Goin’ Indie: My Sales During Year One of Self-Publishing

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been almost a year since I flew the coop and launched into self-publishing.

I had no idea I would be this successful.

Just goes to show what’s possible in indie-land. :-D

A year ago this coming Saturday, I had my first book release for Kismet’s Kiss, a fantasy romance. It had been a two-time Golden Heart® finalist, gotten me my third agent, kicked butt in contests and did the rounds in NY, but it was just too far out of the marketing box. (A Middle Easternesque historical fantasy romance about a sultan hero with six wives—and somehow he, the heroine who’s his true match, and the wives all get a happy ending? Yeah, it breaks a few rules.) I ended up with two offers from small presses, and—long story short—decided to go indie instead.

I knew my likely royalty income at the small but respected fantasy publisher I almost went with: per book, about $500 or less for the first year, with fewer sales and less income per year after that. That gave me goals and a good comparison.

Kismet's Kiss—New CoverIn late August, I published Kismet’s Kiss at Amazon, which was almost the only game in town a year ago. Since then I changed the initial cover (and if you follow that link, I think you’ll agree that the change was a good thing. :) ). I also put out a print version through CreateSpace and uploaded the ebook to Barnes and Noble‘s PubIt platform in November as well as to Smashwords, Goodreads and All Romance eBooks. Smashwords now distributes it to Apple, Sony, Kobo, Diesel and the new Scrollmotion.

In September, I got my first fan letter. And yes, I bawled over it. That moment was worth the more than a decade of dedicated writing that had come before it.

I earned my first $1000 around February 8. $1000 is the bar RWA uses for Published Author Network (PAN) status, although at the moment RWA doesn’t allow self-published books to qualify. It took me a little over 5 months to earn that amount as a debut indie. Sadly, many authors at PAN-eligible presses will never earn enough through those presses to make PAN. (Interestingly, once their contracts end and they’ve gotten their rights back, some authors have been re-publishing those books themselves—and are making far more money as indies.)

The Source of Magic—cover artIn April, I added to my lineup another multi-contest winner that had been hanging around on my hard drive: The Source of Magic, which is a prequel to Kismet’s Kiss. It’s now available at all the above online stores, too. Due to a beautiful sales surge at B&N (one I still can’t explain, but I sure did love), Source earned its first $1000 (PAN-equivalent) money in just 14 days. Two freaking, amazing weeks.

By June 15th, I had earned $5000 from both books.

In July, I received an offer for a foreign rights deal that’s in negotiations(!). Yes, as a self-published author, I have foreign rights interest. I think you see where I’m going here: self-publishing is a completely viable option for sales, income, and readership.

So now it’s late August, nearly a year into my indie journey, and here’s how each book has done as of yesterday:

Kismet’s Kiss: Approx. $3700 earned through 1956 sales (mostly @ $2.99-3.99) since August 28, 2010.

The Source of Magic: Approx. $4300 earned through 2380 sales (mostly @ $2.99) since April 18, 2011.

So in less than a year, I’ve earned around $8300 and sold 4336 copies of two books, with the second one out only four months.

$0.99 books tend to sell faster, but only qualify for 35-40% royalties at the Big Two (Amazon and B&N), darn it. Except for a few temporary sales, I’ve kept to $2.99 and above to get 65-70% royalties. I might play with $0.99 more often as I publish additional books and become willing to take more risks. In any case, I’m now averaging 20 sales a day, and I retain full control of these books, which just keep selling, and selling…

Most books at traditional presses have a big initial sales push and then lose traction over time. In contrast, most indie books tend to gain sales momentum over time. Mine certainly have. In my first full month with Kiss, I sold just 35 copies and made about $70.

That means that if you’ve self-published (or will be soon) and don’t see amazing numbers right away, don’t lose hope. The key to successful indiedom is patience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Let your books find an audience. And just keep writing and publishing! That’s the best darned thing you can do to guarantee more sales. I’m working on the third in my series and hope to have out by the end of the year.

Are you wondering if my success is an outlier? I might be in the nicer part of the bell curve, but I’m far from the outer edge. There are other strictly self-pubbed romance authors doing significantly better than I am—like Theresa Ragan and Debra Holland. And of course there are now many authors having fun publishing through both the traditional/legacy and self-publishing pathways, like Courtney Milan—whose first self-published book, a novella, hit the NYT list a month after its release. That’s right, her first time on the NYT was with her self-pubbed story.

In other words, my results are not a fluke.

You can succeed, too. Without a publisher. Without an agent.

Of course you can still pursue traditional publishers for your work even if you self-publish. It’s not an either/or. Do whatever feels right to you for each book—but do be aware of the marvelous option of going indie. Whatever stigma there used to be about self-publishing is dying a rapid and unmourned death due to indie success.

(One last thing for RWA members: If one or more of your self-published books has earned $1000 and would be eligible for PAN if RWA allowed it, please write the RWA Board to let them know. They need information about indie earnings so they can make the right decisions about steering the great big ship of RWA. I wrote the Board in February after Kiss earned $1000. I wrote them again in June after earning $5000 as a self-published author, and I’ll be writing them about my first year’s results, too. Please write them so other authors can benefit from information and education about modern self-publishing!)

