Are you brimming with dreams of turning your craft into a full-time endeavor? If you’re picturing a life where your writing doesn’t just feed your creative soul but also takes care of your bills, and perhaps even sets the stage for that sweet early retirement, it’s absolutely doable.
Here’s the truth: success isn’t just about writing and publishing books randomly. Many hopeful authors fail, and it’s got nothing to do with a lack of talent or engaging stories. Instead, it’s the lack of a well-honed strategy—a map that could potentially save you hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars. Yes, diving deep into the world of numbers and planning is not the fairy tale aspect of the author’s journey we dream about.
But this guide? It’s your compass. With it, we’ll demystify the fusion of imagination and strategy that’s propelled many authors from the shadows of obscurity to the bright lights of success.
The smart ones, armed with the right knowledge and approach are now comfortably enjoying six-figure yearly incomes, solely from their writing. Ready to become one of them?
Let’s get to it.
Set the Stage: Diversification Over Depth
Let’s first set the stage with a quite frankly shocking statistic: According to industry insiders, a whopping 70-80% of books in traditional publishing don’t even break even on their advances.
Think about that. Seven or eight out of every 10 books won’t be profitable enough to pay for themselves. Even with experts selecting and manipulating manuscripts for one purpose only: To sell lots of copies.
So what can we take away from this? There’s an old saying, but it still holds water: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. In the publishing realm, banking solely on one book or one series is very often not the most strategic move. The more you diversify, the better your chances of discovering a gem among your creations.
But this requires discipline and not falling into love too much with one book. Instead, put on your brave business hat and pivot when needed. Give yourself more opportunities to find that golden story.
The Pareto principle applies. 20% of your effort will bring 80% of the results.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the Golden Goose of Publishing Books.
The Golden Goose of Publishing Books: It’s all in the series
Imagine this: You make one sale, and just like that, it cascades into several more. That’s the beauty of a series. When you invest in a series, you only put your energy into marketing that first book. The following sales tend to roll in all on their own. Sounds like magic, doesn’t it?
Now, while not everyone is the type to marathon-read through an entire series, those who do amplify a vital metric we like to call the Read-Through-Rate (RTR).
Ouch, business-y lingo already— Let’s put this in plain terms.
The RTR is simply the percentage of people who move from reading the first book, to reading the next (and so on).
To calculate this, we take total sales of book 2 and divide by total sales of book 1, then multiply by 100. For each book in the series, divide its sales by the sales of the book that came before it to find its unique RTR.
For example, if you sell 600 copies of book 2 in the series, and 1000 copies of book 1, your Read-Through-Rate (RTR) would be 60%. Easy enough, right?
This RTR along with the pricing of your books leads us to our Total Value per Reader (VpNR), in other words, how much money each new reader brings in for you. The further down your series they move, the more value they bring (more on this below).
As with most magical things, there’s a catch. You see, there’s an initial investment to make that first sale, at least until your book begins to soar on its own wings. This is known as the Cost Per New Reader (CpNR).
Here’s the bottom line: If it costs less to attract a reader (CpNR) than what you earn in royalties from your readers (VpNR), then you’re on the winning side. It won’t happen immediately, so patience and setting realistic boundaries is a must (more on this later).
Ok, so let’s recap the terms so you fully understand this ultra powerful strategy:
RTR: Read-through-rate: The percentage of readers who work through your series.
VpNR: Value per New Reader: The total Value (in dollars) each new reader is worth to you. Determined greatly by your read-through-rate.
CpNR: Cost per New Reader: The total investment it takes to introduce a new reader to your book.
Now, let’s break this down:
|Assume that each new reader will cost you money because they only see your book(s) when you show them off (ads/promos).
For a single book, each new reader = one book sold.
For A Series, each new reader = multiple books sold. Aka: a much higher earning potential.
The full equation for VpNR is complex, but here’s a simple example with some real numbers;
|Let’s say your CpNR is $1 and the royalty you can earn per book (based on price, printing/delivery costs, and fees) is $2. If each of the books in your series makes the same royalty, here’s your projected VpNR:
For a single book:
VpNR= $2 royalty (book 1) – $1 CpNR = $1
For 1 new reader, you spend $1 and make $1.
But, for a Series of 3 books, assuming that each new reader reads all three books:
VpNR = $2 royalty (book 1) – $1 CpNR = $1
For 1 new reader, you spend $1 and make $5
The TAKEAWAY: A series with the same advertising budget as a single book can 2X, 3X, 10X or MORE your earnings.
Book One: Your Series’ Litmus Test
So, how do we know if a series is worth it to pursue? Let’s imagine you’ve done everything right in setting in up:
You’re confident it’s got that eye-catching cover, a blurb that’s a magnet for readers, and compiled those initial glowing reviews. You’ve smartly positioned it in the perfect categories and sprinkled in those strategic keywords to maximize discoverability. You’ve also leveraged promotions and targeted ads to promote it.
