Promoting, Publishing

How Much Money Does a Self-Published Author Make? A Realistic Look.

I won’t lie, I worried about writing and sharing this post.

Since I’ve officially joined the world and community of self-published authors, I’ve gotten a very realistic view of the publishing industry and how it works. The unfortunate truth is that the grand majority of self-published authors make less than $1,000 from a single book in their lifetime. Breaking into traditional publishing is very tough because the market is overwhelmingly oversaturated with options.

All this to say, nobody here is getting rich, okay?

That said, I don’t want to put anybody off of writing and publishing their book just because they won’t make money off it. Leaving your mark on the world and putting your writing out there can be validating in and of itself, no matter the response.

So let’s crunch numbers.

As you can see, I have sold 154 total copies of my book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman,” since I released the print and Kindle versions in fall 2022.

Now for the monies:

Since last September, I’ve made a little over $134 from my book. My print copy has been more successful than the ebook and I’ve made about $6 from KENP, which is Amazon’s payout-by-the-page program that you can enroll in when you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited. You’ve probably noticed that as sales go down over time, so do your royalties.

Before we get too excited about that $134 of mine, let’s back up and look at the expenses I incurred in order to publish my book.

Not including the copious amounts of tea and coffee I drank while writing, I paid the following:

  • $50 for a cover design through Fiverr (2 options to choose from)
  • ~$300 for 10 ISBNs and barcodes
  • $30 for a few months subscriptions to a book review swap service

I did my own marketing, so I saved a bunch there, but keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I work a full-time job and so promoting my book is usually not my first priority. I might get more sales and attention if I shelled out for a PR assistant, but I’m not willing to pay for that. Again, it’s another area where self-published authors have a harder time than those working with a publishing house.

I also chose to publish my book with Amazon, which is free. If I had wanted a larger reach, I could upload my book to other distributors, such as Ingram Spark, but that would cost an additional $50 or so.

$380 expenses incurred – $134 income = -$246 in the hole still

I would have to make another $246 before I could claim I’d made a profit on my book.

Again, I wanted to provide a realistic look at what a typical self-published author makes, but I don’t want this to dissuade anybody from pursuing publishing. I learned so much through the process and hearing positive feedback from friends, family and strangers alike made me happy more so than money ever could.

If you have a book in your heart and want to get it on a page, you should do so. Who says you have to make a living off being an author? Why can’t you just be one because you want to be?

Bookish Things

3 Ways to Save $$$ on Books

If you’re like me, your book-buying habit can add up quickly!

Luckily, there are many ways to save money on buying books. Here are the top 3 I use the most!

Buy from local bookstores with used books or Goodwill.

Thrifting for books might not get you that popular new releases, but it’s a great option for when you’re open to reading just about anything. In addition to offering used books at a steep discount, some local bookstores offer readers/buyers store credit in exchange for trading in their own used books. I’m a frequent trader with my own local bookstore and their program has allowed me pick up many used books for basically free.

Wait a few weeks to buy new releases on Amazon.

Unless you just HAVE to have that new book right away, try waiting a few weeks to a month before buying it off of Amazon. Typically, the price for a new release goes down a few dollars after the release date has passed. It also gives other readers and businesses a chance to provide used copies back to Amazon, which then sells those copies for significantly cheaper than un-read copies.

For God’s sake, use your public library!

By using your public library to its full extent, you might never have to pay for a book ever again. If you time it right, you can even be the first in line to read new releases if you stay on top of requesting a hold a few weeks before the ordered copy actually hits the shelf. I do this with my library and it feels so good to be the first person to read a brand spankin’ new copy for free!

Go forth and read, friends!

Bookish Things

How to Make Cash from Books…Without Being an Author

You don’t need to be an author to make money off of books!

If you’re an avid reader, you probably have lots of books hanging around the house. Sure, you could donate them to Goodwill, but with a little more effort and time, you can get some of your money back by selling them.

