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Author Topic: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!  (Read 74228 times)  

Offline SA_Archer

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Annie:
Thank you so much for doing this. I'm not a newbie by any means but somehow, your post hit me at the right time to give me a bit of hope.

I've been avoiding a lot of posts because I get so depressed reading the phenomenal sales numbers other writers chat about.

I totally feel you on this. And you're right. Annie's encouragement and the way she's been so giving in this post was a blessing for me, too.

Thank you, Annie!

Offline anniejocoby

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i am having a slow day... what's read-through rate?

btw i think Tattooed Warrior also has a very high book production rate and i think he too self-edits.



:) Read through rate is basically the percentage of people who pick up Book One and go on to buy Book Two. Mine used to be extremely low, now it's really high, which means that I can sell more books with less freebies given away. A lot less freebies have to be given away now then before. I have found that other posters say the exact same thing - that read-through rate grows and grows and grows. So, if the read-through rate starts out slow (mine started out at 3%, is now 12% for Beautiful Illusions and 25% for Broken), don't get discouraged. That number will build on itself through the months.

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Offline anniejocoby

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How big of a cliffhanger do you leave? A main character in dire danger? A minor character in danger? Or have you 'won the battle, but the war still rages' kind of thing. Just curious. :)



Deeper Illusions ends with the hero being shot and bleeding in the heroine's arms. So, you don't know if he's alive or dead (but come on, this is romance. Of course he's alive, LOL). Broken ends with the heroine finding the hero naked with another woman (the other woman drugged him, but the heroine didn't know that), and then the heroine ran out into the street and got hit by a car. That's the one that has a 25% read-through rate, even though the second book is $4.99.

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Offline anniejocoby

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Annie:
Thank you so much for doing this. I'm not a newbie by any means but somehow, your post hit me at the right time to give me a bit of hope.

I've been avoiding a lot of posts because I get so depressed reading the phenomenal sales numbers other writers chat about. But you were able to give cogent, optimistic, and helpful tips that I personally found very useful. And optimistic is key, here. I've applied and never been able to get a bookbub ad. And I avoided the perma-free thing after trying it for a while, but you've made me reconsider, and that's important.

The key thing for me (and others) to remember is that you can always revise your strategy.

I'm a slow writer--two or three books a year is about all I can manage--but I'm still hoping to find my audience. Perhaps it will take longer, since I have to build up sufficient books, but I think I may eventually meet my very modest goals.

So thanks again. I needed your touch of optimism--it was the right combination of encouraging words at just the right time.
Amy

I'm really glad that my post touched so many people! That was what it was designed to do. That was what I needed to read last summer when it seemed that I couldn't get arrested. I used to cry so many tears, thinking that I would never find an audience. But I persevered and found the right formula - permafree + promotions on the permafree + interrelated series (I think that the interrelated thing is the one key to my success, to be honest). And, you know, I have somehow managed to make $52,000 since the beginning of May.

Even so, even I STILL get discouraged. I don't yet feel that I'm in the league with Viola and Rosalind and others. In fact, I just released a new book at only .99, and, even though I have like 700 people on my mailing list, I have only moved like 60 copies of the book. Which tells me that my fan base is not yet rabid, buy-anything-I-write, which makes me worried that my success might all go away. So, I'm still insecure in a way.

We're all in this together! :)

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Offline D-C

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How big of a cliffhanger do you leave? A main character in dire danger? A minor character in danger? Or have you 'won the battle, but the war still rages' kind of thing. Just curious. :)



It all depends on the story. The book I nearly threw across the room was all about build-up and had zero resolution. It just ended. And boy was I mad.

Personally, I like to tie up the major plot arc of that particular book, but leave something in the epilogue so the reader thinks 'WTF? - I need the next one, now!' I've gotten away with it so far, (I currently have a 40% read-through rate - my first book isn't free though)) but I'm going to be leaving a huge cliffy at the end of book 4 in a five book series, and I'm expecting a backlash.

Offline BiancaRaven

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Wow! What awesome advice for a newbie. I was seriously starting to get discouraged that my sales are starting to falter, but then I found this post and it's helped me so much more than you might imagine.

