The Journey from SEO Writing Tools to Romance Novels - A Guest Interview
Many of you know that plenty of successful freelancers have their own side hustles or multiple businesses at the same time.
It’s usually because we wind up as entrepreneurs and get addicted to building a business. Today, on the blog, I’m interviewing one of my favorite freelancers, Yuwanda Black.
In case you didn’t know, it was Yuwanda’s SEO writing tools that helped me launch my own freelance business back in 2012. We’ve been in contact ever since, and it’s been so much fun to follow her journey. From freelance writing to selling tools for freelancers all the way to writing romance!
That’s why I wanted to cover her romance writing experience today on the blog. If you already have writing skills and are looking for a creative outlet that may earn you some extra cash, too, romance writing might be a great way to get started!
Read on to learn more about her journey and some top lessons she’s picked up along the way.
1. What made you decide to get into romance writing?
I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be a romance writer. I kind of fell into it by accident. Here’s the story …
One of my sisters – who’s a writer also – wrote a romance novel. Unlike me, she’d always written fiction, but not romance. What sparked the romance idea for her was a trip she went on to Texas once. She said an idea for a romance novel just came to her while she was on that trip, and she couldn’t get it out of her head. So she wrote the story in about a week.
It was a shortie (a novella); about 65 pages long according to Amazon’s Kindle pagination. To her great surprise, it sold – over 500 copies in about three weeks. That little novel earned her over $1,100 during that time. FYI, the name of that book is Loving a Texan from New Orleans.
We were both pleasantly surprised. So, I decided to give it a try.
My first romance novel bombed – selling less than 10 copies that first month. And, it was almost a year before I wrote another one. But once I did, that one took off; well, took off for me. I sold about 250 copies of my second romance novella the month it was released. And since it was priced at $2.99 on Amazon, I earned 70 percent of each copy sold; so about $500 in overall sales. I was like, “Yoohoo! I’m on to something here.”
I was hooked – and to date, have written over 40 more.
2. How did you decide to scale from writing one book to making this part of your business in a bigger way?
I’ve been in publishing since 1987; I started my publishing career working for a legal trade publisher in New York City during college, and when I got out as well. So I knew the ins and outs of the publishing industry.
The reason I point this out is, I embraced self-publishing from day one – even before it was called “self-publishing,” because I knew what it took to get a traditional book deal. You have to query, then wait, hope, sell your first born, sacrifice your second born, and throw any pets you have into the deal in order to get a traditional book deal.
That reality was not for me, and that’s why I jumped into self-publishing with glee. I’ve been writing and selling eBooks from my own websites since 2002.
Until 2013, when I wrote my first romance, I’d only written how-to, non-fiction books; mostly in/on/about freelancing, small business, internet marketing – and yes, self-publishing. In all my years of selling how-to, non-fiction books, I’d never had one take off like the romance novella (fiction) did. And the best part of writing fiction is, there’s no updating that needs to be done like with non-fiction.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying – I knew this was no fluke, that self-publishing was here to stay and that if I built up a cache (catalog) of books, I could make very good money almost on autopilot.
The reason I say “almost” is that one of the downfalls of self-publishing romance is that you have to continually feed the beast. If you don’t constantly put out new titles, sales can fall off pretty quickly.
But the beautiful thing about writing romance is, once you have a back catalog of books, you can publish less frequently and still make really good money because romance readers are such prolific readers. Once they “discover” you, if they like one of your books, a good percentage – 30 to 40 percent based on my sales numbers – will circle back and buy your other titles.
3. What are some of the biggest myths surrounding writing romance?
That you have to have to be a “professional writer” and/or have a “real publisher” publish your books to make good money. Nothing could be further from the truth on both counts.
I started with ZERO fiction writing experience; before 2013, I’d never written a romance novel in my life (or any other kind of fiction). But, I’ve been a prolific reader of them since I was a pre-teen. I think I’ve read every Harlequin in existence!
So when I sat down to write my first one, I just pulled from my own life experience – sprinkling it liberally with fiction elements, of course – and banged the story out (3 Weeks ‘til Forever). Now even though it didn’t sell well, that had more to do with genre than not being a “professional writer and/or it being a self-published book. To date, I still think it’s one of my best stories.
FYI, genre is muy importante in achieving success or failure as a romance writer, as I go into in great detail about in the “How to Make Money Writing Romance” course – along with all the other factors you need to know to succeed as a self-published romance author.
4. How do you get started with an idea or research?
One thing I don’t lack is an inactive imagination. Years ago when I lived in New York, I was an actress. I’ve always been creative – it’s just the way my brain works. And, I’m a “student of love” I you will. I’ve always been a romantic; and like I said, I’ve read probably a few thousand romance novels in my life.
