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Writers' Cafe / Six-Figure Backlist Write to Market Strategy
« on: April 14, 2018, 01:14:53 PM »
So, folks around here know me as a romance author who has been writing for a living full-time since November 2013. I keep my pen name private to minimize any drama. Believe me, I've seen a lot of drama in the indie space and ain't nobody needs that! People in my romance mastermind group (closed to new members) know who I am, and that's good enough for me.

My books occasionally are bestsellers, on Amazon, iBooks and Smashwords, but I am not a big name romance author. I'm posting this as more evidence that it is possible today for an indie (aka self-published) author to make a good -- even great -- living. I've been making a six-figure income since November 2013, when I quit my day job and joined the self-employed indie author / publisher world. I like to call it my "yoga-pants lifestyle" because before I quit, I wore a woman's business suit every day of the work week and did the whole 8 - 5 commute to my mid-level professional job as a government analyst.

Recently, I had a lot of big life changes taking place, including a divorce (in progress and largely amicable), selling my house, moving across the country, finding a new home, and getting my two sons settled in.

I'm finally in my new home, have a dedicated purpose-built home office, and now have a year of indie publishing ahead of me.

Why I'm posting this? I haven't published a book in FIVE MONTHS! OMG!

My Q1 results are still just a hair under $10K a month but still work out to six-figures if I extrapolate to a full year.

Six years ago, I wrote down a five-year plan to become a full-time self-published author and quit my day job. I figured that if I could write a dozen romance novels, I could live off the income and then write whatever I wanted. While I read romance novels, I really wanted to write thrillers, or SFF. I read an article that women with graduate degrees who wrote romance novels had the best success in self-publishing, so I thought -- OKAY! SIGN ME UP!

I wrote a 3-book series of paranormal romance novels and self published them starting in June 2012. I released book 2 in July 2012 and book 3 in December 2012. I made just over $2200.

You can see how my sales were pretty dismal for the first few months. I did a lot of leg work, tried to find readers, sent out ARCs and by December, when I published book 3, I had better results, earning just under $1000 for the first time.

In early 2013, I looked around and decided to try the whole "write to market" approach. I picked books that where topping the romance charts at the time, like Fifty Shades of Grey, The Crossfire Series and then The Hacker Series and read the books, analyzed what readers liked and didn't like about them, and drafted a book that I felt fit in with that category. Steamy contemporary romance, in other words.

I figured that Fifty Shades had an audience of 100M readers, Crossfire had an audience of 10M readers. If I could even get 0.5% of the readership for Fifty, I'd be wildly successful.

I published Book 1 of that series in April of 2013. Here are the results:

In its first month, my book earned $16K and sold just under 5,000 copies. The retail price was $4.99 so I earned $3.49 for each copy sold.

I followed up that year with two more books in that series featuring the same couple and published a boxed set and in its first year, that series earned $161,726.61 on Amazon.

I followed it up with 8 more novels featuring the couple, 3 different boxed sets and 2 short stories in their world. So far, that series has made me over $800,000 on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play, Smashwords and Audible combined. That's over $100K a year.

I've also written several other full-length books, including 2 more in the first paranormal series and two boxed sets and a short story as a lead magnet. Plus, I've written 3 other contemporary / new adult romance novels as standalone novels. Taken together, I've made over $1M since I started.

I am not a big name romance author! I don't currently have books in the top 100 in any category. I've never attended a convention or had a book signing. In fact, many of my books are in the 50K plus rank, but I have enough of them earning steadily that with frequent promotions, including Bookbubs, I am able to keep my revenues around the six-figure range even when going 5 months without a new release.

That was my goal -- to get a big enough backlist built of selling novels that I could live off it and try to break into thrillers, science fiction and high fantasy.

To that end, I've written book 1 of a 3 book thriller / romantic suspense series and will be releasing it in May. It is a crime thriller / serial killer thriller in which a duo comprised of an amateur sleuth / journalist teams up with an FBI special agent on leave to solve the cold case murder of a girl they both knew growing up, as well as several others by the same killer. There will be a very slow burn romance between the two lead characters, with no sex on or off screen, but they end up together so I will cross-categorize it as romantic suspense, serial killer, police procedural. Book 2 will be put on a long pre-order and released 60 days later and book 3, the same -- a long pre-order and release 60 days after that. I'm writing romance novels in between to keep my existing audience fed and happy.

I was going to write book 2 and book 3 back to back and release all three at once, but I decided against that. I have a new release coming out in my main romance series in May, but don't want to wait that long to release a book. That would mean I went 7 months without a release and EEEK! That feels far too long. While I am holding on in terms of revenues, they are slowly slipping. Only regular Bookbub and other promos have kept me afloat these past 5 months. I don't want to push even more since I am the sole support for myself and my two boys. I have to space out the thrillers and romance novels to try to keep my revenues up.

Anyway, that's an update on my indie author publisher business and career. I posted a while back when I hit $500K in revenues and so wanted to follow up with an update when I hit over $1M.

What helped? Top 10 tactics:

1. Understanding the market
2. Writing in series
3. Publishing regularly
4. Making boxed sets (collections)
5. Professional covers (on the cheap side - mine were primarily $99 each and I stuck with my main designer for all my books)
6. Professional edits (once I could afford it, but until then I used a family member to proofread - edits are about $600 - $800 per book)
7. Mailing list
8. Regular marketing (succeeded in getting regular Bookbubs which makes a big difference)
9. Used permafree and wide distribution coupled with Bookbubs and new releases as well as cycling into KU.
10. Took Mark Dawson's courses to learn how to use Facebook and AMS to market my books. REALLY HELPED!