Here are 3 ways to make some spare cash from your unwanted books. FYI, you’re not getting rich doing this; it’s more just a way to make some spare cash to help supplement your book-buying habit.

Sell your used books to local bookstores.

Many small bookstores will offer cash for your used books, especially if they include popular releases. If the cash option isn’t high enough for you, ask if they offer in-store credit instead. Often, a store will give you more in credit than they will in cash so if you plan on visiting the bookstore again, credit might be worth it.

Sell rare or special copies on eBay.

If you want to sell a rare or special copy of a book, check on eBay to see what you could potentially sell it for. For example, many book subscription boxes offer special edition copies of popular releases (think colored edges or a special cover.) Many readers will pay to get their hands on one of these.

Sell your lightly read new releases on Facebook Marketplace.

FB Marketplace can be a bit of a hail mary so I list this last. I’ve seen some people have success selling books over Marketplace if they read a new release super quickly and then offer it at a steep discount compared to its current Amazon price. It seems to work best for brand-new and popular releases.

And there you go! Good luck!


Life Update: We’re Buying a House!

Not a drill, we’re legit buying a house. For reals.

We’ve been searching since the start of the year haphazardly but we really doubled down at the end of January in hopes that we could find our house and move before our current apartment lease ends this summer.

Luckily, we found our house faster than we anticipated and we close in less than 2 weeks!

While I’m very excited to start dreaming of paint colors, new appliances, and floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for all my paperbacks, there’s no denying that my writing has taken a backseat during all this.

A Fierce Debt has been completed and edited through once, but I’d like to go through it again at least one or two more times before I even start thinking about drafting queries. And to be honest, I’m really dreading the querying process. Querying for How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman was so incredibly mentally and emotionally draining…I queried for an entire year and only received rejection after rejection.

Granted, there is a much bigger market out there for fiction and young adult than there is for niche self-help but once you’ve been through the wringer, it’s hard to want to do it all again.

All that said, I’m planning to give myself the time to enjoy prepping the new house and making it ours before I think about sitting down to the metaphorical typewriter again. I’m hoping to work on it more by fall and possibly start contacting agents in winter when we’re all stuck inside anyway.

But this spring and summer are for landscaping, planting my home garden, and enjoying being a homeowner!


What Makes a Good Writer? Thoughts.

I always find it hard to describe myself as an author.

For lots of people like myself that write, the term “author” carries a lot of weight. In reality, an author is someone who writes something, whether it’s a novel or simply a diary entry. Technically, we’re all authors.

But the term can also conjure up images of a successful writer sitting in a Barnes & Noble, signing copies of her book. It can sometimes seem like a title that only applies to a full-blown career path or somebody who publishes or makes the NYT bestseller list.

Thoughts and labels like that make it hard to accept your strengths as a writer, no matter your publishing success. So today, I thought it would be good to share my thoughts on what makes a good writer, whether or not you write books or articles, and whether or not you have been published or even have an interest in doing so.

Trait # 1: Curiosity

Good writers are curious about the world. They study people and interactions. They search for the perfect word to describe a feeling, setting, or character. They might be naturally into hearing gossip, since gossip is, at its base, storytelling and making sense of things. They seek solutions or answers to questions that pop into their head. And they’re probably voracious readers themselves.

Trait # 2: Sympathy

It might seem odd to say that most writers I know are sympathetic. What I mean by this is that it takes a certain level of compassion and understanding to write good, likable characters. Arguably, you also have to know what makes for a likable character in order to create your villains. Having sympathy or even empathy for others helps a writer make a reader care about the plot.

Trait # 3: Self-acceptance

A large part of my personal writing process has included not judging my writing style or the ideas that come into my head. Sometimes, I think I have a good idea while writing but then worry about if a reader will find my idea weird or confusing. I’ve spent a lot of time coming to terms with my imagination and learning to trust my instincts. I think that stronger writers stick by their ideas and trust that the right audience will love them.

What about you? What do you think makes a good writer?


