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My Freedom Flame

Motivating Writers Worldwide

Tag: indie-author

How Rookie Indie-Authors Achieve Success on a Limited Budget

Did you all miss me?

Yes, I took a one month hiatus in the middle of winter. Hibernation, so to speak. Er…not really. Spent a lot of time editing for the final book in the Original Lord of Columbia Trilogy entitled Missing in Columbia which will be out soon….very soon. Also, I was hard at work on my affiliate blog and of course, Lord of Columbia Series blog, but I didn’t forget about My Freedom Flame.

So, last month I spoke of how indie-authors can create a plan and today I hope to expand on the subject as to how rookie indie-authors can achieve success on a limited budget. I know a lot of us are doing the following:

1. Working a day job they’d rather be without.

2. Drowning in debt.

3. Refinancing or flat out defaulting on loans.

4. Have this urge to succeed in writing but we don’t know how we can build a business without capital.

Don’t worry, I’m here to give you some advice.

Want to know a secret?

Just a few months ago I was down to my last seven-hundred dollars, so I can relate to your pain.

I joined the Wealthy Affiliate Community and learned to blog. I learned how to at least get my site’s name into Google and Bing search engines. It was a cheap investment that started at a measly $19 a month; best nineteen dollars I’ve ever spent.

In fact, it taught me a lot of cool stuff and guess what?

You too can succeed on a limited budget.

As I’ve mentioned before, I also joined the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild in November 2017, which transformed my writing one-hundred-fold. His Guild isn’t open at the moment as it’s only open for a limited time throughout the year, but if you have a shot to join, I suggest you join.

Want to go inside the numbers?

Wealthy Affiliate costs me $585/year, and if I decide to go annual, $359/year.

Jerry’s Guild cost me $370 for the year.

So, we’re looking at a grand total $955 total throughout the year.

Throughout twenty-three months if I were to combine the two.

No, you don’t have to invest thousands in courses, so if you’re on a limited budget, follow me down the list here.

 

Invest in a Cost-Effective Book Cover

Did you know all three of my book covers for the Lord of Columbia Original Trilogy are pre-made?

The cover for Northern Knights cost $85. Ditto for Missing in Columbia. Swords of Destiny cost $95.
Grant total of $265.

What?

You don’t have that much, either?

No worries.

Back when I was vetting for a book cover, and you will vet, believe me, I came across a few that were as low as $30, so you can definitely find something to fit your budget here.

I would not hire someone from Fiverr for a book cover as I’ve seen them and you’d be better off making one for free, which you can do if you go to Canva. However, I recommend you not use Canva to create covers for books you plan to sell. Freebie e-books are fine, but not paid books.

 

Learn How to Self-Edit

While hiring a professional editor would be top-notch, they can charge as much as .02 cents a word. Had I hired someone to edit Northern Knights, it would’ve cost $1,600. Some of the better ones charge more, as much as a nickel per word. Yikes!

Most of us don’t have that kind of cash, but don’t worry, because self-editing really isn’t that hard once you learn tricks to the trade.

Which is why I recommend the Guild, something I tried myself and enjoyed learning. Okay, I enjoyed learning some new stuff after I found that the first drafts of Northern Knights sucked, but still.

Take your pick: $370/year, or $1,500+ per book edit.

Again, for those of us on a budget, we have to be smart with our money.

$1,500 is a little much.

At the very least, invest in a book that teaches self-editing.

Whatever you do, don’t use this blog or any other free source of information as your only information. We can teach you some, but the best thing to do is always, always, always find a mentor; even a virtual mentor.

Grammar Checkers Don’t Break the Bank

Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid are my two favorites. Grammarly is the one I have built into my laptop and it’s saved me countless times. I really never go a day without it.

On the other hand, Pro Writing Aid does have a freebie tool on its site and if you have any questions, Pro Writing Aid has the answers. It’ll tell you if your writing is fast or slow-paced, whether you used too many glue words, and much more. It gives you sentence length, word frequency, and if you’re running a chapter of fiction through it, how much unnecessary back story you’re using up.

Grammarly is my top choice due to the fact it’s readily available and will point out errors within seconds. It catches things other grammar checkers can’t and it’s free to install.

