The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2022 and how I’m going to use in it 2023

Like a reader pointed out in her comment on my blog post last week, sometimes people have to learn things on their own and in their own time. That’s never been more true for publishing. There is so much information out there, and to consume it in some way (blog post, podcast, non-fiction book, reading a tweet) then applying it to your own circumstances can be a lot of work–and you need a healthy dose of self-awareness to even know you need the information in the first place. Not at easy feat when we’re told from the second we start writing our books that our novels are our babies and every baby is beautiful, not a product to sell.

It’s important to know where you want your publishing to go (well it is for me–I’m done trying to tell people what to do), and you can think about these things if you’re unsatisfied with where your career is up to this point: Do you want to publish for fun and earn some pocket money, or do you want more? Do you want to make what you’d earn working part-time? Do you want to be a full-time writer and quit your day job? I think a lot of us, whether we really want to admit it nor not, would love to at least make a part-time income. Part-time, for me, would be about $10,000/year. Depending on where you live in the world and what you do as a profession, that’s either a lot or barely what you earn in a month at your day job. I work for a non-profit, I’m barely scraping by, and that’s half of what I make in a year. To say an extra $10,000 a year would turn my life around is an understatement. It would take care of a lot of worries for me. It’s not asking a lot, but that is the biggest thing I’ve learned this year–I have to write out a goal in black and white and figure out a plan on how to get there.

Changing what I’m writing was a good start (and something not a lot of people are willing to do). Most indie romances are written in first person now, and two years ago, I pivoted and that’s what I started writing in. It wasn’t that difficult–just a minor change in mindset and some feedback to put me on the right path since I’ve never written in it before and only read it without acknowledging it like the Hunger Games trilogy and the Twilight series.

But I need to do more than that. Through the years I’ve gotten the basics down: that marketing pertains to your whole brand and what you’re offering readers across the board as apposed to advertising which is only buying promos and running ads to your books. It’s funny that when you start a pen name you get a fresh start when it comes to your brand. I had to figure out how I was going to present myself to readers. It helped that I already had a few books written (not published) and I caught on to some characteristics/themes that I can play with: my characters are older, some divorced, they’ve gone through a trauma which means a shitty backstory they have yet to overcome so they can find love. My covers are cohesive, even if they aren’t in the same series, and over time I want people to be able to catch a glimpse of a cover and say, “That’s a VM Rheault romance.” That’s branding, that’s marketing, and that’s something I’ve learned on my own over the past five years. That’s not anything anyone can explain to someone else–it has to click. (When you have 20 books and they all look different, maybe it will click or maybe it won’t, or maybe you just don’t care. And definitely, under no circumstance, will I tell you that you should.)

Made in Canva

So for 2023, I thought I’d do the math and figure out what I needed to make $10,000 a year. Having more books, of course, is helpful all around, and right now I only have three under my pen name, though All of Nothing, a standalone under my full name, has been my biggest earner since I published it and my small-town holiday series comes in second because of read-through. I’ll always run ads to those books, but as I figured out during my Freebooksy promo, I think I just want to focus on my first person books for now and see what I can do with them. I have three out, I’ll release three more in January, and a standalone in March.

What I’m thinking, and though I haven’t accomplished it, I know it’s achievable, is the idea taken from the 20booksto50k concept, being if you have 20 books published, you should be able to make $50,000 a year. Twenty books is a lot of books (and let’s assume we’re talking full-length novels, only based on the idea that I’m in Kindle Select, and the longer the book the more you earn from page reads.) Maybe then, you can halve that and say I want to make $25,000 off ten books. That’s nothing I’ve done with my ten that’s written in 3rd person, but I know where I went wrong, even if they are in 3rd person. I didn’t stick to one sub-genre, my covers were abysmal because I did them myself starting out, my trilogy wasn’t solid because my writing just wasn’t there yet. I could have hired a better editor than I had, though, I just hadn’t written enough to find my voice and my writing was the best it could be at the time. I definitely could have had better covers, but I hadn’t heard the secret of researching the top 100 in that genre and blending in with those books. I was all about the “vibe” and capturing it on the cover, and I definitely didn’t know about stock photo sites and used pictures from Pixabay which is a huge no-no. I didn’t know how to write good blurbs or good ad copy for ads, and I didn’t know how to use those platforms anyway. It’s not a surprise that I haven’t earned $25,000 a year off those books. I was doing too many things wrong. Even though they’re “fixed” too much time has gone by to do anything with them.

Now I’m on the right path, or at least a frontage road going in the right direction, having a concrete number to shoot for is probably best. There are some things you need to know, such as your ratio of read-through from book one to the others if you have a series, and how much you earn from page reads if you’re in KU. I’m actually kind of surprised to see how many authors don’t know how to calculate pages read when they’re in KU. I’ll show you quick in case you don’t know. To find how many KENPs (Kindle Edition Normalized Page) are in your book if it’s enrolled in Kindle Select so it’s available in Kindle Unlimited, you have to go to your bookshelf, click on the promote and advertise tab of the ebook and it’s at the very bottom of that page.

