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How One Ebook Writer Earned Over $1,000 in Less Than 1 Month – from 1 Ebook – on Amazon: Interview with Self-Publisher Cassandra Black

In a post I did recently on ebook marketing, I promised to bring you an interview with my sister, who is a writer and self-publisher also. She’s written in the neighborhood of 20 ebooks, and she writes fiction as well as non-fiction.

Her latest ebook kinda took off on Amazon, selling over 500 copies in one month. Netting $2.09 per copy, that’s over $1,100 – from just one title. And get this — it only took her about a week to write this story, a short romance of about 65 pages. She said it just flowed out of her.

No wonder self-publishing is so appealing to so many writers these days. Imagine if you had 10 0r 15 books on Amazon that sold only a few copies per day each. You could easily be making thousands of dollars per month – forever. THIS is what keeps me writing!

Interview with a Successful Self-Publisher

Now that I’ve hopefully gotten you a bit interested in self-publishing, let’s get to the questions I posed to my sister.

1. How long have you been a writer?

I’ve been a writer since as long as I can remember. I’ve never really been anything else. I’ve DONE other things, but I’ve always BEEN a writer. I just started self-publishing in 2008.

2. You write fiction and non-fiction ebooks. How did you get into writing ebooks?

Well, my big sister, Yuwanda Black, inspired me to publish in ebook format. My first published work was How to Start a Foreclosure Cleanup Business, which I initially sold solely through my own website back then. I’ve since made it available in Kindle and NOOK, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I’ve written a full line of products around that title, which took off faster than I could have imagined.

I was working a full-time job back then, and had my business on the side. That one title made it possible for me to quit my job and run my business full-time. Eventually, I found it more lucrative to simply consult, write and publish works for the foreclosure cleaning industry, so that’s what I did.

3. How many ebooks have you written to date (number of fiction; number of non-fiction)?

Oh my, quite a number.  Approximately 17 non-fiction works, 7 fiction books (I also have some fiction published under the Amber Creek pen name), and several small business reports and forms. See http://www.e-junkie.com/stonecottagebooks.

4. Your latest fiction ebook sold 541 copies in just over three weeks on Amazon? How did you do that?

Loving a Texan from New Orleans on AmazonI released my latest title, Loving a Texan from New Orleans, on February 3, 2013, via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. By February 28th, I’d sold 541 copies (some international).  To get the word out, I did tons of grassroots marketing, ie:

Ebook Marketing Methods I’ve Used to Get Sales

Emailing my family and friends;

Creating a Facebook Fan Page;

Tweeting;

Marketing on my Google author blog and She Writes blog; and

Leaving comments and posts in Guest Books on blogs and related websites, etc.

As you can see, all of these are free methods. I haven’t spent any money promoting this ebook. In fact, I’ve never spent any money to promote any of my ebooks.

The most important takeaway I can give here is to build your community of readers because if they like your writing, they’ll circle back and buy more books. As I’m finding out, building your online community (building a brand as an author) is about the most important thing you can do – besides put out new works, of course.

And this has to be a multi-channel effect. Some I still haven’t tapped yet (eg, video), but I’m getting there! 🙂

5. Can you give aspiring fiction writers some writing tips?

Writers write.

You simply have to get the story out of you. Just get it written, and then do a little digging online to figure out how to publish it. It’s not hard at all these days. 

Also, write in earnest; don’t worry about how your characters will be perceived, just let them guide you, let them do their thing. You’ll be amazed at where they lead you.

Writers write.

So open a file and start banging out that book inside of you.

6. As your sister I happen to know writing is your life’s passion. What took you so long to devote yourself to it and what advice would you give others who realize that this is their path?

I’ve always known this was my only place, but life, just trying to make it, pay bills, raise a child, etc., didn’t seem to leave time to focus on my passion, which was to write and have others read my work. Now, I’m at a place where I can make that happen … my son is grown, nest is empty, and it’s just me and my words. I’m at a place where I can write and self-publish.

My advice to others is to simply start. Don’t waste valuable years “wanting” to write; start writing now. The internet and technology have made it such that you don’t have to use a traditional publisher to get your work out there.

You can write a book one week and have it live, for sale, on a number of websites, within a day or two. First, get it out of you, and then publish and promote the hell out of it. 

My Thoughts on Using a Pen Name

Forget the pen name, if it doesn’t compromise your sanity! I wish I’d done that initially. I think this is one of the reasons my Loving a Texan from New Orleans has done so well. I married my Amber Creek pen with my real name, Cassandra Black, on the cover. I was missing a whole audience by writing under a name other than my own.

This may not work for everyone, but I had a history online and a built in audience with my business publications. I married Amber and Cassandra and put out that book using both names, and my sales have skyrocketed.

Fiction and Non-Fiction Writing Tips for New Authors/Self-Publishers

My sister asked me to dispense some writing tips specific to each genre, so here goes . . .