So, after a year of being an indie, I know this about the path I’ve taken: I wouldn’t change a thing.

If you’re thinking about self-publishing, has this post helped you get closer to a decision?

If you’ve already self-published, what’s the one thing you wish you’d done differently? (Mine is to have self-published sooner!)

144 Responses to “Goin’ Indie: My Sales During Year One of Self-Publishing”

  1. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I’d like to self-publish, Cate, but I’m totally clueless about how to convert my manuscript into an e-pub format and where and how to distribute my book. Is there a how-to book out there to help me?

  2. liz talley says:

    Congrats, Cate. I love that you were able to take your career into your own hands and find success! You believed in your story…and it’s such a good story.

    As for going indie, right now I don’t have immediate plans to do so…mostly because I don’t have but two manuscripts languishing on the hard drive and 1. they’re not ready to see the light of day and 2. they’ve not been shopped around to trad pubs. But i’m always keeping an eye on this ever-changing landscape. Epublishing is the future, and I think it would be wise to bridge that widening gap.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Aww, thanks for the compliment on Kismet’s Kiss, Liz! I still adore your Vegas Two-Step!

      You’re so right, digital’s the future and it’s important for us all to keep an eye on it.

  3. Congratulations, Cate, but most of all THANKS! You were the pioneering soul talking so candidly about the indie route back when I really didn’t understand it. And I still don’t understand all of it, but I do love how helpful everyone is!

    Both my books are doing fabulously, and it’s great that we can check our Amazon numbers and quickly adjust our marketing if desired. (I just jumped over and Jockeys is at 250 and Color My Horse/new release is around 5000.) That’s incredible and wouldn’t have happened with a traditional route.

    I’m so very grateful to you and wouldn’t change a thing.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Bev, that’s AWESOME! Grab that money and toss it into the air. Makes an especially fun shower. :) I’m thrilled with your success (and LOVED Jockeys and Jewels, as you know). And once again, your results prove that indie success is no fluke. In fact, you may end up whupping my butt all over the sales charts. You go, girl!!!

    • Tina Joyce says:

      I bought a copy of Jockeys, Bev. It’s on my computer (a Kindle is on my wish list), and I’m looking forward to digging in!

  4. Kudos to you, Cate! Your success as an indie author is really inspiring. You’ve shown you can make it work. Congratulations, also, on that fan letter–the first of many, I’m sure. :)

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Fan letters mean the absolute world to an author. Knowing someone else loved your creation as much as you did is an incredible thing. No doubt you’ll know that feeling very soon! *hugs*

  5. Elise Hayes says:

    Many thanks for sharing your indie journey with us, Cate. It’s been such a learning curve for you and you’ve been incredibly generous and open about sharing the details so that other writers who might be interested in self-publishing can learn.

    And may I say that I was so happy to see Kismet’s Kiss finally in book form? I’d judged a partial in one of the contests you entered and loved, loved, loved it. It was fabulous to get to read the whole, fantastic book.

    Source of Magic is on my TBR list!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      *sniff* Thank you for letting me know you’d read Kismet’s Kiss in a contest and kept an eye out for its publication. That really touches me, Elise.

      Kiss was the book of my heart, no question. I admit that holding the book in my hands at long last was a special moment. Even though I’ve sold (literally) 130 times as many ebook copies than print ones, LOL!

      • Kate, I read it in a contest, too. Imagine my shock when I learned later that it belonged to the person who had been my sprinting partner. I was telling you how to fix it. (Shudder) What nerve. Sometimes things don’t need fixing. They just need to find the right audience.

  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    Cate, congratulations on your sales. Thanks for sharing.

    And you have my admiration for all all your hard work on this topic, and for your tireless efforts to get RWA to recognize this new channel of distribution for authors. The organization needs to recognize self-published authors. If it truly purports to be an organization dedicated to the advancement of authors, it needs to do something about this situation. It can’t hide from it forever, and I have no doubt that trailblazers like are going to make the difference.

    Thanks so much.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Thank you, Hope! *hugs*

      I’m just thrilled to have information to offer others (g), and have so enjoyed sharing what I’ve learned, both online and in giving chapter workshops.

      I’ve learned so very much over the years from RWA. I’m happy to pay it forward by letting authors know about their choices and helping them make the right decisions for themselves, whatever those decisions are. With luck, the RWA Board will be able to get the big ship on an updated course soon.

  7. Vivi Andrews says:

    Cate, I’m so glad your self-pub experience has overshot your expectations. Congratulations!

    I don’t intend to self-publish in the near future – mostly because it would just suck too much time away from my writing if I was in charge of doing everything else.

    When you’re writing to the board about PAN, do you take into account the publishing expenses a publisher would normally cover such as art & editing? Is it a $1000 profit or $1000 net? How will they ensure people aren’t fibbing about expenses? The logistics are tricky. I know you’re frustrated, but I’d rather the board make the right decision slowly than the wrong one quickly and I think they’re doing a great job.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Hi Vivi. Everyone has different goals and needs, of course! All paths have their value. But I have to admit, I kinda giggle when people say they can’t self-publish because it would take too much time or costs too much.

