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Posts tagged with: self-publishing

Building a Self-Published Multi-Author Anthology, with guest Trish Milburn

So I have this friend. And she writes good stuff. A lot of it. And I asked her to come talk to us today. :)

Yes, I’m clearly a writer, aren’t I? Such a way with words.

Okay. Enough screwing around. My friend (and super great author), Trish Milburn, recently self-published a multi-author anthology with a couple other friends of hers, and I wanted to know more about how they did it. So I asked her to come talk to us. Plus, the cover of the anthology is amazing! (If you don’t agree with me on this then you’re just wrong. Because it’s amazing.) So anywho, without further ado…I give you Trish. :)  (And I do apologize for my lack of professionalism this morning. It’s been one of those days already…)

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Imain author shot’m going to guess that at least a few of you reading this post have either been a part of a multi-author anthology or thought about being a part of such a project. In the past, the vast majority of these anthologies were put together by publishers, who handled all the logistical details. But in the new world of self-publishing, anthologies coordinated, written and published by the authors themselves are a viable option.

Several months ago, fellow author and bestie MJ Fredrick and I started tossing around the idea of a Christmas anthology. The conversation eventually led to it being set at the beach rather than some snowy locale. And we brought in the awesome Tanya Michaels as the third author. One thing led to another, and in early June we found ourselves meeting up in Orange Beach, Alabama, for a brainstorming and site research trip. Since we live in three different states, it was much easier to do the initial brainstorming in person. You see, we weren’t just brainstorming our individual stories for the anthology that would become Swept Away for Christmas, a Starfish Shores Holiday. We had to come up with a name for the town that wasn’t already in use by an actual town along the Gulf Coast. As crazy as it might seem, nailing down that town name proved harder than coming up with the story ideas.

Nuggets to Successful EBook Publishing

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop hosted by Northwest Houston RWA, my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The speaker, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.

Now this is not the first time I’ve met Mark, nor the first time I’ve listened to him speak. But I couldn’t wait to hear him talk again. He has a very impressionable way with understanding the world of eBook self-publishing.

With his permission, I’m going to relay the notes I took from his talk on the best practices for publishing an eBook.

photo (22)

Mark and Jenn!

1. Write a fantastic book. Honor the reader with a great story and satisfy them by moving them to an emotional extreme. It doesn’t stop there. Make sure you are fanatical about the entire process, including the editing and packaging.

2. Create a great cover. The cover is not only the first impression on the path to discovery, but a promise to the reader. Use a professional cover artist, or, if you plan to do the cover yourself, make sure the cover is comparable to what New York publishers produce. Make sure your cover targets your audience. The cover is merchandised as a thumbnail. It should look great in that size.

3. A no-brainer, but warrants repeating. Write another super awesome book.

4. Give some books away for free. By doing this, you eliminate the financial risk new readers face. Free books builds awareness and trust. This especially works well for books of a series. If you have a series, at least one book should be free, even if for a little while.

5. Patience, it’s a virtue. Retailers force books out of print before they have a chance because new books are kept on the shelves for only a few short weeks. Most don’t have an opportunity to gain an audience, much less a fan base. EBooks are immortal…and changeable.

6. Maximize availability—don’t be exclusive. Play the field, play with everyone. If you are exclusive, you limit discoverability and become dependent on the site of the exclusivity. Oh, and by the way, retailers see no stigma in self-published books.

7. Build a platform. The larger your platform, the more power you have over your career. Connecting with readers becomes a form of currency. There is no single right way to do this. Use all the social media tools you feel comfortable with. Have a newsletter. Some will want to connect using blogs, but it is difficult to gain readership this way. However, once you do, they are yours for life. And here’s a biggie, offer a way for readers to connect with you at the end of your book, aside from your website. It simply makes sense, but is often overlooked.

smashwords style guide

Click on the cover for your FREE copy!

8. Architect for “virality”. “Spread the germ.” Get your fans talking about you. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful way to discoverability. Book marketing is always going to stem from word-of-mouth. Utilize viral catalysts that makes your books more accessible, discoverable, desirable, and enjoyable—story, cover, title, editing, targeting right audience, book description, pricing, broad distribution, formatting, proper categorization, just to name a few. Eliminate the friction that limits the catalysts (think exclusivity, lacking cover, bad editing, etc.).

