. They work hard. In the end, the rest is up to the book and how well the author tells the story.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 09:17:50 PM by sela »

Offline Crystal_

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #22 on: June 08, 2017, 09:44:55 PM »
I made six figures in year 2 and most of it was due to book 4. I did an analysis of the top selling indies in my chosen category (erotic romance) at that time and wrote my own version and that did it. Books 1 - 3 were low sellers by comparison.

My first year, first 3 books:



My second year with 4 books: Book 4 earned $97K and Books 1 - 3 the rest.



So it's important to remember when looking at averages that they are a fiction. They give you and overall idea of things. There is no guarantee that writing 30 books will earn you 100K. I know of authors with 15 and 20 books that do not sell. I know of authors with one book that earn six figures and more.

It's the book. The more you write, the better chance you have of writing a great book that earns six figures, but writing more is not a guarantee.

There are no guarantees.

Study your craft, work hard and work smart. Those are keys to setting yourself up for success.

I think it's important to avoid suggesting that writing a good book to market is all it takes to have a hit. It's usually enough for a book to do well, but not always. I've had books die on release then later be resurrected by good promo or repackaging. With any individual book, there is a certain x factor the author can't control

Thankfully, over enough books, luck tends to even out. You don't need any hits to make 100k/year if you put out enough books with enough marketing. I've been at six figures since last year and I've only had one book I'd call a hit. But I've got 11 novels out right now (plus two bundles, three unpublished novels, and one unpublished novella).

Offline D-C

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2017, 11:01:34 PM »
In general, I agree with those findings but there will always be those whose journey to six figures is very different. I haven't stopped working in over three years. A week here and there but it's a profession that requires constant attention. If I'm not writing, I'm marketing or formatting or answering emails. I didn't technically have a day job when I started but I do have a family and two kids under 7 so my writing time is compressed into a few hours a day. Only a rare few can publish one or two books and hit the big time.

Offline sela

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Re: What makes a 100k author?
« Reply #24 on: June 08, 2017, 11:25:34 PM »
I think it's important to avoid suggesting that writing a good book to market is all it takes to have a hit. It's usually enough for a book to do well, but not always. I've had books die on release then later be resurrected by good promo or repackaging. With any individual book, there is a certain x factor the author can't control

Thankfully, over enough books, luck tends to even out. You don't need any hits to make 100k/year if you put out enough books with enough marketing. I've been at six figures since last year and I've only had one book I'd call a hit. But I've got 11 novels out right now (plus two bundles, three unpublished novels, and one unpublished novella).

You're right and if I suggested that you need a hit book written to market to make $100k, I didn't mean to. You don't have to have a hit to make $100k. You can have two dozen low selling books. Or a medium hit and a dozen low sellers. Or three moderate hits. Etc.

For me, it was book 4. That doesn't mean every person who writes book 4 will make $100k. Nor do you need a hit. There are many paths to $100k but few will make the trip.

Simply writing 30 books will not guarantee you will make 100k. Paying for a pro edit and pro cover will not ensure you earn 100k. You can write 30 crappy books and make no money. You can spend a fortune on covers and editing and still flop. That old saying that you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig is true.

Storytelling matters.