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A hard-boiled detective story with a difference - Grimalkin is not your usual PI. Four legs, whiskers and a tail, perfect night vision and a talent for breaking and entering .... and a track record of crazy dames trying to kill him. He is also the only cat in history with a clown phobia. The case takes an even weirder twist when it becomes clear that a power-crazed parrot is calling all the shots. Sam Spade never had to deal with hysterical gerbil witnesses, pirate assassins or death by custard.

At 10,250 words in length, this is the first in a series of short stories featuring a very unconventional Private Investigator....

Author Topic: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!  (Read 74169 times)  

Online anniejocoby

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Augh! I really hate doing this, because I'm not, by nature, a braggart, and I feel that I'm going to make myself a target for bad reviews. That said, I feel that I have a lot of good information to impart to those who are struggling. Because that was me my first few months.

Short bit about me. I published my first novel, Beautiful Illusions, on June 22 of 2013. I published the second novel, Deeper Illusions, on the same day. That was my strategy for getting a little foothold - make the first book free, and hope that the fans go on to buy the second one in the series. At that time, I had no Facebook page, no Twitter page, no Internet presence, no blog, no fans, and little confidence in my ability to find an audience. I could barely get my friends interested in reading my books, let alone anybody else. I literally was on food stamps and giving plasma for money, because I made all of $9000 from my writing jobs in the year 2013. I enrolled both books in KDP Select, and made Beautiful Illusions free for four days. I somehow was able to give away around 5000 books that weekend without publicity, and went on to sell about 160 books of Deeper Illusions in the month of July.

And then...crickets. I sold about one Beautiful Illusions a day after that fast start, even though it was only .99, and about one Deeper Illusions every other day at $2.99. I got quite discouraged about this, but kept on writing so that I could finish the trilogy. I published the third book in the trilogy around the end of September, which sold all of about 10 copies on the first day it was out. To say that I was struggling would be understating the matter.

Things started to turn around when I took all the books out of KDP Select and made Beautiful Illusions permafree, which happened towards the beginning of October of 2013. I sold 400 books that month, between Deeper Illusions and End of Illusions, which was four times more than I had ever sold before.  And then, in November, I got a BookBub ad, and thought that I hit the pinnacle. I sold almost 3400 books that month across all channels, which still included Smashwords for Nook and Apple, etc. My earnings was around $10,000 that month. Woo hoo! I was able to quit my day job when I got paid in February!

Since then, as you can tell from my sig, I completed another series. Once again, that series stalled until I made Broken permafree. I made the mistake of putting Broken into KDP Select when I published it, because I wanted to take advantage of a Freebooksy ad that I paid for. And the other books in the Broken series sold okay, mainly on Amazon.com, and very little in Britain and other places. But I sold my other paid books pretty well, ever since November of last year - anywhere between 1500 books and 2800 books a month across all channels, from November until April.

May was my breakthrough month. I got another BookBub ad for Beautiful Illusions, which definitely helped. But what really made the difference was that Broken was made permafree. Since then, my sales of the Broken books have literally skyrocketed, in the UK especially - I started making more than $1500 a month just from Kobo, most of that my Broken books, not my Illusions books, and on Amazon UK, I started making around $1500 a month just from them as well. Saving Scotty zoomed to around #600 on Amazon.uk, and stayed in the top #1000 there for well over a month. My Illusions series might have been the one that was boosted with a BookBub ad in May, but the Broken series has been the serious cash cow. It has taken on a life of its own, without much publicity - I haven't been able to BookBub Broken at all. They've turned me down every time I have asked, which has been about 7 times now. :( My earnings in May were $18,500 across all channels. My earnings in June were around $24,000 across all channels. So far, in July, I have made around $6000 across all channels.

Anyhow...enough about me. I'm thrilled to be successful, and hope that it lasts. But that wasn't why I am writing this. I want to give advice for struggling newbies who are losing confidence and hope. Don't lose the faith, and keep believing in yourself, and the fans will come.

