This morning, I'm having coffee with one of my writing friends Anne Marie Novark who is a Texas girl, born and raised.
Like many of my author friends, Anne Marie's passion is Romance. She loves to read and write about men and women falling in love, overcoming life's obstacles, and living happily ever after. Anne Marie writes spicy Contemporary Western novels and Regency Historicals.
Before I dived into epublishing, I followed Anne Marie's ebook adventure via her blog posts at Just Write With Anne Marie Novark where she gives advice and guidance to others. Since she just celebrated sale number 50,000, she's sharing her insights with us today.
My Self-Publishing Adventure
by Anne Marie Novark
I self-published my first book on August 6, 2010. I chose that date because it also happens to be my wedding anniversary. Easy to remember and it makes the day doubly special.
I've been published for a little over a year now, and it's been a roller coaster of a ride, let me tell you. The constant emotional ups and downs literally take my breath away. People say self-publishing is easy, but they're wrong. This is definitely not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of work and perseverance and courage. You must be brave to release your books and stories into the wild. Putting your babies out there makes you feel exhilarated, as well as vulnerable. No, it's not for the faint of heart.
First, I need to say I had a "backlist" of nine books that I wanted to publish. I've been writing a long time. I had been submitting to agents and editors, entering RWA contests, placing in a few and getting requests. I even received a phone call from a Harlequin editor in New York. It wasn't The Call, but A Call. Thrilling, I must say. Unfortunately, nothing came of it. I got close, but no cigar.
Then along came digital publishing and the small ePresses. I was lucky enough to sell to The Wild Rose Press in November 2007. I liked being an eBook author, but my sales were dismal. I thought there had to be a better way.
And then came Kindle and Amazon Direct Publishing. Bingo!!!
My Ebook Adventure Begins
I started with my Traditional Regency Romance Midnight My Love in August 2010. I priced it at $2.99 so I would get the 70% royalty from Amazon. It was extremely gratifying to get my first sale on Smashwords literally minutes after uploading it. I sold about 6 on Smashwords and 9 on Amazon during the month of August.
I uploaded my second book, The Doctor Wears A Stetson, the third week in September. The price was still at $2.99, and, for the whole month, I only sold 4 on Amazon (total for both books) and 3 on Smashwords. A little disheartening, but not totally disillusioning.
In October, I dropped the price of Midnight My Love to 99 cents as an experiment and left the other book at $2.99. Sales picked up, and I sold 17 copies of the Regency and 7 copies of the Western. Smashwords sales were few and far between. I probably sold about 5 copies that month.
Not really wanting to sell my books so cheaply, I raised the price back up for November. As a result, I only sold 9 books (total for both titles) on Amazon, maybe 3 or so on Smashwords.
Everyone in the Indie Author Community was excited about December 2010 with the explosion of holiday sales of Kindles and Nooks. I remember I was eagerly waiting to hit that 100 eBook sales mark.
On December 12, I released my third book, The Cowboy's Surrender. Biting the bullet, I dropped the prices on all three books to 99 cents to see what would happen. Boom!!! Sales rose dramatically. At this time, I also uploaded all three books directly onto B&N's Pubit! instead of going through Smashwords. Immediately, I began selling more books for the Nook than Kindle.
I sold over 200 books in December. Could it get any better? Oh yeah.
2011 Book Explosion
In January, I released a fourth book, Adam's Temptation. Price? Well, I started out at $2.99. After a week of no sales, I dropped it to $1.99 then to 99 cents. That book was slow finding its way up the ranks, but the other three books went through the roof!!! I sold 643 books in the month of January, twice as many at B&N than on Amazon. (Alas, this did not continue. Sales dropped off at B&N for some unaccountable reason.)
On February 6, I hit my first big milestone: One thousand eBooks sold!!! I was pretty much in shock. And so happy!!! Sales at Amazon started to catch up to my sales at B&N.
The last week in February, I released my fifth book, A Match Made in Texas. This is the third book in my Diamondback Ranch Series. I decided to charge $2.99 since the other two were selling so well. And it worked!!! Readers were buying all three books in the series and loving them!!! An author's dream come true.
On St. Patrick's Day, I released my first Regency novella, To His Lady's Rescue. This is when things really started taking off. I sold over 4000 books in March and gave 500 away for free on Smashwords. By the end of March, I had sold over 6000 eBooks total.
One month later on April 16th, I hit another milestone: Ten thousand eBooks Sold!!! Sales exploded on Amazon. I had two books on the Top Ten Regency Bestseller List. My Westerns were also making the lists. I sold 8200 eBooks in the month of April. My little novella was selling through the roof.
It was a funny thing though. Readers either loved or hated it. It was around this time that I received my first one-star review and it was for the little novella. I was devastated. I wanted to pull it. I posted on the Kindle Boards asking how other authors coped with bad reviews and received awesome support and hand-holding. I also received my first Random Act of Kindleness. Another Regency author, whom I didn't know, read my book and wrote a great five-star review. Life was good.
Earlier in the year, I had asked for and received my rights back to the two books I had published with The Wild Rose Press. On May 3, I published and re-released Her Reluctant Rancher. I decided to charge $2.99 since it had already been "vetted" and published. It sold more books in that one month than the two years at the small ePress.
May was my best month ever!!! I sold over 10,000 eBooks that month. Awesome!!! I finally felt like a successful author. On May 31, I published Texan Undercover. I started it out at $2.99, but quickly dropped the price to 99 cents. (More about my pricing strategy later.)
I published and re-released the last book in my backlist, Tall Dark and Texan, on June 2. I put it up for $2.99. In the month of June, I sold over 9000 eBooks.
Ups and Downs
What goes up, must come down. This is where the not for the faint of heart comes into play.
The third week of June, I gave a workshop at my local RWA Chapter on Self-Publishing: The New Paradigm/Living My Dream. You can read excerpts of it on my blog. I'm glad I gave it when I did, because it wasn't long after that the summer slump settled in, and my sales started decreasing.
Not fun. You know, it's great when your books are selling like hotcakes and all's right with the world. It's a whole nuther thing when sales start to tank. Interestingly, as my sales declined on Amazon, they started picking up on B&N. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to any of it. Not for the faint of heart.
I shouldn't complain too much. In July, I sold over 5000 eBooks. I gave 1000 away for free on Smashwords. August and September were pretty dismal, but in October sales started to pick up. I've now sold over 50,000 eBooks total. Not bad. But watching my sales decrease by 50% and more was not a good feeling, let me tell you.
So, I try to put it all in perspective. I started this self-publishing adventure with the goal of making around 300-400 dollars a month. I'm doing that and more. Readers are reading my books. Fans are sending me email. I'm writing what I enjoy writing and finding like-minded people who enjoy reading what I write. I'm truly living my dream.
I'm looking forward to the next year. My goal is to release ten more stories of various lengths. In the big scheme of things, I plan to charge $2.99 for my novels and 99 cents for my shorter works. I'm positioning myself for this next holiday season and beyond.
The eBook sensation is truly revolutionary. More and more people are going to switch over to digital reading devices, and that will hopefully mean more readers for all of us. Writers need to write and publish and be ready for them. That's exactly what I plan to do.
Happy Writing and Reading and Publishing!!!
The generosity of authors in sharing their expertise always amazes me. I hope you will thank Kate and the other authors who guest star on SlingWords by purchasing one of their books.