How Much Can Indie Authors Realistically Make? with guest @LizSchulte

By Rachel Thompson | Author Marketing

Nov 22


Hello. My name is Liz Schulte and I am a self-published author of mystery and paranormal romance. I recently read Rachel’s article about what a self-published writer can realistically make.  I have been publishing for around three years and this past year (in June) I became a full-time writer.

I find when I tell people that they tend to think it is because I am married and have another means of support, but that isn’t true. I am single, I have mortgage, and I have two dogs. I am living on my writing income 100%.

Rachel asked me to share with you guys my story about my journey to being a full-time writer. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I think the best way is to first explain a few misconceptions I had and I see other new writers coming into this with, and then I will hit you with my numbers for all three years.

  1. So-and-so author did it this way, so it will work exactly the same for me. False. It is important to remember that everyone’s story in self-publishing or any form of publishing is different. What works for one person may not work for others. It is always good to research and know what others are doing, but if it doesn’t impact your sales, try something different. Find your market.
  2. One book will make me rich. False. Very few people release one book and skyrocket to fame and glory. Very few writers will ever skyrocket to fame and glory. Yes, some do it, but most don’t. Look at any artist industry: music, acting, art, etc. There are three types of people: the elite standouts, people who make a living, and the rest (the majority) who work day jobs. It is the reality of the industry. Making your place in this industry is hard work. It isn’t a 9-5 job. I work all day and most nights every single day of the week. All other aspects of my life have suffered in order for me to get here. It takes dedication and determination beyond anything your non-writer (muggles) friends and family will think is reasonable.
  3. I am an excellent writer and I don’t need to hone my craft. (This one is going to hurt.) False. It is great to have confidence, but no one’s first book is ever their best—nor should it be. Everyone needs an editor, and everyone should continue to study and grow as a writer. If you are not willing to do those two things, you probably aren’t going to last very long.

Now for the numbers.
**Note: All numbers are before taxes, and  I always have travel, conference, and professional membership expenses, but I do not consider them a must-have for publication so I am not including them here.**

2011: 2 Books published – Earnings- $462.67; Expenses (advertising and production) – $2,591.13 NET LOSS

2012: 3 Books published and one short story (total of 5 books and a short story for sale) – $61,102; Expenses (advertising and production) – $8,916.39

2013 (so far): 4 Books published (total of 9 books and a short story for sale) –  $100,987.24; Expenses (advertising and production) – $9,111.56

These numbers probably lead you to a few questions. What are “production costs”? How do I advertise? And what changed between year one and year two?

  1. Production costs. Included in this are cover, editing, and formatting. A breakdown of my expenses in this category looks something like this: copy editor – $2.50 per page (250 words per page), proofreader – $1.00-1.25 per page (250 words per page), cover design (all formats) – $50-150, and formatting (all formats) – $70-100. These are the essential things you have to do to publish a book.
  2. Advertising. The truth to this is that I try everything at least once. Some work for me and some don’t. I have had the best success with Pixel of Ink (free), Bookbub (paid), and Ereader News Today (free and paid). Blog tours are great for growing a fan base and improving your SEO, but I have never noticed a huge jump in sales from them.
  3. The majority of the money I made in year two was made toward the end of the year. The factor that changed was that I published the third book in a series and made the first book free then ran ads with the three places mentioned above. It gave my books and series the boost they needed to get noticed. I don’t recommend using free books or having sales when you only have one or two books out. It is best to wait until you have multiple books so you get more bang for your buck.
  4. More than anything—and I cannot stress this enough—write more books. Stop stalking your sales, returns, ranking, and reviews and write.

This has been my experience with self-publishing. I am happy to talk to anyone who has questions. You can reach me on Facebook, Twitter, or my website.


About the Author:

Liz SchulteMany authors claim to have known their calling from a young age. Liz Schulte, however, didn’t always want to be an author. In fact, she had no clue. Liz wanted to be a veterinarian, then she wanted to be a lawyer, then she wanted to be a criminal profiler. In a valiant effort to keep from becoming Walter Mitty, Liz put pen to paper and began writing her first novel. It was at that moment she realized this is what she was meant to do. As a scribe she could be all of those things and so much more.

When Liz isn’t writing or on social networks she is inflicting movie quotes and trivia on people, reading, traveling, and hanging out with friends and family. Liz is a Midwest girl through and through, though she would be perfectly happy never having to shovel her driveway again. She has a love for all things spooky, supernatural, and snarky. Her favorite authors range from Edgar Allen Poe to Joseph Heller to Jane Austen to Jim Butcher and everything in between.

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Easy Bake Coven:

EBC Barnes and Noble Image

For Selene Warren being a witch is no big deal. She dabbles in harmless magic with her friends and never thinks much about it. However, when a stranger who seems to know her shows up at her studio and her grandmother is brutally attacked, her simple life becomes complicated.

A world of elves, half-elves, fae—and one peculiar Sekhmet named Femi open up to her. She will discover that fairy tales are real, politics are ugly in any world, and there is a lot more to her life than she ever dreamed possible.

This new reality threatens swallow Selene whole, but with a forgotten past beating down her door, she will have to dive in to save her future.



About the Author

Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…),,, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs and two live Twitter chats: #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with TheRuralVA, Emilie Rabitoy) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with C. Streetlights and Judith Staff. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

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(8) comments

Joe November 25, 2013

Wow, Liz, thanks for this post (and Rachel for hosting!) I just launched my first ebook and plan a series, as well as a couple of stand-alone projects. You’re words about the time commitment is spot-on. Not getting something done every day leaves me miles behind (I have a ‘day job’ so I consider the writing on par with moonlighting – and hoping someday to leave the day job behind.) It’s a challenge, and I enjoy reading about people who have made it work. Good luck!

Anna Markland December 10, 2013

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree with many of your comments. I started publishing my work in 2011 also and now have 16 books for sale. It’s the volume that has helped my books sell. Wish I could say I’ve made as much money as you, but I’m happy to make a couple thousand dollars a month. My goal initially was to sell 100 books in my first year!

    Rachel Thompson December 13, 2013

    Thanks so much for sharing, Anna! Wow, good for you — that’s A LOT of books. Exciting that you’re making a few thousand/month — a worthy goal for any author.

    And it’s good to set goals (no matter what they are — personally, I update and change my goals as the year progresses). Any author needs to have a plan.

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Lazlo Ferran December 16, 2013

Hi Liz – great blog post.
I have published ten books now and I am still not seeing many sales. I do some professional editing myself so I think the last 5 books are not bad for copy and structure but of course I am the writer so perhaps I cannot separate myself from the work and also I am not a trained editor. I don’t have any readily available cash (who does) but if it is something I MUST do then I will find the money. I get good reviews so I think hte books could sell well and I get very little criticism of copy for the last few books.I would like to ask you both (and I will ask Liz on her blog) whether you think having an editor is critical or not?


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