What's in my future?

Hopefully, breaking into thrillers, and then I have an alien invasion 3 book series to write and a 3 book high fantasy series planned, the first book of which I have already written in a draft form. Those will be released starting later this year and into next year, spaced out with romance releases. Plus, I want to start a podcast where I interview successful indie author-publishers who make a living at this about their own paths to success. That will start later this year once I get back into the full swing of things. I planned on starting that sooner, but my life upheaval has prevented it.

This indie author gig is great if you can find a niche that works for you and that you love to write. If so, who needs traditional publishing? There has been a lot of negative press lately about book stuffers and scammers on Amazon. It can seem disheartening for those of us who aren't into the whole black hat/grey hat publisher approach, that focuses more on hacking Amazon loopholes versus being an author doing what we love.

Don't be disheartened. Keep your eye on the prize.

While it's true that Amazon as a marketplace and the indie author-publisher space has changed since I started in June 2012, I still believe that it's possible to focus on being an author-author, being true to your own vision whilst understanding the market you love, and not succumbing to the grey-hat or black-hat scammer approaches to succeed. You don't need to remain in the top 100 books to succeed if you have enough relatively successful books in your backlist.

If you're just starting out or if you've been writing for a while without the kind of success you'd like, consider writing to market (as in understanding a market you'd like to write in and have read in and trying to fulfil those readers). Write in series if possible. Write as often as you can. I wrote 18 novels, 4 novellas and 3 short stories over 6 years, which works out to 3 - 4 novels plus collections and shorter works a year. 

It can be done. Not everyone will succeed who tries. For those who want a career as an indie author-publisher, if you have a plan and implement it, not giving up when things don't first succeed, and if you keep trying to understand the market and master marketing, you have a chance!

Writers' Cafe / The Indie Author Midlist -- Need Authors to interview!
« on: December 17, 2017, 01:53:57 PM »
Hey, there, indie author who could be considered midlist:

I don't think you get enough attention.

Everyone flocks to the really huge sellers, for a reason of course, but the midlist indie author is out there doing our thing on a daily basis, crushing it in our own way. We make a living at this, but we're not household names nor do we top the charts on a regular basis.

I want to put an end to that. I want to interview you for a podcast that I plan on starting in 2018!

Aspiring authors out there need to know that you don't have to top the bestseller's lists or charts to have a career at indie publishing. It's possible to write your books, and make a living without ever cracking the top 100 outside of promos. We don't need to stuff, bot, or hack our way to a career as an indie author. We can write solid books, find our audience, and nurture it enough that we can do this for a living.

So, if you are willing to expose yourself to the public and would like to discuss your journey to being a midlist indie author who is making a living at this indie publishing venture, and the key things you've learned about indie publishing along the way, I want to talk to you.

Please PM me or email me at sela dot author at gmail dot com.

We can set up a time for the interview. I can't promise when the interviews and podcasts will start but in Jan 2018 hopefully. Depends on when my technician (my son) figures out the technical side of things.  8)




Writers' Cafe / Indie Romance Authors Private Mastermind Group
« on: September 30, 2017, 11:05:41 AM »
Hello fellow indie romance authors!

I'm a mid-list indie romance author who has had some level of success so far but who is hoping to make it to the next level. What worked in the past might not / is not working today and so I'm looking for a small group of romance authors who are like me with some success who want to form a mutual mastermind group.

I envision that the group will discuss what it takes to succeed today and who are willing to discuss all aspects of indie publishing -- brainstorming plots and tropes, what it takes to be a bestseller, writing to market, marketing, branding, etc. All of it above-board and within TOS of course! No black hat techniques or scamming.

I'd want the group to be totally private, sworn to secrecy re: identities, pen names, etc. Potential for collaboration, mailing list swaps, joint marketing, and other approaches as well as a place to simply discuss indie publishing, craft, the romance genre, and all aspects of the business.

If you are interested in discussing a possible mastermind group, please PM me and we can discuss.

Writers' Cafe / How I Went Wide and Prospered
« on: October 07, 2016, 02:24:33 PM »
No, that is not a reference to gaining weight! LOL

Warning: data heavy post! This data is provided to show two things: what is possible when writing to a hot market and when going wide.

I am NOT a big name in my genre. Only my readers know I exist. So there are authors MUCH MUCH bigger than I am who make millions, rather than my couple hundred thousand a year. Still, my experience shows you what is possible for a moderately successful indie author. I attribute my success to several things: writing in a hungry genre (romance), writing in series, writing to market, and ongoing attention to promotion. I have implemented all the advice I have read and kept that which worked, such as pro covers, keywords, categories, series funnels, calls to action, freebies for mailing list signups, 4 - 6 releases each year, pro editing, Facebook advertising, social media involvement.


When I went wide, I already had a pretty successful series. I had a strategy, including permafree series starters and the ability to get Bookbubs or other promos on a regular basis, and used paid advertising such as Facebook ads to boost my visibility on Amazon. This should not be taken as advice as much as an account of one author's experience with going wide. Key to my success, such as it is, was having a successful series on Amazon with genre-appropriate covers and blurbs, and several series that I could do permafree series starters. And of course, the fact that I could get Bookbubs.



In 2012, I started my career as an indie author by publishing 3 paranormal romance books in June, July and December. In its first year, my series sold approximately 2500 books and made $8500. Not tea bag, as they say. :) Not enough to live on so I did some cogitating. I personally loved the series but it was a pretty genre-bending series that failed to please either of the two genres I pushed together -- erotic romance and paranormal romance.

