Self-Publishing a Book: Can You Make Money Writing in Different Genres?

I’ve been writing, self-publishing and selling ebooks online since 2002. When I first started out, I was primarily a non-fiction, how-to ebook writer. Now, I successfully self-publish fiction and non-fiction. 

If you’re thinking of self-publishing a book, this post will give you some insight into this, and more.

Note: This post was first published in November 2013. It was entitled, Self-Publishing Insight: 2 Ways Moving Out of Your Comfort Zone Can Earn You More as a Writer. It was re-titled and updated in October 2017.

A Quick Rundown: Why I Started Self-Publishing Books

For those who may not know, I started writing and selling ebooks because from 1996-2004, I owned/managed an editorial staffing agency in New York City. We staffed on-site and off-site editorial positions (eg, copy editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, etc.).

I had an office a couple of blocks from Madison Square Garden, which was convenient because it was easy to send a messenger to pick up and drop off projects for our off-site client work. Also, it was easy for temps and freelancers to get to our office for interviews, tests, etc.

Well more and more of the temps we staffed wanted to know how to get into freelancing once they realized that we handled off-site projects as well. I kept getting asked basically the same questions over and over, so I wrote and self-published an ebook answering them and uploaded it to this website.

That ebook was How to Really Make a Living as an Editorial Freelancer. It was written in 2002 and has been updated a couple of times since then. FYI, if you’re a COMPLETE novice to freelancing, this ebook still has some great, pertinent advice.

Self-Publishing Insight: 4 Reasons Ebook Sales Can Be Slow

Ebook sales were slow for a few years for a few reasons, ie:Self-Publishing Advice: Can You Earn More by Publishing in Different Genres

(i) mainly because I knew nothing about how to market ebooks online;

(ii) e-readers like the Kindle and Nook didn’t exist;

(iii) many readers didn’t know what an ebook was; and

(iv) if they did know, they had no interest in buying one. You get the gist.

Fast forward to 2010.

I’d written 10-15 more ebooks and voila – I looked up late that year and discovered that over half my annual income came from ebooks I wrote and sold.

Hot damn! I was on to something. So I spent all of 2011 writing a bunch more; I self-published 50 ebooks on Amazon that year.

I give you all of this background so you can get a feel for where I’m coming from when I tell you the two things I’ve learned about making more money as a self-published author.

Fast forward to 2013.

I’d written two fiction ebooks; all of the other ones – well over 50 – were non-fiction.

Self-Publishing Insight #1: About Writing in Different Genres

One of my non-fiction titles was a crime novel and the other one was a romance.

I also wrote a non-fiction relationship ebook under a pen name (which is another title outside of my normal work).

The crime novel was something I co-wrote with my sister because we exchange ideas all the time and thought, “Hey, we can do this.”

The romance novel was an effort of pure love (pun fully intended). I’ve been an avid reader of romance novels since I was a teenager – and I know what I like to read, so I thought, “Hey, I can do this!” So I did – and I was very pleased with the effort.

And even though I haven’t had great success with either one of my fiction titles, it hasn’t deterred me. Why? Because it’s another income stream that I see great possibilities with.

Many successful writers will tell you to pick a genre, stick with it and promote the hell out of it. Best-selling author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki spoke about this in the PBS article, Guy Kawasaki’s 6 Entrepreneurial Tips for Authors, saying:

Pick a niche that you love and focus on it. . . . Owning a niche takes lots of energy. Owning every niche takes infinite energy. You don’t have infinite energy. If you want to own a niche, then give up the ones that you can’t own or don’t care about. It’s better to be own one niche than dabble in several.

And I agree with this advice to a certain degree.

Why Do You Write and Self-Publish?

Where I differ is that at heart, I’m an artist (studied and dabbled in acting years ago in NYC). And when a character calls me (like they did for my first romance novel), I HAD to put pen to paper. FYI, here’s where you can find all of my romance novellas.

