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 per 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!
How One Freelance Writer Makes Money Self-Publishing Romance Novels
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 – but self-publishing wasn’t even “a thing” back then! All of the books I published at that time were non-fiction, how-to eBooks and mostly about some aspect of freelance writing or starting an online business.
In 2013, I wrote my first romance novel... Really it was 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.
Writing romance is also something anyone can learn to do (yes, you!), even if they’ve never written a word in their life. Here’s how I did it.
How I Started Writing Romance
As I said earlier, I wrote my first romance novel in 2013. I did it because one of my sisters, who is also a writer, wrote a book, 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, so she earned roughly $2.06 for each book she sold.
And those sales can add up quickly!
My sister had never written a romance novel either. But, she went on a trip to Texas once and the idea for the book just came to her.
She said she couldn’t get the idea for it out of her head. So, she sat down and wrote the 65-page story in about a week and titled it Loving a Texan from New Orleans.
When she uploaded her book to Amazon she had no expectations for it. But to her surprise (and mine!), it sold well. So I said to myself, “Hmmm, let me give this romance writing thing a try.”
Having never written any kind of fiction before, I literally sat down and Googled, “How to write a romance novel”. I found a post I liked 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 to Amazon.
The writing had gone more smoothly than I ever could have dreamed. I was proud of my little love story – 3 Weeks ‘til Forever: An African American Romance.
To this date, it’s still one of my favorites!
I anxiously awaited sales, hitting refresh throughout the day when my book went live on Amazon and… crickets.
I sold fewer than ten copies in the 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 inspired me to research 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 whaddya 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 – a huge difference!
As an aside, African American romance novels sell too (very well, in fact). But, I couldn’t quite crack that nut with my first novel.
As I’d been in an interracial marriage myself, though (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!
44 Novels in 22 Months – How I Became a Romance Writing Fool!
I essentially put non-fiction writing on hold and started writing romance novellas… prolifically.
As I write this, I’m “this close” to finishing up my 56th romance title. It’s the longest one yet – almost 70,000 words. Most of my writing falls in the 20,000 to 30,000-word range.
Between the spring of 2014 and the end of 2016, I wrote and self-published 44 romance novels and novellas (some under a pen name).
Many find this hard to believe until they look me up on Amazon and see the books.
So how did I do it?
One strategy I used was hiring ghostwriters for four of the books. I had to do some retouching of three of them (rewriting, editing, adding more material), but outsourcing 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 can be difficult to find skilled romance writers! So I decided to go back 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 junk to find the gold. As a freelance writer, it can be a great niche to specialize in to make some guaranteed money!
Just a thought.
In the summer of 2018, I picked up writing romance almost full-time again. Between then and now, I’ve self-published about 13 new books.
Before I talk income, let me circle back around and give you a broad perspective of what it takes to make great money writing romance.
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
- 3 books in 2016
- None in 2017
- 5 in 2018
- 5 in 2019
- 3 in 2020 (so far)
That’s a total of 56. 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 get lucky and hit it out of the park with one book like E. L. James of Fifty Shades of Grey fame. But for most of us, that’s just not going to happen.
To make good money you need to constantly put out new titles. I’m not saying you have to write a book a week like I did for a while there, but putting out a few titles per year is just not going to cut it.
One thing I do want to point out, though, is how quickly sales can ramp up when you do publish regularly.
Romance Writing: Breaking $2,000 per 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 $2,600 per month (with 18 novellas published) and had sold 1,319 copies.
“It took exactly six months to break the $2,000 mark selling romance novels on Amazon.”
And ironically, when I stopped publishing and ramped up again, it took me just a few months to reach the $2,000 per month milestone again…
Jan 2019: $944.42
Feb 2019: $428.16
March 2019: $213.92
April 2019: $442.69
May 2019: $782.82 (I published my first book of 2019 – I hadn’t published anything before that since December of 2018, hence the earnings spike from April to May.)
June 2019: $935.83
July 2019: $2,338.10 (I published a new title, The Marriage Bargain, which became a hot seller resulting in a jump in earnings from June to July.)
The Importance of a Backlist
A backlist is simply a list of an author’s books that are still in publication. And, part of the reason I just shared those numbers in the previous section is that I don’t want you to think, “Well Yuwanda you have a lot of books out, so that’s why your earnings are where they are.”
It’s true, I do have a lot of books out. But, even authors more successful than myself will tell you that a few titles will always account for the bulk of your sales in a given month.
So, where a backlist comes in handy is that the hot sellers will drag sales of your other books along!
The more you publish, the bigger those backlist earnings will be and sales across the board almost always pick up when you publish a new book. This is why it’s important to publish consistently.
How Much I’m Currently Earning Writing Romance
I average between $1,000 and $1,100 per month and I haven’t published anything since April (in about five months as I write this).
“My best overall month to date has been almost $3,500. How did that happen? Two words – publishing regularly.”