My KENP for Captivated by Her is 404. Now that we know that, we can divide the number of page reads with that number to find out how many total books have been read. When I look for the number of pages reads for Captivated by Her for this year I get 14,800. 14,800/404 is 36.63. So roughly 36 full books in page reads since I published in June. You should know the KENP of all your books. (If you want to know how much you earn, multiply the total number of page reads by .0045 [the average payout of a page read by KDP–this fluctuates and you can use .0044 or even .0043 if you want to assume a decrease] and in my case 14800*.0045 is $66.60).

The KENP for the second book in that duet is 397. We can do the same for Addicted to Her: I’ve had 4593 pages read, equalling 11 full books read. (Royalties–4593*.0045=$20.66.). We don’t have to do the math to see that there is a significant drop off from book one to book two. And thanks to Mal Cooper, this is how you figure that percentage. But first, KU reads are only part of the equation. I did have a couple sales, so let’s factor those in.

Captivated: KU page reads equalling 36 books. Sales 13 (9 ebook, 4 print) Total: 36+13 = 49
Addicted: KU page reads equalling 11 books. Sales 5 (3 ebook, 2 print) Total 11+5 = 16

According to Mal’s math, you divide the number of book 2 by the number of book 1 and it looks like this:

16 / 49 = 32%.

32% of the readers who read book one went on to read book two. Mal says you want read through from book one to book two to be about 50% and each book after that will likely drop even more. If you want to read more about read-through, I grabbed her formula from the post she did for Dave Chesson, and you can read it here.

Where were we again? Oh, yeah, so I want to know how many books I would have to sell if I want to make $10,000 from my books next year. My books are around the same length so we can assume I make $1.78 from every full book read in KU and $3.49 for every ebook sale. (Remember to give KDP or your other platforms their %–Amazon takes 30% if you choose the 70% royalty, and 70% of 4.99 is $3.49.)

If we just go by full sales and not page reads, I would have to sell 2,865 books in 2023 to earn $10,000. Considering in my lifetime of publishing, I’ve only sold 887 books (not counting page reads) that seems like a significant feat–on the other hand, it’s not as many as I thought it would be. $10,000 sounds like such a large sum, LOL. But that’s also 5,617 full books read in KU, which may or may not be easier. ($10,000/$1.78 = 5,617 books.)

The math seems like the easiest part–it’s the advertising and marketing that trips us up. So what am I planning to do to sell that many books?

Use my Bookfunnel subscription in a more productive way. I haven’t taken advantage of any promos or newsletter builder opportunities. I’ve been waiting until my newsletter looks like it has something to offer and also been waiting until I have a few more books in my backlist. I plan to snoop around after my trilogy is out. I’ll have six books published and that seems like a good number to see how things go.

Keep going with ads. After the holidays I’m going bump up my bid per click on my Amazon ads and create some new ones with updated keywords and see if that helps. Right now I’m doing conservative bidding per Bryan Cohen but romance is competitive and bumping up my bids might help with impressions and getting more clicks. Amazon ads are easy with category and keyword ads, but Facebook is a bit trickier when it comes to building your target audience. I’m going to research a little more into how to build that audience so I’m not wasting clicks.

Buy more promos. There are a few I haven’t tried like Ereader News Today, Robin’s Reads, and Fussy Librarian that will put books in front of readers who have never heard of me before.

Start posting regularly on my FB pages. I was sneaky and turned my Vania Margene Rheault Author page into my VM Rheault Author page so I don’t haven’t start from scratch there. I don’t have a significant following, but I connected that to my Instagram that I also rebranded. I’m going to try harder to post content on there rather than waste time on Twitter. I’m so disillusioned with my experience on Twitter lately that the best thing I can do is to spend that time in a place that will have a better return on investment. I also have my V’s Vixens reader page that I started that I run ads from. If I post content there regularly, I can pick up followers from my ads. Building a social media platform takes time, patience, and content. If I trade the hour I spend scrolling Twitter every day, I should be able to post content no problem and that should be better for me long-term.

Publish consistently. The best thing I can do is publish consistently. I have the next 18 months set out and hopefully, by the time those books run out, I’ll have 6 more (or another year’s worth). I don’t want to think of my books as widgets on a factory conveyor belt, but I have to admit, there isn’t so much pressure to write quickly when I know I have time. With how my mind works it’s difficult for me to write a new WIP and go back and promote older books, but I’m going to explore turning two days a week into marketing only and then the rest of the week into writing days. Maybe that will help. Focus is a good thing until it’s not. Then you have to figure out ways to work around it and make it work for you rather than against you.