      I did my formatting myself (because I’m a picky perfectionist), but there are people happy to e-format a novel for $40-125. I did the cover art for The Source of Magic myself, but as a comparison for those without Photoshop skillz, the redo of the cover of Kismet’s Kiss was around $200–and there’s beautiful cover art for romances available for as little as $50. My amazing critique partner is a former editor at a small press, but there are many freelance editors out there already (and more and more every day, it seems).

      As for PAN, is $1000 that qualifies other members pure profit, either? For example, how many trad-pubbed authors have spent their PAN-qualifying advances on expensive advertising or other marketing efforts that didn’t end up working and earning them back the equivalent sales? An author’s advance money, especially when it’s low, so often gets poured into marketing because few publishers do much effective marketing themselves anymore. PAN’s $1000 in earnings is a tricky issue no matter how the money arrives. I’ve kept my expenses very low and have a nice bank balance to show for it. And just to be on the safe side, when I wrote the Board in February, I’d already made $1000 in *profit*. :)

      I, too, want the Board to make the right decision, and that’s why I’m passionate about making sure the BoMems have all the info they need–and that indies at every stage are in touch with their Board. However, I read the tea leaves a year ago, so the information about the changing industry has been out there for a year already and iisn’t a secret. I hope the Board–hard-working volunteers that they are–can see their way to a new path for the organization sooner rather than later. Because the longer it is, the longer it takes until RWA’s members realize just how many options they have.

      • Vivi Andrews says:

        I’d love to see a Special Interest Chapter formed by self-pubs (as the ebook authors formed ESPAN when they were feeling marginalized and ignored). With the goal of educating the membership about options, that seems an excellent step in the right direction.

        If you see me as comically naive about the time commitment involved, at least I gave you a laugh. :)

        Best wishes that your sales continue to grow and grow.

        • Cate Rowan says:

          I’d like to see an indie Special Interest chapter too, Vivi. Information is always good. (g) There are a few people (including a couple of Ruby Sisters, hooray) who are looking into that.

          As for you, dear Vivi: your productivity amazes me, and you’ve created a life you love and a career that supports you beautifully. That’s what it’s all about! :D

      • Amanda Brice says:

        Courtney Milan argues that it should be reported to RWA as $1000 earned, not $1000 profit, for the very reason that Cate did (that promotional expenses, etc are often borne by the traditionally-published author anyway), and because the PAN requirements state $1000 in royalties or advance, not $1000 profit. That being said, like Cate, I decided to be cautious as well and report to RWA at $1000 profit rather than $1000 earned.

        Either way, I encourage authors to write to RWA with their results, and to keep writing when they hit later milestones. Perhaps write first at $1000 earned, then $1000 profit, then at the next $1000, and the next, etc. Write when you get a foreign rights deal. Write with every big milestone and show that the money adds up over time and that results such as Cate’s are not a fluke. The board cannot ignore data, so we need to show them data.

        • Cate Rowan says:

          I’m glad to know Courtney agrees!

          From what I’ve heard, there are some Board members who are fully behind modern self-publishing. We just need to convince enough of the others. (g) Of course, since the Board only meets a few times a year, that makes change tougher.

  8. Amanda Brice says:

    Cate, congrats on your fantastic success and thank you for being such a trailblazer!

    As for myself, I’m very happy with my decision to go indie with my dance series, but if I could do anything over, I would have already had the sequel written so I could release it in a shorter time after the first one. But c’est la vie! With luck it should be ready to launch in late November, just in time for the holiday season.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Amanda, it’s been so much fun to have you as a journey partner! :D

      It’s a hoot to think of myself as a trailblazer because I’m usually not much of a risktaker. I suppose I went indie because it didn’t have much of a downside to me, LOL.

      And just like you, I wish I’d had more books (particularly in this series) ready to go. That seems to be one way to really pop profits right away. I look forward to seeing how your coming release scoots up the charts!

    • Tina Joyce says:

      My daughter and I both loved Code Name, Amanda! Can’t wait to read the next one!

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    Congrats on your huge success Cate.
    I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from you sharing your Indie published journey. The information you’ve shared was instrumental in my decision not to do this right now. I know it’s not for me. A year from may very well be. What I’ve learned from you and other sisters has helped me make my decisions in my writing career.
    Thank you.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Rita, you’re so very welcome. The great part is that you were able to evaluate what’s right for you now and what’s not. :) And yes, as authors we always have the option of changing our minds as the situation shifts.

  10. Cate, hugs and smoochies on your success as an indie! For the past year you’ve been a steady source of easy-to-understand and credible information for romance authors and beyond. Thank you and good thoughts for continued great things for you and your stories.

  11. Cate, so thrilled for your success and so happy with your open, honest, communication about your self-pubbing journey. I wouldn’t have taken the chance without you blazing the path and showing the way.

    I have loved self-pubbing so far! It’s been a great experience for me. If I could change anything it would be to have lined up further titles to self-pub sooner. It’s taking me longer than I wanted to get another book up there.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Cynthia, you’ve had one helluva year and and I’m ecstatic to have had any part in seeing you reach a readership!

