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How I Made $500,000.00 Self-Publishing Romance eBooks

89110 Views 397 Replies 134 Participants Last post by  Michelle Hughes
In the spirit of Annie B's post showing us the tale of two approaches to writing, I thought I'd share my story. I will likely pass the $500,000.00 in career income next month, unless Amazon implodes or an asteroid strikes. ;) (And I'm not really a big seller or big name author in my genre)

Here's my chart, chronicling my income from the start of my self publishing career in June 2012 (data for 2012 and 2013 are combined in the first row, with December 2013 average for comparison, because I didn't start keeping monthly income records until 2014):

How I did it:

1. I started planning in April 2012, when I read JA Konrath's blog and decided to quit submitting to agents because no one wanted to represent me with my vampire romance novels. So, I read several books and blogs on self-publishing and researched book blogs that reviewed and promoted paranormal romance novels.

2. I started working on my social media platform, creating a Twitter and Facebook account under my future pen name. I cultivated readers and authors who were in my genre, and spent most of my time talking about television shows and movies. At the time, I was polishing my first novel and finishing my second.

3. I hired a cover designer and got two covers for $99 each, plus two $5 stock photos, so $104 each.

4. I had someone edit my books for typos and obvious grammatical mistakes. I didn't pay my editor until I made serious money and then I went back and paid her for her earlier work. I have paid her for each book since, costing between $600 - $1000 per book depending on length.

5. In June 2013, I published the first book on Amazon, listing it for sale for $4.99 and signed up for KDPS.

6. I submitted my book to several book review blogs and lucked out, getting a couple who gave my book decent reviews.

7. I announced that I had released my first book to my several hundred Twitter and Facebook followers and friends and had 6 sales in June and then 26 sales in July.

8. I ran some free days in KDPS and gave away several hundred copies of book 1. I listed my books at Goodreads and created a blog and profile.

9. I released my second book in July, listing it for $4.99 and had 59 sales.

10. I released book 3 in the series in December, listing it for $4.99 and had sales of 2800 books in total for the year and made $9,750.00

11. In 2013, I released 2 more novels in a new contemporary erotic romance series. All were in KDPS.

12. I released the first novel in my contemporary romance series in April 2013, deciding to try my hand at another romance category since my paranormal romance series was selling fairly slowly, at least in my opinion. I had my first 5-figure month that release, earning $17,642. The previous month I had earned under $1,000.

13. I released the second book in the contemporary romance series in September, and had another solid month in sales, selling 12,000+ books.


14. I had my first 99c Bookbub in November 2013 and broke $20K for the first time. My book hit #5 in the Kindle store and was #2 in Romance. An agent wrote me and offered representation. ;)

15. I wrote book 3 in the contemporary romance series in January 2014, then released the boxed set two months later.

15.5 I went into a 99c boxed set with several other romance authors and hit the USA Today list. My book was the headliner. I was in three other 99c boxed sets in 2014 /2015. This required that I pull out of KDPS with that book and over the summer, I pulled the other books as well and went into wide distribution.

16. I had my second Bookbub for book 2 in the contemporary romance series in February 2014. I hit #12 in the Kindle store and #8 in romance. I ran two more 99c Bookbub promos in 2014 and released a novella and a short story as well as Book 4 in the paranormal romance series.

17. You can check on the graph what happened after Kindle Unlimited 1.0 struck in July 2014. My income dropped considerably and consistently due to loss of visibility. I put my books into KU in response and saw no benefit. In fact, my income kept falling relative to my average monthly income.

18. I pulled out of KU 1.0 at the end of February, went permafree with the first books in my series, and went into wide distribution.

20. I released several books this year and have had 3 Bookbubs so far. I will have 12 full length novels, 3 boxed sets, and 2 novellas and a short story self published in total since I started by the end of the year.

21. I started to advertise on Facebook in April and Apple promoted me in March and again this month.

You can see my income has increased considerably over what it was while I was in KU 1.0.

I made $107,286 in 2012 and 2013 combined. I made $154K in 2014. So far in 2015, I have made $212.406 and am on track for $300,000 for the year.

Glad I found Joe Konrath's blog in April 2012 and followed his advice. :)
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This post. Wow.
I need a moment to absorb all this information

Thank you so much for sharing!

(How much is KBoards sharing the love lately?)

EDIT: and congratulations I should add!
This is fabulous. Congratulations and thanks for sharing the details.
Thanks for this. I need to write faster.  ;D
Fantastic work Sela - love these posts. 

Congrats and hope it keeps going up and up for you.

All the best

Thanks Sela - I love these threads. And so interesting to see different approaches. The common ground seems to be that the writers who plan, study, strategise, and adapt have a better shot at this than those that don't. Not to mention an understanding of genre and the ability to write a great story.

Lots to think about!

Thanks again for being so generous.
I want to add that Sela is one of "our" superstars in Mark Dawson's FB advertising group. Her willingness to share amazing graphs (near vertical explosion in boxset sales) is legendary there.
Love it. Well done. I admire anyone willing to share numbers in this climate.
Love it. Well done. I admire anyone willing to share numbers in this climate.
Seconded! Plus the generosity in sharing exactly how she did it - month by month, milestone by milestone. Thank you Sela!

This is great to read. Thank you for posting this.

I think there's no perfect secret formula. It is all about taking tips from other authors who are selling like hot cakes (JA Konrath, Mark Dawson, Hugh Howey, H.M. Ward, Jasinda Wilder who reveals a lot in her interviews) and experimenting yourself.

I am a very private person but I am always interested in reading how someone else achieved their success. It makes me smile to read success stories.
I am always interested in how romance authors stand out in such a crowded genre.
Hi Sela,

This board has sent me on an alternate path as well. I have turned to romance writing under a pen name. Book 2 of 4 was just released this week and doing slow, but steady sells. I just completed a holiday romance and tomorrow I'll begin my paranormal/sports series.

Posts like yours are so appreciated. It gives us hope that we too can not only make a living, but exceed our dreams, if we just tweak our efforts.

Thank you for sharing.
which sub-genre do you have more success in, NA romance, contemporary romance or erotic romance?

Great to read. I love these kinds of posts. Thanks for sharing!
Wonderful (and inspiring) to see those big numbers. Congrats, and thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing.

Did I miss the links to the books/author page or are these not revealed?

Edit: No offense intended, but I honestly don't see the point of these type of "here is my strategy to mega success" threads without revealing the actual books.

It's like a car manufacturer who is anonymous releases a successful sales report detailing how they sold a billion cars, but we never get to drive or even see any of the cars, or know exactly which car(s) are selling/most popular.

Disclaimer: I am not saying the information isn't helpful or truthful, but I am sure you can understand my point of view.

Congratulations, Sela! What a fantastic success story. Stoked for you  :) .
That's fantastic, congrats :)

I think I need to start thinking about series books rather than standalones, LOL! And write faster ;)
JessHayek69 said:
Thanks for sharing.

Did I miss the links to the books/author page or are these not revealed?
I think Sela chooses not to reveals her pen names.
Wonderful! Many congrats and continued success!
Thanks for sharing! It's very inspiring to see what's possible. Was February 2014 your first Bookbub?
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