How Much Can Hybrid Authors Make? by guest @steenaholmes


Image courtesy of Gualberto107,

There have been a few posts lately regarding how much Indie Authors should expect to make. Have you taken time to read them? You should – they are eye-opening and very insightful. The main theme you’ll hear is that this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme and despite the large volume of books now available today for readers, authors are finding it difficult to make the income they thought they’d make.

2013 was a very different year for most authors compared to 2012. Those who made huge money in 2012 didn’t see it this past year and for various reasons. Readers are getting picky (and they should). Prices have dropped. It’s harder to get noticed. Algo’s on Amazon etc are always changing. It’s more expensive to advertise now. The list goes on and on.

The message you read everywhere lately is all the same…You must write more. You must get professional editing and a professional cover. You must expect to spend the money. And you should expect not to earn much. Pretty disheartening, right? But it doesn’t need to be.

I’ve had some authors tell me that they felt they were ‘late to the game’, that they took too long to jump into the indie pool and missed out on the great income they could have made. And maybe that’s true. But if you never jump in, you’ll never know, right?

Being an indie author is not easy. It’s not. Plain and simple. I’m continually thankful that I indie pubbed my first novella back in 2011 – I was able to make my mistakes early on when it wouldn’t hurt me as much. I also jumped in the poll early enough to be able to make a living in this and I’ve been smart about the decisions I’ve made (even when I’ve made mistakes) to ensure I continue to earn a living. I’m all about being honest and open … and I don’t want authors to think that they’ve lost out, that they were too late to the game or that it’s hopeless.

Let me share with you some honesty about my income:

2011 – I worked full-time and wrote in the evenings and while at work. I began to indie publish and it took me 6 months to make the $100 payout from Amazon.
2012 – despite constant rejection, I published Finding Emma and my life changed. I ended up making $185,000, signed with an agent, got a 3 book deal with Amazon and didn’t look back.
2013 – took a hard look at my brand, refocused and will make over $350,000 as a hybrid author (includes both indie and amazon imprint sales)
2104 – my goal is to earn more than $500,000

How was this possible?

First off – I’m not the only one doing this and there are more hybrid authors who make a lot more money than this – a lot more. Which means – it is possible. But how? What I’ve learned (through my own experience and by watching other indie authors) is that they use being a ‘hybrid’ author (as first coined by Bob Mayer and has a post about income here that you should read) to their advantage. They are either traditionally pubbed authors who turned Indie or they are Indie authors who were picked up by a big house. In the Digital World link below – you’ll see that those authors who are making the majority of income are hybrids.

But again – how, right? (I know you’re asking this). Well – not everyone can be Belle Andre (although we all want to be…or is that just me?). We all can’t get print-only deals. But we can use our trad published books to push sales for our indie books or vice versa. My indie sales hold their own thanks to my sales with the Amazon Imprint on my two books that I have through them (2 books out of 15 published).

Here’s what I did that I believe has helped to increase my income.

  1. I refocused my brand. I redid my website and took a hard look at what I was writing. The stories I was putting out were all over the place – in different genres. While I love writing in a variety of genres, not all of my readers were following me into those stories – and that’s okay. For me it didn’t work to write multi-genre like I was. My readers are into women’s fiction and sweet romance – not erotic romance, thriller etc.
  2.  I took a look at where the income of my stories were coming from – and which books were not selling and it didn’t take me long to realize where my focus needed to be. And yes – others had told me this, my agent, close friends, but I’m the type who has to learn the hard way. And I learned.
  3. I listened to my readers. Instead of focusing on the income and wanting ‘more and more and more’ – I took a hiatus from watching my numbers all the time and instead tuned into my readers. I asked them what they liked to read, what they wanted to read and I stopped seeing them as an income stream but rather as friends.
  4. I created my ‘Steena’s secret society’ and interacted with readers on my Facebook page. I asked them questions, got them involved in my stories as I wrote them. Having a street team has been vital.
  5. I focused on getting reviews over getting sales.
  6. I wrote more in a series – books that my readers wanted – novellas that enhanced my novels with the Amazon imprint.

Do you see where I’m going with this? My focus changed. Yes – it helps to have Amazon behind me. Trust me, I love knowing that I earned out my advance earlier than expected and that I’m making money with them. But why shouldn’t I? I made money as an indie author and it stands to reason that I’ll continue that, doesn’t it? Being hybrid means grabbing hold of those options that are available to me and using them to my advantage – whether it’s going traditional, having print only deals, getting foreign rights, audio rights…doesn’t matter – it’s seeing beyond the box called ‘Indie Publishing’ and realizing there are no lines for me to cross – as long as I don’t see them.

My focus today is on my readers. That’s it. The books I write are ones from my heart that I know will touch my readers hearts. I’m no longer writing stories for the market or to make money. And it’s not because I’m already making the money, it’s because I realized earlier in 2012 that if I wanted to MAKE this money, I needed to stop focusing on the sales and instead look to my readers. The two go hand in hand…you can’t make money without finding readers and you won’t find readers unless you have sales to make the money…so instead of focusing on those sales, why not focus on your readers and you’ll see the sales. Makes sense to me.

Can you make money as an author? YES! Absolutely you can. Will you earn that money right away? Probably not. It might take you a few years. But do you have a goal of what you want to be making? Do you have a plan in place? Are you surrounding yourselves with other indie and hybrid authors who are moving forward instead of being stuck in the present (let alone always looking to the past)? You should be. There’s one thing about the Indie Community that I love – and it’s the fact sharing. We’re there for one another, sharing tidbits that worked for us or didn’t work. When someone’s sales are down, we rally behind them and help figure out a way to find more readers. We discuss platforms and so much more. If you are doing all this and still not seeing the money – keep walking forward – you’ll get there. If your dream is to quite your job and write full-time, then keep pursuing that dream.

Bottom line…don’t give up. You can do it. And yes, you can earn money, make a living, support your family off your passion. It just might take time. As author Dara Lee Snow is always telling me – if I made all my goals today, what else would I have left to attain? Keep challenging yourself and don’t give up.

I’ve shared my story in hopes to help you not lose heart. I hope it helped. If I can do it – so can you. And yes, I honestly believe that – because remember – I know what it feels like to watch your sales (and returns) and wonder how long it will take before you get your first cheque from Amazon (or any other retailer).

Here are some of those articles I mentioned above. Check them out.

Rachel Thompson – How Much Can Indie Authors Realistically Make
Molly Greene – When Sales are Slow
Toby Neal – Are Indies Getting Clobbered by Big Name Ebook Discounts
Digital Book World – Self Publishing Debate – Writing Income 

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Originally published on Steena’s site. Used with her permission.

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  1. Phil Taylor on December 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you Steena and Rachel. Loved this, especially the reminder that our readers are who we write for and are wonderful resources.

  2. Barry Napier on December 19, 2013 at 7:34 pm

    I became a hybrid author this year and have seen in just the last 3 months how it can make a difference. I’m still not making NEARLY enough to be doing this full-time but my indie sales have more than doubled since my contracted books have been released. I plan to release two indie books next year and two contracted books (part of a series) and we’ll see what happens. And once I can figure out exactly how to do it, I am pretty sure a slow and steady re-branding is also in my future. Great post, and thanks for sharing!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 21, 2013 at 6:12 pm

      quite welcome. there are a few other articles here on my earnings and also Liz Schulte. I’m a big believe in transparency. It’s different for everyone of course, but it’s great to know how other authors are doing.

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