The Secret Formula by Dale T. Phillips

A few short stories and a novel or two (even if sold to a major publisher) is seldom enough for a career. Making the equivalent salary of a full-time job year after year is really hitting the lottery, and quite an achievement. Sales and writing income fluctuate wildly, and one must plan carefully if this is the main source of income. One research data point said that most Indie fiction writers making an average of 5000 dollars a month have a number of things in common:


  • Average of 13.5 books published, mostly with series, and popular genres.
  • Good content, formatting, editing, covers, pricing, availability.
  • Good connection with followers on social media and via email lists.

It’s the combination of things, not just one single thing. Achieve all this, and you’ll likely be quite successful:

  • Do your research
  • Set reasonable expectations
  • Make plans with achievable goals
  • Work with decent levels of diligence, skill and persistence
  • Continue to walk the success path.

Each opportunity, done well, creates more and better opportunities. Each thing you do well puts you further ahead, and there are no limits to what you can achieve.

Critics abound, regretfully. There will be people who tell you that it’s not possible to be successful at Indie writing, that you’ll never make a fortune, you’ll never yadda, yadda, yadda. They may be sincere, but they also may be misinformed, or simply not acting in your best interests. Eliminate negative voices from your circle— you don’t want them taking up space in your head. Writers are their own self-negating voices, and need no additional negativity from anyone else. Many people who accomplished great things had others telling them that they wouldn’t or couldn’t. Ignore the critics, and make it happen. Just don’t feel you have to learn and do it all at once. It’s a process, and a long road. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Laugh at your mistakes, they’re part of your story. Build a strong foundation for continued success.

Success is a house you build yourself, so it’s up to you what it looks like and how comfortable you are with it. Others aren’t going to build it for you, but you can find the tools you’ll need. Use the right materials, and take your time to build well.

The Big Secret

The main thing I discovered, after all this time, is that because success takes a lot of hard work, most people just don’t want to do it. They’ll make some effort, and hope for lightning to strike, but won’t do the sustained effort it takes. Yet all the successful Indie writers do the work necessary to make it.

That’s really the big secret.

Steps to success:

  • Always be learning. Learn what marketing steps other people have taken to improve their income and craft, then copy or improve on those steps and repeat
  • Set realistic goals, plans, and schedules
  • Try a lot of approaches and ideas new and old
  • Keep at different methods until something works
  • Study to see if the methods can be made more effective
  • Absorb feedback and cycle through until success is the result
  • Celebrate each success, then move on to the next thing

Write well, learn the craft, publish, follow the plans for success, and things could work out very well indeed for you. If sales are always poor over time, it might be something other than luck. Get the advice of people who’ve been doing this for a while and know about the new world of Indie publishing. Consider what you have for offerings.

  • Are you doing what you should?
  • Are your books in a popular genre and well-written?
  • Are the covers good?
  • Are the books priced properly?
  • Are they available in different formats with different distributors?
  • Does your platform support enough promotion about it?

Dale T. Phillips has published novels, story collections, non-fiction, and over 70 short stories. Stephen King was Dale’s college writing teacher, and since then, Dale has found time to appear on stage, television, radio, in an independent feature film, and compete on Jeopardy. He’s a member of the Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. Visit Dale at