So, if you’re self-editing, take your grammar to the next level here with Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid, as in time, you will thank yourself. It’s one thing to self-edit to make the work interesting, but it’s a completely different ballgame when it comes to finding you forgot to put ‘the’ where it’s needed, ‘a,’ or any similar word.

 

Book Promotion is Fairly Priced

Books Butterfly has a Silver Eagle campaign running for $50. JustKindleBooks, one I used last December, has an $18 package. Book Runes costs a simple $25.

I’ll never tell you to invest in promotion I haven’t personally used. I’ve used all three and I plan on using more in time.
The above equals a grand total of $93. Three cheap promo packages sold me a grand total of nearly 600 copies of Northern Knights on its free days. It didn’t really come out of the wash, but for $93, I’ll take it.

As a rookie indie-author on a limited budget, I’ll really take it. Especially when my KENP has steadily increased, meaning in time, the promo may end up paying for itself.

Even if you don’t have the budget for $93, there are other options as well. I’ve come across bknights, which is a Fiverr-based promo site that charges $5-$10 for basic promotion. Per Reedsy, they’re a good deal. I’ve never tried them when it comes to freebies, but it shows what can be done even on a small budget.

 

My Investments

Okay, so I joined Wealthy Affiliate for site building, keyword research tools, site networking, and SEO practice for $558, bought my Lord of Columbia Series domain for $14, so we’re at $572.

I joined the Writers Guild the year before this, which cost $370, so we’re up to $942.

Add in the $265, and you get $1,207. Add $93, and we get a grand total of $1,300 that I spent from November 2017 and will spend to November 2019. Divide this by twenty-five months and you get a total of $52/month I’m investing in my indie-author business.

Do you have $52/month to spare?

And again, if not, there are cheaper ways, but for me to create the highest-quality product on my limited budget, I squeaked out $77/month and I mean I squeaked it out.

So, rookie indies, just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean there’s no hope out there. There is hope, and trust me, you will thank yourselves when you invest in something important to you. Invest in something beneficial to you.

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A Plan for Your Indie-Author Business

I’ve said it in at least two posts: most indie-authors never make a full-time living on their writing. The sad part is most of them can and would make such a living because I’m a firm believer in the fact most books will find an audience.

Even a small audience in an obscure genre or plot element will find a home. Somewhere, a readership will form. The problem is that many fail to build an indie-author business because they have not a single plan going into the game.

I’ve written a few posts in the past regarding goals and ways that indie-authors can boost their sales, but today I’m going even further and will outline a way for you to make a full-time living as an indie-author.

 

NOT A GET-RICH-QUICK SCHEME

I know, writing in all caps is equivalent to shouting, but it’s something I want to clear up immediately. What I’m about to show you is not a get-rich-quick scheme, so don’t think for a single second you can quit your dreaded day job and become a successful indie-author by simply implementing these steps.

My way will give you a roadmap that will get you to your destination if you take the time to treat your books or book series as a full-time business. Yes, if you have two full-time jobs, welcome to the big stage.

You think working 40-50 hours a week at a day job is tough, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Hey, if this were easy we’d all be doing it, so I hope you’re up for a challenge, which is another reason why a lot of aspiring (fill in the blank in a field of your choice) fails. They’re unwilling to put in the time and effort required to see their dream through.

Everyone wants to live their dream, but few are willing to put in the work to make their dream a reality. Ironically, these are the same people who are miserable at their own day jobs, so maybe they just don’t like to lift a finger and contribute in any way to society.

Sorry for the harsh words, but there are a lot of dreamers that just expect success to find them and these are the same people envious of those who are successful. Listen, unless your name’s Paul Menard, it’s not going to happen.

 

Storytime: Who is Paul Menard?

Paul Menard is a professional NASCAR driver whose father, John Menard Jr. founded Menards Inc., the third largest home improvement company in the nation behind Lowe’s and The Home Depot.

Long story short, Menard is a mediocre driver whose experienced one win at NASCAR’s highest level over the past fourteen seasons. His father sponsors his racecar and according to NASCAR legend Tony Stewart, Menard’s father “writes hefty checks to buy his son a ride.”

