Writing full-time with some passive author income from rentals

In my previous life, before being a blogger and aspiring author, I was a Risk Specialist at a large corporate. Leaving the #9to5 to write and blog full-time would not have been possible without some rental income to keep my finances afloat.

If you are considering becoming a full-time author, then why not ponder moving somewhere exotic and cheap and rent out your city pad? Or if you can finance a second rental property, here are Cat and Keyboard’s

Top 10 Passive Author Income Tips.

Climbing the property ladder for passive author income. Photo Flickr
Climbing the property ladder for passive author income. Photo Flickr

#1 Choosing an investment destination 

Rental yields differ from country to country. If property rental yields in your hometown are low, then why not consider buying abroad.?

I own residential properties in Johannesburg, where a property is surprisingly cheap but rentals are quite high. You could achieve a great return on investment if you could access some money from your North American/European home at low-interest rates and buy somewhere like Jo’burg where rentals are high.

 #2 Holiday let versus residential letting 

Furnishing a property and advertising it as a corporate let is more effort, but will earn you more income.I have holiday lets in Cape Town and have been amazed that it was quite easy to get high occupancy using Booking.com.

Try to do some research with the large corporates in your area, to get corporate lets in low season. 

#3 House or apartment?

Your life will be far easier if you buy a condominium (or ‘complex’ in South African speak). Yes, you will have monthly condominium fees (levies) to pay, but all the external maintenance will be taken care of for you.

#4 What size? 

I’ve had good luck with small two-bedroom apartments. Smaller apartments are cheaper to furnish and maintain, but having a second bedroom means that I don’t compete head-on with Hotel rooms.

For holiday letting having some outdoor space, be it a balcony or patio does help to book more visitors. 

#5 Getting set-up for holiday letting

A clean uncluttered design will help make guests feel at ease and help with quicker cleaning turn-around times between visitors.

If you don’t live close by then you’ll need to find someone to do meet-and-greats for you. I’ve been lucky to find a lady who does both the cleaning for me and the meet-and-greats.

#6 Advertising and marketing

I advertise my holiday lets on Booking.com. They charge a 15% fee per booking. But, you’ll have to coordinate guest payments. I prefer to use only one platform, so that the booking calendar is automatically updated in one place and that I don’t end up with double-bookings.

You could also use AirBnB of course. And the fact that guests are rated by other Airbnb establishments helps you to choose who you would like to accept.

 #7 Monthly expenses

You’ll have to be sure to budget for the following

  • Home Loan Instalments
  • Municipal Rates
  • Condominium Fees (Levies)
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Meet-and-great fees
  • Cleaning fees
  • Wear and Tear (Depreciation) on Furniture
  • Linen/Towel Purchases
  • Advertising fees on Booking.com/AirBnB
  • Bank Charges 

#8 Maintenance and breakages

I’m careful to choose finishes and furnishings that are quite robust. Tile floors, granite counter tops and furniture that is easy to clean. But some breakages are bound to happen.

You could use a refundable deposit system. But this does take quite a bit of time and effort to implement. Or just set aside a sum each month to cover breakages. 

#9 Managing payments

Electronic banking is my saviour! It is quick and easy to track guest payments and to make all other payments. If you find the admin is getting out of hand, then consider lengthening the minimum length of stay for each guest booking.

#10 Accounts and taxes 

You’ll have to determine which of your expenses are deductible for tax purposes. Basically, anything is deductible that is necessary for the running of the “business”. But capital expenditure to the renovations of the property wouldn’t be deductible.

Your tax authority will have write-off periods for the depreciation on furniture and white goods. Remember to deduct these amounts for depreciation from your taxable income.

 @CatandKeyboard Do you think you will be ready to make the leap to being a full-time writer with these passive author income tips?

Quick and Easy E-Book Formatting Checklist

Once the writing, editing and cover design is done for your novel, the next step is to get the format ready for Amazon. Cat and Keyboard lists this;

Ten step E-Book Formatting Checklist.

All Paws on Deck for the e-Book Formatting Checklist. Photo Pixabay.
All Paws on Deck for the e-Book Formatting Checklist. Photo Pixabay.

#1 Choose a Word Template

Most authors use Microsoft Word to write their manuscripts. The good news is that Word has a template titled “Story Manuscript Format” that is easy to use. To find this format, go to “Search for Online Templates”.

#2 Create a Title Page

The title page has only two elements centred on a clean page. The title in caps and below that “By” and the author’s name. Insert a page break immediately after the author’s name.

