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Banker becomes millionaire in writing novels

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Former banker Shayne Silvers has hit the jackpot in novel writing.

Although he has only focused full time on writing since 2017, the Nixa-based author already has hit the million-dollar mark in book sales.

Silvers has penned over 20 books, including two best-selling supernatural thriller series, titled “The Nate Temple Series” and “Feathers and Fire.”

Just two years ago, he was building his career in banking.

“I don’t actually see this as work,” Silvers said of his new job. “I’m having fun with it. It’s not a chore.”

Silvers, who self-publishes his books on Amazon through Kindle Direct Publishing, grossed $1.2 million in 2018, he said. That’s more than double his $500,000 in book revenue earned in his first year.

He’s been able to publish 12-15 books in e-book and paperback formats, with plans for up to 20 titles this year.

Turning the page
While he’s had a love of reading since childhood, Silvers never envisioned becoming an author.

He started in the banking industry in 2010 as a teller at a Springfield branch of Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC), while enrolled at Missouri State University. By 2013, Silvers earned his bachelor’s degree in finance and took a job as a credit analyst for Great Southern Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: GSBC).

He moved up the ladder at the bank to commercial loan officer – a position he held upon moving in 2015 to the Nixa branch of Southern Missouri Bancorp Inc. (Nasdaq: SMBC).

“I loved banking and I had a lot of fun doing it,” he said.

However, he realized writing was where the money is for him.

In 2012, he wrote his first book, “Obsidian Sun,” the debut of his popular Nate Temple wizard character.

It was published through KDP, which Amazon launched in 2007. Silvers said he’s currently working on the 12th book of the supernatural thriller series, “Knightmare.”

It wasn’t until late 2015 that Silvers published his second book. He was bitten by the writing bug, but it wasn’t until 2017 before Silvers decided to leave the banking industry. He turned in his notice on April Fools’ Day that year.

“My boss wasn’t sure if I was teasing him or not,” he said.

Silvers’ early books had become enough of a success that he no longer saw it financially viable to continue in banking. While still working at Southern Bank, he routinely monitored his online book sales every morning before work.

“They had already made five times more than I would after a full day of banking,” Silvers said.

“After about six months of that, I realized it wasn’t that I didn’t love banking. It literally wasn’t as worthwhile as sitting down and writing more books.”

Business of books
Much like Silvers’ writing output, the self-publishing industry on a whole is on the rise.

In 2017, self-published titles surpassed the 1 million mark for the first time, increasing 28 percent from the prior year, according to Bowker, a provider of bibliographic information and the official International Standard Book Numbers agency for the U.S.

Chuck Kronbach, Amazon’s director of independent publishing worldwide, said via email authors earned more than $260 million in 2018 through the Kindle Direct Publishing Select Global Fund. The fund allows authors to earn higher royalties when customers read books from its subscription program, Kindle Unlimited. He said that’s in addition to hundreds of thousands of authors who choose to self-publish their books through KDP, earning up to 70% of their royalties while retaining the rights to their work.

Kronbach said more than a thousand authors surpassed $100,000 in royalties in 2018 through KDP.

One of those authors is Silvers, who said he typically prices his e-books at $6-$7. After Amazon’s 30 percent is subtracted, Silvers nets $4-$5 per book sold. He released book No. 11 in his Nate Temple series in December, which he said brought in about $35,000 in revenue that month. His total revenue for the month among all his books was approximately $110,000, he said.

There are no fees to self-publish through KDP, but Silvers said it costs $500-$1,500 to have it professionally edited, and another $500-$1,000 for the cover art.

“You can do it much cheaper than that if you’re willing to sacrifice quality a little bit,” he said, noting Amazon has how-to guides and videos to guide people through the uploading process.

For Silvers, the publishing process involves hiring an editor to get an objective opinion, but he also has a team of 400 people who receive advance copies for review.

“That’s to make sure there’s no hiccups that the editor might have missed,” he said.

When it comes time to promote the book after launching, Silvers has an email list of about 25,000 people, along with multiple Facebook pages that have around 37,000 fans combined.

Silvers expects to sell over $2 million in books this year. He was unsuccessful in getting his first book to market through a publishing company back in 2012 and now realizes self-publishing on Amazon was the right path.

“The way I see it, I can keep 70% of my revenue and publish it right now or I can fight tooth and nail and go to a New York Times typical traditional publisher and maybe keep 8-10% of book sales,” he said. “I went with Amazon and laughed all the way and never looked back.”

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