So, unless you’re Paul Menard, success finding you, albeit on a yearly basis of embarrassment over the course of thirty-six weeks, is rare. You’d be more likely to discover your favorite Pokémon exists.

This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, so if you think it is, go somewhere else. I want workers for this operation.

 

Step One: Identify a Target Audience

Who are you writing for?

If you read my dedication page for Northern Knights, I mention Libertarian America. Boom, done, Libertarian America is the target market.

BUT!

Libertarians tend to disagree with one another on what they perceive to be Libertarian issues and non-Libertarian issues. I can go on forever about this.

You have your Green Libertarians, Paleo-Libertarians (um, that’s me), Libertarian Socialists, the list is insane.

But I’m more Rothbardian in nature, hence my preference for the Paleo sector. Libertarians everywhere might disregard my work for not being Libertarian enough because:

a) My main character starts a war, and

b) The enemy colors happen to be anarchocapitalist and voluntarist colors of black and yellow…I’m a Cleveland Browns fan, people, hence the color scheme of this site, Lord of Columbia Series, which can be accessed here, and even my book covers.

Before I scare you all away with politics, I’m stating this because it shows how narrow a target audience must get. There are a lot of Libertarian sub-sectors, I’ll call them, but only select groups of these sub-sectors will be interested in the work.

Why do we even need a target audience?

Because people who read Nora Roberts aren’t reading anything by Todd Matthews, so why the hell would we bother with people who won’t read our work? Likewise, my reading audience probably won’t be reading Nora Roberts.

So, identify that target audience. Ask yourself who will read your book. These are the people who need to know your work exists but the only way they’ll find out is if you show them the work.

 

Step Two: Work Within a Niche

Much like a target audience, by working within a niche you can bring people to you either via a blog or social media. While a blog, in time, will grant you far more traffic and social media won’t even take you to minor celebrity status.

But search engines can, and it’s all about knowing how to blog within a niche to make your work visible.

This is true for both fiction and nonfiction writers. You need to have an audience for your work to become visible and a live blog to keep people coming back to your site while driving new traffic each day. Only a blog can do this. And it’s cost effective.

How much does a blog cost?

You need a domain and webhosting, plus a vibrant theme, so it’ll cost a few, but nowhere near what social media promotion will. Also, Google doesn’t charge for ranking unless you pay for AdWords, which will put your business at the top of a listing if a keyword within your blog is searched.

Now, this is a slow process and you’ll toil away in obscurity for a time, sometimes as long as twelve months. But you know what? Keep churning and moving, because Google will reward you. On my NFL blog, Get Pro Football Apparel, Google’s trust of my site has increased by 40% over the past five months.

The key isn’t to add content, but to add relevant content readers are searching for. Investing in a keyword tool like Jaaxy will work wonders here, as it shows you what readers are searching for.

 

Step Three: Promote, Promote, Promote

I’ve heard mixed reviews regarding Amazon KDP Select, but a lot of authors love it because it gives their books a chance for exposure with its Kindle Countdowns or Free Promotions.

For new authors, you will give away far more books than paid sells, but it’s worth it in the end.

One indie-author who makes a full-time living off their books earned about $95 in royalties their first year, but gave away a lot of books….thousands. They promoted like crazy when the free promo days came, and Amazon gives you five of these every ninety days. Kind of cool, right?

If you’re a new author, you need to be active in free promotion by signing your book up for promos with Freebooksy, Books Butterfly, or something similar.

 

Go For It

Okay, now that you know what it takes to make a formative business plan, it’s time for you to go for it and start creating.

I’ll be back with another installment soon with a more advanced plan that comes once your initial readership is exposed to your work.

Note that what you see here is the formative stage, which will take one to two years, I’m afraid, but if you keep going, make your way through the dark times, and stay consistent, you will find success. And I heard once you find success, it will follow you.

Dear Indie-Authors: Trust the Process

Trust the process might be the single hardest thing to do in the world today. Think about all the quick fixes that are marketed to us and the immediate successes that people claim to achieve using certain products, techniques, or methods.

A smart person like yourself knows it’s all B.S and most often these products, methods, and techniques contain a sample size in the thousands, where only one or two extraordinary subjects achieved anything significant.

