Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My biennial update

So, in case it’s not abundantly clear, I really only use this blog as a handy way for me to see new posts by other bloggers; my own content is scarce and probably not useful for anybody anyway.

However, it’s interesting for me to look back once in a while to see where I’ve been, so in that spirit I’m adding another entry covering the last couple of years.  Overall, 2013 was a very rough year; I ended up making less money year than I did in 2012--in fact, I only took in about half as much. This was in spite of the fact that I turned out 22 titles in 2013, much of that in the first half of the year (the vast majority of those were short stories, including several very short stories that I priced at 99 cents, in spite of what I’d said earlier about the uselessness of that price).  I shudder to think about what I would have made if I’d released fewer than that!

I did not release a novel in 2013; I’ve been working on one but Real Life threw me a lot of annoying curve balls in the last half of the year, so my production slowed dramatically.  Such is life.  The sales of the two romance novels that I had out already had become anemic, dropping more and more month by month, until my worst month ever, which was November 2013.  I sold a combined total of eight copies of my two full-length novels, if I recall correctly.  It was a far cry from the glory days in which I was selling a copy or two nearly every day; my best months gave me totals of 40 or 50, but those are long behind me and I was pretty sure that things were on a permanent downswing.

Keeping that in mind, I figured it couldn’t hurt to try something new, and I decided to go perma-free with the first of the novels.  The results were, frankly, stunning.  In December 2013 alone I gave away more than 13,000 copies of my first novel across all platforms; the vast majority of those have been at Amazon.  Has it been worth it?  Hell yeah. In the same time I sold 138 copies of the second novel.  Now I grant you, that’s a tiny percentage of those who downloaded the free one, but I’ll take it--that’s more than thirty times as many copies as I sold last month, so giving it away has made me a lot more money.  It helps that I’m writing in a popular genre--historical romance--and I’m not sure that this would work for every genre, but I can’t complain.  In addition to the raised profile--the first novel made it as high as #2 on the free list for the genre--it helped me get a lot more reviews.  In the first two years that it was out, I accumulated exactly two reviews.  Just in December I piled on ten more, so, as I said, I can’t complain. To be honest, I’m more than a bit confused and surprised at how this happened.  My first novel had been released two years before I made it free, yet it lingered in the subgenre top ten free list for about a month. I don’t know what made that particular book stand out in the crowd--it’s not as good as the second one (it was the first novel I ever wrote and it provided a real education) and the description is admittedly lackluster (something I’ve wrestled with ever since releasing it), yet there it sat. I can’t explain it and I guess I won’t question it.

For much of 2014, I continued to make good sales of the second novel based on the free downloads of the first one. During the summer, however, things slowed down to a relative trickle, and eventually I took my first romance title off perma-free since I wasn’t selling many of the second one anymore anyway. I saw no real difference in my sales that I would attribute to the pricing, but I had decided to try again with perma-free since I’ve also released several shorter titles since last summer. Unfortunately, Smashwords has not been able to get this published over at Barnes and Noble, so I lost the holiday bump that I enjoyed last year. That may have been the thing that pushes me to Draft2Digital instead; we’ll see.

In any case, I’ve been working with romance short stories under a pen name, all aimed at (apparently) grandmothers who find the language too salty in my other romances. You know, curse words like damn and hell. My new collection is doing well on Select, which is the only thing bringing in money at the moment. Sales are quiet but borrows are doing well, so I hope to continue with that for some time.

For 2015 I have several stories and a few novels planned for release. I’m also finally moving into contemporary romance this year, which is probably backwards from how I should have been doing this, but oh well. Better late than never.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Small steps

Whoa.  Blogger's interface has changed a lot since my last post.  Weird.

So my much-trumpeted success with Barnes and Noble last summer has continued to glide ever-downward like a jumbo jet which has run out of fuel.  My sales have slowed tremendously there; February was by far my slowest month in a year, and although March slightly improved, I also had two days without a sale in March.  That was the first time I've gone a day without a sale there since last July.  End of an era.

Oh well, I'm trying to not pay attention to the numbers.  Having said that, Kobo is partially making up for poorer B/N sales.  I'm definitely making more there than I was when going through Smashwords, so that's some progress.

Finally, I found a way to save myself some time, which always helps out.  One of the things I do to ease my conversion at Smashwords is to write in Word 97/2003, and I found out this morning that you can hack your computer's registry to add that as an option when you right-click to create a new document.  Thus I eliminated the step of creating a new docx file, then saving as 97/2003, then deleting the docx.  It's a small step, but it adds up.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Farewell 2012, Howdy 2013!

