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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Three years ago today, I uploaded my first indie book to the Kindle store. I decided to give indie publishing a try because I had quite a few previously published books that I couldn't find a home for. I hated to see them sit there, lost and lonely, on my hard drive, and I'd read about indie publishing, so I thought, "Why not?" I had been publishing off and on since 1998, through a traditional publisher and small e-presses, but I didn't have any fanbase to speak of, so I was starting almost from scratch.

My first month was inauspicious-- 27 books sold-- but the next month I was lucky enough to get featured by a blog that was popular at the time, and sales went up dramatically. Even so, I didn't do really well until I started writing erotic romance shorts and getting them up on B&N. I sold huge amounts on B&N in early 2011-- and then they messed around with the bestseller list, and my really big sales faded.

Even so, since then I've been able to sell pretty steadily. I write under three names-- romance, erotic romance, and m/m romance-- and which name sells best seems to vary from platform to platform. I have forty titles (a lot of which are shorts). I've sold about 135,000 copies on Amazon and B&N over three years, and I've done fairly well on iTunes in the past year, too. I have never been a big seller (except for that brief shining month and a half on B&N :D); I am pretty much an indie midlister, by which I mean I make enough money at writing to pay quite a few of the bills, but not nearly as much as I would like to. ;D I keep hoping for a big E.L. James-style breakthrough-- who wouldn't like one?-- but in the meantime I'm happy to be selling as many books as I am. Doesn't stop me from trying to sell more, though!

Scattered thoughts:

1. The quality of indie publishing has gone up dramatically in only three years. Yes, of course there are still people throwing up stories that would make my eight-year-old's writing look professional by comparison, but never mind them. I'm talking about people who are really trying to make a living off writing. And those books-- covers and content-- have improved enormously in the past three years. My first books had Photoshopped covers by yours truly, which were rather scruffy (though they looked like Louvre-ready artwork next to some covers back then). Nowadays there are so many good and inexpensive cover designers out there that there's little excuse to have a shabby cover. Likewise with editing-- there are plenty of good editors out there now, and we have no excuse for turning out a manuscript with recurring comma issues, or in which there and their are repeatedly confused. There seems to be a lot more excellent work being produced, and in order to be competitive it's necessary to be as professional as possible.

2. The market keeps changing, and some things are out of your control. Yeah, I know, duh. Still, it's true. The minute you think you have it all figured out, something changes. I sold huge quantities on B&N, then they realized that erotica was dominating the bestseller list and "corrected" what they saw as a problem. I did great with Select once; a few months later the luster was off the Select rose, and it no longer did much for my sales. I put up a short I thought might do really well, and Amazon slapped the "mature" filter on it, making it more or less unfindable. And so forth and so on. You can't control everything. All you can control is your own product.

3. Trying new things can be beneficial. I did okay last year with a new subgenre, m/m erotic romance. I'm not saying "follow trends" or "write what's hot"-- but if you have a real desire to try something different, go for it. Even if you discover you suck at it, you'll probably have learned something new, and that's worthwhile. Also, trying new platforms can be helpful-- I'm doing well so far this year with ARe, and I'm glad I uploaded my stuff there, because I'm selling very poorly indeed on Amazon lately. There's something to be said for keeping your eggs in many different baskets. Even a market that seems like a safe bet (as Amazon has been for me most of the time I've been an indie) can switch things up, so that it suddenly becomes more difficult to maintain sales.

4. Sometimes keeping going is tough. If you're a writer long enough, it's almost inevitable that you will find yourself working through some sort of personal tragedy or health problem. It is not always reasonable to beat yourself up if you can't write-- sometimes you have to take a break. But sometimes writing can help you deal with your problems, too. No matter what, come back to your writing, sooner or later. "Keep writing" is almost a cliche on these boards, but it's a cliche because it's true. :)

This has been a very helpful place to hang out over the past three years. Thanks to you all for the help and support!
 

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Good post. I keep thinking of the West Side Story Song, "There's a Place for Us." Yay. So happy to be part of this publishing revolution!
 

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Happy anniversary, and thank you for sharing! I always love to hear more details on the business side of things from people who have been around for a while--for instance, tips for launching your books well and choosing what to write next. Any thoughts?
 

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Happy three year anniversary!  I love hearing about all of those novels of yours that couldn't find a home and were given life through this great big wonderful world of indie publishing.  135,000 copies is NUTS!!!  So awesome!  Congrats! 
 

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Hey, happy third indie birthday!

I disappeared from KB for a few months and it took me a few threads/posts to realize you'd gone into the witness protection program (ie name change?). Congratulations on the anniversary. I just had my 2 year milestone this week and have many of the same conclusions as you.

I've never had a big run on any of the sites, but I have been encouraged by the potential of having lots of work under different names/genres in as many outlets as possible. When I add up all the little sales here and there, it's real money. Not software-architect-in-silicon-valley money (my loyal spouse), but if-I-keep-writing-this-will-really-be-worth-it money. Even if I never hit any lists. I thank Dean Wesley Smith and Kris Rusch for emphasizing this attitude, which will keep you writing even when you read posts here on KB about debut writers hitting a list their first week. (That kills me. Am I allowed to admit that? Deep breath, LOL.)

We're all new at this because it's all new, and whatever we learn is already obsolete--except to keep writing.

Anyway, congratulations and here's to many successful years ahead!
 

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Definitely feel we're lucky to have you giving us advice and the benefit of a lot of experience. Can't wait to see what you do this year ;)
 

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Happy third indie anniversary! Wonderful insights in your post :)

135,000 copies sold and paying a lot of your bills sounds awesome!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I disappeared from KB for a few months and it took me a few threads/posts to realize you'd gone into the witness protection program (ie name change?).
Hee hee. I had my other name in my siggy for about a month in an effort not to confuse people. :) But it just got to the point where these are the names I really do most of my writing and promoting under. It made sense to change my name here.

So do you make enough from writing to give up the day job?
Well, I was a stay-at-home mom when my husband died, and I'd been out of the workforce so long I didn't think I could possibly go back into my old career (insurance underwriting). Since the writing income was down last year, I was planning on getting some sort of job this year, but in November my elderly dad moved in, and he needs pretty much full-time attention. Writing helps pay the bills, and if I didn't have a humongous mortgage, a college tuition, and hideously expensive health insurance to pay for, the writing income would be a bigger help. But as it is I'm still relying on survivor's benefits and savings to a large degree.

We're all new at this because it's all new...
Exactly. I got into e-publishing when it was fairly shiny and new (2003), and now indie publishing is the new frontier. Things keep changing, and very few of us can lay claim to being experts!
 

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Congratulations, Meg.

I've been thinking about this lately since my own three-year anniversary will be February 7. I'm in different circumstances from many in that I'm retired and need supplemental income, not "a living," but the fact is indie publishing has changed my life for the better and saved me from having to do things I didn't want to do in order to earn what would have been much less than the books are bringing.

I know changes may come along that affect us all, but I am so grateful for these last three years and really looking forward to continuing this new venture as long as I'm able.

Here's to long and successful careers for all of us.
 
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