How to Write and Self-Publish Fiction That Sells
Making a living with your writing means to write and self-publish fiction that sells and therefore makes money.
What a simple concept, right?
However, writing fiction that sells means you need to KNOW what sells, what the trends are, and write to that trend at least some of the time.
Not just writing whatever moves you. To be successful, you need to be selling what people are buying.
If you want to make a living from your craft, you are not just a writer. You’re an entrepreneur. Authorpreneur, if you want to be all fancy.
As an entrepreneur, you must always be working to create a quality product people want. As a writer that means producing books, people want to read.
In a perfect world, we would all be able to write whatever we wanted and make piles of money doing so. And while I want to be positive and say you’re writing is so amazing people will line up to buy whatever book you write, I’d be lying if I did.
When people spend money, there has to be something in it for them.
If the genre you’ve dreamed if writing in is about fairy unicorns living in South Africa fighting crime there just might not be a very big market for that type of story. As interesting as it sounds.
I’m not saying you can’t write about fairy unicorns, I’m just saying you might not make your millions selling that genre.
I could totally be wrong here. I’m only using it as an example.
As an authorpreneur, you need to balance what the reader wants with what you can write. I say what you can write because not everyone can write in every genre and to sell you need to be comfortable with what you’re writing so you can write it well.
Though if you’re upset with me right now because I want you to write on trend, rather than your passion because you think you can’t write trend. Don’t be worried you might surprise yourself. You’d be amazed at what you can do when you try.
Think of it as stretching your skills.
Keep in mind if this sounds frustrating, that your goal is to make a living at this and making a living means
- understanding your audience
- what they want
- and writing that exact thing.
Romance, mystery/thriller, Young Adult, and Sci-Fi, have been the top sellers fairly consistently throughout the last several years. But there are many sub-genres underneath the large buckets that you can explore that might help you determine what the right fit is for you.
For example in romance your have contemporary, chick lit, erotic, historical, and Christian to name a few. Then crossover romances into other genres such as fantasy romance, romantic suspense, paranormal, and YA romance. So see, there are a lot of options. And you don’t have to stick with just one.
Though keep in mind if you build a fan base around romance novels and switch to sci-fi you may have to find a new reader base as they are two separate markets and your romance readers may not want to read your sci-fi, but that’s ok.
Anne Rice wrote vampire books and erotica which aren’t necessarily in the same realm, and I think we can all agree she did well for herself. But it is a little easier if you can have a crossover. Building a fan base is hard work.
Picking a genre and sticking to it is not always easy. When I started writing I was planning on writing romance, chick lit stuff. The Danielle Steele or Sophia Kinsella variety. I had books mapped out in my head.
However, in my first draft of my first book, someone died. I didn’t mean for it to happen and it wasn’t planned. It just happened. You writers out there know what I’m talking about. Sometimes you have no control over what your characters do. They kind of do what they want.
That was the start of my Presley Thurman mystery series which is more cozy than procedural or hardcore but doesn’t follow all the cozy tenants. Then I started another series that again I had NO INTENTION of writing as a mystery.
And dammit someone died. AGAIN.
Then I started another series (crazy right) and changed my POV thinking that would help. It didn’t. I actually published that series, which was more in the same genre, realized it wasn’t what I wanted it to be and pulled it off sale a year ago.
I am getting ready to republish the 2 I wrote in this series after much rewriting and editing for more mystery suspense vibe versus the fluffy chick lit’ish cozy mystery that the Presley and Trixie series are.
While there is a strong market for the cozy mystery and I love my fans, I know there are a few different types of books in me I need to write at some point. A contemporary romance and a straight contemporary women fiction novel are on my list, and I’d like to try my hand at a YA novel.
I had to read several for a class I took in my MFA and hadn’t read YA since I was that age and was wowed at how much different the genre was from what I expected it to be. Much more serious topics.
If your initial book idea is in one of the genres I mentioned you’re golden. If it’s not that’s ok. Your next step is to do your research and figure out how what you love, what you can write, and what is selling can all fit together.
The easiest way is to head over to the Zon (Amazon) and look at the bestseller lists. See what’s on there. Books by big 6 authors (Stephen King, Danielle Steele, Elizabeth Gilbert…. you get where I’m going) and then by us indies, who incidentally are kicking the big 6’s ass regarding market share – holla!
Then search your preferred genre and see what books exist, what categories are they in, what are their sales rankings. Then go research those authors. Read their bios, see how many books they have out, their social media following.
If you don’t like what you see in your preferred genre, meaning it doesn’t look like a genre that’s selling like hotcakes, research some of the others you think might be something you’d enjoy.
While you need to write what your audience wants you can’t write something you absolutely hate. There has to be that happy medium.
You can download this worksheet to document your research.
I firmly believe in the Law of Abundance. There are enough readers out there for all of us. If you find 10 authors writing in the fairy unicorn genre and they have out multiple books and seem to have a decent ranking on Amazon well then. I eat my words. It could be a sellable genre.
I do want to add a caveat about Amazon rankings. They aren’t the gospel. Those rankings reflect numbers weighted more on recent sales rather than long-term all-time sales. Here is a great article that breaks it down better than I can http://selfpublishingadvice.org/amazon-sales-rank-taming-the-algorithm/.
Don’t put all your research eggs in the Zon basket because as someone who’s not a fan of Amazon Select and does extremely well on iTunes and Kobo you want to make sure you check them out along with Nook though they’ve really struggled to keep up.
Seeing what consistencies there are out there among platforms is good.
Whatever you do don’t get discouraged if you don’t find anything on the top seller list in your genre or even the opposite. Don’t get discouraged if there are zillions in your genre on the top seller list and you think there’s no way you can compete.
You can! You have that amazing book in you and the skill and persistence to get it out and join the others on that list.
Now grab your download and start researching. Then come back and let me know what you find and what genre your next book is going to be!