We’ve talked about self-publishing before on Horkey HandBook, but we’ve never talked about writing romance.
If you read Yuwanda Black’s story, you’ll see that this genre can be quite lucrative, if you know the rules of the game. Yuwanda reached the $2,000/month mark in just six months, and she’s here to share how pivoting from non-fiction to romance made all the difference for her freelance writing career.
Take it away, Yuwanda!
I worked in publishing in New York City for a decade and have been a freelance writer since 1993. In 2002, I started self-publishing my own line of ebooks. Self-publishing wasn’t “a thing” back then. All of the books I published then were non-fiction, how-to ebooks – mostly about some aspect of freelance writing or starting an online business.
In 2013, I wrote my first romance novel; it was really a novella of about 30,000 words.
You’d think that with my extensive background in writing, publishing and self-publishing I’d be fully prepared to write fiction, right?
Nothing could have prepared me for the roller coaster ride that is writing and self-publishing romance.
But you know what? I’ve never had so much fun as a writer! The money – and you can make very good money writing romance – is almost a secondary benefit. Almost.
And it’s something anyone can learn to do, even if they’ve never written a word in their life. Here’s how I did it.
How I Started Writing Romance
Like I said above, in 2013, I wrote my first romance. I did it because one of my sisters, who is also a writer, wrote one, self-published it and sold over 500 copies in just three weeks on Amazon. She priced it at $2.99, and earned $1,100 in the first three weeks.
(Amazon pays authors a 70 percent royalty on all books priced between $2.99 and $9.99.)
My sister had never written a romance novel either. But she went on a trip to Texas once, and the idea for the novel came to her. She just couldn’t get it out of her head. So she wrote the 65-page story in about a week. She titled it Loving a Texan from New Orleans.
When she uploaded it the book, she had no expectations for it. But to her surprise (and mine!), it sold well.
We had both self-published non-fiction books on Amazon, but we had never seen sales like that for those books.
So I said to myself, “Hmmm, let me give this romance writing thing a try.” Having never written any kind of fiction before, I googled, “How to Write a Romance Novel”, found a post that explained how to do it, and I got busy writing.
My First Romance Novel Bombed … and I Was Glad
Within a week or so, I completed my book and uploaded it. The writing had gone smoother than I ever could have dreamed. I was proud of my little love story (3 Weeks ‘til Forever: An African American Romance).
I anxiously awaited sales, hitting refresh throughout the day the first day my book went live on Amazon … and crickets. I sold fewer than ten copies that first month. I was disappointed, but shrugged it off and happily went back to writing and self-publishing my non-fiction books, which have accounted for way over half my income since 2010.
It was almost another year before I wrote my next romance novel. What took me so long?
Well, that first flop turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it’s what made me do some research on exactly what it takes to make money writing romance.
Also, one day my sister said something to the effect of, “Maybe you should write an interracial romance.” You see, my sister’s first romance was an interracial love story; mine was an African American romance. So I decided to take another stab at it and in March of 2014, I released my first interracial romance: Trapped by Desire.
And what’dya know – sales!
Writing My Second Romance Novel Paid Off
I sold 431 copies of my second book in the first three months. I was pretty happy with this result, especially since June, July and August are a traditionally slow time for romance sales and ebooks in general.
What I learned during my research was that genre did make a difference.
As an aside, African American romance novels do sell too (very well, in fact). But I couldn’t crack that nut with my first novel. But as I’d been in an interracial marriage myself (my ex-husband is from Argentina), I had no problem writing in the multi-racial niche. I was just happy to be selling books.
And boy, were they selling!
How I Became a Romance Writing Fool!
I basically put writing non-fiction on hold and started writing romance novellas prolifically.
Between the spring of 2014 and the end of 2016, I published 44 of them (some under a pen name). People find it hard to believe this until they look me up on Amazon and see the books.
So how did I do that? One thing I did was hire ghostwriters for four of the books. I had to do some retouching of three of the books (rewriting, editing, adding more material).
Outsourcing the writing taught me a couple of things. First, it’s hard for me not to put my stamp on a book. Second, unless you have the budget to pay a premium, it’s hard to find skilled romance writers. So I decided to just stick to writing my own books.
As an aside, this is how some self-published authors make a living; they hire ghostwriters to pump out stories. You can find romance writing jobs on freelance writing sites such as Upwork all day long.
The pay for most of them is horrible, but like most freelance writing gigs, you have to filter through the gunk to find the gold. It can be a great niche to specialize in as a freelance writer to make some guaranteed money.
Just a thought.
The Big Secret to Selling a Lot of Romance Novels
I wrote my first book in 2013, followed by 21 books in 2014, 18 books in 2015 and 3 books in 2016.
One thing I learned early on in my romance writing career is that, for the most part, money is made in self-publishing by volume.
Sure, you could luck up and hit it out of the park with one book like E. L. James of the Fifty Shades of Grey fame. But for most of us, that’s just not going to happen.
You have to constantly put out new titles to make good money. Now, I’m not saying you have to write a book a week like I did for a while there, but putting out one title a year is just not going to cut it.
Romance Writing: Breaking $2,000/Month in Just Six Months
In March of 2014, I sold 310 romance novels and earned $615.52. I had published seven romance novellas in all by this time. The following month, I sold 886 copies and earned $1,703.57 (still seven novellas published).
By August, I was earning almost $2600/month (with 18 novellas published) and selling 1,319 copies.
It took exactly six months to break the $2,000 mark selling romance novels on Amazon.
5 Tips for Writing Romance Novels
At one point in my romance writing career, I was publishing a new book every seven to ten days. Writing fast is totally doable, and I teach exactly how you can do in my How to Make Money Writing Romance course. You’ll get a $50 discount with the code HORKEY.
In a nutshell, here are five things that helped me write fast in such a lucrative niche:
1. Create a Character Profile
Knowing your characters intimately will make it much easier to write about them. If you have a concrete idea about who they are as human beings, what motivates them, what their secrets are, what their wants, needs and desires are driven by –the dialogue will flow easier and quicker.
In my romance writing ecourse, I give you a character profile template. This way, you’ll know how to “build your character” before you ever write a word.
Writing a detailed outline will also help your writing go faster. In the course, I reveal the outline I use.
2. Give Yourself a Daily Word Count
Some days, no matter how complete your character profile is or how detailed your outline is, you will get stuck as a writer. But there’s no better way to get around this than holding yourself to a daily word count.
If I hadn’t done this, there were many days when I would have given up and written less. Holding myself to a daily word count forced me to write through, over, around and under any writing blocks I encountered.
If one part of the story wasn’t flowing, then I’d just move on to another part.
As a writer, one thing you’ll learn is that there’s no substitute for just sitting …
Butt. In. Chair. And. Writing.