9. Unit volume is a lever for success. Every book sale has two benefits: money and a new readers. The latest survey conducted by Smashwords indicated that $1.99 was a black hole, not performing as well as higher priced units, and $3.99 was the current sweet spot for all genres. Proper pricing can maximize money made and the amount of readers. Keep in mind lower priced units will sell more units, and higher priced units will sell fewer, but the lower priced units under-perform as income and higher priced units will get you more readers. Of course, experience may vary and it is encouraged to play around with pricing to find what works best for your book.

10. Don’t worry about piracy. Obscurity is the bigger risk. Those stealing your books weren’t going to buy your book to begin with. Who knows, you may even gain a super reader out of it. Most piracy is accidental—a lending of a book, picking up a book at a garage sale, etc. This type of discoverability is effective and cheap! The best way to combat piracy is to make your book easier to purchase than steal. This goes back to distributing broadly and pricing fairly. And it doesn’t hurt to add a polite license statement in the book. (See Smashwords’ example in their style guide.)

smashwords marketing guide

Click on the cover for your FREE copy!

11. Take advantage of Pre-orders. This will be available soon through all distributors. In short, list your book for sale before it officially hits the virtual shelves. Allow a sample to be downloaded. It is highly suggested books should be completely ready before listing it as a pre-order. Some retailers will credit all the pre-sales on the day the book comes for sale. This will possibly shoot the book onto various best-selling lists. Let me add here SHAZAM! Putting a book up for pre-order sale 4 to 6 weeks prior to release gives you, the author, a chance to market the book generating interest. Capture the reader and get them to buy while they are still fired-up instead of waiting until release day when they most likely have forgotten or are no longer as interested. Check out Smashwords’ blog post on pre-orders.

12. Practice partnerships and positivity. If you discover something that works well, share it with others. This builds friendships and a good reputation. Don’t be a complainer or behave badly. Everyone, including the marketing peeps at retailers, have Goggle Alerts. You will be remembered.

13. Collaborate with fellow authors. Short stories, bundles, or boxed sets are a great way to share, promote, and gain new readers with existing fan bases of your fellow collaborators. Plus the retailers like them and they sell well.

smashwords practices

Click on the cover for your FREE copy!

14. Think globally. All retailers are expanding beyond the US. Aggressively. Over 40% of Apple sales are outside the US and looks to be trending higher. And these books are in English.

15. You are running a business. Business requires a profit. Most books don’t sell well, so control your expenses. Never borrow money to publish a book. Pinch your pennies. Invest in great service. If you can’t afford it, offer to trade services. Once you are profitable, reinvest in your business.

Whoa! That’s a lot of information. Absorb it! And to help, check out Smashwords FREE marketing books and style guides.

What do you think about these practices? Have you tried any? What has worked or not worked for you? Do you have other tips to share? Let’s hear from you.

Originally posted on MuseTracks.

Digging for Change

We all have them — the metaphorical “books under the bed” that are better left where they are, to gather a patina of dust and cobwebs and never see the light of day. These things are a mess. Often it’s the first book you ever wrote, before you learned the finer points of plot and characterization.

My first manuscript is like that. It made the contest rounds (and even won the Jasmine back in 2006) under a number of titles (my favorite title was From Miss Bitch to Mrs. Rich, although it mostly finaled under the title Looking 4 Love) but, well, let’s just say that when my husband was trying to tell me to self-publish it earlier this year — “But you’ve already done all the work! Why not?” — I never took his suggestion seriously.  I know I’m not the world’s best housekeeper (understatement of the year), but there is no amount of polishing that could make that book something I’d want to release today. It served its purposes for what it was, my learning book. But it needs to stay balled up under the farthest corner of the bed … my preferred way of quickly cleaning up and making the rest of the room look quasi-presentable.

Okay, so let’s leave the books-under-the-bed, well, under the bed (or on the hard drive) and turn our attention to a different piece of furniture.

The couch.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old cliche about digging for spare change between your seat cushions. You may even have done it yourself once or twice (or a hundred times). But this can also be applied to publishing.