Overall, I am very happy with how things are going now that I’ve finished my second full year of self-publishing.  I’m beginning to feel like I have things coming together more and more professionally; I have to laugh at how I started things out back in January 2011, when I uploaded my first title to KDP (I can’t remember what it was called back then, but whatever).  The errors I overlooked and didn’t even realize I was making have largely disappeared, and I’ve got the formatting/uploading process down to a near-science.  I’ve added Kobo to the retailers I’m working with directly (I’d had it on my to-do list, but it wasn’t until JE Medrick wrote about her experiences that I decided to give it a shot) and I've been fairly pleased overall; if nothing else, I’ve replaced Smashwords’ messy files with nicer-looking ones, which may explain why it seems I’m doing better with Kobo working directly.  Fall, frankly, was very slow—no different from lots of grumbling around the web, although it was still better than the first half of the year for me.

Since I never wrote my entry explaining why July was such an amazing month, allow me to fill in some details.  After a lot of research and soul-searching, I decided to make some major changes with my erotica titles.  I tried to make the covers and titles more tasteful—not that I was all that explicit in that way to begin with; I’m not one of those writers whose titles must exactly summarize the stories; e.g., “Sally F----s the Neighbor and Her Stepfather On the Porch”.  Most importantly, I raised my prices.  I’ve nearly eradicated the 99-cent price from my titles now; there are a handful left but everything else is 2.99 and higher.  That one change blew the roof off my Barnes and Noble sales, which have consistently and soundly beaten my Amazon sales.  Although I don’t discuss money often, I will say that in July I made over a thousand dollars just on B/N.  I was as surprised as anybody else, believe me.  The rest of the year was a slow decline, although as if by clockwork, December 26 started excellent sales on B/N again.  In any case, even a drop from that summer high point still had me earning significantly more than I’d been doing only a few months ago, so I can’t complain.  Strangely, my sales at Amazon have remained remarkably consistent.  In a way I guess that’s good, since I’m making the same money I had been before, but it is frustrating.  I can’t seem to crack that nut at all.  One unusual thing I’ve noticed is that my romance novels sell far, far better on Amazon than on Barnes and Noble, whereas erotica sells better on B/N.  Not that I’m burning up the charts, but I sell a novel nearly every day on Amazon, while weeks can pass between sales on B/N.

Overall, I’m still at about seven percent of what I’d need to do this full time, which has held fairly steady for several months now due to improving sales through Smashwords (Apple in particular has been warming up).  My royalties increased by over 600% this year, though I recognize that that's an artificially high number since I was starting from so little last year.  I'll have a better idea of growth after 2013, of course.  I didn’t meet every goal I set last year, but after two years of self-publishing I remain as committed to this as I was at the beginning.

So what’s in store for 2013?  I have several things planned.  First of all, I want to try and grow my Amazon business, and it appears that novels remain the way to do that.  Although I’m hoping to release three novels next year (all romance), I am going to restrain myself and only plan for two.  I also have a novella nearing completion which I’m planning to publish in January, as well as another one planned for the spring and a smattering of stories along the way as well.  In addition, I’m slowly working on a couple of nonfiction titles, though I have no specific date in mind for those.  In 2012 I released 12 titles and I doubt I’ll be able to match that this next year, but you never know.  I’m also going to take a stab at a translation and see how it sells; I’m fluent in Spanish so I feel pretty capable as far as that goes.  The hard part is deciding what would sell best to a Spanish-speaking market.  I’d also like to get off my lazy ass and publish through Omnilit/All Romance.  I’ve heard good things about the site, so it can’t hurt to try it out.  I can’t say the same about Google Play, which still looks like it would be far more trouble than it’s worth.  Finally, I’m also going to be instituting a new process for my novels which begins with getting the print version formatted before the e-book.  Of the two novels I’ve released so far, only one is in print, but I found that it was easier to catch errors in the paper copy than onscreen, so since I wanted to expand my print offerings anyway, this will kill two birds.  Overall, I expect 2013 to be very, very busy but quite satisfying as well.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2013 for us all!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Three things

1. I've come to the conclusion that social media--or rather, using social media to promote your writing--is about the biggest waste of time ever.  Seriously, even playing a video game would be better than Twittering or whatever; at least then you'd be giving your mind a break from your work.  When I was growing up, authors didn't have all the tools available nowadays, but that didn't keep me from reading a ton.  What kept me reading?  Good stories.

2. Google Docs, which I've just started using recently, is awesome.

3. I've quit my secure, high-paying government job for one halfway across the country which pays much less.  I did it for many reasons, but it has to be said that one of them is to make sure that I have enough time to devote to growing my business.  After making some significant changes this month, July has turned out to be amazing, but that will have to wait for another blog post.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Latest update

So, it’s been over three months since I last posted, which makes this a quarterly update, I guess!  Sales have continued well, if unevenly; I can’t seem to make any significant impression at Amazon although Barnes and Noble has continued to make up for it.  May, in fact, was by far my best month at B/N, giving me 20% higher royalties than the previous record.

