Author Topic: Looking for some encouragement...Update!  (Read 11953 times)  

Offline anniejocoby

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Looking for some encouragement...Update!
« on: March 06, 2017, 08:57:58 AM »
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. :(

« Last Edit: March 20, 2017, 12:01:44 PM by anniejocoby »

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Offline brkingsolver

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Reading between the lines, what stands out most to me is that you got away from writing what was easiest to you, away from the kind of stories you really like. And your readers agreed. Good luck. I wrote about 400K words last year, published 61K. My editors just didn't like the first two manuscripts I finished. The third one took off, and it was the easiest to write.

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Online Amanda M. Lee

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I think going the thriller route is smart. They're huge right now. I don't know anything about NA, but have you considered maybe adding a paranormal slant and trying to juice the rankings with the urban fantasy and paranormal romance crowds? I think that straddling genre lines is smart (despite what others believe) and if you can get crossover readers that can only help.

Amanda M. Lee

Offline WriterSongwriter

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I'm sorry to hear things are not going as planned. We need heroes like you to look up to. If the old way doesn't work, have you tried putting your books in Kindle Unlimited? Or maybe a few of them? It might find a whole new market and especially with AMS promos you might be able to find the right readers. Thank you for your frankness. It helps all of us.  :)

Offline anniejocoby

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I think going the thriller route is smart. They're huge right now. I don't know anything about NA, but have you considered maybe adding a paranormal slant and trying to juice the rankings with the urban fantasy and paranormal romance crowds? I think that straddling genre lines is smart (despite what others believe) and if you can get crossover readers that can only help.

I'm a bit nervous about that. I've never really read paranormal romance, except for the Twilight series. I have thought about that. I've considered everything. I even wrote an Urban Fantasy under a pen name, then abandoned it because it got really crappy reviews on Goodreads. I don't think that I can do any of those genres justice, and I feel that I have ZERO margin of error right now. Maybe once I get back on top, assuming I do, I'll feel more comfortable experimenting again. But thanks for the advice!!!!!

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Offline anniejocoby

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Reading between the lines, what stands out most to me is that you got away from writing what was easiest to you, away from the kind of stories you really like. And your readers agreed. Good luck. I wrote about 400K words last year, published 61K. My editors just didn't like the first two manuscripts I finished. The third one took off, and it was the easiest to write.

You're exactly right. I hate writing sex scenes, and writing multiple ones just became a chore. Broken had very little sex. And I do think that legal thrillers are going to be bang-up easy for me to write. The last book I wrote just flowed - it's 120,000 words and I wrote it in two months while driving Uber part-time, te he. Yeah, I'm working a day job now again. So sad....

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Online Amanda M. Lee

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I'm a bit nervous about that. I've never really read paranormal romance, except for the Twilight series. I have thought about that. I've considered everything. I even wrote an Urban Fantasy under a pen name, then abandoned it because it got really crappy reviews on Goodreads. I don't think that I can do any of those genres justice, and I feel that I have ZERO margin of error right now. Maybe once I get back on top, assuming I do, I'll feel more comfortable experimenting again. But thanks for the advice!!!!!
On the flip side, you might want to consider that the readers you had years ago have "aged out" of that genre. You need to draw in new readers and not rely on the old in that genre (I'm guessing that's the case, right? Someone tell me if I'm wrong because I know nothing about it) and adding elements to the story will garner you crossover readers that aren't as likely to age out of a genre.
I think you're looking for stability, so that means you need to draw in as many readers as possible and going back to the well when those initial readers may be gone now (moved on to other genres, not dead or anything) might be an exercise in futility and only result in further frustration. It sounds to me as if you have no choice but to expand the scope, which is exactly what you're doing with the thrillers.
For the record, I've seen quite a few people hit on one thriller lately so that's a very smart way to go right now.

Amanda M. Lee

Offline C. Gockel

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I'm so sorry that you're in this position. This gig is scary!

I also switched genres in 2015, and it was nerve wracking.

I would suggest that you put your legal thriller into KU and price pulse it down to 99-cents once a month. Use Booksends, FKTips, BookBarbarian, BookBasset, ReadingDeals, ReadCheaply and the other sites to give it a boost. I did this with my Archangel series and despite my horrible release time--a book every 7 months--it still made me money each month. Also, the price pulses moved me up the ranks enough to get the attention of Podium, an audiobook publisher.

I was looking at your not-so-well performing series, and one thing that struck me was that they have decent reviews. I would take *at least* one of those series, put the whole thing in a box-set and put it in KU. I would release the box set at full price *quietly* and then get a 99-cent BookBub on it (and announce it to your mailing list then.) My guess is that the page reads will be enough for you to make your numbers on it.

If you keep two of those permafrees out of KU I'd bundle them and market them together. Also, if possible, I'd try to get Broken into a box set with multiple authors, either free and 99-cents.

