Last Friday was Angry Sheep Publishing's first anniversary. Here's the breakdown of the year in numbers of books sold along with my thoughts for each month. (Please note: I have NOT included any books I gave away for free!)
Total books sold April of 2011 - 6
I released the novella Seasons of Magick: Spring the last weekend of the month.
Total books sold May of 2011 - 28
I released the novel Blood Magick at the end of the month. At this point, I'm looking at what I call the "Friends & Family" buys. I'm merely acknowledging the source of the sales. I'm not dissing the folks supporting me at this point because without them I wouldn't be doing what I love.
Total books sold June of 2011 - 21
Amazon discounted a lot of traditionally published books in order to prove a point to the Big Six. I wasn't the only one to see a slow down in sales.
Total books sold July of 2011 - 30
I released the novel Zombie Love at the beginning of the month.
Total books sold August of 2011 - 22
I released my non-fiction book Creating a Business Plan for the Indie Writer in the middle of the month. While I gave away forty copies of the non-fiction, fiction sales slowed for most indie writers because of another major sale at Amazon, this time with the Big Six's cooperation. It's been the one time since I started indie publishing that I really worried.
Total books sold September of 2011 - 15
This slow down I can blame on no one but myself. I did no promotion and no writing because of an outside project that, with hindsight, I realize I should not have taken.
Total books sold October of 2011 - 25
I released the novella Seasons of Magick: Summer in the middle of the month. Sales picked up, and I promoted, but sales weren't where I wanted them to be. This started a major debate between me and my support team over what constituted an effective cover.
Total books sold November of 2011 - 14
Seasons of Magick: Summer was re-released with a new cover and a new title, Die for Me. As you can see, sales tanked again, but I wasn't sure if it was the new cover alone or the Christmas Crazies in the retail world.
Total books sold December of 2011 - 23
Looking at the day-to-day sales data, I realized most of my sales were late November and early December. i.e. during Thanksgiving Break for most schools. I hoped to release the novel Zombie Wedding in time to capitalize on Christmas Break also. Because of extra hours at the Day Job for holiday staff coverage, Zombie Wedding was not released until New Year's Eve. Also, every other title of mine sold at least one copy except for Die for Me.
Total books sold January of 2012 - 26
Seasons of Magick: Summer was re-released with its original title and cover. While three more sales may not seem significant, I started to get communications from fans. For me, this was the greatest achievement!
Total books sold February of 2012 - 84
The first week of the month, I released a novella under a pseudonym since it was a radical departure from my other releases. I also started a cross-promotion plan with another author. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of both experiments.
Total books sold March of 2012 - 132
I released the novella Seasons of Magick: Autumn at the end of the month. I shifted down on promotion because I needed the writing time, but the efforts of February started to pay off.
There's lots of things other indie writers have done to spur sales. So why haven't I tried certain things like like giving away novels or signing up for the Kindle Lending Library?
I want slow, steady growth based on people who give my books a try, love my writing and come back for more. The last thing I want is to be a flash in the pan. Other methods work for other writers. This is my personal vision.
As I write this post, it is shortly after midnight on April 30th, 2012. Ten days ago, I released my fourth novel, Amish, Vamps & Thieves. When I checked a few minutes ago, I had sold 168 books from a list of nine titles across six retailers.
And you know what? I'm pretty damn satisfied with my progress.
I was reviewing some changes that my webmistress had made on my website this morning when I realized something. Today's the one-year anniversary since I uploaded my first story and officially entered the world of self-publishing.
Things have changed so much in the publishing industry. Last April, I got a lot of flack from traditionally published friends. I got a lot of support from friends braving this new world. And I got a bit of 'Are you insane?' from writers who hadn't published at all.
And now? Other than a smart-ass comment someone wasn't brave enough to say to my face last month, every writer I know is looking at ALL their options. I truly believe the freedom to find one's best path is a wonderful thing.
As for me, pushing the 'Publish' button for Seasons of Magick: Spring is the scariest thing I've done. And It's been the most rewarding. Since that April evening last year, I've published four novels, three novellas under my name, one novella under a pseudonym, and one non-fiction business guide.
The really cool thing is people are buying my books. And liking them! The same books that agents and editors told me over and over again weren't worthy of being published.
