I’ve been meaning to write a post about having a diverse income since I started the blog. Even though I don’t have my own personal data to back up my argument, I decided to write this post anyway.
One of the things many indie authors will likely consider at some point throughout their career is whether to enter into Amazon’s Select program (which requires exclusivity) or to “go wide” by uploading to all the other retailers (thus forfeiting any Select benefits).
When I first published The Blood Moon, I decided to go wide. The thought of being exclusive with Amazon scared me, especially because I wanted to make publishing a full-time career. What if I had a bad month on Amazon and there was nothing else to pick up the slack? What if Amazon changed its policy and no longer sold indie titles?
So I thought it was better to begin to gain traction at the other retailers early so I could slowly build my income across all platforms from the get-go.
As with almost everything, once I got in the game I realized that it was a difficult challenge. Getting started in indie publishing can already be an uphill battle, and starting without the benefits of Select and KU seemed like I was staring up the side of a cliff. Impossible to climb. My sales at the other retailers reflected as much.
So with my next release, a short story, I experimented with Select. I didn’t see a lot of sales, but I got a lot of free downloads and organic reviews. Oh, and page reads from KU. Those were cool to see.
The success of the short story made me want to experiment further with my next full-length release. So when I uploaded The Full Moon, it was Amazon exclusive. My sales were better, but still not even part-time worthy.
At this point, I was looking outside of my book sales to diversify my income. I no longer had a second job and I needed something to help pay for the production costs. That’s when I began taking on formatting jobs. The formatting side of my business has more than paid off. In 2015, it made up 65% of my total income. Considering I had a loss last year, that’s not saying a lot, but that’s still 65% of the money I made that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
My formatting business has only grown and in January 2016 alone, I nearly matched what I made in 2015. Thanks to my formatting jobs, I don’t need to get a second job and I now have more time to put out my books.
But I’m still not making anywhere near full time or even part time income. So I decided to experiment further. I signed up for Amazon Associates in February and began placing my affiliate links on my website, social media pages, and in my mailing list newsletters. The money I make from it isn’t outstanding, but it’s an extra $20-$30 a month and I know it will go up as I gain more readers and write more books. Every little bit helps, so if you’re thinking about picking up one of my books (or anything on Amazon, really), use one of the links on my website and I’ll get 6% of your total bill with no extra cost to you.
A third way I’m making money from my books is through face-to-face sales of my paperbacks. I previously posted about this, but let me summarize it here: I’ve made $267.80 from direct sales of my paperbacks between October 2015-March 2016. To established authors that’s not a lot, but for me, that $200 pays for my next book cover and then some.
As for my books in Select, I’m still experimenting. My plan is to keep them in Select for six months (two Select terms) before releasing them wide. For The Full Moon, that’ll mean it goes wide just as The Harvest Moon is being released exclusively to Amazon.
I don’t know how long I’m going to release this way (first six months in Select before going wide). I’d like to get to a point where I can release wide, simply because Amazon sales can be fickle and the company is leaning more toward KU borrows. Frankly, I don’t want to have to rely on playing their games. Plus, from what I’ve read, authors who are wide see more steady sales. Amazon is still the largest chunk of their income, but it’s not their only source of income.
Someday I’d like to expand in a publishing company that offers different services for authors besides just formatting. I’d like to branch out into editing, cover design, and maybe even promotional opportunities. For the moment, my books are my main concern. Getting them out and getting them to sell is the most important, but we’ve all gotta live. Therefore, I have to make money.