      I soooo wish I had more books up now, too. Wish I could turn back time and tell myself to stop fussing with what I’d already written and push on to new manuscripts. (Good advice for any of us, no matter which publishing path we want to take.) So I just keep reminding myself that it’ll happen as soon as my stories are ready, and I have to be patient and keep writing. (g)

  12. Shannyn says:

    Hi Cate – thanks for all the candid info. I know every author is expected to do self-promotion, but it seems like as a self-pubbed author you have to put in even more time on the business end (which is what’s holding me back). What kind of promo do you do, if any? and How much time do you spend on it?

    Thanks again

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Shannyn, that’s a great question. I know authors who throw a ton of time into marketing and others (like me) who don’t. Maybe I’m lazy. (g) Actually, I originally planned to do more than I’ve done and have a long list of “to-dos”, but for various Life reasons that hasn’t happened.

      Perhaps that’s even for the best. I’m convinced that in long run, what will get me the biggest readership and income is having more books up for sale. I’m a slow writer, so I try to keep my energy there. Other people are happier to market themselves and that works well for them.

      Bottom line, do what you’re comfortable with. You *don’t* have to spend all your time doing promo. I sure as heck don’t! I doubt the average indie author does any more than the average small press author, for example. (Or large press, for that matter…) (And right now I do less than any of those averages. (g))

      Without dedicated marketing it could be a slower ride to the top, but then again, you’ll have more time to write and create more books to sell. It’s all a balance we each have to reach for ourselves.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Oh, and I should mention that I DO plan to do more promo down the road. I’d just rather get more books into my stable as soon as I can, including having a third book in the series up before the annual Christmas season surge. Think of it this way: if an author writes a guest post/becomes a Twitter master/runs a contest/does other promo and catches a reader’s eye, it’s even nicer if that reader can access not just one book, but the multiple books that the author has for sale. :)

  13. jim bronyaur says:

    Congrats Cate! I enjoy reading these stories… I wish you even more success because I have a feeling this Christmas season is going to be HUGE! :)


    • Cate Rowan says:

      Thanks, Jim! So glad you stopped by.

      And you’re right–the Christmas season should be a doozie. I’m aiming hard to get my new one out in December. :)

      • Amanda Brice says:

        Yeah, I’m trying desperately to get my new one out in mid-to-late November. Gotta get the benefit of the holiday buying! (Oh, that and my baby is due in early December. LOL)

        • Cate Rowan says:

          An excellent reason to have the book off your plate by then, for sure!

          • Amanda Brice says:

            Yeah, I’m not sure how much writing (and editing, polishing, promoting, uploading, launching, etc) I’ll be able to do after he’s born, so it’s probably a good idea to get it out there before maternity leave starts!

  14. Jeannie Lin says:

    Happy Anniversary and thanks for sharing your journey! Having read Kismet’s Kiss, I’m a believer that the cream does rise to the top in any publishing model.

    I think it’s a smart move for any author, traditionally published, e-published, or indie, to become knowledgeable about their options. I haven’t considered self-publishing other than a small non-romance short story I had lingering. For me, it’s actually opposite of the argument many self-publishing authors use. I do write stories that don’t currently have a great foothold in traditional publishing, but I think the existing readership for it and the wider potential readership can currently be better reached through traditional publishing. Many Asian wuxia and wuxia-inspired authors are currently indie or self-published and it’s hard to widen awareness and distribution outside of a very small circle of fans. On the other hand, being able to control pricing, release schedules, etc. is very attractive.

    I don’t think name recognition is the sole factor for self-publishing success as Cate has shown with her debut novel. But I sense knowing how to market and position yourself is very important. If I had a project in hand with greater mass appeal, then self-publishing would definitely become a more attractive option.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am that your new Harl. Undone is on its way. Folks, Jeannie’s THE TAMING OF MEI LIN is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. This woman know her way around a story. And when Li Tao’s story comes out this fall? Well, HAWT DIGGITY DAMN.

      Anyway, Jeannie, you’ve made a carefully considered decision about your writing and your options, and that’s the key. I want every author to have info so they can make the best decisions for their own careers! Just keep writing so I can get my fix. :D

  15. Diana Layne says:

    Hi, Cate, I’m dashing out the door once again. This has been a crazy summer! I have my first one I’m going to self-pub out for editing and my DIL who is majoring in multimedia art is working on the cover. I’ve been following a lot of indie pubs who talk about their numbers, and you know there seems to be no rhyme or reason to them. Same author, different books, some do great, some not so great. Why did Source take off on wings? (I know you don’t know, I’m just trying to figure it out).

    Also, don’t forget to mention that John Locke now sold to a tradi-pub and managed to keep his ebook rights.

    Congratulations to you and thanks for the inspiration!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Di, I’m super excited for you!

      Yes, it’s SO hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Some books just take off out of the gate and others build more gradually. There are a bazillion factors, and we never know exactly why each sale is made. (We may *think* we do, but unless we know the reader personally and can ask, we’re mostly making guesses. With luck, they’re a least educated guesses!)

      John Locke’s deal is (I hope, hope, hope) a portent of things to come, bless his sharkish negotiator heart. And it’s not because an indie author is going to have his books distributed through a trad pub, but because he kept ebook rights, which I’m sure S&S resisted fiercely. His deal makes print rights the subsidiary right, and it’s the reason the trad industry is going to be turned on its head within a couple of years.