I had two more books planned in that series but could see that the sales were dropping off and so I decided to try something different. I decided write a billionaire romance. So, instead of book four, I sat down in January 2013 and wrote book one in what I hoped would turn out to be a 3 - 5 book erotic romance series. I had it written and edited and released it in April 2013. Here's the first year of sales for that series. What a difference writing to market makes!

All this time, I was in KDPS, which at the time only had KOLL borrows, which were paid out based on "borrows". So, my initial success came from being exclusive to Amazon.

ETA: I only started using paid promotions after I went wide in 2014, other than a $25 ad on Goodreads and a $25 ad on a romance blog, so all the sales in 2013 were from organic sales and social media.

In 2014, I was invited to be in a boxed set with several NYTs and USAT bestselling authors, due to a personal friendship with one of the authors. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. It would mean I had to take my books out of KDP Select and put it on other retailers. My first experience with being wide came from this venture, which was successful, and our boxed set hit the USAT. This was in April 2014.

When KU 1.0 came out, I decided to give it a try. I put my books in KDPS and KU, and saw a significant decline in sales and revenues.

You can see from my last four months with KU 1.0 (Oct 14 - Jan 15) that my revenues were down from the previous period. I did have a Bookbub in October 2014 which helped my sales a bit, but only up to what they were BEFORE I went into KU 1.0.

So, as soon as my term in KU 1.0 was up, I decided to get out and go wide. My plan was to do as much promotion as I could and go with a permafree series starter for each of my three series.  Then, I was eligible for a new Bookbub and had several new releases planned, which I figured would help me in terms of revenues.

Here's the table from my sales for the first two 4-month periods after I went into wide distribution:

You can see that even without a Bookbub or new release, having a permafree first in series immediately boosted my income, and then, when I had a Bookbub and new release, my income went up again.

So, my experience at least has been that sticking in KU 1.0 for my romance series, both erotic and paranormal, saw dropping sales and borrows did not make up the difference. Back then, KU 1.0 was worth about $1.30 per borrow and my books all sell for $4.99 so I was losing revenue each time my books were borrowed.

I have tried KU 2.0 as well, but have not been impressed. I have put two of my lower earning series into KU 2.0 to try it out. My revenues have tended to hold steady while I am in KU 2.0, but they eventually fall and I have pulled them out of KU, gone wide with them, and returned to the permafree first in series strategy combined with Bookbubs when I can snag one.


Key to going wide:

- permafree first in series
- ability to get regular Bookbubs or other promotions. This means minimum # of reviews and rating and regular promotion of permafree.

Revenues tend to fluctuate on Amazon and on other retailers, but they do eventually fall off everywhere without ongoing promotion.

It's a job to keep your books visible when you are wide, but it isn't all that onerous. It means tinkering with Facebook ads, Google Adwords, and also ongoing paid promotions, like Bookbub, Fussy Librarian, and others.  While in KU, you can run Amazon promos and use Amazon ads, and for some they may be really successful, but if you want to go wide, you will have to work a little bit harder, perhaps, but I could live off my revenues on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo if I had to. If Amazon pulled some trick or accidentally banned me for some perceived TOS violation, I could get by -- barely, but I could.

Here's my year to date. Not as good as last year, but this year I have only had 2 releases.

This shows you my breakdown of Amazon vs. Wide revenues:

I could survive off my revenues on the other retailers if I had to, but it would be tight.

Writers' Cafe / NO KU Notice on bestsellers?
« on: April 19, 2016, 02:48:18 PM »
I was checking out the bestselling romance novels and sf novels for research purposes and noticed that there is no longer a Kindle Unlimited tag at the top of the book cover thumbnail on the bestseller page.

I usually check out the bestsellers lists to see what's selling and what percent of the top 100 are in Kindle Unlimited.

Am I blind? Can anyone else see the Kindle Unlimited on the top of the book cover on the lists?

Wonder what is up with that?

Writers' Cafe / Can you write 4 novels in a year?
« on: October 15, 2015, 11:07:51 AM »
Great post on TPV and Toby Neal's website re: How To Write at least 4 Novels in a Year:

The Juicy Stuff:

How to write at least four novels a year is a simple matter of math.

People don't like that answer, and I don't really either. I want it to be something mystical, magical, something inspired by muses wearing dragonfly wings and wielding lightning bolts of inspiration.  Sometimes, it is that. But mostly, it's showing up at the page and getting the words down. Do the math: four seventy-five thousand word novels equals three hundred thousand words. Divided by 365 days in a year, that's 822 (rounded up) words a day.

Even on my laziest, b*tchiest PMS day I can do a thousand words. So can you. And if you can't, writing more than four novels a year just isn't the right goal for you.

When you put it that way, 822 words is doable. I can do 1,000 without much effort in an hour. With effort, I can do 2,000, with much effort 3,000 and with heroic effort, 5,000 but that's for when I lock myself away in a hotel room for the weekend to get a novel finished by deadline.

So, do you want to and can you write four novels in a year? What is realistic for you?

Do you want to be more productive? What would it take for you to write more than you do now -- if you wanted to, that is. If you're happy with your production schedule as it currently is, this post is not meant for you. :)

ETA: I have a spreadsheet all worked out that would allow me to write 6 novels in a year. It means writing 2,500 words a day, 5 days a week, with a couple of weeks off between books to decompress and then outline the next book. I think it's doable but if I only end up getting 4 or 5 done, that would be fine as well.

Writers' Cafe / A Tale of Two Publishing Routes
« on: October 12, 2015, 12:42:21 PM »
I was talking to my father today about the difference between indie and traditional publishing and we compared possible routes. I thought it would be interesting to post here.