And...for the more nitty gritty on what I have learned this past year, and it is a ton!!!! These pieces of advice are in no particular order. I'm just going to write them as I think of them.

1) Permafree, permafree, permafree. No matter how many times you might read this, at least for me, .99 is NOT the new free. I couldn't get arrested when my first books in the series were .99. No promo worked to move any copies at all. Once I went permafree, and especially after I was able to score a couple of BookBub ads, things came together.

2) Don't set it and forget it (the permafree I mean). Permafree is never a "set it and forget it" strategy. What happened with me was that, initially, I had thousands of downloads of the permafree, and that will happen the first week or so that you have it free because it is visible.

And then, just like that, my downloads crashed and burned to 20 a day. I got soooo discouraged about that, thinking "welp, so much for that strategy. I'm out of ideas now." Because, obviously, 20 downloads a day isn't going to sustain your series. Especially since, at first, I was only getting a 4% conversion rate (it's up to 25% now).

I was lucky enough to get a BookBub ad to get it going again, but most of you won't be so lucky. What I would do when your downloads inevitably crash is to get a Freebooksy ad. Basically, when your book falls out of the top 1000 or the top 100 in your sub-category, get the $100 Freebooksy ad. But you can't do that all the time, as it will lose its effectiveness. So, when the books falls out of the top 1000 again, try BookSends or another service before you go back to Freebooksy. And apply for BookBub often. It certainly doesn't hurt to dream!

3) Write in a series, but, even more important, if you have more than one series make them interrelated. My Illusions series had a protagonist named Ryan whose best friend is Nick. Nick was very prominent in all these books. Then Nick got his own series, Broken, and Ryan was featured a lot in those books. The beauty of this is that the series both sell backwards and forwards. The fans who jump in reading the Broken series get to know Ryan, then I put at the end of every Broken book that they need to be sure to read the Illusions series to get to know Ryan more. Same thing with the Illusions books. The goal was to get the fans reading all the books, and that has worked well.

4)Don't ignore other sales channels. It takes awhile to get established at Nook, Kobo and Apple, so be patient. It's easy to get impatient and reason that you're losing borrows over at KDP, and pull your books from other channels, but that, IMHO, is a big mistake - I have found that, once I got a foothold at those other channels, I've been pretty sticky in all of them. Of course, in the last few months, the sales have exploded across these channels - I made $24,000 last month, and only $14,000 of that, or so, was from the Amazon channels. So, yeah, if I was in KDP Select, I not only wouldn't have a permafree, but I would be missing out on $10,000 of income. And the sales on those other channels continue to be hot - I've already made as much on Apple this month as I have on Amazon, which is around $1400 from each of those channels. Also, you never know where you might pick up your next SUPERFAN - the one who will spread your gospel far and wide. That fan might just come from Nook or Apple, and, before you know it, you're soaring.

5) Related to the above - just say "no" to aggregators. The reason behind this is simple - it takes a few minutes of pain to upload to Nook and Kobo, but it is sooo worth it, just because you shouldn't have to give up 10% of your income to somebody else. Look at it this way - I sold around 1500 books on Nook last month. If I would have gone through D2D or somebody else, I would have give up around $600 to the aggregators, $600 that I could have in my pocket - ON JUST ONE CHANNEL IN JUST ONE MONTH! Now, if I would have went through Kobo on an aggregator as well, that's another $600 or so gone. It doesn't take that long, and I love the Nook and Kobo interface. They're both simplistic and elegant and you can see everything right there. The caveat - other countries where you cannot upload directly to Nook or whatever, use D2D. Never touch Smashwords. I've had wayyyy too many problems with Smashwords to ever want to do business with them again. Another story for another day. Another caveat - Apple. They've made things too painful, and I don't have a Mac, but I'm tempted to buy a Mac just so that I can upload directly to them. It would be worth it in the end if I keep selling well over there. And, of course, if you want to have a free book on Nook, you HAVE to use an aggregator. Again, use D2D. Never Smashwords. It took well over 6 WEEKS from the time that I published Broken on Smashwords for Broken to appear on Nook - and that was only because I FINALLY WAS ABLE TO PUBLISH IT ON D2D. It took D2D a matter of days for Broken to appear on Nook, where it never did get there through Smashwords. Ugh. Just say no to Smashwords.