Non-fiction Writing Tips

This is simple . . . write what you know. If you’re not familiar with a subject matter, research, research, research. Your readers will know if you’re faking it, so don’t.
 
Fiction Writing Tips

Write out of order: If you have to, this is fine. For example, it’s okay to write your ending first if you already know it. The ending for the ebook I’m working on now was written loooong ago.

Show instead of tell. This is one of the most memorable tidbits from my writing instructor years ago at a New School of Social Research writing workshop in New York City . For example, in one exercise, she forbade us to use LYs … instead of saying he walked slowLY, we’ had to show it, illustrate it in some way… (i.e., the turtle was moving faster …).

This became a little easier for me after taking a screenwriting class. LYs can’t always be avoided, but in most instances, they can be replaced with descriptions to color a scene.

Write, first; edit later. For example, using the tip above, “LY” all day long as you’re getting your story out of you. Just get the story told. But when you double back to edit, obliterate as many of those suckers as you can.

Give characters free reign: Let your characters guide you (careful — they’ll get you out of bed in the middle of the night!

I hope this insight helps, and good luck with your self-publishing dreams!

Back to writing on this end … new novel in the works.

Best,
Cassandra
Publisher: http://www.stonecottagebooks.com
Amazon: http://www.cassandrablack.com
Twitter: @stonecottagebks (http://www.twitter.com/stonecottagebks)
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/cassandrablackauthor
Blog: http://cassandra-black-author.blogspot.com
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    Comments

    1. I agree…I have just started learning about self-publishing, all this time have been struggling to write books for publishers..how much easier

    2. jerri burris says:

      Very good blοg! Do you hаve anу tiρs fοr asρirіng wrіterѕ?
      I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a littlе lost
      on еvеrythіng. Would yоu suggеst ѕtаrtіng ωith a
      freе platfοгm like Woгdpгess οr go foг a
      paid oрtion? Τhere are ѕo many сhοices out thеrе thаt I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Appreciate it!

    3. @Linda:

      Then the post hit it’s mark. Cool!

      And good luck if you decide to give self-publishing a try. It really is a fun way to make money; still can’t believe how easy it is to get my own works out to the world — with nary a publishing contract in sight. Love it! 🙂

    4. What a wonderful post. I am so inspired. It has changed my ideas on publishing alltogether.

    5. @Vada:

      Glad you found the info informative. I’ve found that you do have to do a bit of everything to build your readership community.

      As an aside, one thing I’d add to this ebook marketing list of tasks is article marketing, of course as it’s may favorite way to market online. I plan to start this as soon as my fiction ebook is done. I love writing about love and romance, so I’m looking forward to it.

      Good luck with your books.

    6. Such an informative post! In preparation of my author platform, I’ve been doing lots of Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads social media interaction. I am excited to hear how others are doing, and how they’re getting there. Very inspiring and helpful post.

    7. @Genesis:

      Yep, sometimes you do just have to hit the publish button.

      Like you, I find non-fiction very easy to write; fiction has never been my forte. I’m headlong into a second novel now (a steamy romance!) and like my sister said, am finding that my characters are leading the way.

      While it may not be perfect, I WANT to see how it ends (and I’m the writer), so I’m gonna finish it, upload it and start another one. I’m finding that fiction is harder to write, but it does tap another side of the brain and artistic center that’s freeing. I’d forgotten this feeling (years ago I did a bit of acting in New York City).

      So again, write, edit — and hit publish. The more you write, the better you’ll get.

      Good luck! 🙂

    8. @Nina:

      I know the feeling Nina of focusing on trying to pay bills before turning your attention to your own stuff. But, trust me — if you don’t MAKE time in your schedule, it’ll never happen.

      When I decided to start writing and self-publishing my own line of ebooks, I took an income hit. I knew it was coming — and sometimes it got a little scary — but I knew I wanted to diversify my income streams, so I knuckled down and did it. I’d say it probably took about 18 to 24 months before my income stabilized again, and the effort was worth it.

      Hope this insight helps — and good luck!

    9. Very inspiring! I’ve published several non-fiction books so far and have a fiction short story under a pen name, but am working on a novel now. For me, publishing non-fiction is so much easier. You are putting together information and presenting it in a readable manner. Fiction is more of your heart and soul, so I feel like it has to be exact and perfect in order to publish. Really need to just hit the publish button. 🙂

    10. This is a very inspiring post. I have always wanted to be a ficton/screenplay writer. In fact, I have written a few screenplays ( but never did anything with them). I guess my issue is the same : trying to pay the bills before I focus on writing my non-fiction pieces.

      It’s great to know that I can write and self-publish and get some exposure. I think I am going to revisit some titles I have been dying to write, but never got around to because I was always focusing on my clients. I can’t wait- this is so exciting! Thank you for restoring my inspiration and my motivation to step into my brilliance. 🙂

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    1. […] I said, some 25 days later, when I interviewed her about her self-publishing success, she’d sold 541 copies.  She priced it at $2.99, which means she netted approximately […]