Keep putting my books on Booksprout for reviews. Publishing without reviews is tough and my duet may never recover (which would be a crummy start to my pen name). All I can do promote it and hope readers who like it review it. Unless I pull them out of KU and put them up in Booksprout, there’s not much more I can do, but I’m not willing to do that. It was a mistake I’ll learn from and move on.

Will I get to $10k in 2023? I don’t know. I’ve never been in this place in my life with all that I know now. If all goes to plan, I’ll have 8 books for sure, maybe 10 with two of my six book series released toward the later part of the year. All I can do is my best, apply what I’ve learned, and hopefully I’ll find some readers who enjoy my books!

I have three more Mondays after today to post before the New Year. One will be my end of the year recap that I usually do, and the other two, I’m not sure. The last Monday is the day after Christmas, so I might take that Monday off. We’ll see. I hope you all have a wonderful week!

6 thoughts on “The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 2022 and how I’m going to use in it 2023

  1. I still really appreciate reading about all your considerations about the business of writing! I think your blog is the most honest, hands-on and refreshing I’ve read about that in a long time, so thank you again for that.

    I was wondering, how do you keep up motivation to, well, actually get writing done when there is so much mental RAM that has to go to the business aspect of it?

    You *seem* to be doing all right in that regard, and you mention that it helps you to have deadlines and goals (and maybe you have confessed to everything about this topic in an earlier post I have missed) but … still … is there any special perspective or workday method that does it for you? Maybe divy’ing up the workday into strictly creative and strictly business?

    Liked by 1 person

    • First, thanks for reading and continuing to read through all my drama!
      Second, I can freely admit I’ve been doing the business thing all wrong (or I would be doing better financially/sales-wise with my books), but unfortunately, sometimes you don’t understand what you’re doing wrong until you have a few books out and they’re not selling. The core piece of any business is selling what someone wants, or you have supply and no demand. The tricky thing for authors is to create a consistent supply that readers in your genre demand (or you have one good book you struck lucky with and a crummy backlist that won’t sell). So, chances are 100% I need to up my game there, but you were asking how I can write so much, too.
      I can be glib and say I write a lot because I like it, but I read your question the morning you posted it, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on for a couple of days now. All I can say to answer is that I’m lucky. I don’t know how long you’ve been in this game, but even just in my few short years, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. The reasons are all across the board—bad reviews, bad launches, burnout. A friend of mine stopped writing because she said feedback (beta readers, reviews on Goodreads) indicated her books were boring and she took it personally. Another author I knew had a bad launch of her debut novel and she never quite recovered. Some just don’t sell books and give up. I’m lucky in that I don’t take feedback personally, and if a review is negative I can dissect it for what it is. There have only been a few reviews that really hurt, but I could see the truth—I didn’t meet reader expectations. In All of Nothing, they break up in the 3rd act, but he’s intimate with another woman afterward. In my defense, this was supposed to show that no one would make him happy but the woman he’d lost, but I didn’t know when I wrote the book that readers absolutely hate the main male character with anyone other than the female main character. That’s how the romance genre works, and I went against the grain. In The Years Between Us, she cheats on her fiancé with the man she ends up with at the end, but I had no idea cheating was a no-no until a review said the whole book was full of nasty people (and that’s the risk you take when you write what you want without regards to genre conventions or what readers like). So, some authors maybe can’t separate constructive criticism from being attacked personally, but I’ve never had a problem with that (and I think it also helps immensely that no one has ever said I’m a bad writer). Maybe because since I have a concentration in Creative Writing I’m used to critique. I don’t know, but I don’t let it bother me and I don’t write about cheating anymore.
      As far as my schedule goes and dividing up my day into business hours and creative time, I haven’t been that successful as I spend most of my time writing. I’m fortunate I live a life where I have 30-40 hours a week to write even while I have a full-time job. My kids are older, so they don’t need me much (and don’t want me around, let’s be honest) and I don’t watch TV or go out. I’m divorced, so I don’t have a significant other to do things with. I wasn’t untruthful when I said I write a lot because I like it, but there has to be more to it than that. I’ve always had a passion for it, to open a Word document and create something from nothing. Some people maybe choke at the scope of doing something like that, the world-building or the idea they need to come up with 80,000 words that make sense. People look down on prolific authors, deeming their books crap, but when you do something for years, you’re bound to get good at it, and I’ve always defended the authors who can write a book in a month. I found a system that works for me—I’m a plantser—and I’ll always need to know what I’m going to write next when I sit down. I don’t need a muse when I have an outline, I don’t need motivation like NaNoWriMo, I don’t need accountability partners. Your question did come at a good time, as I’ve been stuck on my rockstar romance for a little bit, and I attribute that to not having a publishing date for it (therefore no urgency or anticipation). I gave myself a deadline just so I can get it done, but I don’t want to lose my joy of launching a book because I have my release dates set up for the next year. I don’t want to feel a launch is commonplace. Publishing should always be fun, because if it’s not fun for you, it won’t be fun for your readers.
      There’s a lot of pieces to this author puzzle, and if I ever were to stop writing, it would be due to lack of success. I want to sell books, and I have to do better with the business part of it or that won’t happen. I’ve got the writing part down and learning how to see my books as a product, not just a book of my heart, now I need to do better with the business side. Starting my pen name was like starting over, and I’m really curious where I’ll be this time next year. You can be sure I’ll keep you in the loop!
      I hope this was what you were looking for 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, very much – thanks so much for a thoughtful and detailed reply. It is much appreciated!