I'm writing new stuff and loving the writing process again. And people are buying those books. And liking them!
The best part is I've gone from thinking of indie publishing as a grand experiment to planning out what I have to do to make a living at this. And I'm close to my new goal. So damn close I can taste it.
Last August, I did a blog series over at Indie University on how to write business plan. Many folks were jumping on the self-publishing band wagon, but have never owned their own business before. So, Diane Holmes talked me into sharing my experience in business formation.
(Not that she had to twist my arm or anything. *grin*)
But so much has happened in the last eight months. There's been the free/$0.99 backlash by readers. The DOJ lawsuit against Apple and five of the Big Six. The rights grab by publishers forcing more established writers into the indie model.
So I've updated Creating a Business Plan for the Indie Writer by adding some new information, expanding on some sections, and adding some of my personal successes and failures over the last year.
The main topic of conversation lately in several of the
blogs I follow is the profitability of a book. If you’re an indie author, at
what point does your book become profitable?
Some writers only include their out of pocket costs. But a
lot of folks want to include an hourly wage for their time spent writing the
book, as if they are working in a factory making widgets. This is work-for-hire
Frankly, I don’t think an hourly wage per book is the
appropriate correlation. Indie publishing is more like investing in the stock
market. When you buy stocks, do you look at the time spent reading reports and
studying graphs as work you should be compensated for? No, you look at the end result you want to achieve. Buy stock
in Coca-Cola, Inc., today, and you’ll be looking at dividends versus the growth
in value of the stocks themselves, not the time you spent on the john reading their latest annual report.
Or a better example would be a corporation’s CEO. Does
he/she take a salary? In most cases, they receive a token amount, like Jeff
Bezos of Amazon, who receives $86,000 annually. The bulk of their compensation
comes in other forms, such as stock options, which is why Mr. Bezos is worth a
few hundred million.
In other words, you need to look at the big picture
and adjust your thinking accordingly. Do you want to be the CEO or the worker
bee making $10/hour?
Amish, Vamps & Thieves, the fourth book in the Bloodlines series, is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. I had a lot of fun with this story since it's set practically in my back yard.
Anne Levy was forced to leave her tight-knit community many
years ago, when she was attacked by rogue vampires and turned. When her brother
calls her home to investigate the bizarre mutilations taking place in the area,
she is confronted with the difference between her pacifist Amish upbringing and
her current life as an enforcer for the Augustine Vampire Coven.
She’s also confronted with Colin Fitzgerald—a hot local
lawyer trying to find the killer despite her objections—who makes her desire a
life she couldn’t possibly have. Not with him. Not without robbing him of the
normal life she still yearns for.
But as the killer moves from animal mutilations to human, it
becomes clear this is an entity unknown to humans or the paranormal community
at large, and even Anne isn’t sure how to find or destroy it. She and Colin
must catch the killer before it takes any more victims while keeping their
feelings for each other at bay. But is the monster really after the local
farmers or someone else entirely? And even if they can save the day and each
other, how is Anne supposed to save Colin from herself?
Novel, approximately 76,000 words or 253 printed pages
I'm neck deep in some work that I'll announce tomorrow.
In the meantime...
Stacey Purcell, one of the lovely muses at Musetracks, talks about indie writers who are making a living. She'd asked me for some help and some numbers. I'm not quite there yet, but I made enough last month to replace GK's Xbox that crashed and burned two days after Christmas.
Also, publishing gurus Kristine Kathryn Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith have both posted insights to their change in stance regarding indie and trad publishing. Just a year ago, they both advocated a balance between the two. That's no longer the case, and they tell why.
Yesterday, someone on a private loop said something that I hear writers of all ilks fretting about--another writer is selling better than them.
Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to other writers? Someone may be years ahead of us. We compare. Someone may write in a totally unrelated genre. We compare. Our friend Joanne in England hits the writing lottery. We compare.
Therein lies the way to madness, my friends.
You'll end up destroying your relationships with that ugly green-eyed monster whispering in your ear. Ignore her. Now.
The only thing you need to focus on is your own goals. Do you need to write a novella in between novels to keep your readers interested? Write it. Do you want to improve your writing speed? Time yourself and practice. Do you need a professional editor because you failed grammar five times in high school? Hire one.
