People ask me all the time if I’m making a profit. Am I making any money being an author? What does it take to sell my books? This is for them.
When I decided that I would take the leap and publish a book 2 1/2 years ago, I remember thinking “I’m going to write a book and get it published!” and that would be it. I would do it. I would have the book. I would have the experience. I would check it off my bucket list. Easy as pie.
Boy was I ever wrong. I didn’t know that it would cost me more than $8000 to publish that book. I didn’t know that once I did it, I would actually need to SELL the books. I didn’t think about all of the things I would have to do and learn in order to do that well.
This is my journey.
- I made a list of funny things my kids have done and the lessons I could teach. I made a list of animals I could use for my characters and chose kangaroos after asking a few close friends/family their opinions.
- I chose an idea to start with (too many sweets).
- I wrote a rough draft.
- I sat there, not knowing what to do next.
- I contacted close family/friends and asked if they knew anyone who had ever published a book.
- 2 people got back to me. One was a friend from work- her cousin is a writer. I contacted her cousin who told me that it would probably take years to find an agent, submit and be accepted by traditional publisher, so good luck to me. Bummer. One was a friend of my sisters who had just started her own publishing company and written her first book. I contacted her and we met for breakfast. She was amazing and took me on as a client to help me get published. Yeah!
- I started a website. (sounds easy, but it wasn’t. I had NO idea what I was doing. It took HOURS to start one. Looking back, it may have been better to pay someone to do this for me, but I had no money).
- I started a FB author page and got on Instagram.
- I joined author FB groups and found Shayla Raquel– an amazing author/editor/marketer. She answered a million questions, led me to her pre-publishing checklist for self published authors and did an hour-long phone consult with me.
- I found an editor.
- I found an illustrator. (I looked on fiverr, upwork, facebook, google but found my perfect match on Pinterest). This was her first book too, so we were newbies together!
- That fall, I heard about kickstarter as a way to raise money to launch a product, so I started researching that.
- In November, I published my first blog post about my author journey. I sent it to all of my family/friends, my personal FB, my IG and my author FB. I invited all of my personal FB friends to my author FB page.
- December-January was spent marketing and preparing for kickstarter: news articles, TV, calling/visiting dentists for support, putting up fliers, handing save the date magnets, posting interesting and relevant material on my social media (book cover, in-progress illustrations etc), backing other kickstarter campaigns, researching other successful campaigns, asking lots of questions, and creating my own 30-day kickstarter campaign plan. (see my other posts for more about kickstarter). I created a youtube channel and uploaded read alouds of my book.
- In February, I focused on my kickstarter and raised $6200.
- In March, I started booking school visits for May and June.
- In April, we submitted the book to the printer and started planning the book launch at Hans’ Bakery. I created an eBook and opened a KDP account on Amazon.
- In May, I had the book launch, picked up the books, did some school visits and listed my book on Amazon. I opened an Amazon Advantage account and spent a month trying to get approved to run ads. I spent many hours researching running ads on Amazon.
- In June, I finally got approved in Amazon Advertising. I started running ads and thus began the long and complicated Amazon marketing process that I’m still doing today. In June, I booked some library storytimes, some author summer events and did more school visits. All of the school visits I did in May and June were free. I just sold books. I fulfilled my kickstarter orders and sent out those books.
- July-August was spent doing author events and writing the next book. I prepared to go back to full time teaching.
- September-June of 2018-19 was a blur: teaching full time, some author events at night and on weekends, a couple school visits, marketing my first book full time, sending my first book to IG influencers and bloggers, running FB ads, blogging on my website, backing and supporting other authors and continuing to run Amazon ads. I was also working on my second book and ran another successful kickstarter for that book in Feb 2019. Joined Pinterest and created crafts/activities to pin. In May, I added book 2 eBook to Amazon and did preorders. I ran a Book Bub promo for the first time and got a lot of reviews for my first book.
- June 2019: Picked up book 2 at the printer, did a quick school visit at my kid’s school and did a book launch at a cute boutique.
- Summer 2019: author events for both books, library storytimes, sending books out to IG influencers and bloggers. Amazon marketing. Designed stuffed kangaroos and had them custom made to go with my books. Opened an online store to sell them. Started booking school visits for this year and holiday craft fairs. I wrote my third hardcover book (Too Much Screen Time), had it edited and sent the storyboard to my illustrator. I researched and entered my first award contests.
