Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Fiction Branding… Part 10

20 to 50 Thinking…

And how branding fits with that.

20 to 50 is shorthand for having 20 major books published will make you 50 thousand a year.

And if you do a bunch of things right, it often works. But you have to do a bunch of things right.

Why 20 Major Books?

Ways of discoverability, basically. If you have one book, that book can be found through all the places you have it for sale and that’s it. So say you are wide and have it out in 150 different stores around the world, plus paper through Ingrams. (I am estimating that number of stores by counting up all the Amazon stores in different countries, all the Kobo stores around the world, and the ton of places you can get to through Draft2Digital. My estimate is way low I suppose, but go with it.)

So your one book can be discovered in 150 different places and that’s it. And it leads the reader to no other of your books.

So say you have five books up. 150 x 5 plus all the connections from a reader finding the first book or third book and moving on to book two and so on and so on. The possibility of your books being discovered are fantastically higher.

When you get to 20 major books, the math gets stupidly high for any one book being discovered.

Major books are novels, novellas, collections, or omnibus. Sadly it has been proven that short stories standing alone, while adding value, do not work on this major discoverability.

Why 50 Thousand Bucks A Year?

Back to math. You have 20 books, divided into S50,000 is $2,500 per book. $2,500 divided by 12 months is about $210 in sales per month per book. Figure you are selling your books for an average of $5.99 electronic so you are getting $4.20 per sale.  $210 divided by $4.20 equals about 50 sales per month average.

Reality, you will have some books sell no copies and others sell hundreds or thousands.

But again, that is if you are doing a lot of things right.

Let me tell you what you have to do correctly.

  • 1… Your book covers must be branded to a genre with art, look, and font.
  • 2… Your sales copy must be active and what the book is about with very little if any plot. You must tell the reader the genre or sub-genre in the sales copy.
  • 3… Your opening must grab the reader and pull them in.
  • 4… Your ending must be satisfying for the story and make the readers want to read more of your work. (This a monster and difficult problem to solve.)
  • 5… You must have a Shopify store and be growing a mailing list. (95% sales margins on Shopify helps you make more money per sale) and also have merchandise on some series that can add to your profits and discoverability.
  • 6… You must be launching each new book with a Kickstarter and doing pre-orders and all that.
  • 7… You must be willing to relaunch book series and rebrand the ones that no longer working, in other words, keep your inventory as fresh as you can.
  • 8… You must be prolific, meaning getting out at least four new novels a year plus selling short stories to top magazines and so on. Your next book is always your best promotion.

I know a number of writers who have more than 30 books and are still making pocket change because in this new world of 2024 they do not know how to put it all together yet to make a living at fiction writing. It takes all the parts.

Now keep in mind that this is only the beginning, and that is what this branding series is going to go deeper into.

Down at Writers of the Future, when I was talking to the class, I said something sort of off-hand to the writers that Amazon sales was our 7th highest area of income and might quickly drop to eighth. This seemed to shock them because the base thinking is that Amazon is where you make the most money.  Maybe at first, through the stage I detailed out above. But when Amazon sales drop to your second highest and then third highest, you are doing a lot of things right.

What is our top income stream? Licensing. And I will explain all that as this series goes on.

So in future branding posts in this series, I will talk about some of the rest of the ways that you, as a writer, can make a lot more than $50,000 per year.

But all roads lead back to just keep writing and having fun. That really is the key.



  • Kerridwen Mangala McNamara

    That’s 20 major books in a particular genre, right? So non-fiction or mysteries don’t sell fantasy?

    Thanks in part to your 12- Month Great Publishing Challenge I’m approaching that 20 books in genre rapidly… Planning to focus on marketing (steps 5 and in) starting next year after I have that baseline (or close).

    But it’s overwhelming to look at all of that and how to do that as a single-person business. Until there’s income coming in, I have only so much that I can farm out…

    But I’m addicted to this blog… so I’ll be watching for ideas and how-tos!

    • dwsmith

      20 books in fiction genre does not matter for the most part.

      Yes, it is overwhelming, just as if you were in undergrad and wanted to be a lawyer. Takes years and time but you can get there with the right amount of focus.

  • Kristi N.

    So…is there a way to keep most of what I make? I mean, I don’t plan to do ads like what I see in the writing groups where most of what they take in is already spent to get to that level. It doesn’t do much good to get to $50K with 20 books if net is only $5K. My plan has been all along to not expect the $50K until I have well over 50 books wide. Kickstarter was down the list a bit as far as investments, with the Shopify store just underneath the “Get more books published” item on the list. Thanks for this blog series–it has me rethinking a bit of the strategic vision for the future, as well as the operational planning to get there.

    • dwsmith

      Paid promotion is often just a waste of time and money for books. Been that way for ever and ever. But people make money telling you otherwise and selling you magic beans…

      Promotion should bring you in money and cost nothing. Selling to a major short fiction magazine is fantastic promotion to focused genre readers and makes you money. Kickstarters make you money and help launch your books. Mailing lists after a time and growth make you money without cost. Shopify makes you money with only a small monthly installment. Promotion should not cost, just add to your cash. So yes, you keep it all.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    Solid advice!

    I see people with catalogs as large or larger than mine struggling to find readers, partially because they’re not doing the first few things on your list well, and other times? They haven’t figured out how quickly the industry changes. They’re stuck in ideas—or with covers—from 5 or 10 years ago.

    We need to keep studying, adapting, and experimenting. And we can’t just research from one source.

  • Chong Go

    This is a given, and probably falls under having basic to intermediate skills, (depth and openings,) but I would add, “Your sequels must thoroughly re-introduce the reader to the characters and world.” So many times I’ve found a first book that’s pretty good, but half the beginning for the sequel has apparently been left behind in the writer’s head. It’s just name tags doing things in a vague environment, often in response to events in the previous book. Sometimes I get the feeling that the author was so excited by the story that they just leapt forward with it, and forgot that the reader doesn’t have access to all the good stuff in their head, lol.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, a great way to kill a series. Also in discover, you don’t know if the reader is finding your fourth book and reading it first. If the writer does not do as you suggested, make in interesting to a first reader, the reader will never buy more books from you. By the way, every book in every one of my series stands alone. Just saying. (grin)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *