How To Earn $1 Million on Your First Book… or NOT!

Jackie Houchin

bag of moneyI was going to write this post on “how to make $1 million on your first book” and follow the story of paranormal-romance writer Amanda Hocking who actually sold 1.5 million eBooks in 2010 and made $2.5 million. “All by her lonesome self. Not a single book agent or publishing house or sales force or marketing manager or bookshop anywhere in sight.”

Following tips she’d gleaned from the blog of JA Konrath (an internet self-publishing pioneer, who boasted of making $100,000 in three weeks), she also uploaded to Smashwords to gain access to the Nook, Sony eReader and iBook markets.  “It wasn’t that difficult. A couple of hours of formatting, and it was done.”

Then… she got a $2 million contract from St Martin’s Press and… yada, yada, yada.   Here’sHerStory

Today the self-published book market is flooded with books, and unfortunately a lot of them are inferior in quality in one way or another.  Authors in a rush to publish don’t take time to write a quality story, edit, format, proofread, and design a cover professionally. And less than half of them make even $500.

So what’s a newbie author like me to do?

I’m currently working on a middle grade children’s book manuscript. It is a collection of twelve stories from the POV of seven kids who are the children of Missionaries in Africa. The kids take turns writing emails to their friends back home, telling of adventures, mishaps, mysteries, and lessons learned. In the process they reveal amazing bits of African culture, as well as showing how kids anywhere can use the Bible to help them in life.

Because it is unabashedly a Christian book and might be difficult to market, I decided to self-publish.  I’m also determined to make it the best possible book I can.

Okay. No problem.

I’m a journalist and a reviewer. I’ve written tons of stories for my granddaughters over the years. And these twelve stories have been “kid tested” to more than a dozen children at my church. (They loved them.)

So all I have to do is a minor rework so they fit together smoothly, check for typos and grammar errors, and ask a friend to help me upload it to Kindle and Createspace. Right?


IMG_3243As I began to read blogs about self-publishing and downloaded PDFs like “Checklist for Publishing Your Book” and “Which Format Should I Choose” and followed marketing blogs with tips on using  social media, launching your book, advertising, newsletters, and websites, I discovered there’s a lot more to consider.

How to self publish your bookI bought and read “How to Self Publish Your Book” by Craig Gibb, which details about titles, pen names, and blurbs, as well as editing, cover designs, formatting, promoting and marketing options.

Word by Word Editing“Word by Word, An Editor Guides Writers in the Self-Editing Process” by Linda Taylor describes in detail the process of content and copy editing, proofreading, formatting, and all the front and back matter I would need to write for a complete “up-loadable manuscript package.”


My take away, if I am determined enough to do it:

  1. Write/rewrite my stories so they are polished to a mirror shine and have a kid-compelling first chapter.
  2. Get my manuscript professionally edited. (I sent in a sample 750 words to be edited free to one publisher, and was aghast at all the track changes suggested!) A proofreader is also high on my list.
  3. Get professional help in formatting my manuscript for the various eBook and print options. (There are just too many things that can go wrong, and I know from a dear friend on this blog that the learning curve is steep.) This is especially important because I want to include photos or illustrations.
  4. Get a cover designer/illustrator who can format for both eBook and Print, and who can portray the vision I have for the stories.

How much is this going to cost me?  A lot.

Can a middle grade children’s book with a Bible slant recoup that in sales?  Only God knows. I’m really NOT out to earn $millions. Any profit I make will be channeled back into the Africa ministries that I love.

But… I DO have a person who has promised to read the book and write a foreward for it. He’s worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators and travels the world as a Partnership Facilitator. He’s been to Malawi many times.  Who knows where THAT contact might lead.

And YOU might even know a 7-12-year-old who thinks it would be fun to grow up in deepest, darkest Africa!  And want to read my book.


Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

14 thoughts on “How To Earn $1 Million on Your First Book… or NOT!”

  1. Jackie, Even though self-publishing is daunting, it isn’t impossible, as all those self-published books testify to, BUT doing it right takes time and effort, mostly from you. Not all editors catch every error. SpellCheck only works if the word is totally misspelled. If it is a word, even though it isn’t the right word, it will sail through uncaught. But taking your time and distancing yourself from your book after you think you are finished and then looking at it again with fresh eyes will have you see things you hadn’t seen before. And since you have the heart to see this through, you’ll make it happen.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. This is really informative and quite inspiring, Jackie – especially for those of us hunting for Literary Agents to fall in love with our novels. And, of course, Gayle is the expert in this field…. a lot to think about….

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I admire you and other authors who self-pub, Jackie. So far I’m primarily traditionally published which means I don’t receive a lot of money per published book but a lot of the details like editing are handled for me. But my mind is always working on other ideas, so maybe one of these days…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jackie, I applaud you for taking the conscientious route with your book. I may be self-publishing my next one, and it makes me sad that so many authors self-publish carelessly and give the rest of us a bad name. I hope your book is a smashing success!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Bonnie. And best of luck if you self-publish your next book. Either way it comes out, I know it will be pretty durn good – your are meticulous!


  4. Go, Jackie H! I just know you’ll be successful. My advice (unasked for but freely given (smile) is to “go for it.”) And on the editing, I have three, and stuff still gets through. All you can do is, do your best. (and not worry! Easier said than done.)

    I think I’ve told you how much I admire your missionary works–and just love that picture–mainly because it’s such a happy picture.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for being on my cheering team, Madeline. One of those mission trips (to Italy in June) will set my book project on hold for a bit, but I promise to get back to it.


  5. Great post, Jackie. You make so many important points for authors, most especially getting that “mirror shine”as well as professional help where you need it. I’ve read too many self-published books filled with mistakes or poor wording because they didn’t follow your advice. And I agree – go for it – because there IS an audience out there for the stories you tell.


  6. Jackie, you are to be admired for plunging in, and also realizing you need to take your time to make sure everything is right. There are plenty of editors out there, with different price ranges, as well as beta and alpha readers who can help you. Formatting can be a monster but there are those, too, you can hire quite reasonably, and are highly recommended when including photographs. My traditional small press has gone belly-up so I shall probably be self-pubbing too, as soon as my third mystery is complete. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and plans. I have attended several seminars on self-pubbing – and it still seems a mystery!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Digging! Thank you for the encouragement. Doing it right is what I’ve learned form all I’ve read or watched. And like you say, it will take longer. Hopefully I will be happy with the outcome, and so will a lot of kids who will want to read it. Good luck on your third mystery. Let us know how you do it when the time comes!


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