So even though I’m known online primarily as a non-fiction, how-to writer, I stepped outside of my comfort zone because it fed my spirit. I think about it this way: we’re on this planet for milliseconds in the big ole scheme of things, and feeding your creative spirit is just as important as breathing.

So just like super-famous actors will sometimes take roles in small, independent films and forego the big paychecks to feed their creative spirit, this is what writing outside of my known genre does for me, which makes me happy.

Fast forward to 2017 … and beyond.

You never know where writing in a different genre will lead you.

Self-Publishing Insight #1: The Main Benefit of Self-Publishing in Different Niches

How to Make Money Writing RomanceEven though my sales weren’t great when I frst started publishing romance in 2013, I was encouraged enough to keep writing. And I’m glad I did because with very little marketing effort, my romance novel sales took off.

In the first few months, I broke the $2,000 mark! I couldn’t believe it. It’d taken years to do that with my non-fiction titles.

So that got me to thinking: “Hmmm, if I wrote more romance novels and put some marketing elbow grease behind them, I could have another very good income stream in no time at all.”

And that’s what I did. To date (fall 2017), I’ve written and self-published over 40 short romance novellas; most are in the 10,000 to 30,000-word range. My best month, I earned almost $3,200 — just in romance sales (not non-fiction).

You can learn more about my romance writing journey in this ebook, which lays out 20 months of sales figures.

So these days, I concentrate most of my efforts on romance novellas. But I still keep my eye out for non-fiction titles readers of this site tell me they want, which means I’m a successfully published author in two genres.

How Being Self-Published Got Me a Traditional Book Deal

I even got a book deal by a traditional trade publisher — largely due to my self-publishing efforts. You can read all about that here.

Self-publishing can lead to a traditional book deal. Click To Tweet

An “Out of the Norm” Self-Publishing Success Story

My sister has had great success as a romance writer. She hit #1 on Amazon in the interracial romance category for Loving Logan – which catapulted her ebook sales like you wouldn’t believe!

She told me I can share this with you — her payout from Amazon ebook sales in January (2014) was right around $5,000 — and that was just from a few titles. FYI, Amazon lags 60 days behind in payments. So, for all ebooks you sell in November, for example, you are paid in January.

Before my sis started writing romance, she too was primarily a non-fiction, how-to writer. Now she’s added romance, successfully “crossing over” into another niche — in less than a year no less!

So yes, you can write across genres and make money. I’m living proof, and so is my sis. And a bonus is, I get to do it from a romantic paradise like Jamaica.

Self-Publishing Under a Pen Name

FYI, just in case you’re nervous about going against the grain and not specializing in a niche as a self-publisher, consider publishing under a pen name. It can be very freeing, but it also has some drawbacks, which is discussed in the related post cited here.

Related post: Writing an Ebook: The Thing That’s Hurt Me the Most by Self-Publishing Under a Pen Name.


Conventional wisdom says stick with one niche to make money self-publishing ebooks. And while it’s great to take advice from those who are where you want to be, don’t ignore your spirit or your intuition. As my and my sister’s story illustrate, you can successfuly self-publish in different genres.

Readers want good information (how-to, non-fiction) and good stories (fiction). If you trust yourself enough to move out of your comfort zone and give it to them, my belief is that it can pay off – big.

Self-Publishing a Book in Different Niches: One Important Thing to Keep in Mind

Don’t neglect your primary income stream in order to cross over into a different niche as a self-publishe author (if that’s what you want to do). Sometimes it may take longer than you want, but be patient and put out enough ebooks in your new, chosen niche that have proven earnings before making the transition, ok?

Share Your Thoughts

Do you think you can successfully publish in different genres without using a pen name? Would you consider it? Have you published under a pen name? Please share in the comments section below, and if you found this post helpful, please share it on Pinterst:


P.S.: Get 4 Ebooks for One Low Price — The Ultimate Self-Publishing Package!


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    1. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon on a daily basis. It’s always interesting to read articles from other authors and practice a little something — like this info — from their web sites.

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