So I never lack for ideas. As for research, I’ve traveled a lot, so I really pull from my own experiences. I write contemporary romance because that’s the genre I’m most comfortable with and is the easiest for me to write – simply because I can pull on my own experiences.
Historical romance is my favorite genre to read, but I don’t have the patience to do the research required to write one of those, so I stick with contemporary romance.
It’s easy for me to write, and I can write them quickly because they don’t require a lot of research. Also, you can always use a fictional place, so you’re not stuck having to be accurate about a specific country, city, state, town, etc. For the most part, money is made based on volume in self-publishing romance; so that’s another reason I stick to writing contemporary romance.
I’ve written and self-published a book in as little as three days. Most take me a couple of weeks to write if I stick to a defined schedule. But I know romance writers who write real short stories, e.g., 2,500 to 7,000 or 8,000 words – and they publish two or three a week!
So don’t think you have to publish long stories that take months or years to write. While longer novels do sell better, short ones sell really well too. And don’t believe anyone who says differently. I know; because it’s what I publish.
5. If someone has never done romance before, what advice would you have for such a beginner?
Read in the genre you want to write in. Once you’ve read a few novels, create a detailed outline. In my romance writing course, I give you specific tools for doing this -- and creating believable characters – that make this pretty straightforward.
If you know who you’re writing about (ie, have a strong character profile); and have created a defined plot and detailed outline, you should be able to finish a romance novel.
I always think it’s better to start with a short story. Most of my novellas are in the 20,000 to 30,000-word range; although I have one that’s just shy of 10,000 words – an erotic romance -- and it sold really well. In fact, it went on to become one of my most successful series (Just Sex Please).
You get better the more you write, but don’t let not having “experience” or not having a “real publisher” behind you stop you from writing romance. Write, self-publish … and keep the lion’s share of profits.
Really, the only way I’d accept a traditional publishing deal if it was at least in the mid-to-high six figures and if they offered me a generous cut on the backend of paperback and electronic book sales. There’s just too much money to be made as an independent author to do otherwise -- especially if you treat your writing and self-publishing career like a business – which I do, of course.
6. What are your favorite things in your romance writing course?
I love the character profile that I put together. It makes the characters come alive. I’ve fallen deeply in love with several of my leading men because they are so real to me. Truly!
I also love the outline I follow. It literally takes you by the hand and shows you step-by-step how to craft a story. A good outline – in my opinion – is the heart of the book. It makes the writing easier.
And finally, I love the profit potential. Once you start running numbers and see in black and white what the potential is of writing and self-publishing romance, it truly is mind-blogging.
With all of that being said though, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that writing romance is an easy way to make money. Writing romance is hard work. It takes dedication, persistence and a desire to keep learning and growing – both as a writer and as a business person.
I’ve had plenty of books bomb, but I kept writing because you just never know what’s going to resonate with readers. So you can’t get discouraged and give up.
Also, I have to force myself to sit down and write some days. There are many days that I just don’t feel like doing it. But I know if I don’t plop my behind in a chair and get some words on paper, then nothing will ever get done – and I won’t be earning anything.
So truly, you have to be self-motivated because nobody’s going to make you start and/or finish a romance novel. It’s not like a client project that’s due where there’s a defined deadline that you must make. I’m a freelance writer, so this is what I’m referring to here.
Your romance writing career is totally up to you – from setting the deadline to writing the story, to uploading and marketing the book(s).
But let me tell you, when that Amazon and other distributor payments hit your bank account each month – it truly is almost orgasmic (hey, I am a romance writer!).
And the best thing about publishing romance is – again, you can make money off those books forever. They never have to be updated, and the more you write and publish, the more you can ostensibly earn.
The sky – as far as earnings go – is literally the limit. I know self-published authors who earn over $100,000 per month (eg, JA Konrath, Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking). And there are many more quietly earning much less, eg, $2,000; $3,000; $10,000 per month – but more than they ever dreamed by being a one-person, self-publishing business.
FYI, in the course, I also tell you how to set up your own publishing company if that’s what you want.
I want to end by hammering this point home -- there’s no reason why anybody who can read and write can’t make money writing romance. With hard work, a desire to learn the trade, and persistence, I’m telling you, you can. I’m living proof of it.
Now, I’m off to write on my 45th and 46th novellas (yes, I have two in the progress at the same time). Happy writing and here’s hoping to see you on the charts – the best-selling book charts, that is.
About the Author: Yuwanda Black is the publisher of InkwellEditorial.com, a site that teaches you how to make money writing … for yourself (eg, self-publishing), or for others (eg, as a freelance writer). To date, she’s written over 40 romance novellas, with more on the way. Her writing courses can be found at InkwellEditorial.Teachable.com, which includes the highly popular free romance writing ecourse.