The simple answer to the eternal question

I keep seeing some form of the same question on writing forums: How can I be successful as an indie author?

The answer is the same, no matter how much people wish it wasn’t. It’s the same if you are any form of artist or entertainer.

1. Keep making good products – subtask: keep improving

2. Make it easily available at a good price.

3. Promote

4. Repeat the above ad infinitum

The things above are necessary, but not sufficient. The last piece is:

5. Get lucky

But you will make some of your own luck by doing 1-3 the best you can. In poker terms, you must put yourself in a position to get lucky.

Some folks will never get lucky and break out and catch on, and that’s sad. Some classic writers/artists never had much success in their own lifetimes. That’s how it goes. Life ain’t fair. But if you keep at it, the chances of your work catching on, at least enough to make a living, keeps growing.

It’s also very easy to sabotage yourself. Let me give you an example. I recently looked at a writer’s blog post that my wife pointed me to on twitter. It essentially bemoaned the fact that she had written eleven books (though I could only find nine on Amazon) over a decade and was still only making 5-600 dollars a year. You know what? I immediately looked at her books and diagnosed her problem. I posted a post on her blog, because I could find no email for her to send (and by the way, she also said anyone why sends her direct messages on twitter she is likely to block…hmmm). I suggested she e-mail me and I could give her a couple of easy tips to improve her chances of success.


What was the problem? Let’s compare to the list above.

1. Keep making good products – subtask: keep improving

Her books are all romances, with different sub-genres. They are well written, with just a few formatting issues, but not enough to kill. Good covers, good titles, she has a good name or pen name. Okay, #1, check.

2. Make it easily available at a good price.

5 of 9 books are listed for $9.99 KINDLE PRICE.

One is 5.95, two are 2.99, and one is free.

Whoah. Anyone see a problem here?

If she would contact me – and maybe she will see this and recognize herself – I would say, drop all ebook prices to 2.99. If she’s already only making 50 bucks a month, that means she’s selling maybe 10 copies a month of those ridiculously priced ebooks. I bet simply dropping the price would triple her sales right off, and set her up for future success. I bet she would have 10x sales within a year, and be making more money. 100 copies a month with a 9 or 10 book backlist is not difficult. Yes, she might make slightly less money in the short term, but it’s all about volume, baby. All the promotion in the world won’t overcome something being overpriced.

I bet there are people that read her free book or her 2.99 books and then see the price of the others and say, “well, those books were good but I’m not paying that much.” And those people that stop at the cheap books are not going to recommend to friends, or at least, not beyond the cheaper books.

To reiterate, the dichotomy between giving away one book and overcharging for others is killing her sales. It’s like Macdonalds giving away free burgers but charging $10 for a shake. You ain’t gonna sell many shakes. People will walk in, buy the cheap thing, and ignore the expensive thing.

3. Promote

It appears from what I can learn that she is promoting quite a lot. She claims 20,000 twitter followers. If one in ten bought all her books at 2.99 she would be rolling in sales. So promotion is not the problem. I refer her back to #2. She has to compete on price. With established authors and tradpubs slashing prices on all but the hottest bestsellers, who is going to buy her books over one of the other thousand romance writers out there who write equivalently good books?

And if she recognizes herself and still wants to e-mail me, I have a couple more tips for her. Just drop me a line through my website,

One comment on “The simple answer to the eternal question

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