I self-published a 3-book series of contemporary erotic romance novels, each novel 90K+ words. If I had pitched the series to an agent, got an agent, then sold the series to a traditional publisher in April 2013, what might the deal have looked like?

I scanned the deals at Publisher's Marketplace in 2013, the year I self-published my series, for similar deals. I found the following two examples that were signed around the time I published my series. (names have been withdrawn to protect the innocent)

1. "Good deal" for a NYT Bestselling author ($100,000 - $250,000) for a 3-book contemporary erotic romance series for publication in 2015. 2 of the three books are released with one on preorder. Rank is currently between 8000+ and 20K+in the Kindle Store.

2. "Nice deal" for a debut romance author ($0 - $49,000) for a 3-book contemporary erotic romance series. No publication date mentioned but the books were released in late 2014 and the first half of 2015. Current rank ranges from 800K - 1M+ in the Kindle Store.

I am far more likely to have received a deal like the second since I was a non-NYT bestselling author. So, if I HAD received a deal for $49,000 for three books to be published in late 2014 and 2015, what would that mean in terms of money?

From what I have read of typical boilerplate contracts, you get 1/3 at signing, 1/3 when you turn in the manuscript and 1/3 at publication. Since this was for 3 books, that would work out to:

$16,333 per book, so instalments of $5,444 at signing and then $5,444 when the first book was turned in, and $5,444 when the first book was published.

I am not sure if I would get paid 1/3 for all three up front, but if so, that would mean $16,333 at signing of the deal, and then $5,444 for each subsequent instalment upon delivery of the finished manuscripts and on release.

Subtract the agent's fees off that, of course, which means 15% off the top, so those books would be worth: $41,650, with $13,883 for signing and $4,627 for each instalment along the way.

Let's assume that is the case.

I self published my series instead of shopping it around. I released books in April 2013, November 2013 and April 2014. So far, since April 2013, I have sold 140,000+ copies of the series at full price and sale price, but for ease of calculation, let's use 120,000 at full price and 20,000 at 99c on sale. My books sell for $4.99 which gives me a share of $3.44 per unit for full price and .34 per unit for the sale price. That works out to a gross of $412,800 and $6,800 = $419,600 in 2.5 years or $167,840 per year since release.

If I had signed a "Nice Deal" for the series, which is pretty likely for a debut author who was an unknown, I would have made a total of $13,883 for signing in 2013. In 2014, I would have made another $9,254 in 2014 for book 1, which was released in September 2014. Then, I would make another $9,254 in early 2015 for book 2, and $9,254 in late 2015 for book 3.

2013: $13,883
2014: $9,254
2015 $18,508

Now, royalties: I would have to sell enough books to earn back my advance. That means, I would have to sell enough books to earn back my $49,000.

The eBooks sell for $3.99. (These are romance novels so they sell for less than non-romance titles):

The publisher gets a share of the eBook sales. For a book that sells for $3.99, they get 70% or $2.79. The author's share is 25% of net, or $0.70 per unit. Take off the 15% for the agent and the author gets $0.59 per unit. The author would have to sell 83,050 copies to pay back the advance on earnings.

If they sold 120,000 at full price, and 20,000 at 99c like I did, they would get the following:

36,950 net units after advance paid off, which = $21,800.50 net and $0.15 per unit at 99c, which = $2,945.25 for a grand total of $24,745.75 in royalties after the advance was earned back.The trad published author gets $49,000 + $24,745.75 = $73,745.75 over 2.5 years, which works out to $29,498.30 per year.

In summary, two publishing routes, same number of books sold, different release schedule and payment:

Self-published income gross: $419,600 in 2.5 years or $167,840 per year since release, paid monthly, 60-days after the end of the month in which the sale was made.

Trad-published income gross: $73,745.75 over 2.5 years, which works out to $29,498.30 per year, paid in instalments and the royalties probably not even paid out yet, with the final instalment not yet paid out since the final book is not released until later this year.

Currently, the books in my series are all ranked below 13,000 in the Kindle store, compared with this author's books, which are all over 800,000 - 1M.

Of course, this is just a mind game based on a single author / single deal. YMMV. If I have made mistakes in my assumptions, please chime in below. Still, you can see that I make a far better income as a self-published romance author than a trad published debut romance author with a similar series. 

Seems a no-brainer. :)

I thought Russell Blake's blog post was really informative and contained a lot of great advice and thoughts on being a successful indie author.

Here are a few choice quotes IMO:

If youíre successful, youíve bought yourself a job. Just like buying a liquor store, or a clothing outlet. A job can be rewarding, both economically and emotionally, but itís very different than a lottery win, in that you are signing up for a long haul of showing up every day and doing the work.

Thatís different than I thought when I started out. I kind of hoped that the old canard that you wrote a great novel, sold it to NY, and then sat back and got rich, was true. That you only needed to produce a little work over the years, and could devote lots of time to thinking great thoughts, traveling the world, observing, etc.

Maybe for a few of the very top earners whoíve been doing this for decades and can command seven and eight figure advances. Of which there are fewer than 100, by my estimation. But for the rest, and certainly for the self-published, itís a job, just like showing up to work at Pixar or Disney and creating content is a job. If you donít put in the time, your slot goes to someone else, and the world keeps turning, only without you getting paid as a writer.

Thatís a harsh truth, because it basically says that the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not the equivalent of an annuity that pays out year after year, but more like a nice business where you still have to work nine to whenever, five to six days a week. Donít punch your time card, your sales fade, youíre forgotten by all but a few die-hards, and someone steps in to fill the gap.

