The vast majority of aspiring authors have a dream or vision in mind that they want to see realized. They imagine that big break in life- where you write one book and see sales skyrocket followed by a movie deal and red carpets. The one thing that first-time novelists do not realize, or want to realize, is that they don't yet have the skills to write a ground-breaking story.
Now, that might be a bitter pill to swallow, and you probably want to close this page already, but please bear with me.
Writing is a skill just like any other, and it improves with practice, discipline, and dedication over time. There is nothing wrong with having the dream mentioned above. As long as you mix a bit of reality in there as well.
Once you have parked the idea of getting rich and famous quickly, it is time to do a reality check and plan for the way forward. For some inspiring writers with deep pockets, there are shortcuts at hand. They might be able to afford expensive consultants, editors, cover designers and end up with a team of paid supporters that make their transition to becoming a full-time author much easier.
For the rest of us, life is not that easy. We are constrained by time, money, and even support. Getting that first novel onto Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) could be a daunting task, and hundreds of thousands of people fail and give up after the first try.
In this article, we will explore realistic ways how you, as an aspiring writer with limited resources, can work your way realistically toward becoming a successful published author.
Can I earn money writing fiction online?
There are plenty of ways to make money online, using different strategies. While you are reading this article, think of The Karate Kid. Daniel had to start with 'wax on, wax off' before he could finally be a champion. And this is precisely what you should do, but you could also earn money while doing so.
From experience, research, and feedback from those who made it, we created a realistic roadmap that would increase your chances exponentially of becoming a successful self-published author.
This should be your primary blueprint. As we mentioned before, every writer needs to hone their skills to become better. This roadmap will provide the structure you need to hone your skills and make some money while doing so.
Now, consider the graphic below.
Confusing? Don't worry. This graphic only explains that you are still allowed to do other work while on a certain level. If you are writing short stories and getting paid for them, there is nothing wrong with working on your novel in your spare time. Or, if you are getting paid to write blogs, there is nothing wrong with working on short stories on the side. As long as you are not pushing to jump the ladder prematurely to get to that best-seller that will help you retire early.
Now that you have an overview of what you should do, we will continue by breaking down each level and give you guidance and practical applications that would be most beneficial to your writing path.
Freelance Writing (Any type- Free)
You saw the word free, and now you want to skip this section, but just hold your horses for a second. Remember, this is a skill-building exercise that is just one step of getting you to becoming a successful author.
Also, keep writing your own short stories, novellas, or book that you have in mind. Don't publish anything; just keep writing and editing over and over while taking on other work.
A good way to get you to start honing your writing skills is by blogging. You don't need to create your own website or spend a dime to do this. Medium.com or Wattpad.com are good places to start and don't overthink it. You don't need to research and find a niche and challenge yourself to write on specific topics.
Write anything that you want to write about. If you see something in the news, go out and write about it. Get inspired to write a short story? Write it.
Not only is this a good exercise to improve your skills, but you may also use these in the future in your portfolio of evidence if you want to become a freelancer.
You will see over time, whenever you go back to these first pieces, how you improved. You might cringe or facepalm a bit when you read your old stuff, but that is precisely the point.
Wattpad has a monthly audience of over 45 million viewers, and there are over 300 million uploads. Many writers use Wattpad to hone their writing skill, but it is also possible to make money on Wattpad. It is quite a complicated process, and we will write an article soon to explain in detail how to do it.
Freelance Writing (Any type-Paid)
Now that you have built your confidence and improved your skills somewhat, you may want to start earning money from your writing. There is a huge market for freelance writing but we will only focus on a few options.
Upwork is a platform where clients and freelancers meet each other to collaborate. It is free to join Upwork, but you will pay commission for every job. It ranges between 10% to 20% depending on certain factors. Upwork collects the money from the client, deducts the commission, and pays the freelancer.
Publish Short Stories
At this point, you are somewhat more confident in your writing. You reflected on past pieces, cringed, and realized that you had improved your writing skills. Maybe you also did some freelancing work or ghostwriting, and you feel it is time to start working on your own brand.
Publishing short stories is a very important step before publishing your novel. Remember, you may still write and edit that masterpiece that you have been working on in your spare time but don't do it just yet.
