Last October 2013, I finished my first self-pubbed book, The Art of Catching a Greek Billionaire, which debuted on the Billionaire Bad Boys of Romance Boxed Set, the bundle that completely changed my life. Being a self-pubbing newbie, I was incredibly nervous and frightened for my future. You see, I quit my day job and took a risk on self-publishing. It was a write-or-die kind of situation. I didn't want to be the typical Filipino-Chinese who worked in business - family-owned or otherwise. I wanted to do what I love - or die trying.
Thankfully, I didn't die.
When I started self-pubbing, my greatest worry was the "competition". How the hell can I compete with other authors when, for one thing, they were all native English speakers and I wasn't? How the hell can I compete when I'm from the Philippines and have no long-time experience and exposure to the actual day-to-day life of Westerners?
I researched like hell, but what really helped me was networking - I'm lucky to have been able to ask advice from several powerhouse indie authors and they gave me excellent tips. One of the greatest advice I learned from them was the 1,000 True Fans theory. Networking and the aforementioned theory both drove in one home truth: OTHER AUTHORS ARE NOT YOUR COMPETITION.
Now, before I continue I want to warn you again ----
- I'm NOT forcing anyone to take my advice. Take it as you will.
- THIS advice is based on what worked for ME. Take it as you will.
As long as we're clear on that, then if you're still interested to read the rest of what I have to say, great. :) I really do hope I'm able to help you. :)
According to the 1,000 True Fans theory, any artist will be able to carve a comfortable living for himself as long as he effectively applies a price-volume strategy.
For this to work for self-publishers, you need to determine the following:
- How much ideally would you like to earn each month?
- Who are your readers?
- How much would your readers be willing to spend on your books per month?
- How many books do you have to sell per month to meet your income goal?
- How many books can you WRITE per month?
Think about those questions, and you'll see for yourself that you do NOT need to hit any bestselling lists in order to make self-publishing your main source of income. As long as you have 1,000 true fans, you only need to write X amount of books priced at Y and sell Z copies and you are set!
Example: Say you want to earn $500 per month. Here's the computation for it ---
- You write a book that's priced at $.99. Royalties for a $.99 book is about $.35.
- $.35 times 1,000 is $350.
- Write another book and price it at $.99. Your same 1,000 readers will buy this new book.
- Your monthly total is now $700 - you're well beyond your minimum income target for the month!
However, the aforementioned scenario will only work if you're able to write 2 books per month. If not, then you need to increase your book's price. However, you also need to consider whether your readers would be willing to pay an increased price for a single book. Also, that equation doesn't factor in fixed and necessary expenses like editing, cover art designing, and marketing. You need to sell enough copies to make up for those, too.
As you can see, self-publishing decisions rely on lots of calculations. Self-publishing is a business after all, and it would be hard for you to earn if you focus only on the art and craft of writing and ignore the numbers.
Now, ssuming that you've found the ideal pricing-volume strategy, your next question should be --- HOW do you come up with 1,000 true fans?
Here's what worked for me, but again - take it as you will.
- Figure out your niche. Mine is steamy rom-com. What's yours?
- What do your readers want the most? Can you satisfy their desires? You should. It's your niche.
- Be professional about your work - spend money on editing, proofreading, cover design and marketing. DON'T turn your readers into a mob and do NOT bash other authors. Don't do it as yourself or even anonymously. You NEVER need to do that. Trust me. Even if others are doing the same things to you, let it go. Focus on your books and your readers. And pray. Do your best and let God take care of the rest. Now, assuming that you did something not-so-good before - that's okay. You can still turn your back and start anew. It's never too late.
- Build your brand - it's not just about identifying your niche. It's also about distinguishing yourself from other authors in your niche. Like I said earlier, you should NOT think of other authors as your competition. Readers don't think that way. YOU don't think that way when you're browsing for books as a reader. For instance, one of my fave books to read are vampire books. So every time there's a new release from Mary Janice Davidson, Chloe Neill, or Jeaniene Frost or Anne Rice (OMG Prince Lestat! October can't come soon enough!), I buy it. All new releases from my fave authors. I do not think I'm being disloyal to one by buying another author's new release. Your readers are the same. We are all the same so when you think about it that way, how can you see other authors as competition? Wouldn't it be better to think of them as potential collaborators for future projects? Authors need to work together and with each other, NOT AGAINST EACH OTHER.
- Be approachable to your readers - NEVER take them for granted. NEVER be rude to them. Take the TIME to chat with them. THEY will be the ones determining whether you'll be able to do what you love for a living. Also, if you'd like to target native English speakers, then it goes without saying that you do social networking in English, too. At all times. Filipino readers can read your English posts so you're not alienating them. However, native English speakers won't be able to understand a word you're saying if you're speaking in Tagalog so unfortunately you'd be alienating them that way. You want to make your readers feel important because they are important and making them feel like you're talking to a select number of readers won't do it. Make them one big happy family instead by posting, tweeting, and just writing in English whenever you have to communicate with your readers.
- Find a way to stay in contact with them. The best way to do so is to set up a newsletter and get them to subscribe. This way, you can email them every time you have a new release out or when you do a cover reveal or giveaway. I can't emphasize this enough. My first-day rankings are ALWAYS due to my newsletter sales.
Honestly, most of the tips above are something I've been saying over and over again but it does bear repeating.
Secondly, please keep in mind that what I did is based on a HIGH-VOLUME strategy, and it's NOT for every self-publisher. However, if you write fast enough then this could work for you. And just to be clear, writing fast does not mean poor writing. But hey, to each his own and if you don't think so, then let's just agree to disagree. If you want to know more about why prolific writers are more likely to earn from self-publishing then you should find this article about the three types of readers that make up the market quite interesting.
Lastly, remember that you don't need to do everything on your own. Finding your 1,000 true fans requires marketing - you need to get readers to read your book first. If you don't have time to do marketing or you're not inclined to do it, then you could look for a publisher who's willing to market your book in exchange of a fair share of royalties. They'll find your 1,000 true fans for you.
So that's it. Hope this helps and if you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me. I might not be able to respond right away, but I always do.
P.S. If you're intimidated by the idea of finding one thousand true fans, don't be. I'm too lazy to grab figures but I'm pretty sure hundreds of thousands of ebooks or even millions of ebooks are sold each day. If you think about it, one thousand is just the tiniest slice of the market. The real battle is finding that 1,000 who'd love your books enough to be your true fans.