If a book under the bed is a hot mess, then the spare change in your seat cushions are the stories that are actually pretty good, but you’re not doing anything with them at the moment for whatever reason. Maybe it got great editorial — or contest –feedback, but didn’t sell. Or maybe it did sell, but it went out of print and you got the rights back. Either way, it’s just sitting on your hard drive at the moment, doing nothing for you.

Behold, my spare change, which just released today exclusively for the Kindle!

I had a few contemporary romance short stories just sitting on my hard drive, taking up space. Three of them (“She’s Got Legs” — which had received an 88 from snarky hard-ass Mrs. Giggles; “Love @ First Site”; and “Dancing Cheek to Cheek”)  had been published before, but one (“Birthday Gifts”) is brand new. I’d always liked these stories, but I figured they were too short to really do anything with them.

But then it hit me — why not bundle them as a super-short single-author collection? And yes, I do mean short. The entire ebook of 4 stories is around 15,000 words total. But I think 99 cents is a fair price for around 50 pages.

NY Times bestselling author Angie Fox calls the collection “sweet, sexy and laugh-out-loud funny!”

(Did I mention this one isn’t for teens?)

Jana DeLeon says “Amanda Brice has a voice that easily captures the self-deprecating humor and strength that so many young women have as they attempt to find their place in the world and the man of their heart.”

NY Times bestselling author Christie Craig describes them as “short reads that aren’t short on entertainment. Sassy humor and sigh-worthy. Amanda Brice delivers.”

And NY Times bestselling author Gemma Halliday says “If you’re in the mood for a sweet escape this holiday season, Amanda’s Brice’s Short and Sweet is just the ticket!  I loved all the stories in this collection. And anyone who is a ‘White Christmas’ fan will adore ‘Dancing Cheek to Cheek’.  The best things don’t only happen when you’re dancing… they also happen when you’re reading an Amanda Brice novel!”

Not bad for spare change.

And from now until New Year’s, it’s spare change for a good cause. A Jersey Girl at heart, I’ll be donating 100% of my author royalties from Short & Sweet: Four Fun & Flirty Tales to relief efforts for the survivors of Hurricane Sandy and to rebuild the shore.

I’ve also been inspired to dig out my first Golden Heart finalist, Party Like It’s 1899, from between the cushions and get it ready for publication. This one is a little dustier than the short stories — and I have to squeeze in the revisions around an already hectic writing schedule — so it’ll take longer to get it ready, but I’m aiming for Fall 2013. (And if it’s ready before then, say spring or summer, then bonus!) Here’s a sneak peak at the cover art.

Gorgeous, huh?

So what about you? Do you have any metaphorical spare change hidden in your cushions? Have you considered digging out an old story and giving it new life through self-publishing? Tell us!

Ruby Release: Kiss That Frog (+ why I changed my cover art…)

When magic happens, don’t get in the way.

That was my mantra last month during Camp NaNoWriMo. I’d had every intention of working on The Soul of Magic, a book that’s been in the works at various stages (and titles) since 2001. Soul is the chronological link between my two full-length novels, so I’ve been feeling urgency (and guilt) about it not being done and published. And yet, two other characters elbowed their way to the front of the queue. Okay, three characters. No, two. Hmm. Does it count if one character is actually two—one human, and one not so much?

Cover of Kiss That Frog

Actually, that’s pretty much my heroine’s question. Poor Sofia. She’s a cynical LA artist who must reluctantly pet-sit for her young niece’s frog—and then discovers magic in the terrarium.

See, there’s that magic again. Because there I was, hastily trying to write things down so I could get back to Soul, when Sofia’s story merged with that of a Regency-prince-turned-cursed-frog, Alexander, to become the novella Kiss That Frog: A Modern Fairy Tale. (You can nab Frog today at Amazon, ARe, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and soon at Apple.)

That’s when I learned not to stand in the way when a story is eager to get out. There are plenty of times when writing is hard, and I almost made NaNo harder by getting obstinate and trying to stick to My Original Plan. I’m a perfectionist and I want things to be Just So. And I want to be in charge of my muse. Or I at least want her to listen to me.

