I am by no stretch of the imagination a successful or best-selling author but here’s a story of how I managed to make more money writing what I enjoy versus chasing what I thought was popular. When I made the decision to pursue a more professional writing path my first instinct was to follow the money. Passion was nice but living off my work would free up my passion writing later on. I looked for ghostwriting opportunities first, because it’s guaranteed cash. Rather than relying on royalties, I get an upfront sum. Not ideal, but for an agent-less author with no publications under my belt it was the best I could hope for—at least in making cash fast.
Of course the hottest ghost writing opportunities were erotica. For those of you who don’t know, erotica is by far one of the hottest selling genres, with an incredibly high demand. It is a billion dollar industry annually and traditional publishers are struggling to keep up with indie authors. Indies are able to publish a lot faster and reach niche audiences whereas traditional publishers have to go through multiple layers of edits, rewrites, and proofs before bringing a product to market. It costs a lot more for a large publisher to produce a product, where an indie can create a small audience of loyal fans and sell them a new book every month. They don’t even have to be long. They just have to be a juicy twenty thousand words.
It made sense for me to try it. If I love writing why wouldn’t I try to capitalize on an opportunity to make real money in the industry. Even if I couldn’t use a name I wanted people to associate with me, the day dreams still flooded by mind each time I went to the gym. I thought it was as easy as pressing the publish button and I could be the next EL James.
Damn I was wrong. It’s tough. I did my research and thought I found the best subgenre to pursue. It took less than two weeks to write around 40,000 words of garbage. I did a quick proof read and boom! It was up and I was rolling in the cash—except I wasn’t. It didn’t sell at all. No one knew who I was, and I didn’t feel comfortable putting money into a marketing budget for a book I didn’t like writing, and knew people probably wouldn’t like reading. The fact was, it’s a really bad book and doesn’t deserve success. To make matters worse, I hated the time I spent on that project.
So here I am, not a multi-millionaire or a best selling erotica author, and not even having fun. I knew right then and there if I wanted to pursue writing it had to be a genre I enjoyed. It had to be the books I read—the books I wish were written—the books I would go to a midnight release party for.
I had this idea for a children’s fantasy book. It started with the image of a villain sitting in a tree, sprawled across the branches like a hammock. Why was he there? What was he blocking? Why did my main characters need to take him down? I asked myself these questions and ended up creating a world without color—a world without life and death.
You want to know how strange it turned out? I wrote a children’s book about death, with villains and antihero reapers bringing souls to the afterlife through a wasteland. To call this niche writing would be generous. What’s the market for a children’s book about death and the importance of preserving nature?
Well, it didn’t matter. Cause I wrote it for me, and I wrote it for a small number of beta readers who loved the story and wanted to see how it finished. So I published Beds Are For Flowersin October 2018 and had the audiobook out in November. The results? This may not sound like a lot to some of you, but I sold over 150 copies the first day and a half and the book was listed number 2 hottest new releases for children coming of age.
I’ve made new friends and fans in the publishing and reviewer community and am now in the process of turning it into a five book series. When I asked myself why am I writing, and why do I need to tell this story, I found answers—I found passion—and that surprisingly helped me find results. It’s sort of like that old saying you find love when you stop looking for it—I don’t want to say success is the same, because I never stopped searching, but I did stop searching in the wrong places. I stopped looking for shortcuts and knew what I wanted my long-term goals to be.
This isn’t to brag, it’s just a bit of a reminder to myself that having something to say is way more important than speaking. if you have something to say chances are it’s going to reach one person and if it reaches one person chances are it’s going to reach everyone who has the same taste. So, apply the story of these books to your own products and your own services. Why are you doing it? What is the message that you want to convey? What is your purpose? Erotica didn’t work cause the only purpose was making money. Now don’t get me wrong, making money should not be bad. We’re in business after all, but is there another reason? Is there a true purpose? Are you trying to entertain someone in a very specific way? Are you trying to follow a social mission, or an environmental cause? If you can identify not just how you’re going to generate income but what kind of externalities you want to create, you will leave a much larger impact in your community and you will create something you not only sell, but are proud to sell—something people are proud to buy from you.
I hope this helps.