Thank you so much!
                     

Offline anniejocoby

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Wow! What awesome advice for a newbie. I was seriously starting to get discouraged that my sales are starting to falter, but then I found this post and it's helped me so much more than you might imagine.

Thank you so much!

Yay! So happy I could inspire! Don't give up. Success will depend on you finding your path, whatever that is, so soak up the wisdom of the board. You'll figure it out if you just perservere. Good luck!

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Online John Ellsworth

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #182 on: September 26, 2014, 11:28:55 AM »
"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."

AJ: I keep this post bookmarked and still read it every so often because it contains so much helpful, knowledgeable info.

The quoted portion above: Has your experience with KU changed this insight? Or are you still in permafree on the first in series?

Thank you.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2014, 11:31:20 AM by John Ellsworth »

Offline Julz

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #183 on: October 30, 2014, 02:11:35 PM »
I feel like a fawn taking her first steps but thanks to threads like this one, those steps aren't so terrifying  ;D

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Offline Irisdeorre

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #184 on: October 31, 2014, 10:56:09 AM »
Thank you, thank you for sharing! This is what I needed to hear. I wish you more success than you ever imagined!

Offline jegarlick

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #185 on: October 31, 2014, 11:19:51 AM »
Struggling discouraged newbie here...thanks so so much for sharing this information, it is very enlightening, uplifting and encouraging. A million times thanks. Love your backstory too! So happy things are working out for you!
« Last Edit: October 31, 2014, 11:22:26 AM by jegarlick »
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Offline jillb

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #186 on: October 31, 2014, 12:12:13 PM »
Thanks for sharing your story! It is truly inspirational!! :)

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Beyond Cheap -- Narrowing Your Homestead
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Offline Leif Sterling

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #187 on: October 31, 2014, 12:34:18 PM »
"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."

AJ: I keep this post bookmarked and still read it every so often because it contains so much helpful, knowledgeable info.

The quoted portion above: Has your experience with KU changed this insight? Or are you still in permafree on the first in series?

Thank you.

+1

I also would like to know how KU has affected your strategy?

I currently have the first in my series permafree and the rest in KU (couldn't gain any traction at other retailers).

Thanks.
~Leif Sterling~

Offline anniejocoby

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #188 on: November 01, 2014, 04:01:49 PM »
+1

I also would like to know how KU has affected your strategy?

I currently have the first in my series permafree and the rest in KU (couldn't gain any traction at other retailers).

Thanks.
~Leif Sterling~

I haven't changed my strategy regarding KU yet...but that will change. Specifically, next month, I'm writing erotica all month, and putting all of the erotica stories into KU. As of now, I have no titles in KU.

I will also say that I have promoted since July, except for my newest series, which was a total dud. My sales are slipping, as you might imagine. Why I haven't promoted is simple - I have audiobooks coming out for my first two series, and I wanted to wait to promote when the audiobooks are out. I think that all three Broken audiobooks are going to be out soon, so, as soon as they're live, I'm going to heavily promote the Broken series again. I'm going to try BB, but they always turn down Broken for some reason, so not expecting to be accepted. But I am going to promote everywhere else I can.

The Illusions series will have the audiobooks out early next year. At that point, I'm going to promote that series. BB has taken Beautiful Illusions, twice, so hoping they'll take it a third time. If so, I expect that early next year should be good. If not, who knows? I'm hoping that my new erotica titles will be successful enough to give me a cushion, in case my audiobooks are duds and, for some odd reason, my upcoming promos don't work, but that's hardly a guarantee either.

What I do know is that you're only as good as your last release, and if you don't constantly promote, sales are gonna die. No matter what level you were at before.

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Offline Avril Sabine

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #189 on: November 01, 2014, 05:49:32 PM »
Congratulations and thanks for being willing to share your experiences.

Offline Tracie

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #190 on: November 27, 2014, 07:20:48 PM »
Thanks for sharing Annie.

