Monday, February 11, 2013

The Indie Experiment: One Year Later

People have been asking me how the indie publishing of my E.M. Tippetts novels is going, so I thought I'd do a look back on my first year in the business. The hard numbers: I sold roughly 13,000 copies of my top selling book, Someone Else's Fairytale, released one new book, Castles on the Sand, and sold somewhere around 17,500 units of everything (I'm guessing on that one). I gave away 13,000 copies of Someone Else's Fairytale during one free day last March and 4,000 copies of Castles on the Sand over five free days in September. My biggest sales months were March through July and December. My worst months were January and November. I made just over $17,000.00 in royalties. All in all, not a bad start for a stay at home mom working out of a one bedroom apartment in London with two small children running around screaming.

So how's this year looking? Well, if my sales are seasonal, this year's looking fantastic. Last January I sold 138 books. This January I sold 1,455. However, if sales aren't seasonal, than that 1,455 is down from the high 2,000's that I was selling last summer. I also released one new book this year, Nobody's Damsel, the sequel to Fairytale, and have another one set to go in the next few months. So I have more inventory, four novels instead of the two I started with last year. On the other hand, last year this time I had most of my work priced at $.99. This year I've got all the novels at $2.99, which given the Amazon royalties system, means I make six times the revenue per sale, so my sales can go down some and I'll still make more money. I would like my sales to go up, though (obviously), not just because it earns me more money, but because I want to be able to move copies at this price point, rather than having to be in permanent fire sale mode. It remains very hard to predict future sales. In November, for example, I sold a couple hundred books, then in December I sold over 3,000 and Fairytale hit 51st in the Amazon Kindle store.

Those numbers, incidentally, do not include copies of the German edition of Fairytale, titled Nicht mein Märchen. All royalties for that book currently go to the translator, Michael Drecker, until he earns out his translation fee. That book has sold 1,805 copies since its debut last September and has stayed nice and high in the rankings on Amazon.de, so I'm very happy with how that experiment turned out. Right now Nicht mein Märchen outsells Fairytale and outsells Damsel. I'm developing a sincere love for German readers.

Altogether, my new business is off to a good start. I've sold more copies of Fairytale than there are people in my home town, so at least a few of those copies have sold elsewhere. I still have nightmares that my sales will just disappear overnight and people will decide they hate me and I'll never sell another piece of writing for as long as I live. My husband seems to find this overdramatic; I can't imagine why.

To look at it from a different perspective, I made a lot more from writing than I made from jewelry, and even made about as much as I did when I was still practicing law part time. I've reinvested a lot of that money into various kinds of ads, cover design for my newest releases, and now two blog tours, the first of which kicks off at the end of next month. I was also able to get a new computer that doesn't crash every five minutes and pay my copyeditor (aka Mom). While some might think it's nice to have a family member who catches more typos than any professional copyeditor I've known, it makes payment hard. She won't take money, so I buy her things like an iPad and an iPad mini. My take home earnings are very modest, but it's a positive number, which I wouldn't have guessed possible for the first year. I've determined which ads were successful and which aren't worth investing in again, so I'll save a little money that way this year.

My additional goal for this year is to work on more local publicity, both local to my geographical area and local to my ethnic/cultural niche. First I need to know where my local geographic area will be. Irrespective of that, though, I'll get in touch with more New Mexico newspapers, magazines, and independent bookstores, and I'll look into distribution options in the LDS market. I've held back from getting my books sold via LDS bookstores and won't explore that further until I secure a reversion of my rights to Time and Eternity, which should happen this June or July. I figure I should lay low while selling quadruple the copies I sold with my traditional publisher in that market, should said traditional publisher decide it wants to release an ebook of Time and Eternity and thus argue the book is still in print. I'm hoping to avoid any more wrangles with them!


11 comments:

  1. Hi Emily! I'm a new author...(my books have been out less than a year) and I'm going to dip my toes into the indie market. I'm wondering if you might be open to sharing what advertising worked better for you than others. Being an unemployed college student with two small kids means my budget is next to nothing....and I'm really not making much at all on my books yet. Any info you're willing to share would really be appreciated. :)

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    1. I've found it's very specific to your type of book. Ads on Kindle Nation Daily boosted the sales of my YA romance, but did little for my chick lit (and they are pricey.) What I found got the sales engine going was submitting my book to book blog after book blog day in and day out. Build up a big web footprint for it and do whatever giveaways, guest posts, interviews, etc. you're offered. Make sure to keep the sites you've guest posted and done interviews on open in your browser for at least a week to respond to any comments directed at you. All of that is advertising you can do for free - or more exactly, the cost of your labor. Be in it for the long haul and don't let a slow start burn you out. This is a marathon, not a sprint!

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  2. Thanks Emily! I'm doing that. LOL. I'm trying to balance writing time with promo post writing time with actually doing my homework. You can have all your new material creation time eaten up with promo... and I don't want to do that.

    I haven't bothered to buy any paid advertising in the sidebars of blogs because *I* don't tend to click on them myself.

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    1. Oh, yeah, forget sidebar and banner ads, imo. The kind of ads that tend to move books are direct mail ones. I.e. Bookbub.com and PixelOfInk.com and some types of Kindle Nation Daily ads. Those don't always work either, but they're much more effective than those click ads. I do click on those all the time to check the books' sales rankings and... yeah. Save your money!

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    2. Anytime! It's always cool to meet other writers.

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  4. Sounds like a great first year Emily. Those are really impressive numbers! And thanks for the advice on advertising in the comments. I'm trying to figure out how to get my new book out there and noticed at the moment.

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    1. Hi Rinelle, thanks! Best of luck with your book. As you can probably tell from my posts, it's a different journey for everyone, but the key is knowing that you *can* make a difference and build a career for yourself this way. (My personal mantra this moment as I gear up for the next release...

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Emily, and congratulations on your success! It's interesting to see how a fellow indie author is doing.

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