Author Topic: How many books does it take?  (Read 3307 times)  

Offline ForeverQuestioning

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How many books does it take?
« on: October 25, 2020, 11:24:57 am »

How many books did it take you before you were making around $1,500 a month?

So, here's a publishing schedule for you:

All KU
All stand-alones, although the characters know each other and appear in each of the books. But it's not a series about one couple. Think Christine Feehan.
Romance thrillers (bullets are flying, there's danger from page one, some dangerous weather too)

Three books: next Sept 1st
Book 4:         October 1st
Book 5:         January 1st (thus begins publishing every three months, because that's as fast as I can write)
Book 6:         April 1st

Or should I start on Oct 1st?

Let's pretend that's all I have. Just those six books.

Is it enough to live off of? I know everyone's different, but assuming I use an editor and cover designer (nothing fancy, think James Patterson covers), and have moderate success or just-okay success...

What are your thoughts?

I used to be able to estimate, given 70% of 2.99, but I've never used KU before, so I have no idea how much I might make.


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    Offline Alex Anders

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #1 on: October 25, 2020, 11:48:17 am »
    How many books did it take you before you were making around $1,500 a month?


    Since I had to restart my Amazon career in November of last year, I can answer this question. It took me 2 English books, 2 German translations, and 2 French translations. But most of the heavy lifting was done by one of the German translations.
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    Offline CassieL

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #2 on: October 25, 2020, 11:57:44 am »
    It'll likely come down to the quality of the writing and whether you manage to engage your target audience which none of us can say.

    For KU I always estimate about .0042 cents per page read (which tends to be lower than actual). For a 60K novel maybe 400 KENP. Estimate that not everyone who borrows a book will read it. Competitive genre with plenty of available books so you'll have to advertise. Run your scenarios from there with various levels of sales and readthrough and ad spend and see whether you think you can hit the numbers you need or not.

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    Offline Shane Lochlann Black

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #3 on: October 25, 2020, 12:08:40 pm »
    It's a function of your advertising spend, conversion rate and read-through. How fast you publish has zero effect on sales. The only thing that matters is how much you can budget for advertising.

    Advertise for subscribers and build your list. Then advertise to your list. It's expensive to start, but gets less expensive with every new subscriber. 

    Only spend on things you control.

    Offline ForeverQuestioning

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #4 on: October 25, 2020, 06:23:37 pm »
    Thanks for the replies! But I have a confession to make:

    I hadn't read Patty Jansen's "Indie Writer Unboxed" until today and now, like Tom, I'm feeling a little stupid. I know it will take more than six books. I'd just come here hoping I was wrong. But HOPE doesn't really help me get down to business.  ;D

    Offline Alex Anders

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #5 on: October 25, 2020, 06:47:39 pm »
    Thanks for the replies! But I have a confession to make:

    I hadn't read Patty Jansen's "Indie Writer Unboxed" until today and now, like Tom, I'm feeling a little stupid. I know it will take more than six books. I'd just come here hoping I was wrong. But HOPE doesn't really help me get down to business.  ;D
    I'm confused. Did I mention that I'm writing in a not very popular genre? I haven't written my 6th Amazon book yet and I'm earning way over $1500 a month. If You want to make a living at writing books think globally. There is a very good reason why you can run Amazon ads in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Japan. And it's not so you can sell your English books in foreign language territories.
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    Offline stacia_s

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #6 on: October 25, 2020, 07:54:53 pm »
    My first month of indie publishing was November 2018 and I made $1007.45 (after expenses because there were none, I did my own cover and editing) when I published my first romance novella around the middle of the month. The next month, December 2018, I made $5,530 after publishing the next novella in the series right before Christmas. In 2019, I made about $70,000 after expenses off of four more novellas (about 35k words each) and three full-length novels.

    I am very much a statistical anomaly.

