Six-figure income … as an author? Is it possible for indie authors to enjoy that level of success? The truth may surprise you as much as the myths do.
I’ve shared several case studies of successful authors both on this blog and in a recent 2018 release. Amanda Hocking, Mark Dawson, Liz Schulte, and Timothy Ellis are four impressive examples of authors who sell thousands of books. They are all using similar online tactics, and productive writing is number one in that list of activities. I’ve recently found more writers to add to this distinguished group of indie authors. Their stories are worth sharing here because they speak about the realities of building a full-time career as an author. They also bust the first two myths wide open.
Six-figure Income Myth #1: It’s Unrealistic to Expect a Six-figure Income as an Author (Especially With Non-Fiction Books)
When I first started researching author success stories like these, each one seemed to be a fiction writer. When I shared my findings with others, I was met with comments such as this one: “An important difference in Fiction Writing as opposed to non-fiction — Readers buy for entertainment, not to solve a problem, so you can successfully sell multiple products to the same reader pool.” Such a comment suggests it’s somehow easier to sell multiple fictional products to a single readership than it is to sell multiple non-fiction books—that it’s easier to build one’s readership based on entertainment genres rather than self-help/problem-solving genres.
I received a similar comment from a local “author marketing consultant” soon after: “Our particular audience is business (in many ways a tougher market than fiction) and business types rarely write more than one book. … Writing a book and getting it published are the easier parts. Making enough money to live on or even to cover the time invested in the writing of the book, let alone make a significant profit on book sales is extremely difficult.“ Extremely difficult? That didn’t sit well with me at all, so I went in search of a non-fiction success story. And guess what? I’ve since found many. Steve Scott, Joanna Penn, and Jeff Haden are just three examples.
Six-figure Income Myth #2: Success Will Strike Suddenly, Like a Lightning Bolt
I highly recommend you read a transcribed podcast from The Creative Penn blog titled The Motivation Myth. How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up To Win with Jeff Haden. During this interview, authors Joanna Penn and Jeff Haden discuss what it really takes to make a living from writing. They provide truly helpful and honest advice about how one can transition into a full-time author. Here’s a brief excerpt from that webpage:
Here’s the thing. When people ask me about side hustles and keeping full-time jobs, if you’re going to do that, the first thing you have to do is say, “I will be the best at my full-time job of anyone there.”
Because typically what happens is your attention starts to drift and you slide in a few things during your regular work time and you’re focused on other stuff. And you owe better to your employer, you owe better to yourself and I just think it’s a poor way to start.
So I worked really, really hard at my job which was good but then I worked every night. I worked most weekends. And I just I tried to shorten that cycle because there’s a certain amount of time it’s going to take on your side hustle for you to build it up to where you can make that your real hustle.
…I’m lucky enough now that I get to meet some really, really successful people and talk to them about how they got there. None of them ever describe this little lightning bolt moment or “I hacked my way to success” or I found this shortcut that got me there. Every one of them worked harder than everyone else around them and they had a goal, they figured out how they were going to get there.
Jeff Haden did the work: the “side hustle,” as he calls it. He worked harder than anyone else and was able to make writing his full-time job within one year. For Joanna Penn, it took five years to transition to a full-time writer. It took another four to earn six figures. Joanna graciously shares her exact timeline in this blog post.
That’s the reality of this successful book publishing formula. It takes time and commitment. There are zero shortcuts to a six-figure income for authors. But if you’re willing to do the necessary work until, then you’ll see the success you desire. It’s possible for both fiction and non-fiction writers. In fact, I’m willing to bet it’s even possible for poetry writers.
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