One Year Indie Published

Tuesday’s Child, PJ Sharon here. Thanks to all of you, I had a fun and successful launch day for Waning Moon last Friday. I can’t believe that it took publishing four books in a year for me to finally FEEL like an author. I think I needed to finally take the time to celebrate my accomplishments before I could really recognize them. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’ve worked hard this past year, but being a goal oriented person, I tend to look at all that’s ahead of me and forget to be in the moment, appreciating all the blessings along the way. As a yoga practitioner, you’d think I would be a pro at remaining present, but it’s no secret that the writer’s life is far from balanced and that none of us can be totally zen about daunting deadlines and promo pressures. So now that I’ve had my celebratory pause, and before I look forward, I thought I’d look back at the past year and see how I did on my goals.

 

In honor of my one year as an Indie-published author, I wanted to share my sales numbers. The following are close estimations as I haven’t counted venues like ARe (All Romance e-reads), Create Space, and the few hardcopies I’ve sold at signings. These are e-book sales only.

 

Heaven is for Heroes:                           On Thin Ice:                    Savage Cinderella:          

Release date: 9/24/11                            12/15/11                                3/24/12                           

Amazon US:       682                                1250                                       1526
Amazon UK:         22                                  361                                           29
Amazon Eu:         10                                       6                                             5
BN:                      116                                    33                                           28

Smashwords:       52                                    25                                           42

Total:                   872                                1675                                       1630

Free downloads: 77                                    30           37,762 (US); 1,120 (UK); 105 (Eu)

Estimated Total e-books sold: 4,177

Taking into account the difficult to decipher reports from Smashwords (which includes e-books sold through Kobo, Sony, Apple et al), and if you include hardcopy sales through Createspace, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve hit the 5,000 books sold mark. Last January when I set my goals for 2012, I stated that I wanted to sell 10,000 books in a year (looking to break into that 10K cake club my indie buddies talk about). There is a possibility I could actually meet that goal if Waning Moon takes off, but even if I don’t hit 10,000 by January, I know I’ll reach it at some point soon. I’m halfway there, right? I see the slow, steady build of readership and sales, and have faith that with diligence, numbers will continue to grow as I reach new readers. 

I’ve learned a lot in this past year—lessons I will take forward with me as I continue on this journey. In no particular order, these are my top five lessons learned this year as an Indie published author.

1) Hire help with cover art, editing, and promotion/marketing. 

2) The buying patterns of readers are changing with the wind. There will be seasonal slumps and missed opportunities. The only thing you CAN control is the quality of your content. (Three nuggets in one).

3) Basically there aren’t enough hours in a day to do all we SHOULD do, so do what you can and let the rest go. 

4) Watching trends, getting involved in networks, and creating a platform in some form of social media makes for invaluable resources. Appreciate those resources.

5) Keep writing and creating new material.

As for observations, the summer months were extremely slow all around. It’s important to note, here, that I had flipped my promotional efforts to 20% of my budgeted time, and spent 80% writing/revising/producing the book instead of the other way around. Sales dropped by 75% in June, July and August. This tells me that clearly, promotion works. But the best advice I’ve gotten from Indie published authors is to work on growing your cyber bookshelf. Most successful self-pubbers hit their stride with book number six or seven, unless they are very luck and catch the wave the first time out. It’s all about creating quality backlist and gaining a readership through social media and visibility. That takes time and consistent effort. 

With the release of Waning Moon and the next month of blog tour visits (you can follow along and find my upcoming appearances at the calendar page of my website or click on the Goddess Fish icon below), I’ll be back in promotion mode while trying to maintain some of that ever elusive balance we writers struggle with. The coming year will be much less aggressive in terms of production, so I think that will help.

I want to add that I’m sharing these numbers only to encourage other writers (or some might say depress them, depending on their expectations). If I compared my numbers with others, I might be a bit underwhelmed –I still can’t look at my hourly rate without cringing. But I also recognize that there are many Indie authors not selling nearly what I did, so I don’t compare. I’m simply grateful to be where I am…satisfied that I am on the right track.

Unlocked secret: We all measure success differently, take our own path to find our bliss, and set our own goals. To set goals, understand what you want and carve out a path to get you there. Just remember; keep your goals realistic, manageable, flexible, and measurable. They are after all, just a guideline.

How did you all do with your goals this year? Do you set ‘em and forget ‘em like the rotisserie? Or are you dogmatically holding onto them and not willing to be flexible? Have you found the balance with goal setting that allows you to reassess often and adjust as needed? I’d love to hear from you!

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44 thoughts on “One Year Indie Published”

  1. Paula,
    I am amazed at what you have been able to accomplish in one short year. Have you thought about writing a non-fiction book on inde publishing dos and donts?