6) Write, publish, repeat. I know, you've heard it before, but, really, there's no substitute for butt-in-chair-hands-on-keyboard time. I have a goal now of one full length novel published every two months, and it has been sooo important for me to stick to that goal. My next one will be out in a week or so, which is almost exactly two months after my last one was published. The next one will be no more than two months after that. Etc. It keeps the momentum for the fans, and, of course, the more books you have published, the more you will sell. And the greater chance that you might hit it out of the park. Babe Ruth once said that every strike out brings him closer to his next home run, and that's the way you have to look at it. It's a numbers game.

7) You don't have to be Shakespeare. My first book was, and is, seriously flawed. I used soap opera plot points instead of delving into emotions, there wasn't a coherent story, and I threw in everything but the kitchen sink. Still, it ENTERTAINED enough to get me going. I will have to admit that my second series is objectively better - more coherent, more poignant, and there are actual themes in these books. Which is no doubt why that series has taken on a life of it's own, where I still have to constantly push my Illusions series. But, the bottom line is, to entertain. You don't necessarily have to have a Dickensian way with words as long as the readers keep turning the pages.

8) Fool around with different stuff until you hit your sweet spot. I mean, I'm allergic to marketing. Hate it. HATE IT. But it only takes a few minutes to apply to BookBub, and it's not that expensive when you look at the ROI. And Freebooksy - I'm a fan! A HUGE fan! They will literally take anyone, so, if BookBub turns you down, try them out! I have always had an AMAZING ROI with them, and they've been a great help to me, especially since BookBub keeps turning down any book of mine not named Beautiful Illusions.

9) Cliffhangers WORK! Readers say they hate them, and I've gotten plenty of one stars for my cliffhanger on Broken. But Broken has a 25% read-through rate, even though the second book in that series is $4.99. So don't be afraid of the cliffhanger.


10) Most of all, believe in yourself. Don't give up because you are having a hard time getting going and the sales just aren't coming. Believe in yourself and your abilities and stories and keep on keeping on. You might not be successful, but you definitely won't be if you give up.

I'm going to be at the RWA National Conference at the end of this month, where I hope to pick up enough tips to make it to the next level - bestsellerdom! I have faith that I can, and you should too! So, hit me up if you see me there. I love to talk to anybody at all! :)

Until then, peace! If you want to ask me any questions at all, message me. I'll also be checking this thread throughout the day.






« Last Edit: July 11, 2014, 10:01:43 AM by anniejocoby »

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Offline C. Gockel

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Thank you for sharing your success!


I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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Online anniejocoby

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Thank you for sharing your success!

Aw, you're welcome! I'm just glad that I can pay it forward, because this board has been a GODSEND to me!!! :)

Two dollars! Two dollars! I want my two dollars!!!
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Offline Lisa Grace

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Bookmarked. Excellent advice, and congratulations. :)
 
Angel books in movie development
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Offline Navigator

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This is seriously inspiring and gives me hope my first serial will at, the very least, be decent.

Thank you very much for sharing!

Offline cadle-sparks

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That's great! It happened fast for you.

I can't hear good advice too often. (Series. Keep publishing, try this and that until you find the combo of free/paid/ads that works for you. Gotcha.)

I'm so happy you can keep your own plasma now! ;) And I'll wish for that bestsellerdom for you.


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Thanks for your information.  Bookbub says it only accepts 20 percent of the authors who apply.  So including Bookbub in a marketing strategy is under the assumption you'll get in, and for many authors, they won't.

I may or may not pull my books out of KDP Select after 3 or 6 months and put them on other channels. But that's something I can control.   I can't control whether or not Bookbub accepts me, and therefore, I won't include them in my marketing plan.  If they take me someday, great, but I'm not counting on them.

