How one indie author made $74,000 in 16 months and quit her day job (and what you can learn from her)

Romance writer Jami Albright, a “born and raised Texas girl,” is the multiple award-winning author of The Brides on the Run series–a fun, sexy, snarky, laugh-out-loud good time. After I met Jami when I spoke at the Lone Star Conference two years ago, we connected on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed watching her soar, and when she recently announced that she had quit her day job to write full-time, I knew we needed to learn more. I hope her story inspires you. Learn more about Jami on her website.

How one indie author made $74,000 in 16 months and quit her day job (and what you can learn from her)

By Jami Albright

This is the story of how I was able to quit my job and become a full-time romance writer.

I published my first book, Running From a Rock Star, in April 2017. The book launched to 1,381 in the Kindle Store and stayed in the top 5,000 for six months until book two, Running With a Sweet Talker, released in October 2017. That book launched to 696 in the Kindle store.

As of the day I’m writing this, Running From a Rock Star is ranked 3,949, Running With a Sweet Talker is at 6,591 in the Kindle Store, and I’ve grossed $74,000, which includes audiobook sales.

indie author

I quit my day job

Due to the success of both books, last December I made the decision to quit my day job to write full-time.

Are you doing the math? Or are you like me, and you don’t math?

That’s okay. I’ll break it down for you. I didn’t release book two until six months after book one, and it’s been eleven months since I published book two. Book three isn’t scheduled to come out until November 2018.

In the world of indie publishing that is supposed to be the kiss of death. But I’ve been fortunate enough to continually and consistently make money by persistently getting my book in front of readers with newsletter swaps, Facebook group takeovers, and Amazon and Facebook ads.

Here’s what worked

indie author 2Here’s what I did right:

  • I put off publishing for a year to learn as much as I could about indie publishing. I listened to podcasts, went to conferences, and asked questions – lots of questions.
  • I got a fantastic cover designer who created two great covers that followed genre expectations, but included my own personal brand.
  • I wrote the best book that I knew how to write. Then I made sure it was the best it could be by having it professionally edited.
  • I was willing to do anything I had to do to make my publishing dream happen, including selling plasma to pay for my edits. The bottom line is: How bad do you want it?
  • I put my book in front of exactly the right readers. I did this a couple of ways.

First, I built an email list of 1,200 subscribers before I launched the first book by putting up a preview of my story on Instafreebie. I then joined two group giveaways where readers signed up for my newsletter in exchange for the preview.

Second, I participated in newsletter swaps with other authors. They put my book in their newsletter, and I put theirs in mine. This was a win-win because we were both exposed to new readers. It’s important to only swap with authors who write books similar to yours. Remember, the goal is exposure to the right readers.

  • Network, network, network. I made friends with other authors. This can’t be overstated. It’s vitally important to find your people and form relationships with them, whether virtually or in person. I also reached out to other authors who were doing better than me. Sometimes it worked out, and a few times it didn’t, but nobody died in the process.
  • I’ve tried to be the best community member that I can be. I cheer people on, I support them, I share their stuff, and I offer help when I can.

I made some mistakes, too . . .

indie author 3And here’s what I could’ve done/could do better:

  • Had multiple books written and ready to go before I published book one.
  • Not let success distract me from getting the second book out. Book two came out months later than I’d intended. I had a tough time focusing because of social media, Book Report, and advertising.
  • Stay the hell off social media. For soooo many reasons, I now have to limit my time on social media if I hope to get anything done.
  • Not get caught in the comparison loop. It’s endless, and it’s caused me a great deal of stress. And sometimes I’ve let it rob me of the joy of the things that I have accomplished.
  • Focus! I haven’t yet conquered this, but I am working on it and you should too.
  • Cut myself some slack. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. How many times have we heard that? It’s true, and we all should have it tattooed on our butts.
  • Negative self-talk. Y’all, this will kill you, and for about two months I let this paralyze me. If you’re doing this, then STOP IT! It’s my daily mission to correct this behavior in myself.

You can do it, too

I hope this helps. I’m super proud, but it would be useless to post this if it didn’t have some actionable takeaways, and the biggest takeaway should be: If I can do it, you can do it.

Thanks for reading. Now, go write!

Big thanks to Jami for sharing her success story with us! Want to ask her a question or congratulate her? Just leave a comment. 

Tip of the Month

blog audit checklistI like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

Today it’s the Blog Audit Checklist” from The Work at Home Wife. This comprehensive, easy-to-use  form walks you through a blog audit that helps you identify top-performing posts, traffic sources, and blogging tools you’re using, among other things.

I’ve downloaded it and will use it now to help me begin planning for 2019.

To get your copy, subscribe to her newsletter (use the form at the bottom of the post). You can always unsubscribe later if you decide the newsletter isn’t helpful to you.