    1. Thanks, Joy. I have thought about that, but it’s not on my to-do list for two reasons. 1) I have WAY too many other books ahead of that one, both fiction and non-fiction (yoga for writers anyone?), and 2) Things change so quickly in this industry, that anything i wrote about “how to” or “how not to” would be obsolete by the time I finished and published it. There are plenty of books on the subject by folks with a lot more experience, so I’ll leave it to them for now. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Well earned congratulations PJ! I’ve seen (some of) how hard you’ve worked this year, and I’m so glad to see it paying off! It doesn’t hurt that you are a fantastic writer, too ;-)
    Cheers, Congrats, and best wishes for your continued success!

    1. Thanks so much, Greg! i’m just digging in to the Street team’s anthology coming out in a few weeks. I’ll be sure to leave a review when I’m done. Good to see you, here!

  3. Paula,
    You are truly an inspiration in your diligence and honesty about your self-publishing journey. I have a question, though: how do you feel that your marketing dollars were best spent? And is there anything you can do in the future to prevent the slump in current sales while you work on writing the next book?

    1. Thanks sweetie! Great questions, Tracy. I didn’t spend much at all on marketing, mainly because I didn’t have much to spend. Most of my budget went into editing and print costs. I was lucky enough to win my cover art in a contest. I bought swag, (bookmarks, whistles, lanyards). I was also fortunate to have found a young man who just graduated from marketing school and agreed to help me set up a marketing strategy, wrote me a fabulous press release, and compiled a press list for me to send out to news papers and radio stations. I haven’t heard back from any of those yet. Michael was very helpful and reasonably priced.

      I discovered that marketing and promoting are predominantly left brain activities. There is some amount of creativity that goes into it, but it is very task oriented and therefore sucked the life right out of my wordcount last spring. I really struggled with balancing promo and writing. I’ve developed a little better system now, I hope. I set a timer if I know I have limited hours to work on promo and need to get to the writing. When the timer goes off, I’m done. I get up, go exercise, shower, eat and come back and go straight to the writing…no checking e-mail, FB, etc. Some of it is just about time management and self-discipline, but those
      are no easy things to master.

      As for avoiding the sales slump, I’m really not sure, other than possibly timing a release for June and then spending the summer promoting. I heard from many Indie authors that this summer was extremely slow and sales are definitely cyclical, so I’ll have to see what happens next summer. I’ll try to get Book Two of the trilogy out by July which I would think would help with the summer doldrums. I’ll keep you posted.

    1. Thanks, Gerri. One of the best parts of Indie publishing is having these real-time numbers to use as a measure of what’s working and what’s not. I’m not sure how trad-pubbed authors who don’t get to see sales numbers for at least six months out can determine the effectiveness of their marketing strategy. It would be nice if editors would share that info as it comes in, or have a way for authors to follow their sales reports. Not only would it give them a heads up about how they are doing with promoting, it would also create a nice sense of transparency and control on the side of the author. Just a thought, if any of you editors out there wanted to start a new trend:-)

  4. Congratulations, Paula! I second T L; you are an inspiration – and a living example where determination can take one. I have no sense of what number of copies constitutes smashing success in the indie world (well, anyone with sales over 100K must be in that category), but it seems to me that 5K sold copies IS a success for a new author.

    1. Thanks, Ann. Honestly, success for me is about sharing my stories with readers and making a difference with my writing–whether it means providing entertainment, or bringing healing to someone through my words and the lessons learned by my characters. Every time someone says they read one of my books and loved it, I’m filled with such a sense of pride and joy that the numbers don’t really matter.

      I recognize, however, that to get my books into the hands of readers, I need to be focused and goal oriented, so in that way, it’s all about the numbers. Ideally, I would like to be able to make a comfortable living from my writing–something that still seems a few years away–but I feel like I’m on the right track and that eventually, if I stay the course, that ultimate goal will happen naturally. Whether it’s 10k or 100k, getting my books into the hands of one happy reader at a time is still my best measure of success.

  5. Congrats on your anniversary, Paula! You have realistic expectations, a plan and an evident sense of professionalism, and those are never bad attributes. Wishing you all the best for Year Two!

    1. Thank you so much for saying so, Dale! I used to tell my sons, “dependability, hard work, and professionalism will get you further in life than any amount of formal education.” I’m happy to say, they listened to that piece of advice:-)

  6. That was fascinating! I’m so glad you were willing to share your numbers. I found it extremely interesting that different sites seemed to pick up on different books. I guess it goes to show that it’s important to publish books across a broad spectrum, because your audience may vary.

    Happy pubiversary!

    1. Hahaha! I Love that…pubiversary…cool word!

      Yes, clearly, Amazon is the big winner for sales, easily garnering 75-80%. I chose the select program for only one title (Savage Cinderella) where i went exclusively with Amazon for 90 days. Thus the mega download count for my five FREE days with that book. It might also interest you that I have 39 reviews for that book and only a dozen or so for my others. It’s still challenging to get folks to take time to review books and I think one of the best ways for readers to find them, although some insiders say reviews don’t matter much. I’m not sure select offers as much of a boost as it did last spring and I hated the idea that my Nook readers had to wait for the book. I also don’t think that exclusivity with one distributor is in the best interest of authors in the long run.

