2020: Year of the Rat Race
Happy New Year, y'all!
Contrary to what you might be thinking, it is not too late to be saying that.
Not if you're Chinese!
2020 is the year of the Rat. Some highlights from my horoscope this year:
"2020 will be a life changing year for those born under the Year of the Snake...You’ll discover new things that interest you and you’ll better understand the direction of your destiny." [😲😲😲]
"There will be quite a few 'enemies' within your normal circle of friends or family members." [I'VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU GUYS 👀]
"Outdoors activities are tiring you, never allow yourself to become over tired. You may get injured easily, be careful." [CLIMBING?!?! NOOO 😱]
Ah, the Chinese horoscope never ceases to amuse me. And I look forward to gorging myself on dumplings and noodles this weekend.
But anyway, I also celebrated the Gregorian New Year in the usual manner—coming up with resolutions.
My primary resolution this year is to stay humble after getting super rich. 😎
Just kidding. Obviously.
After announcing that I'd published a book, many people have asked how book sales have gone. Do I have a Netflix deal yet? Am I ready to retire?
Pshhh, would I be writing this blog post if either of those answers were in the affirmative? Hell no. I'd be on a beach in Brazil, getting my tan on, reading someone else's romance novels.
(J/k, I would still be writing, because I love it. And instead of a beach in Brazil, I'd probably be volunteering somewhere. But reading someone else's romance novels would still be true—I read about one per week.)
So no, I'm not rich yet.
But that's not to say that I won't get rich.
Everyone knows about the wild success of E.L. James, who initially self-published 50 Shades of Grey. Or perhaps that of Mark Dawson, a self-published author who made over $1M in Amazon book sales in 2018. And while making millions is not the norm, according to Amazon, more than 1,000 indie authors made over $100,000 through Amazon sales alone in 2017.
Not bad, y'all. 👏
But my book's been out for about a month and a half, and based on the sales so far, my seven-year-old brother will probably make more money from red envelopes this weekend than I will make in the entire month of January.
I'm not expecting fame and fortune (🤞).
But it's okay. That's not really what I'm aiming for.
I love writing, and I don't expect riches (🤞), but I do want to make financially responsible decisions regarding my career.
My objective for 2020 is to prove that creative writing is a viable career option for me.
There are two primary key results associated with this objective (yes, I created OKRs for myself):
Publish at least two other books.
Sell at least 5,000 copies of my books this year.
Where did these numbers come from? Let me explain.
Two Other Books
Why two? According to this nifty calculator, books within the genre (adult romance novels) typically have 80,000 - 100,000 words, and the average time it takes to write a book like that is 5 - 9 months.
While I published my 83,000 word debut novel in just two months, I definitely rushed to meet my self-imposed deadline (my 30th birthday). For my next two books (both of which will be similar in length), I want to do things a bit more carefully, so I'm giving myself roughly 5 - 7 months each for research, writing, editing, marketing, and publishing.
Why not just take my time on the next book, make it the best book that I can, and sell millions? Well, there's no guarantee that any single one of my books will be a success. But the more books that I publish, the easier it will be to grow an audience. Every resource that I've looked at has suggested that it pays to be prolific. Besides, two books a year seems to work just fine for Courtney Milan, the badass at the center of the recent RWA debacle, who also brings in around $1M annually through self-publishing.
Thus, I'm aiming for May 2020 for book 2 in the Burlfriends series, and December 2020 for book 3. I've got ideas for other books, too, so it's possible that I'll publish even more!
There are two reasons why my sales target is 5,000 copies.
The first: it'd be cool if I could make at least minimum wage.
Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour x 40 hours per week x 52 weeks = $15,080.
For each book that I sell (eBook or paperback), I bring in about $3.33 in royalties from Amazon (70% eBook royalty and 60% paperback royalty, less printing costs).
$15,080 / $3.33 per book = 4528.5 books.
So basically, if I want to make federal minimum wage this year, I'll need to sell about 5,000 books.
If I want to make California minimum wage ($12 per hour), I'll need to sell 7,500 books. 😵
If I want to make what I used to make in tech, I'll need to sell over 33,000 books. 😱
As of right now, I'm nowhere close to having sold 5,000 copies yet.
These numbers obviously don't take into account taxes, business expenditures, etc....but you get the idea. It's tough.
The second reason: most agents and publishers are only interested in self-published authors with sales numbers in the thousands, as selling that many books demonstrates that you've built up a following and have additional sales potential that'll make you worth their while. Of course, if self-publishing works out for me, then I might not need an agent, but there are plenty of reasons why having an agent and pursuing traditional publishing (or both self and traditional publishing) could be a good option.
Thus, by selling at least 5,000 copies, I can scrape by with a 'minimum wage' job, prove my potential for future sales, and possibly attract an agent, if I want to.
My actual sales target is in the billions (everyone should read my books, babies and grannies alike...maybe even aliens 👽), but I'll take 5,000 for my first year.
Unfortunately, the average self-published book sells only hundreds of copies in its lifetime (although this figure almost certainly varies from genre to genre, and concrete numbers have been difficult to find / corroborate), and there are over a million new self-published books each year.
Also, there are great books that have barely sold at all, and terrible books that have sold in the millions.
The difference is in the marketing.
This is where YOU come in. ❤️
Word of mouth is a great way to get my book into the hands of new and dedicated readers. It makes sense: would you be more likely to buy something because of a Facebook ad, or because your good friend recommended it to you? So if you've enjoyed my book and would love to know what happens next, please let your friends know, or even get them a copy! (Remember, it's free on Saturday!).
Some other ways to help:
Share your favorite blog posts. Help me build a fan-base and maybe inspire others to write, too! I'd love to cultivate a community of writers, so if you do end up writing, get in touch!
Follow me on social media (@jentrinhwrites), and share your favorite posts. You'll get the latest news on what's happening in the Jen-sphere, details on new releases, special deals, and lots of punishingly sexy wordplay. 💦
My heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped so far.
In future blog posts, I'll reveal insights that I've gleaned about the self-publishing process so far. Let me know if you have any questions that you'd like for me to answer!
*Note: If you don't have a Kindle, you can still read my book through the Kindle app on your phone.