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


  1. Excellent blog, Jami. . .short, sweet, and to the point. I have a question for you: Can you share with us exactly how you built your email list? Where exactly did you go to do this? I am struggling to figure out the best formula for accomplishing this, and it’s far overdue–a huge mistake that I’ve made along the way.

    1. Lisa

      I’m so sorry, I just saw this question.

      I put up a three chapter preview on instaFreebie, but you can use BookFunnel as well, then I got involved in group promos where as many as 20 authors promoted the giveaway and people signed up to receive my newsletter in exchange for my preview. Most people used whole books as opposed to previews.

      If you already have a book out then I would suggest putting a link to an extra epilogue at the end of that book. To get the epilogue, readers have to sign up for your email. This method has worked very well for me. I put the extra epilogue on BookFunnel and that’s where the link takes them.


  2. I would respectfully inquire the following because, as an author really wanting to do it right,
    I’d feel better equipped to give my next release a great headstart if I knew the answers:

    *How much was the professional book cover?

    *How much was the professional editing?

    *Did you use the $20 or $50 per month package on Instafreebie?

    *What newsletter service did you use, how often did you put one out,
    how much time did you put into creating each one, and did you offer any giveaways while pushing said newsletter?

    *You state you went to conferences to learn more – where were they and how much did those cost to attend?

    If you’re down to selling plasma, then aside from the blood, sweat and tears it took to simply write the formulaic romance, a lot of $$ went into your final product. How much of the $74,000 was then profit? (That’s rude of me to ask, and I respect if you do not answer that!)

    As a working mom of toddlers, I can’t jet off to conferences and I think I’m more coffee than blood right now, so not sure plasma is an option. (wink) As much as I want to force out a commercial product, what I’m really inspired to write doesn’t come close to what is on the market as a popular romance…

    I want it badly, TOO, but some of us can’t dump $$ into books like we wish we could!!
    God bless your efforts, they are obviously paying off.

    1. One more thing about the money I made. I’m not the primary breadwinner, so I could afford to pour money back into my business, which I’ve done.


  3. Carrie

    My cover for book one was $240, but the price has come down with every cover in that series because less has to be done to tweak the cover. The last one I got was $140.

    My editing on an 80k book was $450.

    I started with the $20 plan on instaFreebie.

    I use MailChimp as a newsletter service. I sent an email out every week from the time I got subscribers (6 weeks before release) for six months. Then I went to twice a month. Most newsletters take an hour or so to put together. I offer book recommendations that are usually discounted in my newsletter. I’ve never done any giveaways for my books in my newsletter.

    My first conference was The Smarter Artist Summit, it cost $499, which is pricey. I attended that conference a year before I put a book out. I got a mileage check from work and returned all my Christmas presents to pay for the ticket. Best $500 I’ve ever spent. I’ve also attended:

    Romance Writers of America – $550
    The Sell More Books Show Summit – $499 (with a payment plan)
    20booksto 50K Conference – $100
    Romance Author Mastermind – $600 (a more advanced conference on marketing)
    And various smaller workshops that cost anywhere from $25-$75

    Subtracting what I spent on ads, taxes, covers, editing, and various day to day expenses I’ve profited around 25K.

    When I started, I had NO MONEY, that’s why I was selling plasma. I spent $50 on book one’s release, that was it. I did run AMS ads the first month that cost me $130, and I was freaking out about that because we didn’t really have it, but I more than quadrupled that money. But the point is that you don’t have to spend a lot in the beginning.

    I want to address what you said about writing a formulaic/commercial book. Is it impossible to sell a book that isn’t written to a specific genre? No, but it is harder unless you can tap into an underserved or niche market. If you aren’t writing genre fiction, sci-fi, romance, fantasy, etc., then indie publishing can be difficult. You might try traditional publishing for something that is more literary.

    You can write the book of your heart, but if you want to make money, then you should also write something that will appeal to the masses in addition to the book of your heart. I’m not at all trying to crush your dream at all. But the fact is you have to get your books in front of the right readers, and if you know going in that there may not be any readers for what you’re writing, then selling it will be difficult.

    Please let me know if you have any more questions.


    1. Thank you for this honest breakdown. Love that your job reimbursed the mileage to help you with that first conference. I honestly have not looked into live events like this in PA where I could drive to the location – maybe in Texas they are more prevalent?

      And I absolutely agree that, without catering to the masses (who are the ones with the $$ we want) you’re never going to make back the money you invest. I wholeheartedly agree. Mostly, the ‘book of your heart’ is just that – for your heart. Not your pocketbook. I am coming to accept that, because I do not really like formulaic genres, I’m never going to make $$. 🙂

      (BTW, is that YOU on the Smarter Artist Summit website, waving to the camera? Awesome!)

      Keep plugging away and working hard; you are an inspiration!

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