I absolutely LOVE sharing unique ways you can earn a living on your own terms, not someone else's, and today's post falls into that category. Yuwanda Black of InkwellEditorial.com is a successful self-publisher of both fiction and non-fiction books at Amazon.com.
This has always been of interest to me because it's true passive income, particularly when it comes to fiction novels. Once the story is written, it's written, and you can then sell it forever!
Last week, I sent over some interview questions to Yuwanda specifically about her success as a self-published romance author, and did she ever spill the beans for you! There's a ton of information on how it works, who could do it successfully, and of course the earning potential that's possible.
Yuwanda also has an e-course to guide you through the process of successful self-publishing in the romance genre if you're interested. She's provided details on that below as well.
Thanks for sharing, Yuwanda! Below is the interview:
Tell us a little about you and your writing history. How did you get started as a romance novelist?
Oh boy, this is a windy tale! It all started really by accident; it was not something I planned on ever doing. So what happened is this …
I have two sisters. One is a writer, like me. We both published non-fiction, how-to ebooks primarily until 2013. What changed that year?
My sister took a trip to Texas to visit her son, who's in the military. On that trip, she said she was driving and an idea for a love story came to her. She said it nagged at her, so when she got back home, she wrote it. It was a short (about 65 Kindle pages), interracial romance — which is how the characters presented themselves to her.
Before that, she'd never written a romance novel. I should note that my sis has always been a writer. And even though she was making a living writing non-fiction then, her love has always been fiction writing. This is why she felt comfortable writing the story, even though she had no previous romance writing experience.
Anyway, after she wrote the story (Loving a Texan from New Orleans), she uploaded it to Amazon (AMZ). We'd both been publishing our non-fiction books on Amazon since 2008, and we both come from a publishing background; having worked in NYC in legal publishing for years.
Anyhoo, she uploaded her little love story and promptly forgot about it; not really expecting anything. But the next morning as she checked her AMZ stats (as she did every morning), to her great surprise, she had sales … 8 copies, 13 copies, 22 copies, etc.
Throughout the day she kept refreshing the screen and the numbers kept going up. We were both shocked! Why?
Because remember, we both published in the non-fiction sector. In that niche, sales usually don't happen like that. It's more of a slower build — especially for no-name authors like us.
So when she saw sales climbing, we were both glued to the screen like, “What?!”
About Amazon Pricing
My sister wound up selling over 500 copies of her first romance novel in one month — earning around $1,100. She priced it at $2.99. On Amazon, you earn 70 percent of all items you price between $2.99 and $9.99. So she was earning about $2.06 per book.
Not bad for a first-time author, right? In fact, I thought it was pretty much like hitting the friggin' lotto!
After seeing my sister's success, of course I had to give it a try. So I wrote and uploaded my first romance (3 Weeks til Forever) in May of 2013 … and it promptly bombed. I was deflated, but shook it off and went back to writing and self-publishing my how-to, non-fiction ebooks.
Since 2010, over half my earnings as a writer have come from my self-publishing efforts. These days, I write almost exclusively for myself, eg, developing ecourses, writing non-fiction (and fiction), blogging/affiliate marketing, etc. It’s all writing – which is why the mission of my site is: Make Money Writing … for Yourself and/or for Others.
You see, there are so many ways to make a living writing. And, that’s why I wasn’t too disappointed when I thought the romance thing wasn’t going to work out. But obviously, that wasn't the end of my romance writing career.
My answer to your next question explains why.
Have you found romance to be a profitable niche in the self-publishing industry?
OMG yes! Romance is the #1 selling niche in fiction writing– by a wide margin. Proof?
According to the stats in this post, at $1.44 billion, Romance and Erotica are #1 when it comes to sales. This includes self-published romance. With 30 million dedicated readers, it’s hard not to be successful in this genre — if you publish regularly, even if you're not the best writer to be perfectly honest.
It's the old, “Sex sells,” idiomatic expression at work. It's true — as my experience proves.
And just for comparison, the second best-selling genre in fiction is Crime/Mystery at $728.2 million, roughly half of what romance writing makes.
What I found out though is that niche matters in romance — and boy are there a lot of niches!
Why Niche Matters in Romance Writing
My first romance was an African American love story. The second one I wrote was an interracial love story, like my sister had done. I wrote it because one day she said to me, “Why don't you write an interracial romance and see what happens?”
So I did, for a few reasons:
- I knew my writing wasn't bad. I'm not saying I'm the best writer, but I know I'm not horrible either. In fact, I still think my first romance novella is one of my best love stories.
- I was in an interracial marriage (my ex-husband is an Argentine); and
- I was genuinely curious as to what would happen. I didn't think the races of the characters would make a difference, cuz love is love, no?
Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! … At least when it comes to writing romance.
While African American romance does sell – very well, mind you, all you have to do is see the success of author Brenda Jackson to prove that. But some niches are easier to break into than others – and apparently, interracial romance is one of those niches.
So I wrote my second romance novel, Trapped by Desire. Here's what happened …
I wrote the same and marketed the same. The only difference was that I slapped a pic of an interracial couple on the cover.
As the sales show, niche matters — a lot.
Is this something anyone with at least average writing skills can break into, or does it require a more advanced skill set to even begin?
I had zero experience writing romance (or any kind of fiction) before I wrote my first romance novel in 2013. Let me say that again — I had absolutely NO experience writing romance or any kind of fiction.
And with my second book (Trapped by Desire), I sold almost 250 copies of it the first month it was released, and over 800 within the first three months — of just that one title.
But then, a weird (good) thing happened; sales of my first novel picked up too – even though it was in a different niche. That's when I knew I was on to something with this “romance writing thing.”
But back to writing with no experience. To date, I've written almost 50 romance novellas (some under a pen name).