Not surprisingly, the porn—I mean, erotica—still makes the most money overall, but that’s just due to the fact that I have more titles that are straight erotica (so to speak!).  The romance novels are still bringing in the most money per title, however, with one exception—last month I released an “erotic romance” which has been by far my best seller in the last several weeks.  That might be because it’s new, or it might be just because people like a spicy romance now and again, or both, most likely.  Considering it’s only a novella (about 22K words), I wasn’t sure what to charge for it, but I decided to try out 3.99, and sales have been doing well at a bit under 2 a day.  Of course I’m not going to get rich selling two copies a day, but if I had several of those all selling two copies a day (or perhaps more by benefiting from increased visibility via more titles) then it could add up nicely.  At this point I see no reason to drop the price to 2.99, and I’m certainly not going lower than that.  One thing I’ve become sure of over the last year is that the .99 price point is useless, coincidentally, 99% of the time.  Anyhoo, my thrillers/suspense are at the bottom of the ladder (not surprising since I only have a pair of stories from a yet-to-be-concluded novella), only surpassed (subpassed?) in their low sales by a paranormal novella from another series I haven’t finished.
The more I study what sells and what doesn’t, the surer I am that the future (for me) lies in writing romance.  I make no bones about wanting to make money writing, preferably a lot of it!  Thus it seems only common sense to concentrate on the best-selling genre.  I honestly never—and I mean NEVER—expected to write a romance, let alone a pair of them, but once I began, it turned out to be a lot of fun.  Right now I have one more historical novel that I’m planning in sort of a half-assed way which I hope to begin later this fall.  I’m just about finished with a follow-up erotic romance and have a few more in the hopper, and then finally I have a series of contemporary romances that I’ve been working on as well.  The biggest frustration is finding a decent cover artist.  If you want to find somebody who can design a thriller, paranormal or suspense cover, they crawl out of the woodwork.  I’ve found it a hell of a lot harder to find somebody who has done anything for romance—especially historical romance—that can match those from the so-called Big 6, however.
I’ve mentioned before my admiration for Ruth Ann Nordin, and I just have to say how wowed I was to watch the success of her first Regency romance over at Barnes and Noble.  So here was a book that was her first try at the genre, she did the cover herself, and one day I checked its ranking to see it at #16.  That’s right, SIXTEEN.  On the first page of results for Nook bestsellers.  Effing amazing.  It’s since dropped down, but last I checked it was still well below 1000.  And that’s the sort of thing I’d like to see for myself someday.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gmail, italicized text and romance

So around a year ago Google froze my account (along with several hundred thousand other people, if memory serves) for about a week.  Last Sunday my Gmail account froze up and it's still out of order a week later.  Fortunately, last year I got smart and backed everything up on Hotmail, so this has been less of a problem than it might have been, but I think I've pretty much had enough of Gmail.  Too bad; it worked beautifully for years.

March has been fairly blah; sales are down from February although I really can't complain as I'm still headed for several hundred dollars at the end of the month.  Nowhere near many of the indie authors out there, but it's still amazing for me considering what I was pulling in a year ago.  And it's simple economics that things like this only go up, never down, right? :)

My breakthrough for the month--hell, the year--was that yesterday I found out how to set up a macro in Word to go through and replace all my italicized text with html markers.  Previously I had to go through the Word doc page by page and insert the markers myself (truth be told, until very recently I was doing so in a text document until I realized that I could do it much easier working directly in Word), but invariably I would forget to insert an end tag and thus screw up my formattting--something I wouldn't see until I was using the Kindle previewer.  So for my second novel, just this process of formatting my italicized text took hours.  Now, however, I should be able to have it done automatically, error-free, in literally seconds.  Huge improvement.

I released my second novel last month and I can see what Konrath, et al. have said: there's more money in novels than in other lengths of work.  Of course, the majority of my sales have come from my other works simply because I have more of them (I only have two novels up, versus over twenty shorts, novellas and collections), but looking at the income per title, the novels are clearly way ahead.  So far in March I've been selling two per day (not two each yet, unfortunately, but a total of two novels daily) from all channels combined.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

2nd novel finished!

So at 5:59 AM, I finished the first draft of my second novel.  Things went differently for this one than the first one; for one, it took a lot less time.  The first one took around four months of actual writing, but this one I completed in under three months.  Also, I wrote this one entirely in order; on the first one I wrote whatever appealed to me at the time, which was nice in a way since if I felt blocked in a certain part I just went and wrote somewhere else.  However, it was much harder to remember where I was in the overall story, so things went more smoothly this time.

I was planning to do a formal update of how January went, but then I saw an email from Amazon this morning indicating that the "prior month" report may not be accurate.  I sure hope it was, because when I looked at it yesterday it showed that I had blown away December and that January was my best month yet by far.  Guess I'll have to wait to find out....