I published five novellas between July 2018 and December of 2018. My earnings went from just around $150 or so in July to almost $3,500 in December.
And again, that’s because I started publishing regularly (again)!
This is how QUICKLY earnings can ramp up when you publish regularly, and this is why I’ve started to hire ghostwriters again.
Working Toward a $10,000 per Month Goal Writing Romance
I recently hired five ghostwriters which will allow me to start putting out at least one book per week (starting in October of 2020).
My goal is to reach $10,000 per month in earnings within six months. Based on my previous earnings and how quickly sales ramp up when you publish regularly, I have no doubt I’ll meet and most likely exceed this goal.
So, will I still be writing romance? Yes, because I enjoy it!
But, I will only be personally writing and self-publishing a book or so every two months (six per year). I’ll essentially have the best of both worlds – I’ll still get to do writing that I love, and with the help of ghostwriters I’ll be able to publish a consistent stream of content.
Stay tuned for the outcome!
7 Tips for Writing Romance Novels That Sell
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 to do it in my course How to Make Money Writing Romance.
[FYI – You can get the “rollback” price for this course of $497 with the coupon GHORKEY… That’s $252 savings!]
But, my goals have changed – I want to grow a full-fledged publishing company. And, my plan is to do it using ghostwriters.
(By the way, there’s a whole module in my Romance Writing course that discusses how to use ghostwriters to make money writing romance. You really never have to write a word if you don’t want to!)
In my course, I share the actual job ads I placed to find ghostwriters, how to vet them, what to put in a ghostwriting contract – and a whole lot more.
If you’re just starting out, here are some tips for writing and self-publishing romance novels that sell.
1. Use 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 and what their wants, needs and desires are driven by – the dialogue will flow more easily and quickly.
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 share the outline I use as well.
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. And, there’s no better way to get around this than holding yourself to a daily word count.
If I hadn’t done this myself, there would have been many days 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.
3. Publish Regularly
As you can see, I wrote and published a lot. It was the top piece of advice I’d read from those who were having success, so I just followed this advice – and they were right.
4. Write Series
If a book “takes off” on you, serialize that sucker! Put out a Part II and a Part III, and as many parts as you continue to get good sales on.
Readers will let you know when they’ve had enough.
Writing series is some of the easiest money you’ll make as a romance writer. Series also tend to be easier to write because you already know the characters.
5. Select a Lucrative Genre
There are many genres and sub-genres in romance writing. For example:
- Erotic Romance
- Christian Romance
- Paranormal Romance
- Historical Romance
- Interracial Romance
- Regency Romance
- Cozy Romance
- And on and on and on!
Some genres are more popular than others, so be sure to do your research and select a niche that’s fairly easy to sell in.
One way to start doing this is to check out the best-seller’s list on Amazon in Romance.
That being said, if you have no particular interest in a genre, don’t select it.
Why? Because you have to write stories that are believable, and if you don’t have an interest in a category, your stories won’t ring true – and they won’t sell.
There are enough genres out there that you can definitely find a niche to fit your interest!
6. Read Romance Regularly
Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. … Read widely, and constantly work to refine and redefine your own work as you do so.”
My writing has gotten so much better by reading romance regularly. I always have a book on my Kindle that I’m in the process of reading. And, I try to read at least 15 minutes per day.
There are tons of free books on Amazon to choose from, so load up – and make it a habit to read as often as you can.
7. Appreciate the Genre
There are a lot of people who sneer at and/or make fun of writing romance. If you’re one of these, writing romance may not be for you. And I say that because it will come through in your writing!
I’ve been a reader of romance novels since my early teens – I’ve read hundreds of them. I love the genre. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have even considered trying my hand at writing romance, and certainly wouldn’t have made it one of my main income streams.
Loving the genre helps me to craft stories that are relatable and believable. And this leads to sales!
So if you like reading romance, writing romance just might be a lucrative career option for you.
Remember, I had never written a romance novel in my life before 2013.
If I can do it, anybody can.
Is it a lot of work? Yes. Writing is hard work. However, if you like the genre, like to write, and have the discipline to finish a book, you can make good money writing and self-publishing romance novels.
And the best part is, it doesn’t cost anything to get started… Write. Upload to Amazon. Wait for sales. Rinse. Repeat.
And if writing content yourself isn’t your thing, there are always great romance ghostwriters. You can still make money writing romance – without writing a word. How cool is that?
I hope this insight helps, and here’s to seeing you in the romance writing trenches!
Ready to start your romance writing career like Yuwanda? Check out her course Start Making Money Writing Romance in 60 Days: Write, Self-Publish & Get Paid Monthly and don’t forget your coupon code GHORKEY for $252 off of enrollment!
Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial. She has self-published almost 100 ebooks and also develops and publishes ecourses. One of her most popular courses is How to Make Money Writing Romance.