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VanessaNorth
12-05-2013, 02:50 AM
Last month I self-published a 14k word erotica novelette entitled "The Dark Collector." I thought I'd share what I learned along the way. First, some background:

I'm previously published by Liquid Silver Books and Musa Publishing. My sales with those two companies range from 100s of copies to 1000s of copies, with no real clues as to which books would sell the most. My bestselling book, Hostile Beauty, was released this past October, and the estimated sales numbers for the first two weeks (all I have so far) are between 800-1000 copies.

I did not (and do not) expect my self-published book to sell that well for a few reasons:

1. it's a short fiction piece
2. it's erotica and not romance
3. it has extreme BDSM content (part of my decision to self-publish it)

However, I did treat this book as I would expect it to be treated at a publishing house. I hired an editor, the same editor who content edited one of my books at LSB. She did a phenomenal job. The book has two timelines and was written in first person present. Policing my tenses alone was a HUGE task.

Cover art. Okay, here's where I admit I was a professional photographer for two years and know photoshop like the back of my hand. I designed my own cover. That was a corner cut, but the cover suits the book and conveys the feel I wanted AND seems to be generating good responses.

Formatting. As someone who writes exclusively in Scrivener, I found this to be the easiest part of the self-publishing process. I compiled my ebooks in Scrivener in their various formats, added the cover to the PDF in a PDF editor, and it was done. Honestly, I only advise this for experienced Scrivener users, or those willing to tackle Scrivener's extensive learning curve. I've been using Scrivener for two years now, so I was comfortable with this.

Once the formatting was complete and tested in all apps on my ipad and kindle devices, I solicited the help of friends to read and double check the formatting on kobo and nook ereaders. Do NOT skip this step. Lousy formatting ruins a book. Check your formatting. If you don't own the device? Find someone who does. It's worth the time and the free copies of your book.

Marketing. I started sending out ARCs two months in advance, and continue to send them to interested reviewers. I blogged regularly about it before the release, held some contests for giveaway copies, talked about it on facebook and some on twitter. I did NOT spam my book anywhere ever at all. EVER. Including twitter.

Distribution:

Currently the book is distributed through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and All Romance eBooks.

I intend to eventually also distribute to smashwords--there are some issues with my pen name there due to being published previously through a publisher who distributes to smashwords, and ironing those out is a headache of epic proportions. Add to that Smashwords formatting requirements and I just don't have the time to deal with that for the limited number of copies I could expect to sell there.

Sales numbers two weeks in are at about 50 copies. Coming off a bestseller for over two weeks in three amazon categories (gay fiction, gay romance, and gay erotica) the month before with my latest Musa release, that feels small--however, it's not bad compared to some of the other first-two-weeks I've experienced, and it's better than I expected. It also hit the Amazon gay erotica bestseller charts for a few days.

This week, I began the process to put it into print through createspace. While the POD costs are high and I don't expect people to pay $5.99 for a 100 page book, I did decide to go ahead and make it available in print because I wanted to be able to do giveaways on Goodreads and also have copies to sign at appearances and conventions. My cost to order copies for these purposes is $2.15 per copy.

I have not yet reached the break-even point on my sales to expenditure ratio. Not even close. But I did gain a LOT of experience and future self-published books will be much easier to navigate.

Also, that next self-pub book is in the works now. I can't wait to add its adventures to this thread. ;)

Okay, so that's my experience so far. Questions? Ask me!

merrihiatt
12-05-2013, 04:28 AM
Thanks for sharing. I look forward to following your journey.

RLMcKeown
12-06-2013, 08:36 PM
I look forward to following your journey!

Fallen
12-07-2013, 05:05 PM
Really interesting to know, Vanessa. I read most self-pubbing updates in here. It will be good to see how you do compared to LS etc. Please keep us updated.

FionnJameson
12-07-2013, 07:25 PM
Yes, lousy formatting will turn off most, if not all, readers. I know it drives me up the wall. Good luck and keep us updated!

Spell-it-out
12-08-2013, 03:55 PM
Great post, Vanessa, really interesting. Keep us posted.

VanessaNorth
12-09-2013, 02:20 AM
Thanks all, i'll keep you posted. Kobo and nook sales are still in single digits--though i'm hoping increased sales of my musa titles at Barnes and Noble recently will help with numbers there.

I've started a goodreads giveaway as well, so we'll see how that helps with awareness. I do think goodreads has been a big help for getting the word out about a very niche title. Gay near-stranger erotica, extreme kink, no happy ever after, it's not going to be everyone's cuppa. I see a lot of shelf-adds based on recommendations from other readers, which is awesome--it means the people who like those sorts of stories are helping each other find them, which is part of why i love goodreads (as a reader and an author)

Quick comparison on sales across my three gay titles:
Shifter's Song released in march, it's 8th book in a multi-author series from musa, has sold <500 copies
Hostile Beauty, contemp standalone released from Musa in Oct has sold (guesstimate) 800-1000, maybe more? Don't have concrete numbers after first two weeks.
Dark collector, this self pubbed short, is at about 50 copies sold, some kindle loans included in numbers.

VanessaNorth
01-20-2014, 03:10 AM
Two month update: so far, TDC has sold about 100 copies, split pretty much equally between ARe and Amazon, though i've sold 9 copies with Kobo and 3 with Barnes and Noble.

The goodreads giveaway translated to over 300 to-read adds on GR, and 509 people entered the giveaway.

merrihiatt
01-20-2014, 03:11 AM
Thanks for the update!