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, 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!

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