    And what I did wouldn't be reproducible now, even by me. I happened to stumble on a very hungry niche with an avid readership and struck while the iron was hot. I didn't pay for advertising, but I had a platform in the form of a reader group on FB devoted to this niche that was absolutely clamoring for content at the time. New authors have entered this space since I did and it is thoroughly saturated now. But I'd also spent the previous ten years fruitlessly writing and querying literary agents. And even when I landed what I thought was my dream agent, she couldn't sell the manuscript that got me signed with her. The novellas were adapted from a trunk novel I'd abandoned years before.

    All of that is just to say that the first books you write probably aren't going to make you a living.

    And am I reading your schedule right? You're planning to publish three full-length books in one month?

    That's a terrible idea. You're not giving yourself any time to promote or build buzz between books. There are a lot of romance novels on Amazon (some might say too many) and just having a bunch drop at once, especially in a category as gigantic as romantic suspense, isn't going to be enough to gain you any visibility. Romance readers find books primarily through word of mouth and every successful author I know of in romance puts a lot of effort into building buzz in the weeks or months leading up to launch, paid and otherwise.

    If you're writing on-market Romantic Suspense or Paranormal Romance (which is what Christine Feehan writes), then I would absolutely expect six books to net you $18000 in a year ($1500 x 12 months). Honestly, if you didn't make that, my assumption would be that something went wrong either with the packaging or the books themselves.

    Except (and this is a very important point) most new authors make book-killing mistakes when they're first starting out. Indie publishing as a whole is way too saturated for books with flaws to make it onto people's radar.

    And that's the problem. If you've held and then rapid released the books, then you've lost any opportunity to learn and course correct. You've blown your load, so to speak. Publish one flop and you can learn from it for the next. Publish three in a month and you've wasted a lot of writing time. Enough that it might just make you so frustrated that you quit altogether.

    In general, I'm on the fence about rapid release. It can be very useful as a launch strategy if you know what you're doing and want to target a specific kind of readership. However, if your books are off market or poorly written then publishing them fast isn't going to do anything for you. Rapid release won't sell books that wouldn't have sold anyway. And the problem with recommending rapid release to a newbie (or an unsuccessful "vet") is that you have no idea if your books are marketable or not. Instead of writing and publishing one book, then tweaking the next based on market response and what you've learned in the process, you're writing and holding several books that might all be duds. And you won't figure out they're duds until after months or years of effort, which I assume is pretty soul-crushing.

    Rapid release is generally only a viable strategy for authors who already know what they're doing. A lucky few stumble onto a winning formula by accident, but this is not the norm. Most newbies just don't know enough yet, about themselves or the industry. It takes experience to understand the nuances of this industry.

    The other big problem with rapid release is that you're targeting a very specific kind of readership. Whale readers who care more about having another book to read than where that book is coming from. People will viable longterm careers build a brand from the very beginning. If you are not a book/month author then attracting that readership initially will make you some money but they won't stick with you as soon as the schedule normalizes to your normal production levels. Longterm success comes with laying a foundation for what you want to achieve at the beginning. Readers don't know how long you held onto books before publishing. If you start off with a book every month, they're probably going to expect that schedule to continue and will be annoyed when it doesn't.


    And I might be misunderstanding you, but six books are not going to make steady money forever. Every book, no matter how popular the author, has an earnings tail that starts at a launch high and eventually peters out. You can lengthen that tail with advertising and sales, but you need frontlist to sell your backlist.

    So to answer your question: an author who nails it might see $1500 in their first month from a marketable book (especially in romance), with scaling from there if they publish regularly. But most people who have never published before have not written a marketable book and they don't have enough experience to see where they've missed the mark. No one can tell you how much your books will make, even with knowing the genre and publishing schedule. But statistically speaking, your first books aren't going to be worth more than beer money. The few people who do well right out of the gate have spent a lot of time and effort learning the ropes and most of them also got lucky.

    Offline Carol (was Dara)

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #7 on: October 25, 2020, 08:08:55 pm »
    Without knowing what your packaging or marketing will look like, and keeping in mind this isn't a niche I'm very familiar with, it's hard to say how your six books will do. But it seems like you're studying how best to position your books, you're planning out a careful release schedule, and you have something set aside for expenses. In themselves, those things should give you an advantage, as long as they aren't wasted on mistakes (like covers that don't fit the subgenre).