- Fall 2019: took a leave from teaching to do this full time (thank you to my wonderful husband for supporting me in this). Had a coloring book created (paid someone on Fiverr). Wrote and published my first paperback book on KDP. Did several holiday fairs, ran several holiday promos and giveaways. I joined Twitter (yes, finally!). I focused a lot of social media time on Instagram, increasing my following from 1000 to 2400 in 6 weeks! I created and hosted my first king sumo giveaway contest.
- Now: We just picked up the second print run of Too Much Stuff from the printer yesterday (3000 books) and sent 2000 of them to Amazon. I found out my hardcover books won 4 awards! 3 first place and 1 second place.
Book 1: Cami Kangaroo Has Too Many Sweets is holding her rank around 15,000 out of 32,000,000 books on Amazon. I am selling about 20 books/day, half through Amazon ads and half on my own (by doing my own marketing on FB/IG/Twitter).
Book 2: Cami Kangaroo Has Too Much Stuff is doing great! Highest rank was about 4,000. Now she is at 9,000 because the printer was running 2 weeks behind and I couldn’t get books to Amazon on time. Grrr. I’m hoping the rank will hold until Amazon receives and processes the books. I am selling about 40-50 books/day of this one, about 20/day using Amazon ads, the rest on my own!
Book 3: Cami and Wyatt Coloring and Activity book is a paperback book. I haven’t sold many of these. I am not paying for ads and haven’t done any marketing. Rank is around 100,000. I have sold enough to pay off what I spent to have it made, so I’m happy with that for now.
Book 4: Cami, Wyatt and Kindness Too is a paperback coloring book, journal, drawing book and storybook. It also has reproducible pages in the back for adults. This book has only been out on Amazon for 2 weeks and is also doing well. I’m running 3 ads for the book (an auto ad, a broad keyword ad and a phrase ad). I’m selling about 15 books/day on average and have paid the book off.
*Winning book awards: my hardcover books won 4 awards!! 3 first place and 1 second place. This is a great honor for me, as they were chosen out of millions of books around the world.
*Actually making money. Last month was the first month I actually MADE a profit. Last August, I decided to buckle down and finally take a financial risk. I doubled my Amazon ad spend. As a result, I made negative money in August and September and barely broke even in October…BUT, last month, I spent $6000 in ads and I made $12,000!!!! Lesson to be learned: it takes money to make money. This is tough for some frugal like me.
*I’ve sold a lot of books. Book 1: I’m on print run #3. I have run 3000, 3000 and 5000 books. Book 2: I’m on print run #2. So far, 5000 are sold.
So, am I making money? Sort of. This is a full time job for me. I have not paid myself yet, BUT the business is holding her own. I no longer have to “borrow” money from our savings account and have paid back about half of what I’ve borrowed so far. Last month, I made more than I spent. Hopefully I can keep up that trend. I am planning to run another kickstarter for book 3 to raise money for printing and illustrations.
Why did I spend 2 hours writing this blog post? To tell you that if you’ve always wanted to publish a book, there are things you should know.
I’m not just an author. I’m a: marketer, website developer/manager, social media manager, photographer, editor, blogger, consultant for other authors, teacher, storyboard creator, researcher, finance manager, salesperson, graphic designer, negotiator, investor and more! (Read about my marketing dos and don’ts here.)
I have had to teach myself countless things in the past 2 1/2 years. It took thousands of hours to do this and I did not get paid.
It takes a lot of risk and confidence to do this. At first, I did not have it. I knew I wanted to publish but wasn’t sure my books would ever sell. Would people like them? Or would they laugh at me? Would I be rejected and waste a bunch of time and money for no reason? Lesson to be learned: put yourself out there. Get out of your comfort zone. Be passionate about your books. SELL them! Fake it if you have to, but be friendly, outgoing, SMILE, talk to people, SELL YOUR BOOKS! Be a risk taker.
I LOVE it all! I never thought I would say this, but I LOVE MARKETING! I love creating graphics, I love selling my books to people who I think will love them, I love researching better marketing ideas, I love helping other authors, I love doing author visits at schools and inspiring kids to write and read, I love seeing photos of families enjoying my books, I love learning new things. I love working for myself and making my own hours. I love being home when my kids get off the bus. This is my passion. It’s my business. It’s my dream and I’m living it.
What’s your dream? Be a risk taker, get out there and go for it!!!!
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