How do you measure if it’s worth pouring your heart into the next book of the series or starting a new one?
The answer? Get to know your Cost per New Reader.
Here’s how you calculate it:
CpNR = Total dollars invested (in ads/promos) ÷ Total number of new readers
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you spend $100 on Facebook ads and welcome 20 new readers. That’s $100/20, which boils down to $5 per new reader. Another example… you invest $65 in a Bargain Booksy promo and snag 21 readers. That’s just a smidge over $3 per reader.
So, where should yours ideally land? The answer is, typically, anywhere between $2.00 to $8.00 is solid. But it can swing both below and well above that range depending on factors like genre, pop culture trends, virality, and more.
Now, here’s the tricky part. Suppose you’ve dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s, and your cost is still hovering at the high end or even overshooting this range. Do you press on with the series? Probably not a wise business decision. Could it eventually turn into a hit? Maybe.
Now is your time to make a boundary: decide how much money you are willing to lose and for how long before you pull the plug.
As a guideline, consider that Traditional publishers typically give a book only 30 days to prove itself. As a self-published author, you can stretch that to 60-90 days.
Let me share a chapter from my own storybook: My mystery book, “Beneath the Waves,” didn’t quite make the splash I’d hoped for. It was set up for success. But even with promos and ads, my Cost per New Reader (CpNR) was a whopping $10.12. The verdict was in: this wave wasn’t worth riding out. Sometimes, as tough as it may be, you’ve got to close the book.
On the flip side, I once mentored an author who was deeply invested in a single series. He was already writing the third book before even launching book one. Upon my advice, he ventured out, launching several stand-alone books he’d previously shelved. The results were astounding. One of these new ventures cost him just $1.80 per new reader. This was three times the value he obtained from his original series!
Art vs. Business: Crafting Stories with Strategy
So does this all mean you have to start writing in other genres? Or change up your approach to storytelling entirely? No.
But with each new story, comes the potential for more success. You know the landscape better, you’re a better writer now and so on.
If you’re serious about turning writing into a successful, full-time gig, you should absolutely write about what you love, but it will be a much easier road if you pair it with what’s flying off the bookshelves.
Have you ever wondered why certain books in your favorite genre just seem to explode with popularity? It’s worth taking a peek. Dive into those top-selling books. What’s making them tick? What’s hooking readers? You’re not copying, just learning a trick or two. As you get more and more into the books, you’ll start seeing patterns. What are the typical ages/genders of their characters, what beats do they generally hit? These tropes help us angle our books. With each book you write, you’ll get better and better.
Remember: without a solid first book (good quality and validated by readers), there’s no sense in adding to the series. Readers always start with book one, so they won’t move on if they hated it.
The secret to accelerating your progress is asking for help. Your best bet? Writing coaches or editors — the rocketfuel to this strategy. With feedback and accountability, you’ll stay on track, and blast through the doubt that often leads to writer’s block. This way, your story becomes both something you’re proud of and a gem that readers will love.
Bottom line? Keep your passion burning bright, but also have an eye out for what readers are loving. That way, you’re writing from the heart and also giving your book a great shot at becoming a favorite on many readers’ lists.
Conclusion: The Dual Path to Becoming a Full-Time Author
You’ve got dreams as vast as the sky, and the heart and creativity to paint them on paper. But as we’ve journeyed together through this guide, there’s a key takeaway I hope resonates: while the stories you craft are born from passion, making them a roaring success hinges on facing those vital numbers and playing the field wisely.
Diversifying your writing isn’t just about risk management; it’s about increasing the chances of stumbling upon that goldmine series— the one that resonates, captivates, and becomes the talk of the town.
To new beginnings, uncharted narratives, and the thrill of discovery. Happy writing!
About the Author
JD has coached over 250 self-published authors to success. Praised for his ability to simplify complex marketing topics, he offers clear feedback and actionable steps, providing authors with a straightforward roadmap to boost sales and realize their unique vision.
Be sure to check out his free download, “Secrets to Successful Self-Publishing,” which offers a secret checklist and targeted strategies to boost your readership while saving both time and money.
JD offers robust, comprehensive coaching through his ‘Author Success System,’ a framework meticulously structured to elevate your career to new heights by instilling confidence and providing a clear path to success. Learn more about the Author Success System here.
On a personal note, JD is a 10-year military veteran with a passion for travel, particularly around Europe, whether solo or with family. He enjoys meeting new people, listening to their stories, and assisting them in realizing their visions—be it in authorship or other pursuits.
For more information about JD and his offerings, visit www.WeekendPublisher.com.