Self-publishing

How Lauren Smith Makes 1/4th of Her Income With PublishDrive

Self-publishing case study with bestselling author Lauren Smith

PublishDrive is actually about 1/4th of my monthly income at this point. Which is a lot.

— Lauren Smith

We got to chat with Lauren Smith, the fantastic best-selling author of over 60 titles. She told us how she’s running her self-publishing gig, going global, and saving time with PublishDrive.

About Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith was working as an attorney when she released her first romance novel with a small publisher in 2014. She then shifted to self-publishing tactics in order to reach a larger audience.

Lauren describes her initial jump into being a full-time writer as one of necessity after experiencing foreclosures in her previous industry. As it became hard to find work as an attorney, she thought, “well this is the universe telling me to take the next step and go full-blown into writing.”

Lauren has been building her indie business, fully invested since 2017. With now over 60 titles, she’s selling beyond Amazon by going wide with major retailers like Google and promising markets like Italy with the help of PublishDrive.

Book Earl of Morrey 2 by Lauren Smith

Main Results

📈

Earns 1/4th of monthly income on PublishDrive

🌍

Reaches crucial stores like Google, niche platforms like Dreame, and foreign markets like Italy

🖥️

Enjoys a quick and easy process to upload and manage books

🧮

Saves time and headaches with the royalty-splitting tool Abacus

 

The Challenges

🚫

Lacked a way to continue publishing on Google

 

💰

Needed to develop a dependable income stream

 

💪

Could use help with the workload that comes with running your own business

 

Lauren first discovered PublishDrive when her previous aggregator Pronoun suddenly shut down. With around 20 titles up on Google at the time, Lauren had to find a way to keep her books up. Google Play Books being notorious for having a difficult publishing process, where it can take authors over a year to publish, Lauren was told to check out PublishDrive.

“PublishDrive was one of the companies that Pronoun secretly on the side told authors about and said hey we're sorry we're closing but there are other companies out there that we're working and partnering with in order to get your books back up on Google. And oh, by the way, they may actually have more reach to other stores than we did.” – Lauren Smith

The wider reach was good news for Lauren. Pursuing the self-publishing route meant to look for ways to increase discoverability as well as streamline the business side of things.

“I realized there was a way to make an income that was a little bit more dependable monthly rather than quarterly...I thought I don't want to be limited to just Amazon. I want to be able to reach other stores out there. I want to reach other countries out there.” – Lauren Smith

Solutions With PublishDrive

🖥️

Transferred books in bulk to PublishDrive and got them up on Google with a few mouse clicks

 

🌍

Expanded into other markets like Italy, where translated books are performing well

 

🕗

Saved hours of time in book upload, distribution, management, and royalty-splitting

 

Publishing on Google

With PublishDrive’s friendliest interface for transferring, uploading, and managing books in bulk, Lauren got her 20 titles up on Google in no time.

“It was fabulous that I could hit one or two buttons and then my whole account transferred over. I started self-publishing on PublishDrive new titles...I found that to be incredibly easy...I would upload it to the system and it would automatically import several fields. I didn't have to add a bunch of extra information. I really loved that quick and easy step to get the book up that much faster.” – Lauren Smith

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Selling Wide and Globally

With now over 60 titles in her catalog, Lauren is selling books wide. These days, she is marketing her translated historical romance novels to the Italian market.

I really enjoy the multi-store reach. It's not just Google that I use. I reach a lot of different countries. Currently, I'm selling Italian novels that are historical romance translated from English...They do decently on PublishDrive and I'm very excited about that. It's not just Amazon where translated titles can do well...There are other stores that are reaching countries where Amazon doesn't exist, maybe not even a lot of Apple users.” – Lauren Smith

Although Amazon is a huge store to publish in, it’s not the only place to make royalties. For Lauren, only half of her income comes from Amazon. This matches PublishDrive’s data for tens of thousands of authors: about 50% of revenue comes from Amazon while the rest comes from other markets.

In 2020, indies made 85% more sales publishing wide in multiple stores and markets via PublishDrive:

PublishDrive stores and countries growth in 2020

The most successful indies distribute everywhere they can. Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a fruitful year for digital books as more people sought at-home entertainment and education. We saw book retailers like Amazon soar. We also saw selling to online libraries like Odilo and niche apps like Dreame brought indies more royalties.

