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.