I am a believer in the backlist. Any author with more than a few books will tell you that you can live off a backlist. I know, it sounds crazy that old books can give you money to pay your bills, but it’s true. For a digitally published author, I always say it is about 15-20 books. That might seem like a lot, and it is, but once you hit that magic 20, you have great earning potential.
Of course, this is much better if you are doing at least one series, possibly two, with a few stand alones thrown in. My Harmless series is a great example. Even self-publishing my most recent books in the series caused the entire backlist to jump up. So, let’s play with math. I know, math is icky. I hate it personally and even though I homeschool, that is the subject I throw at my husband. But, again, I digress, lol.
Okay, let’s get some numbers so I can explain to you how having a healthy backlist can help you. I am going to use my November numbers from one of my publishers to demonstrate how it can work. Now, I averaged a little over 800 dollars per book for 9 books. I didn’t include one book because I have no amazon or barnes and noble sales yet because it came out this fall. That is with pulling out the extra month of Amazon payment. And another thing, this was an off month for offsite sales for the most part. No new release or anything from the month I just got paid for (July) But, 800 is hard to multiply. Okay, not for everyone, but I don’t like it. I like easy things and to me, it is easier to use the 100 dollar thing. Then you can figure it out. Is seems like LUCY RICARDO math, but it isn’t.
So, let’s say you have 10 books and you are earning 100 a month per book.
That’s 1000 bucks a month. Easy to figure out. But, I will give you little glimpse into how the increase in releases can help.
Here it is. By the end of this year I want to have 50 books up for sale on digital. Not too hard considering how many I have right now under both my names and how many new and rereleases I have scheduled. So, if I can average 100 dollars per book you can figure it out.
That is 5000 dollars a month that you earn as an author extra to other new releases. That is 60K a year. But as you see, I earn more in my backlist than that. So, let’s play with numbers.
You get the drift. Backlist is the gift that keeps on giving. Even at the minimum of 100 across the board you are earning a healthy 5 figure salary that pads what you do. And that is very minimal. With self-publishing, I have given myself a little something extra because instead of the 30-40% I earn offsite, I am now earning 55-70%, with the highest being at Amazon, the site with the most volume. That is for every book over 2.99.
So, what can you do to get there? Write some books. I keep saying this, and I say it regularly to people I know. A consistent release schedule, with consistently well-written books, is key to having healthy earning potential in the biz. The problem I always had was having my best performing publisher giving me very few releases a year. Now, though, we are no longer beholden to publishers. You can go completely out on your own in self-publishing or do a combo of both. Either way, you can give yourself a little more security. It won’t happen overnight. Some of these books I have had on the market since 2004. But, you keep putting a book out every few months, you will build up your earning potential, and once you do that, you will be able to provide more financial security for yourself. And, if you are working a day job, it will move you closer to being able to being a full time writer.