Saving Time and Headaches

On PublishDrive it takes four simple steps to publish a book in thousands of stores:

  1. Upload book file(s)
  2. Set up metadata
  3. Switch on the stores to sell in
  4. Submit for a quick review

Once approved, the book gets sent to stores immediately. PublishDrive takes care of the multiple revenue streams with automated financial reporting.

I know when I submit my information to PublishDrive, they're in charge of getting it up where it needs to be. As long as I’m on time with my files...I trust PublishDrive to see it done...They handle all the heavy lifting...To take five minutes and do it with PublishDrive saves me a bunch of time because I’m not doing it at other places so I’m not rushing and making mistakes.” – Lauren Smith

Lauren also saves additional time with the royalty-splitting tool called Abacus. Having published a co-authored book with another author, Abacus helps calculate and manage shared royalties with a transparent sales dashboard.

“I hate sitting there and calculating payments every month for various stores...Let’s say a bunch of authors do a series together, but they don’t want to use one person’s Amazon account. You can get Amazon through PublishDrive...

Everybody has access to the sales dashboard and the royalty information. It’s all so clean-cut, safe feeling, and nobody is dealing with a headache. I felt that was a huge time-saver but also an emotional de-stresser.” – Lauren Smith

See How It Works

Split royalties with PublishDrive Abacus

 

Lauren's Best Practices

As an established author with several awards and a dedicated fanbase that continues to grow, Lauren had tips and insights to share.

Look into providing translated books in foreign markets, but do your research first.

Especially for authors in fiction genres where readership is avid, Lauren reminds us that the high demand for fiction novels is a universal trend. There are tons of people around the globe wanting great reads like romance, fantasy, and thrillers.

“The trick is to do some research; there are plenty of resources out there. There's a Facebook group online for indie authors and traditional authors called Authors Support Network...You can post questions in the group, follow the guidelines, and people talk all the time about selling in Spain, selling in Italy...You can get feedback and say I write this, does anybody know the four languages this might be best in...

I would say research is the hardest part. The second hardest part is of course affording the translations. And there are sliding scales for what you want to look at. Right now in Germany is very hot because the German KU system pays out really well for genre fiction...

I would encourage people to investigate their genres, investigate prices, and ask around what's fair. There are ways of verifying good translators versus not. Know the rights. For example, translators who live in Germany are entitled to collect royalties, not just the amount of translating. So if you pay them $10,000 to translate a book, then you also have to pay 15% royalties for the rest of the time the book is published. That's a lot of money. You want to make sure when you're hiring a German translator, they sign off on not asking for royalties.” – Lauren Smith

Learn about marketing tactics and outsource to the experts when you can.

As a self-run business, Lauren takes care of her marketing with online advertising like Facebook and Amazon ads. She keeps up with the book marketing essentials and also gets help from an advertising company.

“There are a lot of good workshops. Mark Dawson has an amazing course, and he updates it if not every year, every other year. All of the information is always changing...The buttons may be different or the settings may be different. The advice may be different…

I can't keep up with the changes that well. I don't have time to necessarily rewatch a 30-part lecture every single year with the publishing schedule that I do. So I've been hiring out for a certain amount – $400 dollars a month average to hire these trained advertising experts...But then add $500 [for the ad budget]. So you're looking at a $900 spend. You could have lower budgets…

They've been so much more effective on Amazon ads than I have ever been, and even on my best day. Amazon ads are getting very tricky right now with the new Apple restrictions not letting Apple users’ information be used to target them for ads...At this point, I’m telling someone that this is giving me a monumental headache. Save up your money and hire it out, because you won't regret that.” – Lauren Smith

Lastly, a word for the newbies: take your time.

“I tried to do it all in the first week. I tried to learn how to format books. I tried to learn how to set up all my accounts. So I would say that if you're interested at all in self-publishing or you're just getting started, pick one task a week. Say this is the week I learn to set up PublishDrive, get comfortable with the system, create my account, and set up my vendor selection stores. Or this is the week I learn how to format books. Or this is the week where I take some workshops on ads. Take Tylenol and take one task a week…

Just take your time. Save wisely. Don't overspend...If you really care about writing, and it means something to you, it's worth the struggle...Feel free to shoot me an email. I’m happy to do some light mentoring if people need it.” – Lauren Smith

Find Lauren Smith’s contact and social handles at her websites laurensmithbooks.com and emmacastlebooks.com

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