    So, sure. $1,500 per month on 6 books is possible. The odds are against it, but there's plenty of indies who beat the odds. My 2nd pen name did it with 5 books, but I had the advantage of starting at a less competitive time. My 3rd pen name almost did it with 6 books, but I had the advantage of learning from my previous efforts.

    What someone else did or didn't do isn't very relevant, of course, because we're all starting from different places. One person might hit a sales number with 4 books, while someone else hits it with 20. There are too many variables to simplify it into, "If I write __ many books, I can count on earning $__ per month." Especially when books age and can't be expected to earn the same thing six months from now that they're earning today. Still, points of comparison are handy and can be encouraging.

    The only caution I would give is not to get into a position where you must make that money to live on. Aim for success but realize you might not hit it for awhile, especially if you're not experienced in this genre. Good luck to you.

    Offline Karen Monroe

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #8 on: October 25, 2020, 11:18:01 pm »
    I published my first book with Amazon in August. I paid for an inexpensive cover and did my own editing. At this point between sales and KU reads, I am already averaging $800/mon. I tend to sale about 1-2 books a day and my average KU read is about 10k per day. So its doable.

    My next book is scheduled for release next month (fingers crossed), and if I am able to sustain those figures then I can see $1500/mon easily.

    Im still not going to quit my day job though.

    Offline Kathy Dee

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #9 on: October 26, 2020, 05:18:49 am »
    Since I had to restart my Amazon career in November of last year, I can answer this question. It took me 2 English books, 2 German translations, and 2 French translations. But most of the heavy lifting was done by one of the German translations.

    Intrigued. What genre(s) were they?

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #10 on: October 26, 2020, 06:10:22 am »
    I have 28/29 novels in print and I live off my royalties. Even so, it's a squeeze at times, and bear in mind Australia has free (and very good) health care for all.

    It doesn't help that the humourous scifi category has been completely overrun with alien captive manchest books, both in the bestseller lists and the bidding for keywords, which has reduced the visibility of more traditional sf humour novels. (I know, because I watch the sales rank of my competition, and recently I've been ahead of them.)

    The one series I started in a bigger genre has so much competition it's impossible to make headway without spending big on ads, and that doesn't fit my risk profile.

    Anyway, the point of my post is that it's not just quantity. You can make it with fewer books but it requires talent and good covers and an element of luck.

     

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    Offline JTSkye

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #11 on: October 26, 2020, 08:24:58 am »
    Wow, you all provided great insight!  Thank you for sharing.  I have two short stories, one prequel, three Sci Fi and finishing my fourth Action Adventure.  I could never afford to ditch my day job on that small income.  I'm glad I'm in it for the long haul and can learn along the way. 
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    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #12 on: October 26, 2020, 10:16:44 am »
    Four books, but it was all book four. Books 1-3 were a series that never made much (they do okay repackaged). It just wasn't commerical, despite my attempts to make it so.

    However... Book four didn't start selling until it got visibility via a multi author bundle. It went from making nothing to making almost four figures a month. The book it still a top performer ( I just released a French translation that hit #1 at .fr). It is a very commercial book, but it didn't really sell until I had visibility. And it doesn't sell now unless I advertise it. (I have rebranded it to look more modern. The 2015 look it out).

    Online Patty Jansen

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #13 on: October 26, 2020, 01:23:24 pm »
    This question comes up allll the time and the only right answer is:

    How long is a piece of string?

    The most important component is that your books are well-written to reflect a standard and content type that your readership wants. Without this, you're just pushing sludge uphill.

    What does the readership want?

    Welllll, if people could answer this definitively, then publishers (who have been in this game for many more years than we have) would quit throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.

    Ultimately, you don't know what *your* readership wants until you start trying. But it's really not until you've published those first few books and find your feet, find out what stuff works for you and what doesn't, and who your readers actually are (instead of who you thought they'd be) that you can try to project future income.

    Then again, writers who were reasonably successful with a series have gone on to publish a second series that flopped horribly (see "no one really knows what readers want")

    So yeah, how long, actually, is that piece of string?