Offline Sever Bronny

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #191 on: November 27, 2014, 08:39:14 PM »
Bookmarked to read again and again. Well said, thank you for sharing :))

Offline deedawning

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #192 on: November 28, 2014, 04:24:51 PM »
Hi Ann, Thank you for your wonderfully helpful post. I have a question and an observation. First the question. Your books are all series. Are they serial series where the last book is the ending or are they stand alone books with much repeating characters? I suppose I could find the information somewhere but I'm always so short of time.
Now the observation: I maintain that free books get many more negative 1 & 2 star reviews than books that never or seldom have been free. Many board members have disagreed, some to the point of mocking me. The reason I bring this up is your books unmistakenly bear out this theory. Your perma-free books all average under four stars and have a fair quantity of negative reviews, while your for sale books have few negative reviews and average around a star higher. Would you concur with this assessment? 

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Offline Amanda M. Lee

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #193 on: November 28, 2014, 04:35:39 PM »
Hi Ann, Thank you for your wonderfully helpful post. I have a question and an observation. First the question. Your books are all series. Are they serial series where the last book is the ending or are they stand alone books with much repeating characters? I suppose I could find the information somewhere but I'm always so short of time.
Now the observation: I maintain that free books get many more negative 1 & 2 star reviews than books that never or seldom have been free. Many board members have disagreed, some to the point of mocking me. The reason I bring this up is your books unmistakenly bear out this theory. Your perma-free books all average under four stars and have a fair quantity of negative reviews, while your for sale books have few negative reviews and average around a star higher. Would you concur with this assessment?
The problem with the free vs. pay review argument is that only fans of the work move on to the sequel, so it's much more likely to get positive reviews. Yes, free books get more negative reviews, but it's often because they're the first book in a series. People are only going to read the second book in a series if they liked the first one, so those that left negative reviews on the first book and not on later books didn't do it because they had to pay for them, they didn't do it because they didn't move on to the other books. Now, there are some people out there who just give negative reviews on free books because that's what they do -- but they're (thankfully) the exception rather than the rule.

Amanda M. Lee

Offline anniejocoby

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #194 on: November 28, 2014, 09:33:59 PM »
I would agree with Yoda - not many of the people who loathe me are going to buy my next books. Although sometimes they do and they give me one stars on all my books. But, generally,  the haters aren't going to keep going with the series. Not that permafrees don't invite bad reviews. They do,  I think.  So the bad ratings on my free books  vs the better reviews on later books is probably due to a variety of reasons.

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Offline LanelleH

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #195 on: November 28, 2014, 09:54:04 PM »
Thanks for all the advice, SUPER helpful!

Offline thevoiceofone

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #196 on: November 28, 2014, 10:02:33 PM »
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.








What a great thread.

Thanks for sharing your advice. That is beautiful!

One question: Do you create your own covers or someone else?

Offline Revolution

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #197 on: November 29, 2014, 12:55:40 AM »
I love me a good success story, especially when deserved. Congrats.
If at first you don't exceed, give up and find something easier. Simplify your life.

Offline deedawning

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #198 on: November 29, 2014, 06:35:58 AM »
I would agree with Yoda - not many of the people who loathe me are going to buy my next books. Although sometimes they do and they give me one stars on all my books. But, generally,  the haters aren't going to keep going with the series. Not that permafrees don't invite bad reviews. They do,  I think.  So the bad ratings on my free books  vs the better reviews on later books is probably due to a variety of reasons.

Why would anyone loathe you? Maybe envy your success, but loathe you. Course it takes all kinds. Right now I LOVE your post. Thanks again, Annie

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Offline anniejocoby

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Re: 15,000 books in two months, 32,000 books first year. Advice for newbies!
« Reply #199 on: November 29, 2014, 07:44:14 AM »
Why would anyone loathe you? Maybe envy your success, but loathe you. Course it takes all kinds. Right now I LOVE your post. Thanks again, Annie

LOL. I meant that they loathe my books, not me. And there are some who do loathe my books with the hatred of a thousand suns, and that's okay. I figure if my books drive any kind of strong emotion, even hatred, then I've done my job! :)

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