Today I want to tell you about a unique side hustle that can help you get out of debt, costs $0 to start, and that you can do from anywhere.
It’s an evergreen home-based business that’s really taken off in the last few years — allowing creatives who never dreamed that they could make a full-time living doing it, to quit jobs, save for retirement, and travel like never before.
What is it?
Writing & Self-Publishing Short Romance Novels
Before you click away thinking, “I could never do that,” read on. My friend Yuwanda Black, who blogs over at Inkwell Editorial, has a story to share that just may change your mind.
She’s talked about writing romance novels with us before. But in this post, she goes into much more detail.
Take it away, Yuwanda.
How I Started Self-Publishing Romance with No Experience
The first thing I want to say is, before 2013, I’d never written a romance novel in my life. I’d read plenty of them, but it never occurred to me to write one.
You see, I’d written tons of how-to, non-fiction books, but writing fiction (romance genre) just seemed so far out of the realm of possibility that it had never really occurred to me.
So what happened? How did I start writing romance books? How did I earn almost $3,500 one month despite starting with no formal training, no fancy book covers, and no fan base — AT ALL?
Here’s my story.
Hmmm… it’s not something I planned, believe me! I’ve been a freelance writer since 1993; and I started self-publishing non-fiction, how-to books in 2004. It wasn’t until almost a decade later (2013) that I wrote my first romance novel, and that happened very serendipitously.
What happened was, one of my sisters, who’s a writer also, wrote one. She uploaded it to Amazon and sold over 500 copies in like three weeks. She earned over $1,100 — from that one book! Needless to say, I was like, “Jumping jeeping willikers!”
FYI, the book is Loving a Texan from New Orleans (by Cassandra Black) if you’re curious.
How Amazon’s Book Pricing Works
On Amazon, if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you as the author receive 70 percent of the sales price. My sister priced her romance novel at $2.99, which means she earned roughly $2.09 for each book sold.
This was her very first shot at writing romance, so when I saw her success I was like, “Whoa buddy — let me give that a try!” (Yeah, it was a bit of a competitive sister thing.)
Why My First Romance Novel Bombed (Badly!), and What I Did about It
I wrote my first romance novel in the spring of 2013. It promptly bombed. So I happily went back to self-publishing non-fiction, thinking, “Well, I gave it a shot.”
Fast forward one year. One day my sister said something to the effect of, “Why don’t you try writing an interracial romance?” You see, my sister had written an interracial romance. My first one was an African American love story.
So I did. And boy am I glad I did!
What I came to learn was niche matters — a lot — in romance. It’s not that African American romance novels don’t sell, mind you. They do, as author Brenda Jackson proves.
It’s just that some niches are easier to break into as a new author. Interracial romance proved to be easier — at least it was for me. So in the spring of 2014, I gave romance writing another shot. To my surprise and delight, my little novel sold.
I sold over 400 copies of that second novella in the first three months, earning almost $900. So I averaged about $300 per month — from that one book — the first few months it was out.
Before we go any further, one thing I can’t stress enough is how important niche is to being successful in writing and self-publishing romance. Proof?
Look at the difference between sales of my first romance novel (an African American love story) and my second one (a multicultural romance).
As the graphic shows, I sold 241 copies of my second romance the first month it came out. But what really surprised me was, sales of the one I’d published almost a year before picked up too. I sold 9 copies of it!
The second month, the book was still selling. I moved 159 copies. And lo and behold, copies of the first one I’d published a year earlier ticked up — I sold 11 copies of it that month.
I call this kind of sales “drag sales” because when you publish a new book, it will drag sales of your previously published titles along with it.
I’ve been hooked ever since (getting a sale really is like an addictive drug).
Why I Write Short Romance Novels
I mostly write short romance novels (novellas) of between 10,000 and 30,000 words. That’s how I’m able to write so many so quickly.
And yes, short novels sell! Readers will gripe and moan about them, but they’ll still buy them. So just know that going in.
The Hardest Part of Writing & Self-Publishing Romance
I’d say being prolific. Money is made in self-publishing romance by volume. So you have to constantly pump out titles — especially when you first start.
Yeah, you could luck out and have a hit on your hands right away, but for most indie authors (and traditionally published romance writers too), it just doesn’t happen that way.
The great thing is, romance readers are prolific readers, with 64 percent reading romance more than once a month and over a third (35 percent) buying romance more than once a month, according to a 2014 Romance Writers of America survey.
What this means for you as an author is the more you write and self-publish, the more you can ostensibly earn.
I once went well over a year without publishing anything new (I have several arms to my writing biz). But I was still earning $200 to $300 per month from existing titles — with no promotion or anything.
The Biggest Mistake I Made as an Indie Romance Writer
I stopped publishing in 2016. Why?
Because when Amazon introduced its KDP Select program — which is basically an “all you can read for one low price” book buffet — it killed sales. Not just for me, of course. Sales tanked for new and more established authors alike.
I got mad at Amazon and cut off my nose to spite my face. It was a MAJOR mistake on my part. What I should have realized is, businesses will always make changes. But you know what hasn’t changed? The romance reader’s appetite for new, good stories.
If I hadn’t stopped publishing in 2016, I know I could easily be earning five figures per month now.
In the spring of 2018, I reorganized my writing schedule to prioritize my romance writing. As soon as I started publishing regularly again, my income started to shoot up again.
So I made the right financial move — and this time, I won’t stop.
How Much Can a New, Indie-Published Romance Writer Expect to Earn?
As I stated above, romance readers are prolific readers. So if you publish regularly (e.g., a book every month), you can literally be earning $1,000 to $2,000 per month within six months.
I’ve done this twice, i.e., stop publishing, then start up again and within six months, was earning $2,000+.
There are a lot of factors that go into how much you can earn as a self-published romance author like:
- how often you publish,
- writing ability,
- which outlets you publish on/via,
But in my opinion (and experience) if you publish one to two novels per month and do that — consistently — for six to twelve months, you should easily be earning $3,000 to $5,000 per month.
My #1 Piece of Advice on How to Make a Full-Time Living Writing Romance
As you’ve probably guessed — publish regularly. Again, money is made in this trade by volume.
Also, set a time frame. Do you want to be a full-time successful romance writer in six months, a year, two years, etc.? Whatever it is, set it and get on a publishing schedule to make it happen.
Making money writing romance is not hard, but it does take dedication and persistence.
I’ve written some books that I feel were amazing, yet, they bombed. I’ve written others that I didn’t think were that great, but for some reason, they sell like hotcakes. That’s just the way it is.
Nobody knows what’s going to resonate with romance readers, so the more you publish, the greater your chance of having that breakout hit.
And, if you have a catalog of other titles, your income can literally leap from a few hundred bucks one month to a few thousand the next. I’ve seen this time and time again with other romance writers as well.
So if you want a tried-and-true side hustle that can earn you money for years, give writing a romance novel a shot.
One of the things I love most about writing and self-publishing romance is that once a novel is written and published, you never have to touch it again. And it can earn you money for years!
Fiction books have no “shelf life,” like, say, some non-fiction books. Hence, someone could discover your little romance novel 10, 15, or 20 years from now and buy it. That’s the beauty of publishing.
And when you self-publish, you keep the lion’s share of the profits.
Hey, you just never know — writing and self-publishing romance could move from being your side hustle to your full-time career. How awesome would that be.
About the Author: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of Inkwell Editorial. She has self-published over 100 ebooks; over half being romance novellas. Yuwanda also develops and publishes ecourses.
Update: We at Proofread Anywhere were deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Yuwanda Black. She was a truly notable writer, mentor, and friend. The links to her courses have been removed from this article, as they are no longer available. If you would like to support Yuwanda’s family, you can find more information here.