      I’ve been very disappointed in B&N sales. I don’t think they do a very good job of helping new and indie authors make their books visible. Of course, I’ve also not taken the time to hang out on Nook and kindle boards which i hear can help quite a bit, but time being the limiting factor, I do what I can.

      As far as Smashwords goes, there are some unhappy indie authors out there who are frustrated enough with Smashwords and its quirks (changing prices across all of their distribution channels presents some nightmares), that they are skipping Smashwords and uploading directly to Apple and Kobo since there are now opportunities to publish directly to these venues. I’ve stuck it out with Smashwords because I like having the ability to create coupon codes that allow me to give my books away for free to a select group of people, and it opens up the Baker and Taylor option for inclusion in sales to book stores and libraries. As I said, things are constantly changing in this industry and keeping up is a full time job in itself. We’ll see what the next year brings:-)

  7. Congratulations on your anniversary, Paula. Meeting a goal is an awesome accomplishment, and especially when it is so dependent on others appreciating your work and seeking it out. Wonderful news!

  8. Congratulations on your one year self-publishing anniversary, Paula! Three titles on the shelves and five thousand sales are wonderful results. Wishing you a fabulous 2013 that exceeds all your expectations~

    1. Thanks, Clover. I believe most of my readers are still adults and the 20 somethings who enjoy reading YA with mature themes, and you’re right, it’s hard to reach teens who may not have the on-line buying power of adults, and who are still getting their books from libraries and book stores. I do think that is changing and will be whole other story as first generation e-reading devices are “gifted” to kids after adults purchase the next up and comer in the e-reader race. It’s an inevitability that the market will grow exponentially over the next several years…unless it all comes crashing down…but that’s just me and my overactive Dystopian thinking…maybe…

  9. Congratulations on a year of hard work that paid off in rewards. You deserve it and more. You sure have a handle on it. Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring all of us newbies. Great blog. Wishing you a 2nd year of even more success.

  10. Congrats on the one year anniversary! I think you’re doing a great job and you’ve worked so hard. You deserve every bit of success that comes your way. Thanks for sharing your numbers with us. And I wouldn’t worry much over the summer numbers. Everyone reported a decline in sales over those three months and those who have been around a while said they always drop off during the summer. Again, congratulations and here’s to much success in the coming year. :-)

  11. You are an inspiration. I just got the rights back to my first novel and self-pubbed literally two days ago (Sunday). The freedom of this is amazing. Thanks for sharing your story and your numbers. You prove that having faith in yourself is worthwhile.

  12. Paula, congratulations on your winning accomplishments. I remember at the picnic last year . . . you have worked hard, and have earned a place in the author world. God bless you, and more blessings for the future. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for sharing the journey with me Gail. It wouldn’t be the same without all of my CTRWA pals. You guys are the best!

  13. Fab job, Paula! I like your style–you’re good at keeping your cool about this crazy business and you’re doing great because of it.
    I predict you’ll be eating cake soon!

    1. Is there really any other way to be? LOL. When i last saw him and told him about “shouting into the wind” of the self-publishing storm, my acupuncturist told me that if I’m living my “michi” there will be no struggle with what is. He’s so awesomely zen:-) My understanding of michi is that it is our true essence and purpose in life. I guess he’s right; if we’re truly doing what we are meant to do, there should be no need to shout.

  14. Congratulations Paula! I saw my summer numbers dwindle too. August and September have been my worst two months and I have 7 books out. Here’s wishing that all of us will have a wonderful holiday season.

    1. I’ve heard the same from many other Indie authors, Sylvia. I know summers are slower for most book sales so I expected the drop, but it was still painful watching those numbers dive. It helps knowing I’m not alone in the slump. Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Don’t fret about the summer slump. So many of us experienced the same thing. July, Aug, and Sept were not friendly for me at all! But I can tell sales are already picking up for October. A couple of things to keep in mind . . . the economy sucks right now and markets are conservative in all industries until after the presidential election. It happens every four years. :) Just keep publishing books because the holidays are right around the corner, our prime sales season. Good job on your first year. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Deb. That is encouraging. I’m planning on some Holiday promos, so we’ll see how it goes. So far the new book is off to a slow start, but I think you’re right about both the economy and the election being factors. I appreciate the support!

  16. You have been so great about sharing your journey – and I agree with the others who commented on your cool, calm way of handling the craziness of writing. I wish you everything you want and more!!!
    Traci

    1. Thanks, Traci. Yoga is a lifesaver and a sanity saver for sure. Learning to detach from the outcome is an invaluable gift.

  17. With any job, we have to be dedicated to it. I’ve treated my writing as a full-time job even when I had a full time job. I have goals I set, deadlines I have to meet. I had so many this past month, even without a full time job, I was having a time keeping up. I had a book due Sept 15, Oct 15, and 40,000 words worth of blogs due by mid-September.

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