  16. Kelley Bowen says:

    It takes a lot of courage to wander ahead of the curve and a lot of generosity to share the experience. Thanks for the great information.
    Many more sales to you!

  17. Diane Kelly says:

    Congrats on your success, Cate! And good for you for breaking some rules with your novels! Those are always the most intriguing stories.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Diane, that’s much appreciated!

      At the time, I didn’t realize I was so severely breaking The Rules–but that was right for the story, and in the end, for me. Yep, one happy thing about indie is that authors’ rule-breaker books can now reach a readership that appreciates busted rules, LOL.

  18. Cate Rowan says:

    Thanks so much, Kelly! I’m just happy to have something to share and be able to spread the word. :)

  19. Cate,

    Thank you for sharing your numbers. I’ll be taking the plunge in the next month or two with one of my fantasy romances (the book it still with my editor), so it feels a little less scarey knowing you’ve had such good success with your books. I do hope RWA will take self-pubbed authors’ numbers in consideration when it comes to both PAN membership and RITA eligibility.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Hi there, Crista! As you know, I’m eager for you to get your fantasy romance ready to go. (g)

      As for RWA, the good thing is that I’m certain that it will. I truly have no doubts on that. The only unknown is the timing.

  20. Mega-congrats on your success, Cate. You’re such an inspiration.

    I don’t know that I have enough faith in myself to go indie. And engaging a professional editor would require additional expense I can’t justify at the moment. However, the most recent element to emerge within my series may very well push it into a place similar to that Kismet inhabited. We shall see. If so, I may have no choice but to take the plunge or continue to clutter my hard drive.

  21. Tina Joyce says:

    Cate thanks so much for your willingness to share your journey. I’ve been listening closely.

    Like others, I have a hard time knowing when something is “ready” for publication, does that make sense? So I’ve gone the traditional route, for now. But, saying that, my GH finaling manuscripts are still languishing on my computer hard drive, and I really love those characters and stories. So I’m weighing my options–that’s a beautiful word, isn’t it? There’s no longer just one path, but several.

    Thanks again!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Hi there, Tina. “Ready” is a tough call, isn’t it?

      It’s every author’s own difficult decision. For someone weighing that first indie possibility, I’d say if a manuscript is good enough to get a reputable agent or a “near miss” with a publisher, it’s likely ready. Never hurts to give it one more polish, of course—my SOURCE got me two agents and was passed around NY, and I still did a LOT of revisions to it years later before I released it. But at some point, we either sense that the manuscript is as good as we can make it right now and we’re ready to give birth and move on to another story—or it’s fatally flawed and needs to be pushed aside until we have the skills (or patience) to fix it.

      Ten years from now I might look back on KISS and SOURCE and want to go in and fix stuff because I’ll have become a better writer. (I hope I will be, anyway.) But I can’t be that better writer unless I keep writing, and I found it hard to keep writing while I had manuscripts I loved and believed in that weren’t reaching their audience.

      Sometimes we think something is ready when it’s not. But one thing I realized about this business (particularly from contests!) is how incredibly subjective it is. If one reader or editor doesn’t like a book and another loves it like hot and damn, who’s right?

      We can’t please every editor and we can’t please every reader. But we can please ourselves, do due diligence with editing, and then release our books into the wild so readers can vote with their dollars on what *they* want to read. It’s a far more democratic system now. (g)

    • Cate Rowan says:

      I’d also say that consistent contest success can be a good indicator of readiness (as long as the rest of the manuscript is as polished as the first chapters, LOL—I know mine wasn’t always), and heck, several agent “near misses” after reads of the full ms. might be enough, too, if the feedback is good. After all, agents’ likes and dislikes can be just as subjective as any editor’s or reader’s. :)

  22. Beth Langston says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary… and thanks for being so honest about sharing your numbers with us.

  23. Shea Berkley says:

    This is great news, Cate! I’m so thrilled and proud of you for taking that huge step. You’ve proven there are more kinds of success than just that which others define for us, and I wish you so much more!

  24. Hi Cate, You might find me on your doorstep one of these days. I just wrote The End on that story we talked about. It still needs some touch up but all the information you’ve given is making this journey as an indie quite tempting. I am SO proud of you and cannot wait to open your story, that is on my Kindle, and settle in for a great read. :)

  25. Kate, what can I say? YOU rock! You’ve helped lead many of us into that first step of self-publishing. I’ve done so myself and have made about $2500 in less than a year. It’s so exciting! I’ve recently self-pubbed through Createspace as well with one of my YA books – THROUGH THE EYES OF A GEEK. I see a bright future for us indies!

  26. Kim Law says:

    Thanks so much for sharing all this, Cate. It helps to know the facts! And congratulations for such a terrific year!!!! I just wish I could find some time to read The Source of Magic. I know I’ll love it as much as the first, so can’t read it while I’m trying to finish my WIP or my WIP gets pushed to the side :( *sigh* Soon. I keep promising myself, soon.

    Congrats on your big anniversary, and on all the awesomeness you’ve produced in the last year. I love how the numbers have skyrocketed from the first month!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      SOURCE’ll be there waiting for you, Kim, so you’re totally right, get your WIP done first. Priorities!