    Offline Bite the Dusty

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #14 on: October 26, 2020, 02:48:56 pm »
    Nothing is promised, but these threads are always useful for the reality check and replies.

    Offline Alex Anders

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #15 on: October 26, 2020, 03:48:14 pm »
    Intrigued. What genre(s) were they?
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    Offline KendraHenderson

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #16 on: October 27, 2020, 05:53:29 am »
    I released three 40k category romances a week ago and so far...two sales. :D

    Still got a lot of work to do before I'm making a mil a year, I guess!
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    Offline Vidya

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #17 on: October 27, 2020, 06:38:56 am »
    Alex, thats interesting. I didn't know German translations were so lucrative. Who did you hire to do them? Any recommendations?

    Offline Decon

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #18 on: October 27, 2020, 08:15:37 am »
    It's a function of your advertising spend, conversion rate and read-through. How fast you publish has zero effect on sales. The only thing that matters is how much you can budget for advertising.

    Only spend on things you control.

    This.

    I don't think it has anything to do with the number of books, or the entertainment value judged by reviews, or the genre.

    I have reasonable organic reviews on all my books, yet they earn next to nothing because I don't have funds to advertise. I don't even get page reads worth counting, yet one has 50 reviews averaging over 4 stars and all average above 4 stars.
    « Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 08:24:36 am by Decon »


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    Online Simon Haynes

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #19 on: October 27, 2020, 09:47:20 am »
    Declan, with those covers and those reviews, I don't think it would be hard to get things moving.  I started from a really low base a couple of years ago - story below if you're interested. BTW I just gave Missing a shout-out on Twitter, although that never does anything for my own stuff so I don't know whether it'll help ;-)


    For all of 2015, 2016, 2017 and the first two months of 2018 I was making $20 a month from my ~10 novels, combined. (By then I hadn't published anything for 4 years, lost all interest. Hadn't advertised since 2011.)  I was working for myself, renovating houses, as a short-term stop-gap.

    I started by setting up one Facebook CPC ad in Feb 2018, budget of $5 per day, targeted very tightly at my primary audience. I only switched it on for one day a week. But I did make $60 profit that month, and seeing the sales was enough to get me writing again.

    At the end of March I published my first new novel in 4 years, and by the end of that month I'd made $460, still only spending around $10/wk.

    The following month my royalties were double, and then double again.  I've not looked back since. Even now my ad budget is always less than 10%-15% of my royalties.


    I have a close friend with just one recently-published novel, and her ad budget is $10 per week. I'm running AMS campaigns for her across four stores, as a favour, and my goal is to make her $3/profit per day if I can. She doesn't even have any reviews yet, even though we did a free period of 5 days (850+ downloads - I put it into my newsletter and organised a swap with someone else.) It's going to be a struggle, but I'm keen to see how it works out starting from scratch like she is.





     

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    Offline Decon

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #20 on: October 27, 2020, 10:13:05 am »
    Declan, with those covers and those reviews, I don't think it would be hard to get things moving.  I started from a really low base a couple of years ago - story below if you're interested. BTW I just gave Missing a shout-out on Twitter, although that never does anything for my own stuff so I don't know whether it'll help ;-)


    For all of 2015, 2016, 2017 and the first two months of 2018 I was making $20 a month from my ~10 novels, combined. (By then I hadn't published anything for 4 years, lost all interest. Hadn't advertised since 2011.)  I was working for myself, renovating houses, as a short-term stop-gap.

    I started by setting up one Facebook CPC ad in Feb 2018, budget of $5 per day, targeted very tightly at my primary audience. I only switched it on for one day a week. But I did make $60 profit that month, and seeing the sales was enough to get me writing again.

    At the end of March I published my first new novel in 4 years, and by the end of that month I'd made $460, still only spending around $10/wk.

    The following month my royalties were double, and then double again.  I've not looked back since. Even now my ad budget is always less than 10%-15% of my royalties.