That’s why the fine print that’s impossible to read on a TV screen say ‘results not typical’ or ‘your results may vary.’

The same bodes true for indie-authors and even traditionally published authors. Sure, we’ll see a few indie-authors make millions off one book. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again.

But it happens to few authors and even in these extraordinary cases, it’s highly likely they either a) worked for years on a single book, perhaps even a decade toiling away in front of the screen or b) one of their family or friends came across it by mistake, loved it, and said it should be published. That manuscript could’ve been hiding away in a computer file for years.

So don’t get discouraged when you’ve only sold a few books in a few months. Ask any indie-author making six to seven-figures off their books and you’ll hear they struggled for years trying to sell work they believed in and something only started happening a little earlier this decade.

And some of these people were writing since the 1990s, so figure that in and do the math. That’s at least a ten-year struggle.

How do you trust the process?

Let’s lay out a scenario.

 

Write a Series

At the time of this writing, the only book I have out is Northern Knights and it’s the first book in a series that will contain at least seven books, and perhaps as many as twelve.

A series isn’t going to take off immediately especially, as Northern Knights states on the cover, it’s Episode One, so for those who love to binge (I don’t binge but I know most everyone does), it’s unlikely they’re going to buy Northern Knights right now.

Swords of Destiny comes out next weekend and that’ll make two books. Book III will follow soon and that’ll be three books. I haven’t even finished writing the first draft of Book IV, so it goes to show how much further I have to go before seeing a dent in awesome royalties.

The lesson here is that a series will sell slower than a standalone book, however, here are the pros and cons of the series:

 

Series Pros

• Readers fall in love with characters so if they read one book and love it, they’ll probably buy the rest of the series.

• You can sell to binge readers by creating bundles and box sets, meaning readers will buy multiple books at a time.

• A series can make more money than a standalone in the long-term.

• You only need to invent a new plot and keep the storyline straight.

• As we see with TV and movie series, they will get and keep people talking, especially if you’re like me and are obsessed with including mythological, scientific, and magical mystery.

 

Series Cons

• A series won’t sell off the bat. I once heard from a successful indie-author (it was either Mark Dawson or Nick Stephenson) that serious sales don’t happen until the fourth book is published.

• It’s easy to create continuity errors, so a series will take longer to write and perfect than a standalone.

• It will only appeal to those in the one genre, while authors who write standalone can easily write for multiple genres.

• Stemming from the third con, a series will only appeal to a specific audience. Again, those writing standalone can morph from genre to genre if they choose.

 

Standalone Pros

• Ideal for writers wishing to write in multiple genres.

• Easier to make money in the short-term.

• Not obligated to be part of a series, but can become one in time. The author has a lot of control here.

• Can appeal to a variety of audiences.

 

Standalone Cons

• Limited number of eyes on the book. Unlike a series of say, seven books, a standalone is only one book, so it can be invisible to potential readers, unlike a series.

• If the author chooses to write different genres, they might have to make multiple brands and pen names, meaning more work beyond the scope of writing.

• Frontloaded potential for long-term income off one book. As once the targeted audience is finished with it there’s no sequel. A series would combat that.

• A new plot and character cast must be invented for each new work unless the author wishes to create a series.

 

Series or Standalone?

Really, the real winner here is all in the author’s own tastes. As you can see, though, both contain a process the author must trust.

The real question is whether the author themselves are willing to embrace the pros and cons of each path.
There is no right or wrong answer here, as both sides might take one to two years just to see some decent income.

Nothing is going to happen overnight for a long time, but the good news is with such perseverance, something will eventually happen overnight that at the very least will give the author a great side-income, with potential for more.

I’m not saying either side will allow you to quit a day job, but I am saying with time and effort, one side or the other may allow you to downgrade to part-time at a day job, and again, the potential is there to quit such a job for good and make money solely on your writing.

It’s what every indie and traditionally-published author wants, but when we don’t see immediate results, we tend to freak and become disillusioned with this field.

But it’s a business and it’s our business. Ask any on or offline business owner how long it took them to see a decent profit, and the answers might surprise you. Many of these people are successful today because they not only paid their dues but were charged double and triple of what cost the average person next to nothing.

But that’s what separates the average from the extraordinary.

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