      And yes, it’s nice to see how much sales can grow over time. Marathon, marathon…

  27. Norah Wilson says:

    Cate, how thrilling! Especially about the second book taking off so quickly! Just wait until you have two or three more… In my first year, I will have earned around $20K when the last reports come in, and the most of it on the first 4 books I put up. I now have 9 indie titles out there, several of which are written with a co-author. I think there are going to be more and more stories like yours for us to read in the coming months, and I’ll celebrate every one. :)

  28. Cate,

    What a wonderful and inspiring post. Thanks so much for sharing and thank you for starting up the IndieRomanceInk group!

    The only thing I wish I had don’t differently was to self-pub sooner. I love the freedom, especially in designing my covers.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      IRI brings me smiles every day. :)

      Oh yeaaaaah, I love the freedom, too. I suspect that’s the main reason people go indie. Freedom and control over our own careers—what’s not to love?

  29. Hope Tarr says:

    What a wonderfully informative post. Thanks so much, Cate, for sharing your expertise and your numbers with us.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Thanks for coming by, Hope! I’ve learned so much over the last decade from other people. I’m glad I have something worth sharing now. (g)

  30. Cindy Sample says:

    Hi Cate. You’ve not only inspired all of us Rosers by taking the plunge, but your willingness to share not only your publishing highs but also financial information is highly appreciated. I chose to go with a small traditional publisher with a hybrid model so I can also sell books and make a decent profit. Which means I can have signings anywhere I want. My favorites are in candy stores and wineries. It’s amazing how many books you can sell when alcohol is involved, so keep that in mind all of you indie authors.

    But on the negative side, I can’t adjust the price downward and don’t have any input on the cover. The ability to tweak the pricing, cover and content is a huge plus.

    I commend you on your initiative but bottom line, this wouldn’t be happening if you weren’t such a fabulous writer as well!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Aww, shucks, Cindy. :D Thanks for that.

      It will be interesting to see what other publishing models and distribution channels pop up over the next few years! Everything’s changing so much already—why not add some more chaos. ;)

      P.S. You had me at mojito.

  31. Cate, girl! I’m so glad I keep finding you! Thanks for your support on the Indie loop!

  32. Jenn! says:

    I don’t have your numbers yet, but with debut self-published novel Blood and Treasure, I’ve seen a steady increase in numbers. It’s a pretty great feeling.

    Thanks so much for sharing your numbers and journey with us. There is no doubt you’ve become an inspiration for a great many people, including myself.

    Congratulations and keep us informed of your overwhelming success.


  33. Congratulations on your success, Cate! Very inspiring! I’ve indie-published my books and my only regret is that I didn’t start sooner. :)

  34. Lilly Hale says:

    I also self-published my erotic time-travel romance in July and am already half-way to that $1,000 mark. I knew that time-travel wasn’t big with the large publishing houses and I do like having control of my own work and how it’s presented, so went the indie route. I have not been sorry. It’s been a lot of fun and rewarding, too. :)

  35. Kate Parker says:

    Cate, congrats on your major success after only a year, and thanks for sharing those steps along the way. I know I’m not ready yet, but someday, if I don’t grab the interest of a publisher, I may bite the bullet and publish some of my stories myself. In the meantime, my greatest dream is to be edited by an editor. Different paths for each of us.

  36. Nan Dixon says:

    Last week I had an agent recommend either epubbing one of my manuscripts or self-pubbing. The times they are a’changing!

  37. Cate Rowan says:

    I’ve got to run out the door, but I’ll be back here in a couple of hours to check on what I missed. (g)

  38. C.J. Archer says:

    Great stuff, Cate! I’ve been watching the success of Kismet’s Kiss but had no idea you were doing so well. To have that sort of success, with only 1 book and being a no-name author is amazing.

    I agree going indie is the best thing I could have done for my writing career too. I’ll be earning around $5,000 this month through Amazon US alone (not sure about other venues as I go through Smashwords and their reporting is slow) but that’s across 6 books. Money aside, being an indie author is FUN!

    Good luck with future books.

  39. Lisa Kessler says:

    Congratulations Cate!!!!

    I’m so happy that this is a success for you!!! :)

    Good luck with your upcoming releases…

    Lisa :)

  40. Thanks so much for this. It’s very encouraging for us who are just starting out. Patience and good writing are key.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      They are indeed, Clover. It’s especially hard to be patient at the beginning, when you’ve committed to the new path but don’t know what you can expect. It gets a little easier when you start seeing results (especially from putting up more books (g)).

  41. Cate, thanks for being so open with your information – it’s really inspiring! However, it’s no surprise. Both Kismet’s Kiss and Source of Magic are fantastic books, and I’m looking forward to the next one!

    I just published my first book a couple weeks ago and haven’t really done any marketing, so sales are slow. But like others have said, it’s the right choice for this book, as time travel is so tough to sell (especially when it’s not in Scotland). Only thing I’d have done differently is get it out sooner, as well as the sequel I’m now working on.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Thanks for giving me a big smile, Jennette!

      Fortunately, time travels can end up doing very well on Amazon. Some of Theresa Ragan’s biggest sellers are TTs, and Monique Martin has sold a bazillion, too—so there’s definitely hope for yours. :)

  42. Jon Olson says:

    What a rocking post. Nothing like a slow-motion success story to buoy one’s spirits. I’m not a romance reader, but hey, a writer is a writer and I love what you’re saying.