    I have a close friend with just one recently-published novel, and her ad budget is $10 per week. I'm running AMS campaigns for her across four stores, as a favour, and my goal is to make her $3/profit per day if I can. She doesn't even have any reviews yet, even though we did a free period of 5 days (850+ downloads - I put it into my newsletter and organised a swap with someone else.) It's going to be a struggle, but I'm keen to see how it works out starting from scratch like she is.

    Appreciate the twitter shout out. Sounds like we were on the same boat, though I have made reasonable bank in past years. I'm the same in that I stopped writing 2 years ago or so, but I'm now well on my way to competing a trilogy to give it a last try. It was the changes to AMS the really finished me with ads.

    Is it just Facebook you use?
    « Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 10:20:35 am by Decon »


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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #21 on: October 27, 2020, 10:26:00 am »
    I haven't used Facebook for a while - saw all the posts about people getting their accounts suspended for linking to Amazon.co.uk and decided to steer clear. In the past I've used landing pages on my own site with FB ads, (bonus referral income), but I don't have enough time to deal with all that.

    Aside from that, I can't target the authors I want to on FB like I can with BookBub and AMS ads.

    I'm running a BB ad for a freebie starter novel at the moment, which is going well. I'm about to run a Freebooksy/ENT promo on a 99c omnibus next month, which usually gets things moving too. I'll create a BB ad for that, and get some newsletter swaps happening as well.


     

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    Offline Alex Anders

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #22 on: October 27, 2020, 11:07:43 am »
    Alex, thats interesting. I didn't know German translations were so lucrative. Who did you hire to do them? Any recommendations?
    I hired a random person on Upwork.

    My main recommendation is, spend a little as you can on the translations. Be embarrassingly cheap. Also, hire a native speaker for about $5 to evaluate the quality of any sample texts submitted. And if you really don't trust the work, hire a proofreader. But, ultimately, readers will forgive a less than perfect translation. But, your wallet won't forgive you if you can't make a profit.

    I've only lost money on 3 out of 250 translations. 2 in Japanese and 1 in Portuguese. Apparently the Portuguese never developed the taste for werewolf romance that the rest of the world did.  :(

    FYI, I now require all of my translators to make listening to a text-to-speech of their translation their final edit.
    « Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 11:18:01 am by Alex Anders »
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    Offline Crystal_

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #23 on: October 27, 2020, 11:31:27 am »
    I would not go cheap on Translation costs. You don't need to spend a fortune. Find a good deal if you can. But don't hire someone who will do a subpar job. You will pay in bad reviews, decreased sellthrough, and difficulty in building a brand. You're building from scratch in every language.

    Translations aren't cheap but Germany is a very lucrative market. Think long term, not short term.

    Offline Alex Anders

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    Re: How many books does it take?
    « Reply #24 on: October 27, 2020, 12:13:47 pm »
    I agree. Don't knowingly hire someone who will do a subpar job.

    But, keep in mind that there are a lot of people out there trying to break into the translation business and they don't expect to get paid what they will get paid once they have reviews and a reputation. The challenge is finding them. And that's what separates those who consistently make a profit and those who can't... unless you're a superstar who will earn thousands per book no matter how much you spend on a translation.

    All I'm saying is, don't be intimidated. I did my first translation in 2012. I paid almost nothing. One person even did it for free for the chance of future work. It's not that scary. And the only situation which is truly unrecoverable from is paying too much.

    Just like with your English ebooks, translations can be edited later when you have more money, and be republished. I had one book that got a dogpile of bad reviews because of the bad translation... but it still made a profit. I then had it edited and I republished it. It made twice as much afterwards. And despite that, as soon as I released another book, it did just as well or better.

    It ain't that complex.

    Edit: Actually, here's another story about bad reviews. I released a French book last November and it got bad reviews because of the translation... which was weird because the translator had translated about 8 of my books before this one and had never gotten me a single bad review. But, the next French book I released (last month), by the same translator, just spent a week in the top 50 on Amazon.fr.

    As I said, readers will forgive a less than perfect translation. But, your wallet won't forgive paying too much.
    « Last Edit: October 27, 2020, 12:54:37 pm by Alex Anders »
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