        I have never made a career out of writing, although I dabbled in it when the whole get-rich-with-ebooks-(on-Amazon)-rage started in the early 2010s, and now it is likely too late. I am self-employed, I have a child with special needs, and maybe 30 minutes tops to write per average day and everything that is added to that if you want to selfpub. I still write but mostly niche stuff – contemporary linked short stories for my website. I’m currently doing a longer story which is more in the thriller genre, but with the same characters. I’d like to throw it out on the usual channels, and maybe do some sequels if it works, but I am under no illusion that there will be resources at my end to polish the product and market it enough to make a living from it.

        But it helps me stay sane. That’s why I continue to write, despite having quit the business part (which never really got started to be honest).

        Another thing that helps me stay sane is connecting with writers who I find inspiring, interesting or just resonate with for some reason. With you I think it is your honesty as well as your determination and, of course, all the knowledge you share that keeps me informed about the industry, which I still like to be.

        With other writers it’s something else that resonates with me and maybe motivates me to reach out, even if I myself is hardly in the ‘game’, write a different genre or whatever else divides us. But what interests me is what connects us. Aside from the things I mentioned before, which are mainly interests of mine in your process, there is the process itself. The ‘path’ if I may use that term without sounding too highbrow about it.

        But as I get older (I am 48) I find myself more and more interested in how people deal with the life they have or the situation they are in. I am not really interested in if they have some sort of enviable level of financial or creative success. Not anymore. But in being a witness to their life, where they have been, where they are going – and perhaps, if they are interested, they can be the same for me.

        I like to hear about people’s lives and where they are going, whether in the book business or otherwise. That’s my shtick now. That’s what I mainly write about. And, again, that’s what keeps me sane when my everyday life is anything but.

        In terms of your concrete experiences with ‘getting writing done’, I’m surprised by how similar they are to mine despite our vastly different goals and life situations! Let me ‘splain …

        As I read it, your prime drivers, aside from the creative passion, appear to be

        1) self-discipline which you have a knack for, and

        2) the experience to ignore the nasty knocks such as criticism or failure which can make anyone throw in the towel!

        Sure, 40 hours per week in free time helps but … before I became a parent to a child demanding care almost 24/7 I had lots of free time, and … I used it very inefficiently. I easily got sidetracked. I gave up a lot.

        My current writing project – the linked short stories – I’ve done maybe half of the hundred stories or thereabouts in the last three years (I started in 2010) and two websites about my (still niche) form for promotion via SEO and a little SoMe, and a major redesign of my main website. Despite basically not having had a single day off in that time. I think it’s a work ethic spurred by my situation, yes, but also experience and determination. Like you.

        Second, while it’s very hard to find any kind of readers for my stuff, the little feedback I have had has been mostly on the shrug-level.

        I’m not sure which is worse – to be ignored, or to be criticized. But they are kind of related, I feel. It’s about things getting personal and if one lets that get too close it’s a showstopper. It sure was for me when I was younger. But now … not so much.

        So a work ethic and a thick skin are maybe the most valuable mental tools to keep in the game. And when you are in the game, you might eventually get a win, wouldn’t you say? 🙂

        Anyway, I’d better stop now. I think I spent my 30 minutes for today ;-p

        Look forward to the next update on your business!


  2. This was very informative. I’m also thinking of buying an ad on one social media platform this year. But I don’t know if my husband will be happy about it – he certainly wouldn’t stop me, I’m thinking; already he doesn’t like that my writing doesn’t fetch money, hence a waste of time. 😅 I think. Then again, I could try putting out a word, since I have the tendancy to come to conclusions without talking things out.

    You have read and researched a lot for buying ads for your books. I know they’re all romances, but by any chance, do you know which social media is the best for fantasy? According to Sienna, it’s Instagram. Are a lot of people saying that? Of course – there is high likelihood that what works for the majority doesn’t work for me – it’s another tendancy that happens with me quite often – but doesn’t hurt knowing, right? If not, do you know where to do this research?

    Liked by 1 person

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