5 Publishing Pitfalls I Wish I Had Known Earlier

Publishing a book is a PROCESS no matter if you choose to self-publish or go the traditional publisher route.

My experience with self-publishing my first self-help book was definitely a learning curve. I obviously made it out on the other side, but here are a few things I wish someone had told me before I embarked on the journey.

Choosing where to publish is a trade-off.

Some platforms, like Amazon, offer free options for publishing, but others cost you money. Ingram Spark, for example, charges about $50 to upload a book or ebook to their site. Many of the sites that charge offer perks like access to more retailers, so they can be worth checking out. But if you’re on a hard budget and are self-publishing, it might be hard to cough up $50 per version.

You don’t want to mess up your trim size.

Trim size, or a book’s page height and width is something that you set early on in the publishing process. What you choose depends on a few factors but most sizes follow what type of genre or book it is. It doesn’t matter so much what trim size you choose, but it is important that you stick to it. Changing trim size becomes a BIG issue if the cover you have designed doesn’t fit. It’s crucial to have anything designed for your chosen trim.

You will likely have to re-upload several versions of your manuscript.

Much as you can do your due diligence and edit the heck out of your work, chances are high that you will, at some point, find a typo. If you’re especially lucky, a reader will find one and report it to you. This means that you have to go back into your publishing platform and upload an updated file. It might not be a big deal but it will get annoying the third or fourth time you have to do it. This also applies to any changes made to cover files too.

Publishing is expensive.

Unless you work with a traditional publisher, getting your book out there can cost you. For example, here’s my breakdown of what I spent and earned on my first book:

  • 10 pack of ISBNs and bar codes: $295
  • Cover designer: $50 including tip
  • Subscription to review platform: $24 for 2 months

I did not spend any money on marketing and I used free publishing platforms, so my total spent was about $370. My ebook was published on Sept. 14 and my paperback on Oct. 2. To date, I have made $112 from both editions of my book.

That means that I still have $257 to go before I’ve made my money back. So yeah, authors aren’t out there writing for the money.

You’re discouraged from paying for or exchanging reviews.

But there are some weird ways around this. Basically, many publishing and review platforms, especially Amazon, view paid reviews as sketch. Which, fair. They want book reviews to be as honest as possible so readers get clear ideas of books. They also don’t technically allow authors to exchange reviews on each other’s works. They might not find out about it, but if they did, you could forfeit your right to publish through them and that would really suck. The same applies to friends and family; your mom might be happy to write you a review but Amazon views that as a conflict of interest.

There are, however, multiple sites that have a legal workaround to this. The author pays a membership fee to join a large author and reader community and instead of spending hard cash, they spend something like “points” to put their book up for review. Other authors then get “points” by reviewing other works. Sneaky, huh? Of course, this rule doesn’t seem to apply outside of the publishing platform. For example, let’s say an author wants a well-known book critic to review their book. It’s fine for the critic to charge the author whatever they want in exchange for a “fair, unbiased review.” There are even book influencers on Instagram who make their living this way.

It’s a very morally grey area that lots of people in the biz feel strongly about. Some people think it’s okay to solicit reviews in order to break through, but others are hardcore purists when it comes to having their books reviewed.

These might seem like downers and they can be, but I don’t want to put anybody off publishing their book if that’s a big goal. Seeing your book out in the world is its own reward, whether or not it gets noticed. I would do it all over again if given the choice; I just wish I had known more going into it!

Bookish Things

My Favorite Romance Novels of All Time

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing a quick list of my top favorite romance novels or series of all time!

To be honest, I don’t usually enjoy what I like to call “straight-up” romances, or basically a book where the romance is the main plot. I tend to enjoy books that feature a romance but the main plot centers around a different “thing.” Some of my favorite books combine fantasy with romance.

The Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning

If you’re a fan of fantasy, alpha men, romance and/or urban thrillers, you need to get your hands on these books. The first book in the series, Darkfever, introduces you to Mac, a young woman of Irish heritage who travels to Dublin to investigate her sister’s murder. That would be cool enough, but let’s say that some ancient fae and Irish witches get involved. And there are multiple love interests throughout the series. The series also contains a side series/arc for a side character who becomes an MC eventually.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I get that classics aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but I’ll stan Jane and Mr. Rochester till the day I die and I wish I didn’t. If you’re not familiar with this classic, let’s just say it’s even more problematic by today’s standards than it was when it was written. Think women kept locked away, men taking advantage of women who are employed by them, severe age gaps, etc. But if you can suspend judgment, it’s actually a very endearing romance and it’s hard to not admire Jane’s tenacity.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I find P&P less problematic than Jane Eyre for several reasons. Even though it takes place in the same general region in the same general time, Austen’s women have a bit more bite…mostly. (Let’s not talk about Lydia, okay?)

Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole

If you want to get into a world, and I mean really get into a world, this series is for you. Each book in this 18-book series features a different character and story. This series has been going for 15 YEARS so there’s a lot of ground to cover, but it is so worth it. These books have it all: vampires, demons, shifters, werewolves, you name it.

The Four Horsemen series by Laura Thalassa

If you want a series, but not something way too long, this is a good one. It’s just four books and each one features a romance with one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. But make them sexy. Was I initially skeptical? Yes. But they’re actually pretty good.


Bechdel Test 2.0: How to Make Your Fiction Writing More Feminist

According to the good ole’ Oxford Dictionary (and Google):

The Bechdel test a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.

Though primarily applied to films, the Bechdel test is often referred to with literary works. The TLDR version is: Have two women talk about something other than a man.

If you are reading or writing books that at least pass this meager benchmark, congrats. You’re on the right path, you enlightened individual, you.

But in my personal opinion, the Bechdel test isn’t enough to make a book truly groundbreaking in the world of feminism. For example, you could have two women talk about cleaning the floors just once in a book and that would technically pass the Bechdel test. Whomp.

And so, without further ado, I present my own updated version of the Bechdel test, or Bechdel 2.0.

Bechdel 2.0

  1. The work must contain at least two strong female characters who showcase some sort of personal development throughout the story.
  2. At least two female characters in the story must talk about something other than a man which is essential to the plot several times throughout the work.
  3. At least one female character must make a plot-driving choice that is not directly influenced by a man.

It’s not enough to have two women simply talk to each other about anything other than a dude. Ideally, at least some female characters should show strong personal journeys throughout the story. You know, like most normal women experience in their lives.

It’s also not helpful for women in works of fiction to talk about only small things. Let’s have our imaginary heroes talking about real hot-button topics, whether that’s economic inequality in their neighborhood or the king making some crazy rules in their kingdom. And let’s have these conversations be a recurring theme throughout the work, not just a one-off.

Lastly, strong female protagonists should make important choices that are not directly influenced by a man. So a princess choosing to move to another kingdom for a prince doesn’t count. Neither does a hero who only goes out into the world on her own because her father decides to kick her out of the house. Make sense?

I’m not saying that ALL works of fiction should pass this test. I like near meaningless smut as much as the next gal.

But I do think that including more strong female characters in books is something to aim for, and I think the current Bechdel test is a pretty low benchmark to meet. I think we can easily push beyond that as authors and readers.

What do you think of Bechdel 2.0? Have you read any books that fit the bill? Or are you writing a book that fits these parameters? Tell me about it in the comments!

Bookish Things

The Advice that Didn’t Make It Into My Book

It’s officially been 4 months since I published my first book, “How to Become a Grown-Ass Woman!”

In case you’re new to this blog, I published my first book through Amazon in October of last year. My book is a short compendium of modern advice for women in their 20s and 30s. In the book, I cover a wide array of topics, including relationships, careers, side hustles, and big life changes.

I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of positive feedback I’ve gotten from Amazon readers, Goodreads, book reviewers, and friends. Although I want to take my future writing into fiction, writing a self-help book has been an amazing experience.

