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December 4, 2018

Michelle Miles: How to make $3 million writing books

Do I have your attention? :)

This post isn't about how to make $3 million from writing books. I don't have the secret formula. Sorry about about the click-bait.

I’ve been writing for publication since 2001. The entire lifespan of my son. I’ve seen the industry change from the traditional houses ruling to indie publishing booming. To Amazon claiming its own stake in the publishing game. The rise and fall of small presses. The downsize of traditional publishing.

I joined RWA in 2004 and was so happy to find a writing home, a place where others understood me. A place where I could make connections with other writers. I was hungry to learn everything from craft to industry. Back then, the contest circuit was the way to go. The only way to catch the eye of an agent or editor. Careers were launched that way (I can think of two off the top of my head).

But things changed. The world changed. The industry changed.

One scroll through my Facebook newsfeed shows me ad after ad of someone hawking their latest get rich scheme. And that’s what it feels like to me. Buy their stuff and make an obscene amount of money writing books!

To which I snort.

I have no doubt in my mind that it absolutely works for some people. I know, in fact, there are several courses that DO work and are well-worth the money. But what about the other ones? The ones with promises of endless money just by publishing a book?

I’m not bashing indie publishing—not at all. I’m not bashing anyone who knows how to make money selling anything. Lord knows I suck at it myself. If you can make a living doing something that affords your mortgage, paper towels and laundry soap, I think that’s great. But I also think it’s far too easy to get caught up in the money of books and not the storytelling of books.

I made the mistake myself. I got so pissed off I wasn’t making money writing, I quit for nearly eight months. EIGHT MONTHS of my life I let slip away, not writing, because I was holding a grudge against…nothing tangible. And so I started sending out queries to agents thinking since I couldn’t afford indie publishing then, by God, I would get in with one of the bigger houses and show them!


Sixty-five rejections later… I said, eff this sh*t.

With four completed novels sitting on my hard drive, I got back to work. I rewrote one of my backlist and got it ready for publishing. Then I decided maybe I could buy cover art a little bit at a time and figure out a way to get some inexpensive editing and put these books back out.

I’d already had cover art for my paranormal shifter romance. I decided it may as well make me pennies than sit collecting dust on my hard drive. I put it up for sale and had a nice initial response, a few good reviews. The more I thought about it, the more I decided I’d give indie publishing another go. But this time, I would not let myself be distracted by the “noise” of social media, the lure of getting a publishing contract. I could still write my books and be happy.

Writing is hard, y’all. There is nothing easy about it, really. Is it fun? Hell, yeah. Is it worthwhile? Of course, it is. Do I feel full-filled when I finish a book? Yes! I also get a little zing of excitement when I order cover art and see it land in my email because I know that means my book has finally come to life.

A little piece of me feels likes I'm giving up on that big dream of getting an agent and writing for a "big" publisher. But the other part of me can't stand the thought of letting those books linger, unpublished and unloved. It took a lot of thought and soul-searching, but I finally decided the only person responsible for how I feel about my writing, how successful I think I am, is me. I'm not abandoning my ultimate dream altogether. I'm just modifying it.

So here’s what I think. Do your thing. Write your words. Tell your stories. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or listen to the social media noise or worry about the almighty dollar. Be informed, YES. Stay on top of the industry changes, ALWAYS. Know your readers. Know yourself!

Find your worth and keep writing.