#3 Create A Copyright Page

There are plenty of resources on the internet for a free copyright page template, such as those at Kindlepreneur.com.

Remember to include your author website or author facebook page on the copyright page.

#4 Insert the Front Matter; About The Author, Dedication and Preface

The “About The Author” page can be either in the beginning pages of the book with the other front matter, or at the end. The dedication however, should be in the beginning pages and inserted before the Preface (Foreword).

#5 Insert the Back Matter; Bibliographies, Notes or Glossaries

The back matter is that information at the end of your book. According to the Kindle Direct Publishing Guidelines the sequence is not that important as long as you insert a page break after each section.

#6 Eliminate Inconsistent Formatting

To start from a clean slate, you will need to fix all the inconsistent formatting in your manuscript. The easiest wat to do this is to “Select All” the text (Ctrl+A) in your manuscript and then select “Normal style” in the styles gallery.

#7 Paragraph Spacing

According to tutsplus.com the optimal line spacing for e-books is 120%. Right click on “Normal style”, Select “Modify”, then open the “Format” drop-down, Select the “Paragraph” Option and change the “At”-spacing to 1.20.

E-books do not typically have line spacing between paragraphs. On the same “Paragraph” Option as described before change the “After”-spacing to 0 pt.

#8 Paragraph Indents

Since e-books have no line spacing between paragraphs, new paragraphs are marked with an indent. The “Story Manuscript Format” template is automatically set to indent the start of each paragraph.

#9 Chapter Page Breaks

Each new chapter needs to start on a new page. You will find the “Page Break” icon under the “Insert” Toolbar. Be sure to insert the page break immediately at the end of the previous chapter.

#10 Save as an HTML File

Your manuscript is now almost ready to be uploaded to Amazon! Save the file as a web page in *.html format. You can now open the file in Google Chrome or Internet Explorer to double-check the consistency of your changes.

@CatandKeyboard Do you feel brave enough after this E-Book Formatting checklist or do you prefer to outsource?

Blogging for Writer Affiliate Networks

Are you writing non-fiction? Consider making some extra income with a blog. Cat and Keyboard covers the;

Blogging for Writer Affiliate Networks, Photo from Flickr
Blogging for Writer Affiliate Networks, Photo from Flickr

Top 9 Writer Affiliate Networks

One of my favorite books was a collection of the best posts from (the now discontinued) Webby-winning Worldchanging blog. So, when I decided to write my own book on the digital nomad life, I decided to blog on digital nomad topics at the same time.

Learning how to use WordPress and do Search Engine Optimisation does require some extra effort. But if your topic can draw a large enough audience, there is extra income to be made from advertising on your blog. And for many authors considering leaving the 9 to 5 to write full time, the extra income comes in very handy.

Making Money with Affiliate marketing

With affiliate marketing visitors to your blog click on a link and get referred to a merchant. You can earn commission on a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) or Pay Per Sale (PPS) basis. Generally, PPS has better commission rates.

For example, if you are writing a book about the 100 best novels to read before you die, then adding Amazon links to each novel on your blog can help you earn commission from Amazon Associates.

 What is an Affiliate Network?

But why just limit yourself to Amazon when there are thousands of merchants that will allow you to earn commission? Rather join an affiliate network. These networks such as Rakuten and ShareASale act as an intermediary between you and several merchants.

You just have to sign up once with the affiliate network and they manage your commission payments from a variety of merchants. Here is a round-up of the best networks for you to consider (With their Alexa Ranks in brackets.)

  1. Amazon Associates (8)
  2. eBay Partner Network (31)
  3. ShareASale/Affiliate Window (1,087)
  4. Rakuten Affiliate Network (2,291)
  5. ClickBank (3,550)
  6. eBay Partner Network (31)
  7. Avangate (8,423)
  8. CJ Affiliate by Conversant (5,680)
  9. Post Affiliate Pro (47,432)

@CatandKeyboard Which of the Writer Affiliate Networks has the merchants you want to advertise on your blog?

Editing and Proofreading by Erna Jo Kritzinger

Need some editing or proofreading for your poetry, fiction or articles? Meet our published poet;

Cat and Keyboard’s Erna Jo Kritzinger.

Erna Jo Kritzinger
Erna Jo Kritzinger

Erna Jo believes the universe is made up of atoms and words and the atoms of words. She reads everything she can put her hands on – yes, even the occasional aerosol can has been scrutinized.

Her strong sense of social justice and belief in the voice of the underdog has lead to many weird, wonderful and often embarrassing adventures, culminating in her qualifying as a family mediator.