In the interest of keeping my book short and sweet, I ended up having to cut down quite a bit of content in each chapter.

Here is some of the advice that didn’t make it into the book!


Realize that anything worth working toward takes time. Many products and programs out there promise big changes in really small time frames. (Think lose 30lbs in a single month diet programs.) But in my life, I’ve had to work hard to resist the temptation of these “shortcuts.” Building muscle takes time. So does adopting better eating habits or practicing good sleep hygiene.


Don’t be afraid to negotiate pay or salary. If a company revokes an offer because they think you’re asking for too much, it’s not a place that you’d want to work at anyway.


Figure out the best way for you to approach and pay off your debt. There are many methods to paying off debt. Some prefer to save up and then make a large payment; others like to throw small amounts at a balance to keep interest payments low. Both options are fine, it’s just whatever works best for you. I personally prefer to take my spare cash each paycheck and divide it in two: Half goes to the credit card debt and half goes to savings so I still feel like I’m paying myself a bit.


Know when to suck it up and go. I think most people enjoy the feeling of canceling plans or saying no to happy hour every now and then. And it’s well within your right to do so if you’re not feeling social from time to time. But to maintain a friendship, it’s important to know when to suck it up and go to happy hour. Good hints include whenever somebody is crying, has big news, or going through something traumatic.


Clearly define the “rules” of your relationship early on. This doesn’t need to be a formal sit-down but throughout the beginning of a relationship, you should ideally communicate with each other about what makes you tick. What things are important for the other person to do? What are your dealbreakers, i.e. cheating, horrible breath, etc.? Having these conversations early on helps set up expectations for later on so nobody feels blindsided.

Do any of these tips or ideas resonate with you? Feel free to share on social media and tag me! (@crafty_cay on Instagram and Twitter)

Bookish Things

My Reading List for 2023

Like many people, I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge every year.

For 2023, I’ve set my goal to finish 50 books by the end of the year. I go through books like a fish through water so I could probably increase it a bit but I want to take it easy on myself, since 2023 is going to be BUSY. This year, I am house-hunting and getting married!

Here is a complete list, by genre, of the books on my Goodreads “To-Read” list:

Highlighted indicates an author that I’ve read previously.


  1. Fire and Blood by George R.R. Martin
  2. What Lies Beyond the Veil by Harper L. Woods
  3. A Hunt of Shadows by Elisa Kova
  4. Marrow Charm by Kristin Jacques
  5. The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi
  6. Song of Silver, Flame like Night by Amelie Wen Zhao
  7. A Day of Fallen Night by Samantha Shannon
  8. Galatea by Madeline Miller
  9. Wildblood by Lauren Blackwood
  10. Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
  11. Witch King by Martha Wells


  1. The Ruined Maiden by A.D. Winter


  1. She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

Young Adult

  1. Defend the Dawn by Brigid Kemmerer
  2. All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace
  3. Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray
  4. Beasts of Ruin by Ayanaa Gray
  5. Foxglove by Adalyn Grace
  6. A Light in the Flame by Jennifer Armentrout
  7. A Thousand Heartbeats by Kiera Cass
  8. Chaos and Flame by Tessa Gratton
  9. Wings Once Cursed and Bound by Piper J. Drake


  1. The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
  2. Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore
  3. Anywhere You Run by Wanda Morris
  4. The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
  5. The Family Game by Catherine Steadman
  6. What Have We Done by Alex Finlay
  7. The House Guest by Hank Ryan
  8. All the Dark Places by Terri Parlato
  9. Sisters of the Lost Nation by Nick Medina
  10. Devil in Ohio by Daria Polatin
  11. The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh
  12. I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai


  1. Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey
  2. The Porcelain Moon by Janie Chang
  3. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
  4. Violeta by Isabel Allende
  5. Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
  6. What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez by Claire Jimenez
  7. Looking for Jane by Heather Marshall
  8. The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane

Are any of these books on your list for 2023? What books are you excited to read?