Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Indie Experiment

Well, as I announced last year on this blog, I decided to jump in with both feet and try indie publishing for my romances. I did this for one specific reason, to see if there was anything I, the writer, could do on my own to affect sales. Working with a publisher means working with a lot of middle men between you and the reader. Indie publishing leaves you with no one to blame if you fail, and I figured that regardless of how my career develops, I needed to know once and for all if publicity and platform building make any difference.

Does it ever. Here we go. In November I released my book Paint Me True, which opened to very strong reviews and has a beautiful cover designed by Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios. I subbed this book to several book blogs and love it very much, but didn't do any serious marketing. Here is its sales curve:


The type is small, so it's a little hard to see, but the vertical axis is the book's ranking on Amazon and the range is between 1 and 400,000 - which means it's never dropped below 400,000. I've sold up to 50 some odd copies of this book a month. In January I increased its price to $2.99, but that made no discernible difference. While it is by no means a failure (a good number of ebooks in Amazon have no ranking because they have either no sales, or sales are so long ago that it doesn't chart), it's no breakout hit. No surprise there. It was my first book under the name E.M. Tippetts for the national market. Before that I'd been a Mormon chick lit niche writer. Talk about specialized.

In December I released Someone Else's Fairytale, which is not Mormon chick lit, but rather mainstream "clean" chick lit (because sex is dirty? I don't like that term, but never mind.) The cover is also by Jenn Reese of Tiger Bright Studios and I love it, but it's split the audience into love/hate groups because it isn't typical of the genre, and the image is somewhat ambiguous. Some think it's a photo, others a mirror, and I, unhelpfully, do not care which they think. While it's more upbeat than Paint Me True, I would contend it's not as sound, structurally, and the reviews have reflected this to some extent. This book I marketed via book blogs and Twitter, investing no money beyond the cost of the cover. Here's its sales curve:




The vertical axis here is on a scale of 1-140,000, which makes the difference between the two even more dramatic.

The results of the experiment: Does marketing matter? Yes. Does it require a lot of money? No. Can an author make a difference to their own sales fate? Absolutely. Will any kind of marketing work? I seriously doubt it. I'll write more later on what kind of marketing works - hint, begging everyone to puh-lease read your book will probably drive your sales right into the ground. What has this whole experiment done for me? As I type this I'm on three different Amazon bestseller lists, including the coveted Top 100 for childrens (Fairytale can also be considered young adult.) I sell between 50 and 100 copies a day, this week, and have sold up to 300 copies a day. In short, I can call myself a writer with a straight face. I still need to build out my shelf and get more books out to make a regular income, but now I'm seeing how this could be possible. E.M. Tippetts now makes more money than traditionally published Emily Mah - who earns around $400.00 per short story. This month my income as E.M. Tippetts will be in the four figures.

What should you take from this? The proverbial doors have been thrown open and you can take control of your career and publishing destiny. I couldn't be happier with how this little experiment turned out

25 comments:

  1. Emily, thanks so much for posting about your experiment. I find your success with your second book so thrilling and extremely educational. I hope your sales continue to grow and grow!

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    1. Thanks, Jenn! Suffice it to say, I'll be commissioning more covers from you :-)

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  2. Go Emily go!

    I think people would be interested if you followed this up with a little more on *how* you marketed -- not just *that* you did...

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    1. Yeah, I'll do another post on that soon - I'm noticing already from the lack of followup questions that people may think that any kind of marketing would work, and that I'm pretty sure is not true (but I'm not gonna try marketing techniques that I suspect are annoying). Meanwhile I'm editing this post to address that a little. I'm not suggesting that people self publish and then stand on a street corner and be obnoxious and expect to sell books.

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  3. Great post. I'm still working on getting my novellas into kindle format. Once done, I'm eager to see what happens from there.

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    1. Best of luck to you! It's an exciting time in the book business, isn't it?

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  4. Great experiment! I'll be "watching" your future results too! :) I tweeted and google+ it!

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    1. Thanks Theresa. I'll do more posts in this series and talk about what has and hasn't worked for me.

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  5. Very encouraging! And I shall look forward to your follow up post on what marketing does work if puh-lease buy my book doesn't work.

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    1. Yeah, I've found the whole process of learning how to market very fascinating, and something I can't craft short answers for, so I'll make sure to develop the point in the next blogpost or two in this series.

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  6. Holy cow! What a great experiment. I definitely want details on what you did specifically.

    Also, did you feel the second book was better by itself anyway, or do you think the other could do as well if given the backing?

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    1. Hi Betsy! Given the first book is Mormon chick lit, it's certainly possible that it won't have broad appeal. I don't think LDS characters *should* be hard to relate to. People relate to teenagers who fantasize about becoming vampires and women who lived in Regency England, so these barriers can be overcome, but I honestly don't know how readers would respond. I'll find out when my next book, which also has LDS characters, comes out and let you know.

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  7. Well done. Now I hope you post the rest of the story . . . like step by step instructions on how you worked it all out, etc.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. I'm so impressed. You have worked real hard. And you only promoted your book on blogs and twitter? Congratulations!

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    3. Thanks, JoAnn. Yes, I will post more details as I find the time (no small feat these days, but I'll get there in the end).

      And yes, Linda, that sales curve shows what I was able to do with book blogs and Twitter. There's a point where it curves up even more, which was the result of a free promotion that generated a slew of sales, and then I also did an ad with Kindle Nation Daily, which did not affect sales at all. That is the only publicity I paid for.

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  8. Good show Emily! Backed by your hard work, I am certain. Diligence & steadfast to the task that I can tell you are. :>) Thank you for sharing as well.

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  9. Wow! You sell 50 copies a day? *faints with envy*

    I think the first step of any marketing plan has to be that you have an excellent product, which you certainly do! But please, tell us more about your specific steps, especially if you feel that you have to use social networks such as Facebook to be successful. I personally dislike social networks immensely, so I'm quite interested to hear that answer.

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    1. Hi Melanie! Yes, I'll detail what it is I'm doing, though I'm not sure social networks are necessary. I think marketing is more about attitude than specific strategy - and my sales started out as one every few days, then two to five a day for over a month with no real increase over time. Then I remember the first time I sold thirteen whole copies in one evening, and sales started to climb from there. This month, yes, 50-300 a day, though today I've "only" had 45. What's become a "slow" day for me is still more sales than I had for my entire first month in print. I'm making an indie income - not enough money to support a publisher and their team of editors an designers - but going indie means I can start on a much smaller scale and move my career forward.

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    2. Oh, and I should thank you for the complement too! Your kind words have kept me going on days when it seemed like no one would ever pay for my work, which is why you're in my acknowledgements ;-)

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  10. Me? In your acknowledgements? I'm so flattered I'm completely overwhelmed!

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    1. Yep, in Paint Me True: "Melanie Goldmund (who found a typo missed by all others and was kind enough to send me a glowingly supportive email the morning before I began transferring this book into Kindle format.)" That email came at the perfect time to help me gather my courage and just go for it.

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  11. Thanks for sharing Emily. Hope we can chat again soon, Luv :>)

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