I'm sorry you're going through this, but I know you're going to pull yourself back out.


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Offline PermaStudent

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Annie, thank you for this post.  I think it's easy for some of us in self-publishing to look at success and think that there's a magic number: a level of earnings, or a certain number of books, or a certain number of fans. Once you attain The Magic Number, you've got it made, and you can relax.  In reality, it's a constant struggle.  Even (perhaps especially?) for the folks who are doing very well. 

I remember your "hey-day" post, and I've read a lot of your posts on these boards to follow your journey and glean some wisdom.  I've gleaned a lot from other folks around here, too.  I've learned that success in self-publishing can turn on a dime.  All of the success you worked so hard for can be here today, and gone tomorrow.

By the same token, one can also make a comeback.  The folks who keep trying even though they've failed, and who are willing to take a hard look, and learn, and fix mistakes, and keep moving on no matter how many setbacks, can make a new start.  To quote Winston, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

I think you're doing those things. From your past success, we know that you are able to write a series that sells and resonates with a lot of readers. 

Keep trying, and thank you again for stopping in here to update.  I enjoy your posts. I hope I'll see one soon that documents your new success with legal thrillers, and your renewed success with romance.  Good luck!
  I write urban fantasy.  There are girls in gowns and glowy hands on my covers.

Offline EvieBarry1988

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encouragements! :P
Neurological problems are very common among older people, and they need to be noticed in time to be treated properly and with great results. If you are interested in this field of medicine, you will need to learn a lot about human body, but, eventually, you will be awarded with gratitude of your patients and their relatives. To have a deeper understanding of what neurology education and career involve, visit our quick guide on this subject on our website. You will be fully prepared for your future and will get a lot of advice on how to succeed at all the stages of your fellowship.

Offline anniejocoby

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I'm so sorry that you're in this position. This gig is scary!

I also switched genres in 2015, and it was nerve wracking.

I would suggest that you put your legal thriller into KU and price pulse it down to 99-cents once a month. Use Booksends, FKTips, BookBarbarian, BookBasset, ReadingDeals, ReadCheaply and the other sites to give it a boost. I did this with my Archangel series and despite my horrible release time--a book every 7 months--it still made me money each month. Also, the price pulses moved me up the ranks enough to get the attention of Podium, an audiobook publisher.

I was looking at your not-so-well performing series, and one thing that struck me was that they have decent reviews. I would take *at least* one of those series, put the whole thing in a box-set and put it in KU. I would release the box set at full price *quietly* and then get a 99-cent BookBub on it (and announce it to your mailing list then.) My guess is that the page reads will be enough for you to make your numbers on it.

If you keep two of those permafrees out of KU I'd bundle them and market them together. Also, if possible, I'd try to get Broken into a box set with multiple authors, either free and 99-cents.

I'm sorry you're going through this, but I know you're going to pull yourself back out.

Thanks Carolyn! That's good advice, but getting a BookBub...sigh. I think that they're literally done with me. The last one I ran with them was for "Fearless," and that one did so poorly that I'm afraid that they're never going to touch me again. For anything. I even tried to shoot a free box set to them, and they turned even that down. I don't think that I can rely on them anymore, not that I ever did to begin with. I've only had a few ads with them (not for lack of trying).

As for putting things in KU - I can't do that because Apple has made up a good 50% of my income. Granted, the books aren't doing much over there right now - but I did try KU for a few months, and I can't say I succeeded in it. Only one series did well (Broken, of course), and that was with spending a lot of Facebook money. And it certainly didn't go gangbusters. The rest were still anemic - anemic page numbers and sales. I don't think that KU is the answer right now, although I might go ahead and put my new NA books in there.

And I thought about putting my legal thrillers in there, but made a BIG mistake - I uploaded the book wide, and then changed my mind and wanted to put it in KU. Well, I can't pull it off of Kobo, because I put it in their special program that is styled like KU. I have to have that book on Kobo for six whole months. So...KU is out for the legal thriller series, at least for now.

:)

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Offline Sailor Stone

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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).


Hi, I can tell by your drive that you'll find your past success again. Hang with it. I think the bold text is key. This is just my own instinct, but when we get away from our own muse and write only for the other, it makes writing, which is hard work to begin with, even harder. I'd write what you're most proud to put your name to. It sounds to me like you did that with your first series and your readers connected to your story in a very big way.
I think it's a three sided affair: author to book, book to reader, reader to author. You have to connect to the book first or the other relationships go nowhere.
You've done it before--fall in love with what you are writing and make it come alive--your enthusiasm is the chain that links you and the reader to the book.