She is an independent book dealer and editor of the poetry web page Bloots. Her first collection of poems, Delirium, has been published in Afrikaans in July 2015, wherein she takes an often ironic look at the absurd opera of life in South Africa.

Her work as freelance editor includes fiction, poetry,  and articles in English and Afrikaans. Delirium is available in hard copy and can be ordered from the author at ernajokritzinger@gmail.com

Get a Proofreading or Editing Quote

Contact Erna Jo at catandkeyboard@gmail.com for:

Proofreading and editing of poetry. Afrikaans and English fiction.

Rates: Each job is different and I will evaluate and quote accordingly.

Escaping Corporate: Downshifting Author Life

Are you tired of the corporate grind and wish you can write full-time? Rudolph shares his experience;

Downshifting Author Rudolph at the Rugby
Downshifting Author Rudolph at the Rugby

Living the Downshifting Author Life.

In 2016, I was working as a Risk Specialist for a large corporate here in South Africa. Our new CEO was keen on implementing cost-cutting measures and the risk department was targeted for downsizing.

The uncertainty of potential job cuts was playing havoc with my health. My anxiety levels escalated and I was constantly exhausted. I had body aches and all I wanted to do was sleep; I had all the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Friends and family encouraged me to re-apply for my job and hope for the best. But besides my worsening health, I was uninspired by the monotony of the 9 to 5 grind. I faced a tough decision: Stay and prove my worth with what little energy I had left, or leave corporate life.

I decided to make a clean break and didn’t re-apply for my position. A decision that, now a couple of months later, I am so glad I made.

Working remotely is easier than ever before

My main concern (and certainly my folks’ foremost fear too) was that life outside corporate is not financially viable. Luckily, I had some rental income and savings to cushion my leap.  I could supplement that by starting something entrepreneurial, but there were no guarantees that this would succeed.

Instead, I did some research on online businesses. These have the lowest start-up costs and the best potential for a global audience. The more research I did, the clearer it became that the “Gig” economy is fast becoming the new normal. If I had a marketable skill, there were thousands of opportunities for making money online.

Self-Publishing in the Multiple Income-Stream Mix

My brother was writing a book last year while I was facing these tough decisions. He is smart, but not tech savvy, so I decided to help him in his quest to self-publish.

My new knowledge regarding self-publishing and research on the digital nomad life prompted me to start writing my own non-fiction manuscript. I’m not published on Amazon yet, but I hope to have “Escaping Corporate: 101 Tips from Digital Nomads and Downshifters” published in April 2017.

Cheap Destinations are an Author’s Best Friend

I’ve been devoting most of my time to writing “Escaping Corporate” and learning new freelancing skills. With the “All-In-One Dummies” guides and online courses from the ShawAcademy.com I have been able to fast-track my learning.

Yes, I could apply for a desk job again. But, working remotely is an amazing change. I can work from anywhere in the world with a Wi-Fi connection; the internet connection is important for researching my book and for my freelancing gigs.

Working remotely from somewhere cheap seems to be a great option. Mexico, Thailand and India are all very affordable and a good choice if you want to spend more time writing and less on earning freelancing income. I’m not sure why more people don’t follow this lifestyle. Leaving the 9 to 5 to live the downshifting author life is achievable and joyful lifestyle option.

@CatandKeyboard Have you considered writing full-time? What scares you the most about making the leap to Downshifting Author Life?

Rudolph has been blogging about Digital Nomad and Downshifting life on his blog NomadicYou.com

Simple Book Cover Design Tips

Books are judged by their covers. Create your own book cover that gives an emotional hit. Cat and Keyboard lists these;

Book cover design tips your cat will approve of
Book cover design tips your cat will approve of

Seven Easy Book Cover Design Tips for Self-Publishers

An eye-catching book cover is certain to help you get sales. Many authors find it worthwhile to get professional assistance for a slick cover. But, if you are testing the self-publishing waters, then it is tough to know if a $300 plus initial outlay will be right for you.

The good news is creating a cover for e-books is not that difficult, and there are plenty of free resources to keep the cost down. But, be honest with yourself first. Do you have a good eye and the time to spare? If so, Cat and Keyboard has these simple steps for you;

#1 Research some Best Sellers

Head over to Amazon and have a look at the cover designs of the top selling books in your genre. Some of the designs may not appeal to you. But try to be objective and judge each cover design on its merits.

Pay attention to the lesser known authors (famous authors just have to paste their names in bold on the cover to gain sales). Or use Pinterest to compare great designs.

