Making a living as an author (bestselling genres)

Making a living as an author (bestselling genres)

I am constantly asked how to make a living as an author, and so here it is. If you want to have the best chance of being a successful author in 2022 (and beyond), then you should write one of the following genres:

  1. romance (including reverse harem, erotica, paranormal, et al)
  2. thriller (including crime, mystery, and supernatural suspense)
  3. cozy mystery/paranormal cozy
  4. military sci-fi/space opera

These genres have the largest group of readers to pull from, and they are always hungry for new books, like read a book a day type of hungry.

Depending on the genre, there are tropes that people expect from each of those books, and you should follow each of them. Generally, this is a list of 5-6 things that every book will have.

For instance, in romance, there will almost always be a meet-cute, a misunderstanding, and a grand gesture. In mystery, there will always be a crime, a false accusation, and a final reveal.

Then, there is a convention for each genre’s covers and blurbs that will give them the best chance of success. For cozy mystery, putting baked goods or cats on the cover will help them sell. For sexy times romance, a man’s chest on the cover helps them sell.

Follow all of those conventions. and then write at least three books in a series, and hopefully more like 4-5, and you have the best chance for success. Again, a series with every genre and subgenre is different.

Then, throw them all into KU and follow the conventions for launching a book there (promo-stacking mixed with ads and swaps), hope to land a Bookbub, and you’re off to the races.

I have been wide my whole career, but if you want to make a big splash quickly without nearly the effort it takes to go wide on all platforms, then KU is the way to go. Upload to one place, enter KU, and drive all your ads there.

For some subset of the writing population, maybe even the majority of them that love those genres and are fine writing for tropey books, you’re gonna do just fine.

“But what if I don’t want to write popular genres!”

If you don’t want to do that, though… If you want to write in a different genre, or don’t want to write in series, well, that’s fine, but things are going to be MUCH HARDER for you.

AND and and, the conventions that people talk about for marketing and sales WON’T WORK FOR YOU, at least not nearly as well as writing in one of those genres above.

Are there ways to sell in niche genres (which I count as anything NOT listed above)? Absolutely. It’s harder, but it’s doable. I write in mythological fantasy and comics, two niches of niches of niches, and I still made a decent living last year, but absolutely NOBODY would be able to guess it from my Amazon page or my reviews.

You aren’t going to get there in one book, or ten books, if you write in those off genres.

…but but but, Russell, Schlomo Jordan writes 17th-century horror about monkey pirates and he makes a great living.

Yes, there are people who will defy the odds.

There are plenty of people who write in historical fiction, or epic fantasy, that breakthrough, but it’s much harder, and there isn’t a set path.

There are things that off-genre authors do to stand out. In fantasy, the two that usually rise to the top are dragons and fairy tales. If you can incorporate one of those two things into your fantasy stories, then you improve your odds of standing out.

Most successful authors right now are in one of the above four categories. Notice I didn’t even list straight fantasy in there (though it is represented in paranormal romance, paranormal cozy, and supernatural suspense), or other types of sci-fi besides military space opera.

It’s just not likely you’ll break out and be a huge hit in ANY of those other genres.

Can it happen? Yeah.

Will it probably look weird compared to your author friends? very much yeah.

Will it likely take forever? Oh yeah, that’s a ten-four.

This post isn’t to discourage you.

But you should know that NOW before you get started because that woman who writes three contemporary romances and makes $4k a month that just blew past you on their first release?

They are writing on genre with the conventional tropes, cover, and blurb for that genre, slotting themselves into a great position to succeed early.

It’s not easy, but it’s far easier than writing off genre. Niche genre books need a whole lot more planning and thought, because the landing zone is much narrower, and the upside much smaller.

And you should know that going in. Write whatever thing you want, in any genre you want, but if you want to succeed off the bat, then you should write in the top four genres.

If you don’t, then stop comparing yourself to people who do. Success will look a lot different for you than for them.

1 Comment

  • Davide Posted

    Great read! Would you consider press releases as a valid strategy to try and sell more books? I have recently published one with BrandPush to get more readers on my blog and I have to say it helped. What’s your opinion?

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