It is work. It is like running a business. And just like running a business, it's up to you to keep working. If you stop, if you get behind, you run the risk of losing. Someone who is more productive or smarter will step in and take your place.

Unless you are the rare mega bestseller who gets a 7-figure deal every couple of years, you have to show up in your writing space and write on a regular basis, put new work out there and keep promoting your backlist.

The other take-home from his post?

Your odds of being successful are lousy. Better than trad pub, but still, terrible. Just as your odds of being a pro musician are terrible if thatís what you aspire to, or a pro dancer, or a pro anything in the arts. Which brings me to another point: while itís important to have a positive support group, delusion doesnít help you succeed. Cheerleaders, assurances that you can do it, all that nonsense, doesnít improve your odds. What does is no-nonsense counsel from those who have taken some bullets and learned lessons that might translate, and your own inner ability to motivate yourself Ė because like all jobs, there are plenty of days where you just donít want to get out of bed to do the work.

Knowing all this, would I have done anything differently? Probably not. Iíd already learned these harsh truths in other businesses. Those past experiences might have actually been one of the reasons I was able to break at the time I did. I didnít bemoan the fact that I needed to create a compelling backlist to be taken seriously. I didnít resent that it would take 12-14 hours a day. I didnít insist that I was doing the best I could, as though that should earn me some reward. I come from a school of hard knocks where just showing up doesnít get you a treat Ė nobody hands out Aís for effort in the real world. That [crap] stops at high school.

Like all arts, the odds of being successful are long. But the only chance you have of being successful is if you play the game.

Finally, this:

...the secret was to put out a new volume every sixty days so your name appears on the hot new releases list with regularity and momentum is built with readers, and never forget that youíre there to entertain your readership Ė not to get too clever, or if youíre bored, change things up for your amusement. Itís a job. Do the work, do it well, and maybe you get paid for a while. Thatís the secret.

Iíve given that advice to plenty of authors: pick a genre that can support your aspirations, write to reasonable quality for the genreís expectations and publish with astonishing regularity, put forth a pro package, and pay attention to whatís working.

That advice is what I would also suggest -- for those who want a career as a published author making their living off book sales. Know your genre's expectations and fulfill them, do it well and often and professionally.

For me personally, it would be to start a mailing list right away and start a launch team and make sure to send out ARCs for early reviews, etc. Second, I'd try to be a little more focused on fulfilling reader expectations in my chosen genre instead of writing something that pleased me but broke genre conventions. For some, that might work and they might end up being a trend-setter, but not for me. I just confused and disappointed many readers. I tried to be a bit smarter with my second series and thought about what a reader would expect and tried to give it to them. That was the series that allowed me to quit my day job. Third, I'd go into print and audio right away instead of two years later. There's a lot of potential money I've foregone by not doing those right away.

So, knowing what you know now, what would you tell  yourself back before you were a published indie?

Writers' Cafe / KU 2.0 Experience So Far
« on: September 10, 2015, 07:41:49 PM »
I've been critical of Kindle Unlimited and Subscription models in general because I have been suspicious that they are not in the best interest of authors, although readers may love them and some authors may do exceptionally well with them.

However, most of this criticism was based on my negative experience with KU 1.0, under which I lost significant money due to loss of visibility on Amazon (KU 1.0 boosted borrows even if the books weren't read to 10% - the so-called Ghost Borrow) and borrows cannibalizing sales.

Because of this negative experience, I went wide in March 2015 with all my books except for 2 small serial instalments. I did very well on Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo with all 3 series. I made all 3 series starters permafree. I had three free Bookbubs in May, July and August. Apple promoted me twice during this period. Overall, I increased my income substantially over when I was in KU 1.0 by putting the first book permafree and having 3 free Bookbubs.

So when my lower selling series, a Paranormal Romance, started to slow down in terms of sales, when the long tail of the Bookbub started to thin quite drastically, I decided to pull it out of wide distribution and put it in KU 2.0 since I had heard such great results from many authors. I wanted to do an experiment with my lower selling series to see if KU 2.0 could take up the slack and make it worth my while.

Here is my experience for the first 9 days of September. I put my books in KU on September 1 after taking it down from all other retailers on the 29th of August.
It took two full days to get the book off all other sales channels.

The table posted below represents the 9 days of sales prior to going into KU 2.0 (Aug 21 - 29) and the 9 days after I was in KU 2.0 (Sept 1 - 9).

* Note - the highlighted KENPC for Book 3 is because the KENPC is estimated rather than calculated. I have had problems getting it calculated. Am working on it.

As you can see, before KU 2.0, I had Book 1 in the series permafree. Overall, I had higher sales numbers when my series was in wide distribution vs. when in KU 2.0, but the KU borrows payout of $0.0058 / page read and the 10% I paid to the distributor means that in KU 2.0, I come out slightly ahead of when I had the series only for sale in wide distribution.

In other words, I made back the money I lost when I withdrew my books from other sales channels plus 4.1% more. I did not include the two days I pulled out of the other retailers, since I had no sales for those two days.

I note that my KENPC equivalent sales almost make up for the decline in sales by going into KU 2.0. But you can see that sales did drop even on Amazon. Now, this could be due to the normal ebb in sales that is natural for a post-Bookbub tail, but it seems to me that this happened to me before as well -- some of the most voracious readers are in KU and will borrow instead of buy if given the option.

Rank increased as well for many of my KU books, but I am using rank from the 15th of August for my before KU 2.0 rank. Rank fluctuates daily based on sales and pages read.