#2 Create a Mood Board

Google to the rescue once again; Google Images is a good resource to find royalty free images. On the Google Images home page,

  • Select “Settings” on the bottom-right of your screen
  • Select “Advanced Search”
  • Next to “Usage Rights”, Select “Free to use, share or modify, even commercially”
  • Decide on your search term and select “Advanced Search”

You’ll likely find some great images that you can use for free and that only require you to attribute the photographer. Compile your searched images in a mood board to compare and select the perfect background and foreground images.

#3 Decide on a Title and Sub-Title

Your research on Amazon in Step 1 should help guide you on the types of titles that will appeal to readers. (Look out for some Title selection guidelines on Cat and Keyboard soon).

DigitalDonna.com gives this good advice on the title and author name placement: Traditionally when designing a cover for a book, the title goes at the top in a large font, the subtitle smaller below and the author’s name in a different font at the bottom.

#4 Planning your cover; Less is more

Readers will see your e-book cover on Amazon and Smashwords in thumbnail-size first. Huffingtonpost.com suggests you ask yourself these questions; Does it pop? Can you read the title? Does it make you want to click?

For your first attempt, it is best to go for a clean, clear and simple design. Make sure that the title is in a font that is easily legible and that the background image is not too busy to distract from the title.

#5 Sign up for Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop is the de facto industry standard for composing images. And you can download a free 30-day trial! You’ll need to register with your credit card details. (And remember to cancel after the 30 days if you don’t want to be billed)

Your cover in Photoshop will consist of multiple layers, for example;

  • A background layer: A background image such as a landscape, texture or color fill.
  • Layer 1: A foreground image (optional); An object that is placed on the background.
  • Layer 2: Text; Title, subtitle, and author name

#6 Working with Photoshop

There are plenty of YouTube videos to help you guide you in working with Photoshop. Once done, you must save the final image in JPEG format. Here are the tools you’ll need to use;

  • The crop tool allows you to select a particular area of an image and discard the portions not chosen. A height of 1600 pixels and a width of 1000 pixels works well for Amazon.
  • You will need the selection tools to cut part of an image for your foreground image.
  • Use the adjustment layers to add color and tonal adjustments to your image.

#7 Get some impartial opinions

Don’t fall into the trap of becoming personally attached to a certain concept or design. Your safest bet is to create a couple of versions and get some unbiased opinions on which version readers prefer. Your Facebook author page is a good place to get some opinions. You can even do a poll!

@CatandKeyBoard What catches your eye when browsing books on Amazon? Have any Book Cover Design Tips of your own to share?

Self-Publishing Checklist for your first Book

Self-publishing is easier than ever before. Get your book on Amazon and Smashwords with this;

Self-Publishing Checklist Photo by kitty.green66
Self-Publishing Checklist Photo by kitty.green66

17 Step Self-Publishing Checklist

Whether you are considering a new career as an author or just a once-off novel, many authors are choosing to go the self-publishing route; The latest Bowker Report finds that more than 700,000 books were self-published in the U.S. in 2015.

Cat and Keyboard has this quick checklist explaining the path to publishing success:

e-Book Publishing Steps

#1 Decide on a Genre

#2 Write your Book

#3 Have your manuscript edited

#4 Format your manuscript for e-publishing

#5 Design an eye-catching e-book cover

#6 Create a copyright page

#7 Decide whether you will use a pseudonym

#8 Price your e-book and open a Paypal account

#9 Place your e-book for sale on Amazon and Smashwords

#10 Have an Author (headshot) photo taken

#11 Create an author page on Amazon and Smashwords

e-Book Marketing Steps

#12 Creating a sales blurb for (400 character/80 word)

#13 Write a 4000 character/800 word long description

#14 Create a website (WordPress) sales page

#15 Advertise on a Facebook page

#16 Request reader reviews to boost sales

#17 Promote your e-book on Goodreads

What Income can I make from an e-book?

Amazon represents roughly 70% of the e-book market and you will earn more royalties (i.e. 70%) if you price your e-book between $2.99 and $9.99. If you price your e-book outside this range, you will only earn 35% royalties.

In the U.S. adult fiction e-books represents 21% of the market versus 23% for fiction print books. For non-fiction; adult e-books make up 6% of the market vs 42% for non-fiction print books.

Going to print for more sales

If you market your e-book well and get good reviews, a successful self-published e-book could help you convince a publisher to put your book into print.

According to Berrett-Koehler Publishers, the average U.S. nonfiction book is now selling less than 250 copies per year and less than 2,000 copies over its lifetime. However, you can beat the average by researching a trending topic and leveraging your digital channels for sales, marketing, and community building.

