Some of you might remember my post from my "hey-day." Seems so long ago.
Some background - I first published in 2013. Made a bit of money. Then, in 2014, my revenues were $139,000. 2015, almost identical, around $136,000. 2016 - uh oh, down to $67,000. 2017 - don't ask. Let's just say I didn't clear $2,000 in revenue last month and leave it at that.
Three series in a row just landed with a thud. And it has zero to do with marketing or lack thereof - the sell-through rate on all three were anemic. Pathetic. My first two series (Illusions and Broken), with permafrees, averaged around 15% sell-through from Book One to Book Two. The last three (Exposure, Fearless and Temptations) were between 2-3% from Book One to Book Two.
Man, I went through a time trying to analyze what went wrong. I was hopeful with every new series, but every new series failed to impress. To say the least.
I think that I (tentatively) have figured it out. I think. I don't know, though. I'm really scared that I'm a has-been, although I'm quite sure that, compared to some of the writers on this board, I'm still considered a never-was.
Here's my theory - my best-selling series, by far, is Broken. It's angsty, there's little sex, but tons of emotion. The romance was pretty slow-burning, too - I don't think that they even kissed until halfway through the book. They had a grand total of two kisses until the book was a good 80% finished, at which point they finally get together and have sex.
After that early success, I went in slightly different directions. In one series (Fearless), I went easy on the angst and didn't put in a lot of sex, just some. It wasn't very long and the heroine was whiny without reason. Thud. In another (Exposure), the angst was there, but there was tons of sex and I don't necessarily think that the Hh had much chemistry. At any rate, they were in bed before they really knew one another. Crash. The last series (Temptations), well, I went in yet another direction - hardly any angst, with a murder mystery thrown in. Thud-crash.
I kept doubling down by not giving my early readers what they wanted from me. I kept going against my brand. And I kept not understanding that. I figured "eh, it's all romance, my readers will follow me as long as I stay somewhat within the genre." Now I think that I was completely wrong about that. And I'm worried that it's too late to really turn it around.
I guess it's somewhat like when I go and buy bread. There's plenty of whole-wheat bread out there, but I'm loyal to only one brand. It's called Dave's Goodseed. All the other whole-wheat breads are similar, but not similar enough to Dave's that I want to buy them. If I found another brand that was similar enough to Dave's, I probably would pick that up as well.
I kinda think that it's the same with readers. They're looking for similar things from all their novels. Stray from that formula just a little and they won't necessarily follow you.
I don't know, I guess this theory is as good as any. I don't think that I once knew how to tell a story and now I don't. I think that it's something else. But maybe I'm wrong.
Anyhooo...I just wanted to let this out. I also need some advice on how to start again. I'm considering this year to be my rebuilding year, so I'm not expecting much right away.
Here's my tentative rebuilding plan for 2017.
Write 10 books. Half will be back on brand, the brand that I established with my decent sellers. The slow-burning, emotional, yearning-for-each-other-but-not-getting-each-other-for-quite-awhile type book. I like writing those better, anyhow, because I don't like writing sex scenes. Gone will be the hop-right-into bed books (Exposure) and books that mesh genres (Dangerous Temptations, which is a murder mystery and romance in one).
Half will be something totally different - legal thrillers. I was a lawyer for 11 years, and I wrote one thriller, and that book was the easiest book I've ever written. Of course, the problem with this plan is that I'm starting from square one. The AWESOME John Ellsworth is helping me out by posting to his newsletter, the doll. But I'm not expecting much from this series until I get at least 5 books out, make the first one free, and go on a promo tear. Which means that I'm not expecting much from this series until next year, when I hope it will payoff. The only sucky thing about this strategy is - what happens if I write the five books, make the first one free and promote it, and find out that the whole series sucks? I guess that's the chance we all must take.
Any and all advice will be welcome about how to start again. The only thing that I ask is that if you need to rip me a new one somehow, by letting me know that you read X book and A, B, C and D were wrong with it, PM me. I get embarrassed when I'm criticized in public. As most people do. Other than that...I would appreciate advice and encouraging words.
Because I'm starting to feel that my best days are behind me.