My Path as a Successful Author

journey to author success

The Pathway to a Successful Author Career

You may not know my name, but I’m a successful independent author. Over the last year, I generated over $500K in sales and Kindle Unlimited page reads, keeping more than $360K as profit after taking out costs for advertising, editing, book cover design, and proofreading. A few of my novels are in the top-15 of Amazon’s most popular thriller and mystery genres, twice placing me in the top-100 on Kindle.
But here’s something you might find unexpected. 

I’m self-published.

No big publishing house is helping to promote me – I achieved this all myself. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Horror Before the Success

Back in 2014, I wrote my first book–a classic vampire tale that fit right in with Stephen King’s brand of horror. Although it wasn’t the best story, I still managed to sell a few copies each week. For the next four years, I self-published several more horror novels on Amazon, earning positive reviews but low sales.

By 2018, I was tired of writing only horror stories. I thirsted for narratives with more complexity and diversity in their characters. Still, I couldn’t deny the thrill of scaring readers with suspenseful thrillers.

In 2019, I decided to try something different–dark mysteries and psychological thrillers. It proved to be a great decision. Between 2019 and 2022, my revenues went from almost zero to over $350,000—an amazing feat for an indie author.

A Self-Made Author Entrepreneur 

For the past year, I have turned down many contract offers from publishers and kept my writing independent. Each offer was weighed carefully before being passed up, but it would take something extraordinary for me to accept.

Self-publishing has a less than stellar reputation amongst some; we’ve all heard stories about books that are full of spelling mistakes and poor storytelling. But there is no denying the success of indie authors. Many of my self-published friends make far more money than I do.

We hire professional editors and create attractive covers, not to mention hiring narrators to read our audiobooks. We advertise ourselves, build email lists, manage our finances, and take control of our own production schedules instead of taking what a publishing house gives us.

We may even earn more since we get 70% commissions on book sales. Plus, I can upload my finished book on Amazon and see it for sale in just hours rather than waiting months or years as often happens with bigger publishers.

Publishing and Creative Control

The 70% commissions independent authors receive when self-publishing is a strong incentive, but the biggest benefit is the creative control it provides.

I’m not just talking about being able to write whatever I want whenever I want. It also grants me the power to decide when to publish my books, giving me an advantage in marketing.

When I switched from horror stories to mysteries and thrillers, I wrote multiple novels ahead of time, then chose to roll them out every few months. Doing this kept my name on Amazon for thirty days with each book, letting them remain in various categories for one to two months after that.

Once the hype around one book died down, I released another, raising my profile again and directing readers toward my backlist.

Alongside that, I studied marketing and became proficient at promoting on Amazon and social media platforms. These tactics helped draw people in and allowed me to grow my mailing list from 0 up to almost 7000 real subscribers—people who liked my work so much they joined voluntarily rather than because of any special deal or promotion.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Keep in mind that even if you have the most brilliant strategy in place and know how to advertise like a pro, your books will go nowhere if they don’t meet reader expectations. To become a successful self-published author you need talent and technical skills; while poor writers never achieve success no matter what they do; there are many good writers whose hard work goes unnoticed simply because their promotional efforts failed.

Running an Author Business

My most significant point is that I’m not merely an artist, but also a businessperson. Because I’m self-published, my roles are incredibly varied; storyteller, marketer, accountant and strategist all fall to me. Plus, the onus for ensuring the quality of my books lies with me; before I hit publish, I must be certain they’re ready to rock.

That’s a lot of pressure. Whether you prefer traditional or independent publishing, running a successful writing career means acting as CEO, making sure every aspect functions like clockwork.

I block out time each day to manage my business; the bulk of it is devoted to writing, but I leave slots available for communication with readers and assessing ROI from ad campaigns. On any given day I could be working with my cover designer to finish a project, formatting stories for e-book, paperback, and hardcover (Vellum and MacBook Pro are both involved), or finding solutions to editor feedback. The opportunities for growth never cease, so I effectively organize my time into achievable tasks.

To prevent myself from important tasks, I use an app on my phone to give me daily reminders I’ve set up in advance. So if my editor wants work from me a month from now, it’ll ping myself at the appropriate time.

Staying organized is essential to tracking progress and keeping your writing career running smoothly.

Independent Publishing Success

I’m not here to push for self-publishing, but it is a viable option for some writers. It’s worked for me and helped me reach my goals quicker than I would have otherwise.

Nowadays, more traditionally published authors are joining the independent movement: Andy Weir with “The Martian”, Jane Austen with “Sense and Sensibility”, Mark Twain with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and even Dean Koontz under Thomas and Mercer – Amazon’s thriller imprint.

Self-publishing isn’t right for everyone, but if you’re passionate about your work and have an eye for detail, it could be the quickest route to getting your books noticed by readers.

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