In 2016, after I'd written probably 25 or so, I wrote an ebook entitled “How to Make Money Writing Romance.” The ebook was focused on the “making money” part of writing romance, not the “how to write romance” part.
But, that’s what readers of that book want; and, they kept asking me to write another ebook on how to actually write romance.
So I went one step further and put together a full-fledged romance writing ecourse. It includes everything from how to write romance, to marketing, and even how to set up your own publishing company if you want. But, back to the writing …
One of the main things I'd say about getting the writing right is that you must know your characters intimately. This makes them believable in that you'll know what they'll say, how they'll react in certain situations, what their “love language” is, etc.
In the course, I include a Character Profile Template which helps you to flesh out the characters so that they become real to you; hence, real to the reader.
So while you can definitely start writing romance with no experience, if you fall in love with this genre (pun fully intended!), you will naturally want to improve your writing skill.
I read romance novels and study how to improve my writing skill in this niche all the time.
As any writer will tell you, your skill as a writer can always be improved. So don't wait until your writing is “perfect.” It never will be, and you're kidding yourself if you think that's the case.
Get started — and educate yourself along the way. Again, it's going to be a life-long journey anyway, so why wait when you could be self-publishing the next Fifty Shades of Grey?
And you do know what happened with that book, right? Yeah it’s sold tens of millions of copies and has been made into a major motion picture. But, it also got slammed (and continues to get slammed) for the writing.
Read through some of the reviews on Amazon. You'll see what I mean.
How many romance novels did you self-publish before you began to see a substantial return on your investment of time spent?
As I said previously, I got lucky with my second novel — earning almost $500 by selling almost 250 copies in that first month. It took me exactly six months to hit the $2,000 mark.
In May of 2015, after writing 23 novellas in just over 12 months, I earned $3,211.57, which has been my best month.
Between the spring of 2014 and the end of 2016, I published 44 romance novellas (some under a pen name). The breakdown looks like this:
2013: First book (the one that bombed)
2014: 21 books
2015: 18 books
2016: 3 books
Why the fall off? Amazon's all-you-can-read subscription program, which caused sales to tank for a lot of self-published (and traditionally published authors. Also, I was burned out. At one point, I was putting out a book every 7 to 10 days.
But I’m glad I did that, even though I don’t advise it. I still earn money every month from those books I published back then, and now that I'm back to publishing regularly again, sales have started to uptick again, as this post illustrates.
My plan is to put out one book per month this year (2018), and for the foreseeable future, until I’m earning at least $5,000 to $10,000 per month. As I have other streams of income, this (very achievable) goal fits with my life financial plan.
Tell us a little about your e-course and how it can help others break into the romance self-publishing industry.
As I mentioned previously, the ebook I first wrote in 2014 about how to make money writing romance was focused on the “making money” part.
What the Romance Writing Course Covers: A Snapshot
Inevitably I kept getting asked about how to actually write romance. So, I put together a comprehensive course that includes everything a new self-published author needs to know to get started writing romance. The course covers …
#1 – How to write romance
This section is very detailed, going from what you need to do before you actually start writing (eg, building a character profile and creating an outline), to actually writing the story.
#2 – Marketing your romance novel
The course covers how to practically ensure sales; there's a “formula,” if you will that practically guarantees sales if you write characters that resonate with readers. It also explains why you shouldn't spend so much time marketing in the beginning of your romance writing career. In fact, sales should be the last thing on your mind when you first start out.
Why? Because you want to get a cache of books under you, eg, 3, 4, 6, 7 before you start to invest a lot of time in marketing. That’s because marketing is a lot of work. So when you do start, you don't want to just have readers buy one book; you want to have another and another and another for them to go get if they like your first one.
In the course, there's an actual formula that details what percentage of your time you should spend marketing, and at what stage of your career. There's a point of diminishing return, so you'll know when to “top out” on your marketing, so to speak.
#3 – Hiring ghostwriters
This is a really easy way to up your earnings quickly. But, it's not without its drawbacks. I relay my experiences and give some guidelines to follow if you decide to go this route.
#4 – Setting up your own publishing company
There's a step-by-step plan that tells you exactly what you need to do to accomplish this if you want. FYI, it's not necessary, but if your romance writing career reaches a certain point, you might to consider it.
#5 – Distribution: where to publish your romance novels
While Amazon remains the behemoth, there are new outlets popping up all the time where self-published authors can publish their works.
And this is yet another reason I like writing romance, by the way. Once a book is written, as new outlets open up, you just publish there and start earning.
In the course, I cover where I publish; which earn me the most; and some outlets to stay away from.
And much more!
You can see the entire course syllabus, and even get a free preview here.
One thing I want to stress is that anyone who's willing to put in the writing time can be successful publishing romance.
It took me exactly six months to hit the $2,000/month mark (I'd written 15 novellas at that time). Again, this is with no previous fiction writing experience. And I'm small, small potatoes.
There are authors who earned over half a million dollars per year within three years, and many more who earn $8,000; $10,000 and $20,000 per month — all within a few years (or less) of starting to write romance. Don’t believe me? Google it and see for yourself.
With that being said though, I want to stress that writing romance is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme. Writing is hard work, and you must be disciplined about it. You must constantly put out new titles, learn which genres work, find your audience, and build your own mailing list.
The romance writing course gives you all the tools you need, and if you put in the work, the rewards are definitely there to be had. I've proven it, as have many others. Is the next romance success story yours?
Get the knowledge you need, and get started to find out.
Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com, a site that teaches aspiring freelancers how to make money writing … for themselves and/or for. She’s a traditionally published author who’s also self-published almost 100 ebooks. If romance writing interests you, you can learn more in her free ecourse.