Writing and publishing short stories will help you improve your writing skill, build your brand and build the offering you need once you become a published author.
Entering writing competitions
There are literally thousands of writing competitions out there, and you can start by doing a simple internet search. These competitions are free, but sometimes you would need to pay. You won't be making millions doing this, but if you win an award in a writing contest, it will boost your brand, and you can use it to promote yourself in the future.
Be careful; there are plenty of scam sites out there. We suggest you read our article about book awards to learn more.
Duotrope, Submittable etc.
Companies like Duotrope and Submittable offer a platform for writers to find, submit and track their submissions. Thousands of companies worldwide search for short stories. They would pay for suitable content, but finding them may be time-consuming.
You can simply select the criteria, find the online companies listed, and start submitting. The platforms will keep track of your submission and notify you of the progress, acceptance, and rejection status. Some writers reported receiving $500 for a short story, but this is not the norm.
Publishing on Amazon KDP
Publishing on KDP is also an excellent way to get paid for your short stories, but you need buyers. You may harass your immediate circle of family and friends and guilt trip them into buying your short stories, but this is not the recommended way.
Publishing on KDP is an art, and there are specific paths you need to follow to become a successful publisher. We suggest you read our article on social proof to help you.
Webnovel is very similar to Wattpad. It is a Chinese publishing company that mostly brings content from the east to western markets. Writers make money from signing a contract, and if they comply with certain criteria, they are set to make at least $400 per month. That is 120,000 words for at least $400.
The pay seems a little low, but it will allow you to train your writing speed and get paid for doing so. You'd need to write at least 3,800 words a day to achieve the desired minimum.
Publish a Novella/Novel
At this stage, you have grown as a fiction author, and even though you have been doing side projects to hone your skills and get some cash on the side, you were still working on your fiction story masterpiece on the side.
Now that you think you are ready, it is time to get it published. Before you do that, you might want to consider ensuring that you have done everything you need.
KDP revolutionized the world of publishing. It is by far the biggest publisher of books in the world. Since their launch, aspiring authors no longer needed to be dependent on traditional publishers. It reduced the barriers to entry for authors and allowed many to rake in millions with their work that would've been rejected by otherwise.
In our article '8 Successful Self-Published Authors Who Made It Big', you will find extraordinary stories of luck, dedication, and perseverance that will inspire you to write more.
Another upside of KDP is that anybody can publish anything on the platform and find buyers through the enormous Amazon marketplace. The downside is that anybody can publish anything on the platform.
The competition is stiff, and there are millions of short stories and books just gathering dust on the digital shelves of Amazon. You need to find a way to stand out from the rest, and this in itself is a science. Don't feel rushed to get your book out there, and hope and pray that it will do well.
Catch the Unicorn by Denis Caron contains everything you need to know before hitting that publishing button. Make sure you did everything. Otherwise, all your hard work could've been in vain.
Amazon recently launched a serialized fiction store called Vella. It is a little different than the conventional Kindle Direct Publishing service (KDP) in that it is purely for fiction fans and writers.
In short, writers sell off pieces of the book as if it was a series. The 'episodes' will contain between 600 to 5,000 words, with the first three episodes being free. If readers like the story, they will continue buying more episodes using tokens.
This new platform is ideal for testing your book too. If you see that the feedback is not as positive as you had hoped, you could change it and tweak it until it is favorable and then publish the book elsewhere.
As an aspiring fiction writer, it is imperative that you change your mindset from a short-term 'get rich quick' one to a long-term one. You need to realize that your skills will only improve over time and that the odds of you becoming a millionaire with your first book is less than winning the lottery.
You'll need to start at the bottom and work your way up, just as with anything else in life. Your patience and dedication will manifest into the success you desire. Through the process of honing your skills, there are still plenty of ways to earn money for your writing.
These include but are not limited to:
- Enter competitions
- Duotrope, Submittable, etc.
- Kindle Vella
If your head is spinning after reading this article, don't worry. Publishing is not easy, and there is a lot of information to absorb. It is natural to feel anxious about this exciting step in your life. If you need someone to help guide you through this rabbit hole, contact us for guidance to make this transition as painless as possible.