Re-wiring your mind to redefine some of your core beliefs can help you steer clear of a lot of hurdles
When my first book, Stolen Reflections, was released in 2018, I believed that talent alone would suffice. That because I had so many friends and well-wishers who commented on my Facebook posts that they believe in me, I wouldn’t have a hard time making sales.
I couldn't have been more mistaken.
Selling a book is hard — especially in today’s times when so much quality content is available to read online for free. People are probably the least likely to pay money to read your work.
Making a living as a writer is hard. But it’s not impossible. In the years since I published my first book, I’ve learned quite a few pertinent lessons. I also identified two major limiting self-beliefs that were holding me back. In this post, I’m sharing them because whenever a new author approaches me to review their book, I see them making similar mistakes. If you’re someone who has just published their first book or plan to do so soon, here are two beliefs you need to refocus to start making money.
You won’t make a sustainable income from book sales alone
As a first-time author, when you pour your heart and soul into a book, it’s natural to expect the audience would be just as interested in reading your work as you are in sharing it. The truth is: the audience has tens of other sources of entertainment competing for their attention. This doesn’t just include other books, but blog posts on the internet, web series, movies, TV shows, and so many other avenues. You cannot expect them to drop everything else and read your book.
While proper marketing might help you sell a few copies, it’s still difficult to become rich from book sales alone. According to a 2018 survey, only 21 per cent of authors in the US make one hundred per cent of their income from books. The rest either have day jobs or pursue other writing-related activities on top of their book writing work.
Here’s the belief shift you need to keep in mind: don’t only write books and hope to become a millionaire. A book only costs $10 at max. You’ll need to sell thousands before you any significant profit. Instead, upgrade your skills. Have higher-priced items on the menu and offer products or services that can generate a sustainable source of income.
- If you’re good with language, you can offer proofreading and editing services.
- You can write commissioned pieces for online publications that pay a handsome sum based on the number of words.
- You can sign up on online freelancing platforms like Fiverr or Upwork and get clients for whom you can ghost-write.
- You can start your own coaching program about writing or book-publishing and earn passive income for each new student that joins.
The possibilities are endless. You need to open your heart and allow the universe to send you the signals.
You don’t lose anything in giving away free copies
I was so fiercely protective of my first book, I didn’t even give my closest friends free copies. I know it sounds ridiculous, but to me, my book was art. How could I give away my art for free? “If someone values my work,” I reasoned to myself, “they would want to pay money for it, right?”
It’s basic human nature to crave for freebies. If you give free copies of your book to friends and family, it’s true that you won’t get the money. But, you’ll get their goodwill — something that will go a long way in establishing your credibility and reputation.
Giving away free copies is not an insult to your art. It’s a way of making sure the word about your art reaches more people — so they’re aware what they’re missing out on when they don't have your book.
This applies in the case of book reviewers too. You’re exchanging a copy of your book for an honest review. And reviews matter. They can make or break the sales of a book, and the more you have, the better off you’ll be. Expecting people to pay for your book and write organic reviews is not only unrealistic, but it’s also supremely entitled.
Here’s the belief shift you need to keep in mind: Send out as many free copies as you can with a note requesting the reader to leave a review. If you’re sending out PDFs, watermark them with a unique number. This will come in handy in case your book is pirated. The number will help you identify which reader pirated your book and you can take legal action against them, if necessary. There are several online services that let you watermark a pdf for free.
Think of your first book as your entry into the world of book publishing. Don’t think of it as your masterpiece or you might be devastated. While it’s okay to be proud of your work, being too attached to it will only lead to disappointment.
Most authors lose money with their first book, and it’s okay. Your profits don’t determine your value. The quality of your writing does. If the quality of your writing is top-class, you’ll find other avenues to make money. To be a full-time writer, a book doesn’t have to be your sole source of income. Also, don’t hesitate to give away copies of your book for free. You’re not doing a disservice to your art. Rather, you’re taking a step towards making sure more people know of your work.