I appreciate your information, but I'm also always on the lookout for people who sold successfully without Bookbub.  Thankfully, they do exist. :)

Offline ScottS

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Congrats! That is awesome!

 
Thanks for reading!
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Online anniejocoby

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Thanks for the encouraging words, everybody! You guys all rock, and it's been through reading this board that I have learned so much.

And Jolie, while BookBub has helped, it doesn't account for having a rocking June and July. My ad was in May - early May. The BookBub effect doesn't last that long. I'd like to think that BookBub is not the ONLY reason why I have done well. Besides, as I said, they keep turning me down too :(, and it doesn't help in the UK, where I have seen most of my growth in the past few month.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2014, 02:00:48 PM by anniejocoby »

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Joliedupre

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And Jolie, while BookBub has helped, it doesn't account for having a rocking June and July. My ad was in May - early May. The BookBub effect doesn't last that long. I'd like to think that BookBub is not the ONLY reason why I have done well. Besides, as I said, they keep turning me down too. :(

Well, as you said, a site like Freebooksy is much more inclusive, and many authors, including yourself, have come back with rave reviews.


Online B. Magnarella

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Congratulations, Annie, and thanks for your pointers. Very helpful.

Good luck at the RWA conference!

Online anniejocoby

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Y
Well, as you said, a site like Freebooksy is much more inclusive, and many authors, including yourself, have come back with rave reviews.



Yep! I cannot say enough good things about Freebooksy!!!!! I should buy stock in their company! :)

Two dollars! Two dollars! I want my two dollars!!!
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Offline Indica

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Super inspiring stuff. Congratulations and thanks so much for sharing! I've really been on the fence about using KDP Select for releases on a new pen name, so thanks for your experience with that.

Offline Michael J. Scott

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Congratulations! That's so awesome/encouraging!

Quick question: When you went with freebooksy, did you go with the $50 or the $100 option?

Thanks!
         

Offline AgnesWebb

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Thank you so much for sharing your awesome story!
I love #6 on your list of advice, because it's so important. Readers want to be entertained!

Online anniejocoby

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Congratulations! That's so awesome/encouraging!
I went with the $100 Freebooksy option every time. They're soooooo awesome!



Quick question: When you went with freebooksy, did you go with the $50 or the $100 option?

$100 option every time. They're soooooo awesome!

Thanks!

Two dollars! Two dollars! I want my two dollars!!!
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Offline Andrzej Tucholski

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1. You rock.
2. You rock.

For real! :)

Offline BradMcDauthor

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Much love to you for this. Us newbies need to know that people do indeed make it as fresh writers

Offline Kj

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This was SUCH A GREAT READ. Super inspiring... and lots of useful advice that's relevant to decisions I'm going to be making in the next six months. Thanks for sharing your success! :D

Offline scottmarlowe

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Congrats and thanks for taking the time to write up your experience. Some great advice in there. Bookmarked!

Offline Rin

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Bookmarked. :D
Main Series   Short Stories

Offline williamvw

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I LOVE posts like this. Thank you, Annie, for having the courage to risk attracting the haters. (I think of them as wasps drawn to a delicious picnic.) Your point #4 particularly resonates with me. I have taken to using aggregators for the time savings, but this seems small-minded and short-sighted. As your numbers show, there is a point when the income lost and the minutes saved no longer make sense. $600 (and counting) seems well beyond that point.

Offline Josey Alden

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Thank you for sharing your story, Annie! I've been questioning myself and my work this week, so your advice is timely.

I can't seem to get over the permafree hurdle. I have the first books of two serials free at Apple and All Romance. I've reported the price several times, and I sent an email to the 'zon to ask them to price match. Nothing. :( I just keep writing.

Offline Marian

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Good for you, Annie!!!  You worked hard and you deserve it. And you're always willing to share.

Offline KL_Phelps

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congrats