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Offline anniejocoby

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On the flip side, you might want to consider that the readers you had years ago have "aged out" of that genre. You need to draw in new readers and not rely on the old in that genre (I'm guessing that's the case, right? Someone tell me if I'm wrong because I know nothing about it) and adding elements to the story will garner you crossover readers that aren't as likely to age out of a genre.
I think you're looking for stability, so that means you need to draw in as many readers as possible and going back to the well when those initial readers may be gone now (moved on to other genres, not dead or anything) might be an exercise in futility and only result in further frustration. It sounds to me as if you have no choice but to expand the scope, which is exactly what you're doing with the thrillers.
For the record, I've seen quite a few people hit on one thriller lately so that's a very smart way to go right now.

That's a good thought...I've given serious thought to doing light-hearted paranormal romance like Kristen Painter. That was one of the things that I was seriously considering. Maybe I'll give that more thought. Or read in the paranormal genre and try to get a feel for it. Thanks Amanda!

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Offline anniejocoby

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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).


Hi, I can tell by your drive that you'll find your past success again. Hang with it. I think the bold text is key. This is just my own instinct, but when we get away from our own muse and write only for the other, it makes writing, which is hard work to begin with, even harder. I'd write what you're most proud to put your name to. It sounds to me like you did that with your first series and your readers connected to your story in a very big way.
I think it's a three sided affair: author to book, book to reader, reader to author. You have to connect to the book first or the other relationships go nowhere.
You've done it before--fall in love with what you are writing and make it come alive--your enthusiasm is the chain that links you and the reader to the book.

I think you're right. I fell in love with my first two couples - the ones in the Illusions series and in the Broken series. The other couples in my other books - they were just characters on a page. I need to feel it more. That's going to be key. Thanks!

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Offline WriterSongwriter

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Have you thought of adding books to the series that works? Or is that not possible?

Offline anniejocoby

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Have you thought of adding books to the series that works? Or is that not possible?

Yeah. I actually was going to do just that. I started a new book in the Broken series and another one that was a spin-off with one of the daughters, but I wasn't feeling it. But I'm definitely going to do that in the future, once I figure out what to write.

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Offline anniejocoby

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I'm sorry to hear things are not going as planned. We need heroes like you to look up to. If the old way doesn't work, have you tried putting your books in Kindle Unlimited? Or maybe a few of them? It might find a whole new market and especially with AMS promos you might be able to find the right readers. Thank you for your frankness. It helps all of us.  :)

Thanks for your kind words!

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Offline anniejocoby

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Annie, thank you for this post.  I think it's easy for some of us in self-publishing to look at success and think that there's a magic number: a level of earnings, or a certain number of books, or a certain number of fans. Once you attain The Magic Number, you've got it made, and you can relax.  In reality, it's a constant struggle.  Even (perhaps especially?) for the folks who are doing very well. 

I remember your "hey-day" post, and I've read a lot of your posts on these boards to follow your journey and glean some wisdom.  I've gleaned a lot from other folks around here, too.  I've learned that success in self-publishing can turn on a dime.  All of the success you worked so hard for can be here today, and gone tomorrow.

By the same token, one can also make a comeback.  The folks who keep trying even though they've failed, and who are willing to take a hard look, and learn, and fix mistakes, and keep moving on no matter how many setbacks, can make a new start.  To quote Winston, "If you're going through hell, keep going."

I think you're doing those things. From your past success, we know that you are able to write a series that sells and resonates with a lot of readers. 

Keep trying, and thank you again for stopping in here to update.  I enjoy your posts. I hope I'll see one soon that documents your new success with legal thrillers, and your renewed success with romance.  Good luck!

Thanks for your encouragement! :)

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Annie! Yay! You inspire me, you always have.  ;D

I'm sorry you are having a rotten year thus far, but you are still here, and will balls made of tenacity. That's the real key.

My two pence worth: I think you should plunge yourself wholeheartedly into legal thrillers. You know you can do them, and you can feed the market better if you focus on one thing. Just don't forget to throw in a little of your trademark romance  ;)

Offline anniejocoby

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Annie! Yay! You inspire me, you always have.  ;D

I'm sorry you are having a rotten year thus far, but you are still here, and will balls made of tenacity. That's the real key.

My two pence worth: I think you should plunge yourself wholeheartedly into legal thrillers. You know you can do them, and you can feed the market better if you focus on one thing. Just don't forget to throw in a little of your trademark romance  ;)

Thanks Stella! That was my initial thought - concentrate on the legal thrillers and only them. I've found something out about myself - I get sick of writing the same thing, so I have to take long breaks between books. Like a month or more where I do little but watch trashy TV and reading. I'm trying to see if I can write consistently, without breaks, if I alternate between genres. I have to keep feeding the beast right now. I can't afford to take time off. The upshot is that the legal thrillers have to be written in a month or less, and they're going to be long. I might burn-out with that schedule, so I might just go ahead and do what you advise - stick with the legal thrillers, but take time off.