    Jon Olson
    The Petoskey Stone

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Thanks, Jon. Yep, slow and steady can succeed, too. Plus, we don’t even have to think of it as X sales per day, but as X sales per year, multiplied by the number of years ebooks will be around. And that’s a REALLY nice number. W00T!

  43. Edie Ramer says:

    Thanks for sharing! Congrats on your success. I like the $2.99 price, too.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      $2.99 is a really nice price, isn’t it? It’s low enough to be considered cheap and high enough to get the author 65-70% royalties for sales. Best of both worlds in a way, especially for newer books.

      $0.99 has its place, too—especially if the author has many books out and can experiment with a loss leader.

      Down the road, I hope that average ebook prices stabilize somewhere around the $5 mark for better income for all of us.

  44. Kaz Delaney says:

    Hi Cate,
    I’m just fresh from the Australian National Conference (RWAust) in Melbourne, where so much talk this year was focussed on e-pubbing and indie pubbing, and I came away with my head threatening to implode. So confusing! Thank you, thank you for your generosity in sharing your journey. Your post was like cracking a window and letting is some fresh air. But not only is it amazingly helpful, it also allows us to share your excitement.

    Thanks so much again – and you go girl! I hope your sales reach a trillion!

    • Cate Rowan says:

      LOL, a trillion would be just fine with me! And I’m so glad my post helped you, Kaz.

      For me it was a decade-long road to the decision, but I’ve been skipping down the indie path since. When I haven’t been Snoopy dancing along it, that is. :D

  45. Suz Hamilton says:

    Cate, thank you so much for sharing your journy with us. For an unpublished writer such as myself, it’s certainly helps when other writers so generously, inform of their own paths. I think, like others have posted here, that the hard part is working out when your ms is ready. I keep on tweaking mine, I think my eyes are bleeding! But, perhaps passing it onto a prof editor may help.
    So thank you again, Cate. I hope you sell more and more and more!!!!
    Love the cover – its beautiful.
    Good luck.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Ah yes, Bleeding Eyes Syndrome—it’s so hard to do any more revisions when you can’t see through the blood! Yes, that’s often time to let the book rest a bit before circling back to it. And perhaps with some ornery critique partners who push you (and bless them, every one!).

      Still, bottom line, no one can know but you. Since taste is subjective, in the end you have to please yourself…

  46. Suzanne says:

    Cate, you’re a beacon of hope to all of us. Yes, it’s hard (non-writing) work, but well worth it. Best of luck to you & to all you writers out there.

  47. I’m in awe of your success. Thanks for sharing your information. It gives me hope that my slow entrance into the indie publishing world stands a chance.

  48. Anne Francis says:

    Wow, thanks for an enlightening — and encouraging — post. In your opinion/experience, how much should one expect to spend on an independent editor? The research I’ve done so far (which, I confess, isn’t a lot) turned up some expensive options (all four figures for a novel). I’d like my product to be as polished as possible, but if I only make 1,000 and had to spend that to get it edited, well…

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Anne, I haven’t needed to hire a freelance editor, but yes, there’s quite a span of prices. It’s hard to give a range because it can depend on how much editing the manuscript needs (authorial skill and manuscript readiness) as well as how deep an edit the author actually *wants*. At one end of the spectrum are freelancers who specialize in full developmental edits, while at the other end are those who like to do just “oops detection” (checking for typos). Obviously these require a different level of time and attention.

      If money is an issue, then it’s good to keep an eye out for freelancers who are just starting and are looking to build a portfolio of sorts. Hope this helps!

      • Linda Banche says:

        Cate, I’m with Anne. You have to put out a good book, and books need covers and editing. Editing is the big cost, as far as I can see. If you only make a little, the cost of editing isn’t worth it.

        I have no idea why some stories take off and others don’t. Despite what others say, I do think name recognition counts. I have no idea what else may work. Price? But when I see one copy of my novella sell on Amazon, and that sale shoots my ranking up 120,000 places, it tells me lots of books aren’t moving.

        • Cate Rowan says:

          Hi Linda. I completely agree that good editing is key. In fact, if there were one thing I could change about my original post, it would be to emphasize that! No reader likes a book full of errors, or one with plot or pacing problems.

          I happen to have gotten lucky because my CP is a former editor…but if I hadn’t, I’d either be lassoing a good freelancer, or—if my funds did not allow one—lining up *multiple* smart and thorough critique partners to dig into the manuscript. And then, when I *think* everything’s ready, have multiple OTHER people comb through it looking for typos. In fact, I did that second part anyway, and was grateful, because different pairs of eyes caught different things. It’s tough for one person, no matter how good, to see everything. (Especially if s/he’s also done deeper edits on the book. Just like the author’s eyes, an editor’s eyes can start to see what s/he *thinks* is there, instead of what *is*, after multiple passes.)

          Yes, price can definitely be a factor with books. There’s a segment of readers looking for REALLY cheap books, and they snap up the freebies and the $0.99s. But there’s a different segment that likes books at $2.99 or so, and another at $4.99… When you’re with a publisher you might have a certain price that can’t be changed, but as an indie, you can experiment with what’s best for each book to help it find an audience (and you some income). Good luck!

