Romance writing as a side hustle

Thanks to the internet, there are now a million and one ways to make a side income, and I’ve tried at least half a million of them!  Not all options are a good fit for everyone, so sometimes it helps to think outside the box and swerve that MLM thing in favour of something a little bit different.

For a few years I was a Matched Bettor, making money from the offers that bookies use to attract new customers, and tempt existing customers to bet more with them on big sporting events, or in the casino.  When the pandemic hit and all sports were postponed, I realised I had a limited appetite for the more risky casino offers, and so I needed to diversify my income, and pretty quickly too!

I had a good look around the internet to find something I thought would suit me and would also be pandemic proof and finally settled on the idea of writing novels to self publish on Amazon.  I have always been quite a wordy person and loved reading- as a teenager I never had fewer than 10 books out at the library at any one time, so writing for a living has always appealed to me.  BUT, and it’s a big but, a ‘normal’ novel can take a long time to write, needs excellent and heavy editing, and your precious, beautifully crafted, work of art can easily get lost in the millions and millions of books available on Amazon.  The best way to ensure you have a successful novel is to get a publishing house to publish it for you, as this way they deal with all of the advertising and publicity to ensure it will sell well.  And even if it doesn’t sell well, they usually pay an advance upfront, so you still made some money from writing the book itself.

As my income had taken a hit, and we didn’t know when sports would resume so I could continue matched betting, I didn’t have the year or so it traditionally takes to write a novel, then go through the often long and traumatic process of having it rejected by a series of publishing houses (JK Rowling famously had Harry Potter rejected repeatedly before hitting her massive success).  Also, often even if your book is bought by a publishing house, as an unknown writer you may not be commanding much of a fee.  I had to make some money within the next few months, and that’s when I came across the idea of writing romance novels.

Why romance writing is different

Romance is very different to any other genre of book out there.  It is a massive market- around 25% of all e-books bought and read are in the romance genre, plus readers of romance are voracious, most reading AT LEAST one book a week, and this seems on the low side to me.  Not only do they gobble up books, but they are loyal readers too, often buying an entire back catalogue on the basis of enjoying one book by an author.  If this sounds far-fetched, just think about this- do you know anyone that has read every single Danielle Steele novel?  I certainly do!

Romance is also very different to other genres in that there are a million sub-genres within the genre itself – gay, straight, interracial, age-gap, erotica, Christian, historical – basically, anything you can think of, there is a category of romance assigned to it, and yes, this includes aliens, sci-fi, and of course we all know from 50 Shades of Grey, BDSM.  As loyal romance readers get through books so fast, it seems like the standard of writing isn’t the most important aspect of the books to them- which is great news if you aren’t a pro, or that confident in your abilities yet.  What you do need is good characters and a great story to hook your readers from the first page.  Other essential ingredients are lots of emotion, plenty of conflicts and a lovely big resolution at the end.  This might be the most important aspect of the whole story- make your characters happy by the last few pages, or your readers will not come back for more!

There is of course plenty more to do than just write the story itself if you are self-publishing; such as formatting and uploading the book, writing the blurb to attract readers to your story, and of course making or buying an appealing cover that fits with the style of your story.  These can all be either done yourself for free, or you can pay a VA or designer to do these more admin based tasks for you if you prefer.

Then, quite simply, you rinse and repeat- publishing regularly being the cheapest, easiest and most reliable way to increase sales of self-published romance books on Amazon.  I aim to publish two books a month of 20 thousand words plus, and since I adopted that strategy, I am seeing my sales more than double every calendar month.

Romance writing as a side hustle

As for the money you can make, well the sky is really the limit and very much depends on the niche you choose, and most importantly, how often you publish and if you choose to advertise.  I know authors who publish a short book every few months and do no publicity who make a few hundred here and there, and I also know authors who religiously publish one longer book of 40k words per month, making at least a couple of thousand a month as they have a long back catalogue, plus they use amazon ads or market directly to their readers using newsletters or social media.

You smart cookies out there know that you get out what you put into a side hustle, so if you are looking for some pin money I’d suggest putting out one short book (10-25k words) every month or so, and if you are looking to replicate a full-time income, one or more long books (40k ish words) every month will certainly put you on the right road.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you good luck in your side hustle, and I hope to see you on the Amazon bestseller list soon!

Romance writing as a side hustle

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