Okay, maybe ‘riches’ is stretching it, but I guess it depends on how you define wealth. As a woman who went from being a single mother of three living on welfare after leaving an abusive marriage, to a now happily married woman who made a comfortable 6-figure income this year in book royalties alone, I feel pretty darn rich.
When my husband/writing partner (the Karpov to my Kinrade) and I met on Twitter in 2010, I had just barely regained my footing after an abusive marriage that left me financially devastated and physically and emotionally wounded.
Back in the summer of 2008 I had finished my first book and took it, along with all of my hopes and dreams, to the Maui Writers Conference, where I pitched it to a handful of interested agents. But the moment I came home, my life fell apart, as did my dreams.
I lost my house, and ended my abusive marriage, which left me broke with three very young girls to raise while battling health issues related to undiagnosed food allergies. And of course, recovering from an abusive marriage takes its toll as well.
It took me a long time to pick up the proverbial pen and write again. For two years I labored in survival mode, trying desperately to regain my sense of self and care for my daughters. Hopelessness waited on the edges of my life looking for a foothold, often finding one.
But I didn’t give up. With the help of welfare, friends and family, I weathered the worst of my recovery and held on to the small glowing fragment of my dreams, never letting the light of that hope go out entirely.
Even at my most desperate, living with my children in a camper trailer in my parent’s backyard, I persevered in my dreams. (And I will always be grateful that they opened their lives to the four of us despite their own small space and hardships.)
When an opportunity opened up to work in a real estate office as a ghostwriter and editor, I jumped on it. It paid enough for us to get an apartment in Huntington Beach and get off welfare and food stamps for good. But I still wasn’t living my dreams. Not really. Ghostwriting real estate was a far cry from publishing fiction.
It was around that time that I met my writing partner who soon became the love of my life and husband. He inspired me to write fiction again, and to never give up on what I loved the most.
That road from there to where we are now wasn’t easy. In just over two years I (and we) published 17 books and several short stories. We learned how to format and design covers and market. We worked multiple jobs and wrote full time while scraping by with almost nothing for a year.
Until this year.
Last year our income from writing was part time at best. It helped cover some expenses, but we only got paid quarterly from the small press we’d published our first ten books with and it certainly wasn’t a livable income for five.
When we published the first of the Seduced Saga in late January this year, our income skyrocketed from a few hundred a month to almost $10,000 in February. Since then, we’ve self-published Seduced: Rose’s Story as three books and a trilogy version, as well as two sequels in a new serial of Seduced by Lies. And our income has consistently been anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 a month all year, in large part due to that self-published series.
For me, this is a success story. I’m not a household name. (Yet.) I’m not making millions in royalties. (Yet.) And I haven’t hit the NYT Best Seller list. (Yet!) But I’m doing what I love, with the man I love, while comfortably supporting our daughters who are able to attend a private school, eat well, and have a nice, safe home with their own bedrooms.
When I think back to the days of the four of us squeezing into a tiny camping trailer, sleeping in the nooks and crannies, our books and few personal items shoved into the non-functioning stove and cupboards, to all that we have now, I am humbled and inspired to keep on this path.
And I’ve learned a lot about this business of writing and publishing along the way.
- It takes a LOT of work to become an ‘overnight success.’ We went from almost nothing to so very much, practically overnight. We lucked upon a series that struck the right niche readership and created something of a
cult following of Seduced fans. I don’t know how or why, but I’m very grateful. But I’d written ten other wonderful books before striking gold, and we burned the candle at both ends, never giving up when sales didn’t come and we still had to do other jobs to make ends meet and feed our children. We never rested, worked hard and sacrificed a lot to keep going. We pushed ourselves to study the industry and learn everything we could about not just the craft of writing, but of marketing, design, formatting and publishing.
- Most people aren’t going to hit it big with one book! Just like it took a lot of work to create this level of success, it also took a lot of books. Almost no one (traditionally published or indie), makes it big, or even comfortably mid-list with just one book. You have to keep writing.
- What works for one author won’t work for another. We learned early on that we had to be inventive and innovative. We had to create our own marketing ideas and jump on ‘new’ marketing opportunities while they were still untested and relatively unknown. Once something is BIG in marketing, it’s no longer as effective (usually), or easy to get into. We had to take risks.
This is also true of WHAT you write. While indie authors who are fast at writing have the advantage of catching the wave of something popular earlier, you still have to offer something unique. Don’t be the next Amanda Hocking or John Locke or whomever. Be the first of YOU. We believe one of the reasons our Seduced Saga is so popular is that it’s unique. It offers readers of paranormal romance and urban fantasy something they can’t get anywhere else.
- We learned that having creative and marketing control of our work made a big difference. Even with a small press, we don’t have the marketing and creative control we need to make those books as successful as Seduced is. Now, part of that could be genre, but a lot of it is the fact that we can take risks, change our plans and try new things with our work. We can’t do that with books we don’t own the rights to. That’s not to say we wouldn’t love to create a mutually beneficial partnership with a bigger publisher, particularly in the print book arena, but we are quite happy with the success our indie books have experienced.
- It’s not a competition. We’re not in competition with other indie or traditionally published writers. There are more readers than writers (and most writers are readers, too.) With the advent of the digital age and ebooks, we’re no longer competing for limited shelf space. It’s important to remember that any success one author has is good for us all. The more great books people read, the more they will want to read, and that is exciting for everyone in the industry!
We’re telling our story now in hopes that it inspires others. It would have been so easy to give up when things seemed hopeless. Or give up when certain books refused to sell, regardless of how great I thought they were. But I didn’t give up and I didn’t give in to the hopelessness, and if I can go from living in a tiny camper trailer with three kids while living on food stamps, to making over $120,000 in book royalties, then anything is possible.