If pages read hold up, I should come out equal. In fact, I might be slightly more ahead since it seemed to take a few days to get pages read up to a more stable level.

Here's the chart of my KENP pages read since September 1:

Despite this positive outcome, I have received emails from people on the other retailers who are looking for my books on other sales channels and can't find them. :(

I'm still not convinced about KU. Book 1 in my series will be available for another free Bookbub in December and I think I'll pull my books out of KU and put them back wide and use Bookbub if they will pick my book.

Yes, being in KU makes it easier for me since I only have to keep track of sales on one retailer. However, I have fewer paying readers even though Amazon KU 2.0 payout often pays me more for a full read than I make on actual sales, especially for the boxed set.

I only did this test because I could see sales waning on the other retailers. I would not take my big selling series out of wide distribution even if it could make the same money as in wide distribution unless sales on those other retailers seriously tank, but it is reassuring that if I had to, I could probably keep my income up.

We will see how I do over the full 90 days.


Writers' Cafe / New Cover: Comments Welcome
« on: September 02, 2015, 11:08:24 PM »
Hi Everyone who has been following Jana's and my work on new covers for her series!

We have a tentative cover for book 1:

What do you think? Better? Issues? Suggestions?

Writers' Cafe / How I Made $500,000.00 Self-Publishing Romance eBooks
« on: August 27, 2015, 11:37:05 PM »
In the spirit of Annie B's post showing us the tale of two approaches to writing, I thought I'd share my story. I will likely pass the $500,000.00 in career income next month, unless Amazon implodes or an asteroid strikes. ;) (And I'm not really a big seller or big name author in my genre)

Here's my chart, chronicling my income from the start of my self publishing career in June 2012 (data for 2012 and 2013 are combined in the first row, with December 2013 average for comparison, because I didn't start keeping monthly income records until 2014):

How I did it:

1. I started planning in April 2012, when I read JA Konrath's blog and decided to quit submitting to agents because no one wanted to represent me with my vampire romance novels. So, I read several books and blogs on self-publishing and researched book blogs that reviewed and promoted paranormal romance novels.

2. I started working on my social media platform, creating a Twitter and Facebook account under my future pen name. I cultivated readers and authors who were in my genre, and spent most of my time talking about television shows and movies. At the time, I was polishing my first novel and finishing my second.

3. I hired a cover designer and got two covers for $99 each, plus two $5 stock photos, so $104 each.

4. I had someone edit my books for typos and obvious grammatical mistakes. I didn't pay my editor until I made serious money and then I went back and paid her for her earlier work. I have paid her for each book since, costing between $600 - $1000 per book depending on length.

5. In June 2013, I published the first book on Amazon, listing it for sale for $4.99 and signed up for KDPS.

6. I submitted my book to several book review blogs and lucked out, getting a couple who gave my book decent reviews.

7. I announced that I had released my first book to my several hundred Twitter and Facebook followers and friends and had 6 sales in June and then 26 sales in July.

8. I ran some free days in KDPS and gave away several hundred copies of book 1. I listed my books at Goodreads and created a blog and profile.

9. I released my second book in July, listing it for $4.99 and had 59 sales.

10. I released book 3 in the series in December, listing it for $4.99 and had sales of 2800 books in total for the year and made $9,750.00

11. In 2013, I released 2 more novels in a new contemporary erotic romance series. All were in KDPS.

12. I released the first novel in my contemporary romance series in April 2013, deciding to try my hand at another romance category since my paranormal romance series was selling fairly slowly, at least in my opinion. I had my first 5-figure month that release, earning $17,642. The previous month I had earned under $1,000.

13. I released the second book in the contemporary romance series in September, and had another solid month in sales, selling 12,000+ books.


14. I had my first 99c Bookbub in November 2013 and broke $20K for the first time. My book hit #5 in the Kindle store and was #2 in Romance. An agent wrote me and offered representation. ;)

15. I wrote book 3 in the contemporary romance series in January 2014, then released the boxed set two months later.

15.5 I went into a 99c boxed set with several other romance authors and hit the USA Today list. My book was the headliner. I was in three other 99c boxed sets in 2014 /2015. This required that I pull out of KDPS with that book and over the summer, I pulled the other books as well and went into wide distribution.

16. I had my second Bookbub for book 2 in the contemporary romance series in February 2014. I hit #12 in the Kindle store and #8 in romance. I ran two more 99c Bookbub promos in 2014 and released a novella and a short story as well as Book 4 in the paranormal romance series.

17. You can check on the graph what happened after Kindle Unlimited 1.0 struck in July 2014. My income dropped considerably and consistently due to loss of visibility. I put my books into KU in response and saw no benefit. In fact, my income kept falling relative to my average monthly income.

18. I pulled out of KU 1.0 at the end of February, went permafree with the first books in my series, and went into wide distribution.

20. I released several books this year and have had 3 Bookbubs so far. I will have 12 full  length novels, 3 boxed sets, and 2 novellas and a short story self published in total since I started by the end of the year.

21. I started to advertise on Facebook in April and Apple promoted me in March and again this month.

You can see my income has increased considerably over what it was while I was in KU 1.0.

I made $107,286 in 2012 and 2013 combined. I made $154K in 2014. So far in 2015, I have made $212.406 and am on track for $300,000 for the year.

Glad I found Joe Konrath's blog in April 2012 and followed his advice. :)

Writers' Cafe / The How To Go Wide Thread
« on: July 03, 2015, 12:32:38 PM »
I thought that, given the events of the past two weeks, it might be a good thing to start a thread dedicated to advice on how to go wide.