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Offline Emilia Winters

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I completely agree, self-publishing is a constant struggle because we have to adapt to the market, or curve balls that Amazon throws at us, and, especially this past year, we have to do it writing books faster (especially if you write in genre fiction, like romance).  I, like you, had a good amount of success a couple years ago.  In 2015, I had a billionaire romance series that just took off, to the point where I was earning 5 figures a month and it landed me a nice KU All-Star bonus.  2016?  I made a fourth of what I made the previous year.  I knew that I either had to change something, or I would have to find a full-time job elsewhere.

So in January of this year, I wrote the first book of a new series in a different niche of romance (science fiction romance).  I did my research beforehand.  I knew going into it that I wanted it to be a money-maker, so I wrote it to market.  Luckily, I enjoyed reading SFR (I was familiar with a lot of the tropes) and upon further research, I knew that there was a better chance of making lists in that niche than in contemporary romance.  I published just last month, using everything I've learned in the past 3+ years of self-publishing to launch a brand new pen name (mailing lists, ARCs, promo stacks, etc.).  And it has been a tremendous success to date, on par with the billionaire romance I released two years prior.

I'm not giving up on my contemporary romance pen name.  I still plan to release books because it's still a genre that I love even if it was only netting me about $1k a month (a far cry from my own "hey-day").  And I encourage you to write what you like to write.  Mariana Zapata has hit it out of the park with her slow-burning romances.  She has a lot of emotion and little sex scenes as well and people are absolutely crazy for them.  If you can tap into that market and make slow-burning romances your brand, I think you'll do great.  I also encourage you to branch out.  I know nothing about the legal thriller market, but if you like writing them, then why not! :)  There are also niches in romantic suspense, and perhaps cozies?

Self-publishing is a grind, but I'll be rooting for you!  :)  Good luck!

Offline truc

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Longtime board lurker saying...

From what I've been reading on the board the past two years have been incredibly hard on Indies. Since I'm pretty new as an author myself I just wanted to add my 2 cents' worth of support--you HAVE been successful w/a 6 figure income which means that you're already heads and shoulders above most writers (Indie AND trad-pubbed). It make take some maneuvering but I'm sure you'll get to a better, more profitable place.

Offline Gertie Kindle 'a/k/a Margaret Lake'

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The only encouragement I can give you is to write what you love and you already plan on doing that. But I'll add one more . Come back here and report your progress so we can encourage you all along the way .


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Offline anniejocoby

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I completely agree, self-publishing is a constant struggle because we have to adapt to the market, or curve balls that Amazon throws at us, and, especially this past year, we have to do it writing books faster (especially if you write in genre fiction, like romance).  I, like you, had a good amount of success a couple years ago.  In 2015, I had a billionaire romance series that just took off, to the point where I was earning 5 figures a month and it landed me a nice KU All-Star bonus.  2016?  I made a fourth of what I made the previous year.  I knew that I either had to change something, or I would have to find a full-time job elsewhere.

So in January of this year, I wrote the first book of a new series in a different niche of romance (science fiction romance).  I did my research beforehand.  I knew going into it that I wanted it to be a money-maker, so I wrote it to market.  Luckily, I enjoyed reading SFR (I was familiar with a lot of the tropes) and upon further research, I knew that there was a better chance of making lists in that niche than in contemporary romance.  I published just last month, using everything I've learned in the past 3+ years of self-publishing to launch a brand new pen name (mailing lists, ARCs, promo stacks, etc.).  And it has been a tremendous success to date, on par with the billionaire romance I released two years prior.

I'm not giving up on my contemporary romance pen name.  I still plan to release books because it's still a genre that I love even if it was only netting me about $1k a month (a far cry from my own "hey-day").  And I encourage you to write what you like to write.  Mariana Zapata has hit it out of the park with her slow-burning romances.  She has a lot of emotion and little sex scenes as well and people are absolutely crazy for them.  If you can tap into that market and make slow-burning romances your brand, I think you'll do great.  I also encourage you to branch out.  I know nothing about the legal thriller market, but if you like writing them, then why not! :)  There are also niches in romantic suspense, and perhaps cozies?

Self-publishing is a grind, but I'll be rooting for you!  :)  Good luck!

That's encouraging! Sounds like you've been where I am and came back. Give me hope that I can do the same. Congrats on your new success! Sci-Fi romance is something where you can clean up, from what I hear, because it's underserved. Or it was. Maybe it still is? That's an interesting idea, too. Thanks!

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Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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Writing what you love is vital. As for your dud series why not try rewriting them? Find something to love about them and make them worth YOUR while, then re-release with new covers. You're extremely prolific so sparing a few minutes for your red-headed stepchildren shouldn't interfere with writing the legal thrillers.

And what a lesson learned. Ouch. My heart goes out to you.


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