Romantic Novelists' Association

Conference Speakers: Carrie Elks – From Failure To Fortune: Saturday At 9am

26 July 2023

Author Carrie Elks, blonde hair, wearing a turquoise top on a grey backgroundIn 2018, my writing career was at a crossroads. I’d been published for five years and gone from the high of my first traditional publishing contract to the low of my last two books bombing completely, and failing to earn out my low advances.

I was also out of contract and there was no prospect of my publisher offering a new one.

It was clear that something had to change.

While I was having a mini career crisis, several of my friends were doing well in self-publishing. They had amassed a large following, were earning big money, and they enjoyed the autonomy of running their own careers.

So I decided to follow their lead.

My first step was to educate myself on all things related to self-publishing. Luckily, I had some time on my hands. I was still constrained by a non-compete clause for a few months. I read blogs, took courses, and listened to podcasts (I adore podcasts). I also followed the social media and Amazon pages of numerous accomplished self-published authors.

With the knowledge I gained, I decided to self-publish what would become the first in a nine-book series of romances set in a small Californian town, choosing the location because I knew that the US was the biggest market for self-published authors and I wanted to gain a foothold there. It helped that I’d lived in the US for several years, too, and was able to use the knowledge I’d gained from my time living across the ocean.

In February 2019 that book went live as an eBook and paperback, exclusive to Amazon in their Kindle Unlimited program.

My self-publishing career wasn’t an overnight success. In my first month, I earned just under £500 on my new release. I knew self-publishing would be a marathon, not a sprint. As a self-publisher, the real money is in having a big backlist.

For that first year I concentrated on creating the backlist.

I published three more books in the same series during 2019. Even with all the expenses that come with being a self-published author, I still made more money than the average author by the end of the year. (1). And considerably more than I’d earned from my career to date.

In 2020, I launched five books and by the year-end, I was earning a five-figure monthly income. Since 2021, I’ve been able to call myself a six-figure author.

We’re now in the middle of 2023 and I just released my 25th self-published book, which is my 30th book overall. Although it’s harder to sell the rights of self-published books than traditional ones, my fabulous agent has secured audio and foreign translation deals for sixteen of my books.

Some big publishers have also approached me, requesting the rights to some of my most popular books, but for now I’ve decided to remain primarily self-published.

It’s hard to write this without feeling like I’m boasting, but that’s not the point of this blog post. I’m not the best writer or marketer out there. I’ve simply learned how to craft books readers are interested in, and learned how to find those readers.

Presenting at the RNA conference in August will be a first for me, and I must say I’m nervous. But I’m also enthusiastic because I firmly believe that promoting books should not be daunting. Once you have a system that works for you, it shouldn’t be too time-consuming.

The focus of my talk will be on discovering that system. I aim to help you to create one that suits your writing, that builds on your strengths, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re constantly banging your head against a brick wall. I’ll discuss my own system, the methods I use, and why I don’t do some things that other successful authors do (and why I do some things they don’t).

Although nowadays I’m primarily a self-published author, almost all of these marketing tools can be used by traditionally published authors too. After all, our aim is the same. Our goal is to write quality books, reach out to eager readers, and receive reasonable compensation for our hard work.

My RNA Conference talk on DIY Clever Marketing takes place at 9am on Saturday 12th August. It would be great to see you there!




Carrie Elks is the author of thirty contemporary romance books (and counting). Since 2014, she has been both traditionally and self-published, and her stories have been translated into over ten different languages. She lives in Essex with her husband, two children and a pug called Plato, and when she isn’t reading, writing, or loafing about, she enjoys long walks at the beach, listening to the crashing of the waves and pretending she lives in the cute small towns she writes about.