But you know what? When a story comes to you without a struggle, let it. Climb aboard and ride the creative process for all it’s worth. Because then getting to The End is sheer joy. And what writer doesn’t love that?

It’s a funny thing, but it almost feels like the Universe is celebrating the magic with me. It’s been a fun month, with The Romance Reviews giving a great review and a Top Pick award to The Source of Magic, plus brand new covers for all three books in my Alaia Chronicles fantasy romance series. Oh, and I joined Pinterest! (Come follow me. :) )

Speaking of covers, here’s a before-and-after. Let me make it clear that I loved the original covers of Kismet’s Kiss and The Source of Magic. I was particularly proud of Source because I did it myself, and I would have loved to keep both covers. The problem was that they just didn’t look like part of the same series. With the related short story Swords and Scimitars, I did my best to make the cover resemble Source, but then Kiss became the odd one out. See for yourself:

Original Cover of Kismet's Kiss Original cover of The Source of Magic 2nd cover of Swords and Scimitars

 And now the new covers:

New cover for Kismet's Kiss New cover for The Source of Magic New cover for Swords and Scimitars

To me, the unique flavor of each book got toned down a bit (waaaah), yet now the series is visually branded, even at the tiny thumbnail size Amazon uses in its “also bought” lists. Plus I was able to include the series name on each cover. I look forward to finding out whether the cover changes help. (And if they don’t, the beauty is that I’m an indie—I can always switch back or shift to something else. :) )

So that’s been my magical month. Your turn: what’s your favorite memory of story magic? I’m giving away two e-copies of Kiss That Frog to non-Ruby commenters, so let us know!

Experimentation and a Ruby Release: “Swords and Scimitars” by Cate Rowan

I have a new release to tell you about, but first, let me get this out of the way: I used to write to please others.

It’s not that I don’t take other people into account anymore—not at all. I have a readership, and their opinions of my work matter to me.

But I no longer write to please the traditional publishing industry. I’ve learned a fine lesson about that.

A panel of editors and agents once shot down my query letter at the RWA conference. It was a query letter workshop for Golden Heart finalists, and the panelists were to say “stop” when they reached the point in a query where they wanted to quit reading. The entire panel yelled stop as soon as they learned that my book’s hero, a sultan, already had six wives.

The industry consensus was that a book like that wouldn’t succeed. Under the paradigm of that time, they were likely right to shoot it down.

I hired several agents over the years who did their best, but Kismet’s Kiss was a tough sell. Despite two Golden Heart finals, it clearly didn’t fit the New York marketing boxes, and editors were afraid it wouldn’t make the publishing house enough money. That’s understandable; it was a risk. I was pushing boundaries.

But I knew romance, and understood my contract with the romance reader. I felt my book could flourish, and I was crazy (= stubborn) enough to try. After two small presses made offers, I decided to self-publish Kismet’s Kiss.

Instead of selling it to a publisher, I sold it to readers—more than 2600 of them to date, at prices from $2.99-5.99. And another 3600+ readers have bought my second book, The Source of Magic. While the number of copies sold is lower than what many trad-pubbed authors can expect, I earn much more per copy. I’ve made nearly $13,000 already. This is far beyond the average advance for two books from a debut author, and Kiss and Source are still in the marketplace earning more each day. They’ll never go out of print.

It’s funny to look back on my journey and realize what’s happened. It was not quite a year and a half ago that I published Kismet’s Kiss. I was the first Ruby Sister to self-pub, and alas, it wasn’t because I’m a visionary or a psychic. (I only wish.) I’d just realized going indie was my best chance to succeed and find readers for stories I loved.

Ten Rubies have now tested the indie path, and there are more Rubies planning to try it. Some of our agent-approved, contest-winning, misfit books that would otherwise be lying abandoned in darkness have found life—and readers—and in many cases, have revived their authors’ enjoyment in writing.

I LOVE THE NEW WORLD OF PUBLISHING.

This world also lets authors experiment with prices, covers, descriptions, book length, and subject matter. That’s part of the fun for me with my latest release. It’s a short story of 7,000 words, a length that has very few traditional markets. I’m pricing it at a mere 99 cents to see if that will entice readers. And although it’s a prequel to Kismet’s Kiss, which is a fantasy romance, I consider “Swords and Scimitars” to be a historical fantasy. It brims with emotion and love, but it’s far more a hero’s journey through an exotic culture (think “Arabian Nights” or “The King and I”) than a traditional romance.