What are the considerations, difficulties, foibles, roadblocks, fixes, and such that an indie author should consider before going wide, what is needed to actually go wide, and what are some steps to take?

What has been your experience with going wide? What have you learned from doing so, what were the mistakes you made, and what would you advise authors who are considering doing so? Good or bad, post your thoughts and experiences, worries and concerns.

Writers' Cafe / A Tale of Permafree on Two Retailers
« on: March 25, 2015, 11:37:11 PM »

In the interest of sharing info with my fellow indie authors, I present to you my tale of permafree.

I put Book 1 of my bestselling erotic romance series permafree on Amazon in February. Book 2 and 3 are priced $4.99. The series was in KU from July 2014 on but sales died off badly after two terms in KU so I pulled it, and put Book 1 at 99c in January. Then I decided to finally try a permafree first in series run in February and did the price match.

I paid about $200 in promo fees to advertise the permafree. Over the course of the first 21 days it was permafree, I had about 16K downloads of Book 1 on Amazon and very modest increase in sales of Book 2 and 3. Overall, I made an extra $667 over what I would have made keeping Book 1 at 99c, if sales had kept up the same for the rest of the month.

On Apple iBooks, I did not pay for advertising targeted at Apple. For the first two weeks, sales were not up over the previous two weeks. BUT - two weeks after it went permafree, iBooks did its own promotion of my permafree first in a series. The free downloads almost doubled what I had on Amazon with paid advertising. I made an extra $8525 on Book 2 and 3 in the ensuing 3 weeks than I would have made if iBooks hadn't promoted it, compared to sales over the first two weeks it was permafree.

So, for me, permafree was pretty lacklustre at Amazon, but was AMAZING at iBooks.

However, this amazing performance was due to the fact that iBooks chose to promote my permafree. Before iBooks promoted my permafree, sales were very low on Apple iBooks. Even paid promo directed towards Amazon did not match what having iBooks promote the series did for sales. The trick is that you need Apple to promote your book. They claim that they only promote books they like and that they don't accept coop or advertising from publishers. So, that's great if Apple likes your book but what if it doesn't?

I'm really happy that this will be a great month for me, with projected revenues at $22-23K overall but that was solely because Apple decided to promote my book. If it hadn't, I don't know how I would have reached Apple customers.

So my question is: How do you reach Apple customers in particular?

Writers' Cafe / A Modest Proposal
« on: March 19, 2015, 09:57:19 PM »
(This is a proposal that probably only makes sense for full-time authors who are able to focus on their indie publishing business. Authors who have full time jobs might have to scale this back considerably, but still, even doing 2000 words a day only on weekends nets you two 100,000 word novels in a year)

I've been looking at the output of some of the bestselling self-published authors in my genres (erotic romance, new adult romance, contemporary romance) and have been kicking myself that I have not been nearly as productive. Deborah Bladon, for example, put out 6 novella series, 1 standalone novel and 1 companion novella, plus 6 collections in 2014, comprising 2161 pages, or approximately 800,000 words. That blew me away!

Then I decided to figure out how many words a day that would be: it would be approximately 2200 words a day every day of a 365 day year. If you took off every weekend, it would require that you wrote 3100 words a day, Monday to Friday to write that number of words. 3100 words is about 3 hours of writing time for me as I am pretty slow at about 1,000 words an hour.

I do this full-time and am making a good living (low six-figures) but I feel really haphazard. I don't write every day, go long stretches without writing, and then write like heck when I have a project deadline where I might get up to 7,000 words written in a day.

So I am going to try the following:

GOAL (Starting April 13): write 6 novel length works in 2 series, or 18 novellas in 6 series and 6 collections:

Monday - Friday 2,500 words a day for a total of 12,500 words each week.

Weeks 1 - 8, write apprx. 90,000 words. Release 3 novellas and a collection or 1 novel in a 3 book series and do the same for each of Weeks 9 - 16, Weeks 17 - 24, Weeks 25 - 32, Weeks 33 - 40, Weeks 41 - 48

You get weekends off, and 4 weeks completely off for vacation.

The trick is to actually sit down and write for 2.5 hours a day Monday - Friday. The rest of the work week can be spent outlining, researching, planning the novel or series, as well as doing all the other indie author work, like author platform, social media, promotions, market research, bookkeeping, etc.

I figure that if I write for 2.5 hours a day and do other business stuff for 2.5 hours a day five days a week, I should be able to do this and put out 6 novels in 2 series, or alternately, 6 novella series with three instalments per series or any combination of the two.

This sounds far more sane than the haphazard way I have approached things this past year. In 2014, I published 2 full-length novels, 4 novellas, 3 short stories, and 3 collections, plus had my novellas and novels in 5 multi-author boxed sets.  I have done whatever whenever and worked like a fiend to meet deadlines, lazing around the rest of the time or doing indie author stuff. I want to feel more in control over my schedule and have a clearer plan.

Sound doable? Any other authors want to join me? Do you have your own production schedule and plans for the year? I know it's already the end of March, but perhaps using the Fiscal (April 1 - March 31) vs. Calendar year.

I've been crunching numbers for a while, trying to figure out which of my books to keep in Kindle Unlimited (KDPS in other words) and which to pull out. As I have said in previous threads, my income fell in the fourth quarter of 2014 after I put all my eggs in the KU basket. While some numbers were up, revenues were down. While borrows were up for the first month, leading to rank improvements, the second month under performed in comparison.

Revenues were down by a considerable chunk in Q4. It was down enough to have me rethinking KU for all but my novella series.