Focus on things you can actually do, not on things you have no control over. You cannot make people buy your book.
What you can do is write the best damn book you can.
The rest of your worries? The word you're looking for is "self-sabotage."
The best piece of writing advice I ever received came from a high school buddy. Don't get in your own way while following your dream.
Last week, I was at the cafe writing. Or trying to. The current wip is hitting a dark emotional place, which is so unlike my normal snarky style. I wasn't stuck. It just felt like I waded through waist-deep mud to reach each word.
Then a gentleman sat down at the table next to mine. I swear to cow, this guy could have been Daniel Craig's brother. Same chiseled jaw and cheek bones. Same piercing blue eyes. He was a shade taller than Daniel, not quite so wide in the shoulders. But damn, he definitely could have made a living as a celebrity look-alike.
He caught me staring. I gave him an embarrassed smile and tried to focus on my laptop screen. About then, his two kids came up to him with trays. They'd collected the food while Dad had grabbed a table.
It was the little things about the family that grabbed my attention. My Craig look-alike wore a a very simple silver wedding band, but a Rolex adorned his wrist. He looked casual in khaki shorts, a polo and sandals, but the clothing was too expensive, well-made, to be from the Walmart down the street. He may not have been born with money, but he wasn't impressed by it either.
His son would have his features when he grew up, but for now the boy carried a hint of roundness. And like his father, the son was quiet, contemplative. His daughter also bore his genes in the high cheekbones, but her expressive dark eyes softened the sharp features. Her personality sparkled and zipped, quite the opposite of her father's quiet assurance.
What kind of person was his wife? She obviously had to work on Good Friday from the kids' chatter. How long had they been together? Who made the first move? Were they still happy, or at least content with their lives?
Finally, the family left. But my Craig look-alike give me one more curious glance as he herded the kids toward the door. Goddess, only knows what he was thinking about me, in my knit shorts and Corvette t-shirt, sitting alone with only a laptop for company.
And for some strange reason, I was no longer slogging through mud, but skipping and prancing through the next two thousand words.
Look at the power of books! The Hunger Games opened to the third best ever weekend (never mind it was released during the off-season)-$155 million. So far, the movie based on the book by Suzanne Collins has grossed $248.5 million in the U.S. alone. Scholastic Books has printed another 12.5 million units in 2012 alone!
Now look at how to screw your fanbase: Pottermore is STILL in Beta. Come on, Sony! Not even Bill Gates has screwed up a launch this bad. On the plus side, the Harry Potter series is FINALLY available as e-books at the reasonable price of $7.99. On the minus side, it's a pain in the arse to get one loaded on your e-reader.
AAP announced net sales were up for January, print book sales are still diving and e-books made another significant jump. The only problem is that AAP CAN'T account for the indie e-books. If they could, the e-book sales jump would be a lot bigger than the 50% they reported.
Bertelsmann, the German privately-owned corporation that owns Random House, announced its earnings for 2011. It wasn't the earnings that caught people's eyes, but the CEO's statement that they were "...accelerating the transformation to digital of our core businesses." It'll be interesting to see if there will be a shake-up at RH for execs who didn't jump on the e-book train fast enough. [Edit to add: Here's the link to Richard Alan Dickson's analysis on DWS's blog.]
In an interesting twist to the DOJ investigation (but not so surprising if you've been reading my blog), Mark Coker told the DOJ that book prices on Smashwords have fallen. Which IS true because indies (which is what Smashwords deals almost exclusively with) can undercut the bigger houses on price thanks to lower overhead. Y'all know my stand--Agency is the best thing that ever happened to indies!
Speaking of the DOJ, I'm really wondering if their case against Apple and five of the largest publishers is that solid. Because if it was, they would be filing their case against the alleged co-conspirators, NOT TRYNG IT IN THE COURT OF PUBLIC OPINION VIA THE WALL STREET JOURNAL!!
And while we're on the subject of newspapers, why is the NYT freaking out over kids self-publishing? Why does Tom Robbins feel threatened? Seriously, who the hell cares if a fourteen-year-old wrote and published his book? Can't you people pick on someone your own size?
No wonder the publishing industry is so screwed up.