  49. Cara Gabriel says:


    Thanks for sharing your indie story, including what most people are interested in, but afraid to ask about – the numbers! I’ve been doing more and more research into this field just recently (after buying an eBook reader and falling in love with it), and posts like this are just what us pre-published authors need to see to be able to make intelligent decisions about whether going indie is the right path for us.


  50. Cate,
    Thanks for sharing your numbers and most especially thanks for IRI. What a wealth of information and support the loop provides! Your time and effort in creating and maintaining this source of invaluable guidance is very much appreciated!

  51. Caroline says:

    Cate, I’m so happy for you! Congrats on your success! As I get ready to launch the sequel to Montana Dawn myself, I’m hustling to lean everything I can–but–there is so much to learn. LOL Your loop has been invaluable to me. Every day—no, every hour–there is something new the authors are discussing. It’s a great help…

    Keep up the fantastic work!


    • Cate Rowan says:

      Caroline, I’m SO excited for you! Montana Dawn was a lovely read and I hope the sequel does even better for you. You’ll find your original audience plus bring in new fans. *HUGS*

  52. Jenny Stark says:

    Cate, you are an inspiration, and if you’ve ever felt a little haunted ;) that’s because I’ve been watching you and your career with my heart full of gladness at your ever increasing success. You deserve every wonderful thing that comes your way!!

    Thanks for sharing this…it’s an education and a call to adventure all in one!


  53. Cate Rowan says:

    Heehee! There’s room around here for a haunting or two. :D Especially when you’re so much fun to be around, Jenn.

    A call to adventure…I love that!

  54. […] A writer’s view on independent pubbing a year on in her life at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood […]

  55. Hi Cate,
    I’m in the process of doing final edits on my novella and learning the ropes of indie publishing. The IRI loop has a lot of great information! Thanks for sharing your journey and I look forward to hearing more good news.

  56. Renee Pace says:

    Great post and very helpful. I’m taking the self-pub plunge in Sept 2011 with my first nitty gritty YA story, Off Leash, and like you I did the agent/pub shopping and almost sold but not. I love my story and series so I’m hoping others will also.

  57. Cate Rowan says:

    Thanks, Mariposa and Renee! I wish you both the very best of luck with your books. Here’s to great sales for us all. *clink*

  58. Dunya says:


    How do they pay you? Is it once a year or every month? And at the end of the year will they send some type of declaration which you can present to the IRS?

    I mean – how much in taxes do you have to pay?

    Sorry for such personal questions.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Hi Dunya. Amazon pay B&N monthly, yes, although there’s a bit of a delay between the end of the sales month and the payment–about 60 days. You report the income on your taxes just as you usually would, and they send a form to you and to the government at the end of the tax year so you can report your taxes properly. Hope this helps!

  59. Major Congrats Cate!

    I’m going the indie route as well. Paying for a book cover, paying for professional edits, doing my own formatting (finally something I can do, but I’m slow…reading instructions as I go. LOL)

    I do intend to inform RWA when I make a thousand bucks, and will continue to do so as the money increases. Net or Profit? I do believe I have to report the net, and then take the tax deductions off, same as a normal writer who deducts.

    The whole process is exciting, especially when you get a glowing review from someone you don’t know.

    • Cate Rowan says:

      Definitely exciting, Pepper! Glowing reviews are the best “writer’s high.” Good luck and enjoy yours. :)

      And thanks in advance for sending your “I made the PAN amount” letter to the RWA Board. Every indie past the boundary is another step toward recognition and education!

  60. […] Not only has she made more money on this path than the traditional path, she also received her first fan letter. After a decade of writing, she’s seeing the money and the recognition. She shares her adventure and gives a financial report on The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. […]

  61. Congrats on your indie publishing adventures! I’m also enjoying my time as an indie author and selling waaaaay more ebooks than print (approximately 85% of my sales are ebooks). I’m experimenting with the 99-cent price point now, and I believe it’s a good way to attract more readers of your debut book, books in a series, and bring attention to a new book. My publishing company has three books and we make about $800 – $1000 a month on ebooks alone. I’ve also experimented with smaller ebooks I call “cocktales,” priced at 99-cents each. I’m lovin’ it!

  62. Vivian Davis says:

    What an inspiring story! I’m going to forward this to my husband, who has self-published his two children’s books an is working his way through the thorns of self-promotion.

  63. […] Another author, Cate Rowan, shares her first year of sales as a self-published author. Her numbers are very […]

  64. Thank you for a terrific post. I really enjoyed learning more about your experience and I wish you the best of luck. I think this is such an exciting time to be a writer and be able to write the kind of books you want, knowing that you can get them in the hands of readers.

  65. Renee Pace says:

    Way to go! I love hearing this. I’m about to plunge into self pub with my own YA nitty gritty story, Off Leash so my fingers are crossed.

  66. Rose Wynters says:

    This is excellent information, and definitely reassuring. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

  67. Thanks for sharing Cate!! I have self-pubbed and have no regrets whatsoever at having done so.

    Kidnapped Cowboy

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