@CatandKeyboard What is your first book about? Does the self-publishing checklist sound daunting or are you raring to go?

Beat distraction with these remote working author tips

What to do when faced with energy draining distractions? Finish that novel with these;

Impress your cat with these remote working productivity tips. Photo: Flickr
Impress your cat with these remote working productivity tips. Photo: Flickr

Top 10 remote working author tips.

If you don’t already have an ambitious, rigidly organized, proactive, and time-management centred Type A personality, then this list is for all you dreamers!

From dealing with distractions to maintaining your creativity, Cat and Keyboard has this advice:

1.    Plan the night before

Avoid those mornings umming and ahing in front of your laptop, by planning the night before. Jot down a couple of ideas and structure notes that need your attention in the morning. This will free your mind from dwelling on outstanding tasks and you will be able to have a relaxing eve. Although, some people just use alcohol for this?

2.    Start early, but have an end-time

With your list of tasks in hand, you’re bound to get tons done in the morning. All those “early bird” sayings can’t be wrong; or it could just be the power of caffeine.

As useful is to decide on a closing-time for your day’s work. Maintaining a work-life balance is tough for the workaholics out there. Also, having a closing-time will help you stay focused.

3.    Silence your mobile everything

You’ll be far less distracted if you don’t get a twitter notification every time someone likes one of your tweets. Go to your “Profile and Settings” and disable your email and web notifications.

The same goes for Facebook; turn off the email notifications and the App requests and activity under “Notification Settings”. You won’t know when friends log onto Angry Birds, but you will survive.

4.    Avoiding distractions from your laptop

While on Facebook also remember to turn off those Chrome notifications in the corner of your computer screen. You can take things a step further by only having one tab open at a time. Of course, there is an App for that!

  • Freedom for blocking distracting websites.
  • Cold Turkey for blocking distraction free periods.
  • StayFocusd to allocate yourself a maximum number of minutes per day for distracting sites.

5.    Stay out of the kitchen

Apparently, the Jamie Oliver’s out there can get carried away whipping up a meal or baking away for hours. If this sounds like you, then try to prepare some snacks before you get started.  Preparing the night before, will be optimal if you are at your most productive in the morning.

6.    Take breaks and naps

The Pomodoro technique suggests you set a timer to work in 25 minute bursts, then have a short break. Taking frequent breaks can keep your energy levels up during the day.

For some, the best medicine for that post-lunch slump is a guilt free afternoon siesta. The joy of remote working is not being too far from your comfortable bed.

7.    Creative surroundings

If you are remote working from home, try to change things up by working from a coffee shop or library. This should boost your creativity.

8.    Keep your sanity with some human interaction

Loneliness is one of the biggest draw-backs of working from home and your wellbeing will suffer if you are on your laptop for long-periods of time. Be sure to interact with those around you. Besides, you may come across a fascinating character for your next novel!

9.    Be flexible and move around

You’ll know when you’ve hit a wall with your project. The benefit of not having a boss watching you across the room, is that you don’t need to push forth. Alternate the mental exertion of your project with some physical exertion. Do some laundry, go for a run or just move around a bit.

10. Leave calls (and social media) for the afternoon

Make no mistake, our obsession with Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire. But, poking and liking won’t get you to your goals. Assuming you are more productive in the mornings, this time is best reserved for work rather than calls or social media.

@CatandKeyboard How do you find balance between work and play? Which of these remote working author tips are you already using?

Professional editing and manuscript evaluation

You’ve overcome writer’s block and emotional breakdown to finally complete your book. Now get some help with editing and manuscript evaluation before launching on Amazon.

Editing and manuscript evaluation by Loukie
Editing and manuscript evaluation by Loukie

I’m not sure if my novel works?

It is sometimes tough to see the flaws in your own work and unlikely that your husband is going to give you honest feedback.

That is why manuscript evaluation by an experienced author or editor can make all the difference. Manuscript evaluation will give you the constructive advice you need to fill the holes.

I finished my manuscript, what next?

Whether you are considering self-publishing or submitting to one of the publishing houses you will need;

  • Editing to improve the flow and overall quality of your writing.
  • Proofreading to check for spelling errors, punctuation errors, typos or incorrect English usage

Need some help?

I created catandkeyboard.com as an interface for connecting with people who need proofreading, editing and manuscript evaluation done.

Get in touch and be one step closer to releasing a quality novel to appreciative readers.

-Loukie

 

proofread, edit, manuscript evaluation