What I can't figure out is whether Amazon allows boxed sets that contain books in KDPS to be sold on other retailers. I have read comments from authors who claim yes, and authors who claim no. Honestly, I am afraid to even ask Amazon to clarify in case I screw myself and other authors.

So, do any of you have first-hand knowledge -- as in email -- of whether Amazon tolerates when a book in KU is included in a multi-author boxed set which is being sold on other retailers?

Do any of you have first-hand knowledge of whether Amazon tolerates books in KU that are in a series being boxed together in a collection and the collection being sold on other retailers?

I have read accounts of Amazon directly saying OK to both and I have read accounts of Amazon directly saying NO to both.

If you have corresponded with Amazon on this issue, or have any direct knowledge, please chime in!

Writers' Cafe / 90-Day New Release Promotion Campaign
« on: December 03, 2014, 10:30:33 AM »
Hi, everyone!

One of the things I like about KBoards is how authors share their experiences and plans. I thought I'd post my 90-day new release promotion campaign plans and do regular updates on progress in that spirit. I will remain anonymous rather than share the actual name of the book and my pen name because, sadly, I've had some bad experiences with a rash of 1-star reviews after I have posted anything in public forums that identified myself. I will post the true actual results of my promotional campaign, the costs, the results and the thinking behind it.

My genre is contemporary erotic romance so right away, that means there is a huge and voracious crowd of readers out there that I can tap into if I can write something that pleases them and catches their eye. If I promote it properly and have good luck shine on me, I hope it will be a success.

Right now, I plan on releasing first week of March 2015 so that gives me 90-days to write, plan, and promote the new release.

There are three parts to this plan:

1) Writing

2) Pre-Release Promotions

3) Release Day Promotion

Here is my plan in a nutshell:

1) Writing:

I already have the novel outlined, the character profiles drafted and the first 12,000 words written. I use the Snowflake method of outlining to help get the main points down. I also use the Blake Snyder 15-point beat sheet to get the main novel 'beats' hammered out. So, I know what I'm writing and where it goes and how it ends.

I start writing in earnest on the 14th of December (when I am done with my current new release due out before X-Mas) and plan to write 3,000 words a day until the first draft is done. I expect the novel to be approximately 75,000 words.

Once I have a full first draft, I do a round of beta reads, and revisions. I have readers who are eager to help me see the flaws in the first draft and how they can be fixed. Then, I do the final line edit about three weeks before release date, leaving me with 10 days before release to fiddle if needed. The writing part I have down and having written 7 full-length novels, 3 novellas and two shorts, I know I can do it if I have a good outline and time.

2) Pre-Release Promotion:

I will do a pre-order using D2D for B&N, iBooks and Kobo but will not do a pre-order on Amazon. I'm not big enough yet to benefit from that so I won't bother.

I will hire a promoter to help with pre-release and release day promotions. I have used two different promoters in the past, but have just sent in a request for a new promotion blog to do my pre-release and release day promotions. They did a similar promotion for a friend of mine who is a NYT bestselling author so I hope they will accept me. I don't know what the price is, but it will likely be < $100. They do pre-release posters, teasers, cover reveal blog signups, and release day blog blitz signups. This helps build word of mouth before the release, letting existing readers and new readers know of my upcoming release.

I've already started my pre-release promotion with posting a stock photo that will form the basis of my cover art. I did a Facebook post with the pic and let people know I was planning this new book and asked them what they thought. There was a lot of positive feedback because the guy on the cover is buff with tats. That is a big seller in my genre. ;) I also posted a bit of a blurb on the novel and the general theme. So my existing readers already know this book is being planned and a general date of release.

I hired a new cover artist who does a lot of great work in my genre ($250) and hope it turns out well. I expect to have a draft from her later in December and will do a cover reveal in January. I hope to use it to keep reader awareness up for the following months until release.

I need to get the word out to even more readers, so I will be holding a few contests and will give away signed print copies of my books and free eBooks as prizes to get people to share my posts on my new release with their friends and add it to their TBR lists on Goodreads. I will also keep promoting my mailing list and will probably tie it with a freebie.

So, besides the cover reveal, various teasers with tempting photos (of tatted guys and rock hard abs) and giveaways, I hope to generate lots of buzz in the weeks leading up to my new release.

3. Release day promotion:

Release day will start with an email to my mailing list which has 4,000+ subscribers. I will include a link to the book on various retailers and hope that 30%+ open the email and of those, I hope that 15 - 20% actually click on my link and buy. That helps with release day rank. Release day will also include a blog blitz where participating bloggers agree to post about my new release. Depending on the book and author, I have seen between 50 - 200 blogs take part in a blog blitz on release day. Some of them will also have taken part in the cover reveal a few weeks earlier and some will also have received an advanced reading copy (ARC) and will be posting early reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Hopefully, they will be good, but I always ask people to leave honest reviews. And I never pay for reviews. Or trade reviews with other authors.

Then, I promote the hell out of the new release, run a couple of release day giveaways (a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate and a signed print book) and wait for rank and sales to start and reviews to come in.

I haven't had a new new release in a year because I have been finishing my three series and so all my new releases have been sequels. Two series will be finished as of December 14th and the other series will be done this summer when I release the final book. I hope this standalone does well and then I will start on a brand new series.

Why am I writing a stand alone? Because the story demands it. I usually write series but wanted to take a break and write this one-off standalone and see how it does.

So there you have it. My plan started last week when I posted about my new release with the cover stock photo.

I'll keep folks updated on each part of the promotional plan and post results, etc. throughout the process.

Wish me luck!  :)

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