A few months ago, Amazon offered indies another way to experiment: the Amazon Select program for Kindle books. Select allows the author/publisher to set the book’s price to free for up to five days out of every 90. Free books get lots of downloads and greater exposure, which helps generate paid sales afterward. The author/publisher has control over when the free days are scheduled, making it easier to arrange promotions. The downside is that the Select program requires Amazon exclusivity for the full 90 days. I’ve been reluctant to add Kismet’s Kiss or The Source of Magic to the Select program for that reason. I’ve made about a quarter of all my sales through Barnes and Noble.

Still, now that I have a new release, I thought I’d try Select for “Swords and Scimitars” and see what happens. Hmm… have I mentioned my dislike for that exclusivity thing? Yeah. So before I sign up for Select, I’m making “Swords and Scimitars” available for the next five days at Barnes and Noble (nook) and Smashwords (all formats), as well as at Amazon, and all for just 99 cents. This way non-Kindle readers can get their hands on “Swords and Scimitars,” too.

 

Swords and Scimitars: A Fantasy Short Story

Immortal twin brothers. One enchanted sword. A tragedy that propels them into legend.

The lives of well-born twins Kismet and Taso are easy and carefree—endless days of bedding women and fighting battles among the gods—until sorcery drives a wedge between them that slices deeper than flesh. Kismet has striven to be the ultimate warrior, but a mistake costs him his brother, his family, and his homeland.

He carves out a new life in the desert, rising to the command of a realm and an army, yet can’t escape his past. When two women beg for his aid against tyranny, he must sacrifice his freedom and his long-scarred heart to help them.

“Swords and Scimitars” is a short story of the immortal founders of verdant Teganne and desert Kad, two rival realms divided by magic—yet bound by blood, mistrust, and love. The chronicle continues in the award-winning fantasy romance novels Kismet’s Kiss and The Source of Magic.

 

I used to write to please others… but I wrote “Swords and Scimitars” to please myself and my readership, and with luck, to attract new readers from a different genre. It’s an experiment for sure, and one of which I’m proud. As a writer, that’s the best feeling of all.

Thank you for stopping by to celebrate the release of “Swords and Scimitars.” To add to the festive mood, I’m giving away three copies to non-Ruby visitors. Leave a comment to enter, and good luck!

San Francisco eBooks for Everyone Else Conference Recap

Yesterday’s eBooks for Everyone Else conference was an amazing one-day event about all aspects of digital publishing, from formatting and uploading to pricing and marketing. The event, run by Publishers Launch, brought together approximately 100 publishers, agents, authors, and vendors for a quick and dirty slog through a very ambitious list of topics.

I could probably write a novella about this conference, but I’ll highlight a few of my key takeaways for you. If you want my raw notes, you can read my Twitter feed from yesterday (http://twitter.com/#!/Sara_Ramsey) since I wrote 100+ tweets about what I was hearing throughout the day.

One additional note: some of this is more focused, at least on the surface, around epublishing. However, I think that savvy authors should keep track of what’s happening in channels other than their own and implement approaches that work — whether that’s epubs borrowing from what traditional publishers do, or vice versa.

And finally, any errors in quotes/attribution are my own, and I’ll fix anything that is pointed out to me. Now that I’ve caveated this post to death, let’s move on!

1) Discoverability

Discoverability is all about how readers find your book. In the good old days, a reader might stumble across your book in a bookstore, love the cover, and pick it up. But people who shop for books online are less likely to impulse buy; one stat quoted was that impulse buying drops by 9% when people shop online. And if a reader doesn’t know they’re looking for you, how can they find you when search terms are usually so specific and targeted?

There are a couple of solutions for this. One is more the publisher’s responsibility (or the indie writer’s responsibility, if managing their own uploads): creating excellent “metadata” for the book. That covers everything from descriptions of the book with keywords relevant to that genre, to spelling the title and author name correctly. This information is vital to whether your book can be found — for example, if I accidentally enter my name as “Sarah Ramsey” someplace instead of “Sara Ramsey”, that book wouldn’t be found by anyone searching for me directly. So, get your data straight, and make sure you understand metadata before taking the DIY approach.

Another solution is not on the author side, but on the distributor side. I personally don’t browse much on Amazon, B&N, etc., but Book Country did a really cool presentation on how one can browse through content there. Because they’re targeting genre fiction, they’re working on making genre books more discoverable — including using a cool visualization of books, almost like a periodic table, to show you what books are clustered around a book that you already love.

Bottom line: if no one can find your book, you’re toast. Getting discoverability right is perhaps the single most important thing you can do (after you write a fabulous book, of course!).

2) Marketing

Ah, marketing. The very word gives a lot of authors hives. I suppose the good news is that no one has the perfect marketing formula, so no one can tell you you’ve screwed up :)

Seriously, though, there are viable options in both traditional/digital marketing and in social media, if you’re willing to take the plunge. On the more traditional, direct to customer marketing side, Michael Tamblyn of Kobo pointed to Ruth Ann Nordin as an example of someone who does almost no social media, but has built a robust email newsletter mailing list and does most of her marketing direct to her established reader base. Bob Mayer has also had success running Google and Facebook ads in an effort to build brand awareness — he gets very few clicks, but by targeting his ads at the right places, he can get readers used to seeing his name and prime them to buy his book later.

On the social media side, it isn’t as simple as going on Facebook and playing Farmville all day. It’s important to remember that you are what you tweet. Iris Blasi said that “you are advertising the best version of yourself” — in other words, be yourself, but make sure ‘yourself’ is filtered through the awareness that you’re engaging with your audience, not your mom or your best friend.

Also, you need to know where your audience is. If you’re writing historical fiction, where do the history buffs hang out online? Is your story set during the Civil War and likely to attract older men? Or is it a Jane Austen or Tudor-era story that might appeal to women? Are you writing for teenagers? You need to identify your audience, then find them online and interact with them where they already are.

Surprisingly, one market research tidbit that came out was that teenagers may spend the most time on Facebook, but they don’t engage with marketing there. They buy primarily based on reviews from their peers, not on marketing-driven interaction. Even more surprisingly (to me), women in the 40+ age bracket were more likely to buy based on Facebook interaction and discussion, even if they spend less time there than teens. This doesn’t mean you have to be on Facebook (just because someone is likely to buy on Facebook doesn’t mean your audience is there — averages don’t necessarily apply to the specifics of your niche), but it’s worth considering where your audience can be reached. The market research came from Bowker, who is doing a ton of work on genre-specific audience identification.

Bottom line: know your audience and interact with them when and where you can.

3) The future of agents

I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but it’s no surprise that agents are being forced to rethink their business models. The agent panel at the end of the day included some powerhouses (Scott Waxman, Deidre Knight, Ted Weinstein, and Laura Rennert), and they’re all working in a variety of ways to provide new ebook services to their clients while attempting to build sustainable long-term businesses.

Ted Weinstein laid it out very clearly: he thinks that agents will either become a) Hollywood style agents who only work with the biggest, splashiest clients on the most surefire projects; b) small publishers themselves; or c) more like a CEO/career manager who works with a much smaller subset of clients but manages all aspects of their career (such as building a speaking career for an author who is already a successful nonfiction expert). Every agent will choose a different path that suits them, but eventually most agents will have to make hard choices about what their business will look like.

Bottom line: Agencies are in flux, but any agent worth his/her salt is thinking hard about what the future looks like for them. My own personal opinion (not endorsed by anyone) is that it’s still worth signing with an agent depending on your goals, and I would sign with mine all over again in a heartbeat. But if the agent isn’t willing to have a conversation with you about the agency’s future (or predicts something that feels totally crazy), that would be a major red flag for me.

—–

That’s the bulk of the recap. There was a lot more detail about technological solutions, pricing, conversions, more on metadata, etc., but this post is too long as it is. I’ll check in throughout the day on the comments here and answer any questions, or feel free to tweet or email me (dearsara AT sararamsey DOT com) directly!

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!)

The Latest Comments

  • Shoshana: Happy book birthday, Rita! Can’t wait to read it. :)
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