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Dragonwriter
06-03-2015, 08:43 AM
Coming in a little late to the party, but I’ve been reading some of the other posters’ self-publishing diaries and I thought if I created one as well, it might hopefully be a tiny bit helpful to somebody. Since I haven’t been posting all along, it’s going to be a bit long to start with to get caught up. There's a TL;DR at the end of Part 1. :)

Part 1: The Early Years

Cue TARDIS sound effect as we zip back in time…

I’ve been writing fan fiction novels with original characters in the universe of the roleplaying game I freelance for since 1997, and posting them on my website. There are five of them, and they were well received enough that they got me my freelance gig with the game’s creator in 2001. A few years later, around the time self-publishing started to take off, I decided to start writing my own original fiction so I could publish it and actually try to make a little money—but more importantly, to get something that was all mine out there where people could see it.

So I wrote a book. I paid an artist friend to do a cover for me. I self-published the book.

And it went pretty much nowhere.

I think I sold fewer than 50 copies over the couple of years it was available.

I’m convinced that most of the reason it went nowhere was because I didn’t promote it. At all. Beyond a few posts on my Facebook page (not many—I didn’t want to spam my friends, after all) I did nothing to let anyone know it was out there. The few reviews I got (even the ones that weren’t from friends) were good. They liked the book. I just didn’t know how to promote it. I’m an introverted nerd who has a lot of trouble waving things in people’s faces and yelling “Look at meee!” And it showed in my sales.

So I wrote another one—the second book in the trilogy—accepting that I was doing this for me, I wasn’t going to make any money at it, and that was okay. It was a labor of love, after all.

And of course the second book sold fewer than the first. Again, the small number of reviews it got were good. But nobody knew about it.

Fast forward a few months, which was when I realized a couple of things: first, that my books were not a trilogy, but two parts of a series—and not parts 1 and 2. Second, that the character I thought was the protagonist, wasn’t.

So I rewrote. And wrote book 1 in the series from scratch, completely focused on the character who should have been the MC all along. I got it beta read by a very picky friend. He pointed out places it could be improved. I fixed them. I posted the query letter to QLH, and I revised it based on comments there. I polished up the manuscript and sent it off to Angry Robot Books’s Open Call at the end of 2013, figuring they’d either say Yes or (much more likely) they’d say No, in about six months. I decided that would be my shot at trade publishing, and if I got rejected, I’d go ahead and self-pub. I was fine with that decision. I’m a control freak who likes to have final say over things like cover art, release dates, layout, etc. So it would be a win either way.

Angry Robot had some shakeups, and that resulted in it taking more like a year to get back to me. Since I couldn’t do anything with the book until they responded (the last thing I wanted to do was self-pub the book and withdraw it from the running, just in case they wanted it after all!), I wrote two more in the series, for a total of five, ranging in size from 100,000 – 150,000 words each.

Two things happened around the end of 2014: Angry Robot turned me down (no big surprise) and my dad’s estate finally got through probate, which left me with a modest inheritance. The spouse and I had agreed that when that happened, I would take some of the money and use it to pursue my dream of self-pubbing the right way: pro editor, pro cover, the whole bit.

(Part 1 TL;DR: Tried to self-pub before, did no promo, sales were poo.)

Dragonwriter
06-03-2015, 08:44 AM
Part 2: Starting Over

With the manuscript of Book 1 now back in hand, my new self-publishing journey began. Fortunately, I know an excellent editor from my work with the game company I freelance for—I’d worked with him before for a couple of short stories in a game anthology, he edited the company’s novel line (which I was also writing for), and we got along well. I asked him to be my editor, and he accepted. So I sent him the manuscript and the first installment of his payment, and settled back to wait.

Meanwhile, I needed a cover. My friend who did the original covers for my first two books is a talented artist, with gallery shows and a whole slew of gorgeous work (including my two covers). But she’s very busy, and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that her style wasn’t quite what I was looking for for the kind of books I was writing. So I got a recommendation for a company called Streetlight Graphics by asking someone whose cover I liked, contacted them, and gave the designer some ideas for what I wanted. He came back about two weeks later with something fantastic. It wasn’t perfect—we went back and forth a few times and he was quite patient—but it was pretty darn close.

Then the edits came back. I incorporated them, discussed some of them with the editor, added and deleted some sections, polished the whole thing up, and I was ready to go. I wrote up a description and an author bio, sent the files off to Amazon and CreateSpace (and squee’d a bit when the proof came back—it looked so much like the kind of book you’d find on the shelves at Barnes and Noble that it made me a bit giddy!) and hit “GO.” Ebook price: $2.99.

And sales were poo again.

Not quite as poo as before. I didn’t know anything about preorders, so I didn’t do one. I announced the book on my series Facebook page and my own, on my new blog, and a couple of other places. I sold 19 ebooks on Day 1, March 16.

Oh, hey, 19 isn’t so bad, right? Way better than I’d done before. Yay?

Then, for the next 10 days, sales trickled in. The high was 5. The low was 1. I settled in, figuring I was going to have the same cruddy sales as before, and still having no real idea what I was doing with promo. I spoke with a very nice promo/marketing person who gave me some great ideas, but I still felt confused and adrift about how to implement them. I mentioned that I’m terrible at marketing, right?

Help came to me almost by chance. I went to a meeting of the local writers’ club, which I’d just joined the month before. While there, I met a fellow self-published writer whose covers I’d admired, so I told her so. We got to talking about promotion, and she gave me some good advice: I had to learn to use Twitter, she said.

I hated Twitter. I thought of it as “that thing where teenagers posted photos of their lunches.”

Nope, she said, Twitter’s where it’s at.

So I bit the bullet, dusted off my comatose Twitter account, and sent some tweets. Some about my book. Some about other stuff. Pictures of my cats. Some retweets of friends’ tweets, and of their book announcements. I did my best to get my book out there and to be a good Twitter citizen (Twittizen?)

A day or two later, I checked my sales figures.

89.

In one day.

Holy cats.

Surely that was an aberration. It would be back down to 1 or 2 a day tomorrow, right?

Nope. Well, it didn’t reach 89 the next day. It dropped down to 50 or 60. But it stayed there. For the next couple of months, from the end of March till the middle of May or so, I ranged from 25 – 60 sales a day.

I kept on tweeting. I don’t know if that was what did it, but it was really the only variable I changed.

In March, I sold around 224 books. That’s at the full price of $2.99 each. So far, I haven’t dropped the price, and I’ve never done KDP.

In April, I sold 1557.

In May, I sold 1082. And those were just in the US. I had some sales in the UK, Canada, even India. Total ebook sales as of tonight in all markets are 2888.

My sales rank has fluctuated: it’s gone up to the 8,000s now, but at its lowest it was in the 2300s of Paid Kindle Sales, and I hit #5 on the Thrillers and Mysteries/Supernatural/Witches and Wizards list.

The numbers are starting to drop a bit now—hovering around 25-30 per day. I figured that would happen.

My stretch goal had been to earn enough money from Book 1 to pay for the editing, cover art, and promo costs for Book 1. As of today, I’ve earned back enough to pay those not only for Book 1, but Book 2. And Book 2 hasn’t even been released yet.

As for reviews, the book has 33 as of this writing. Most of them are 4 stars, with several 5s, a couple of 3s, and some 2s. Most of them are from people I don’t know—the few from friends are from fellow authors who are picky. I don’t think any of my author friends gave me 5 stars—they were all 4s.

I just found out this week that the book was accepted by Awesome Indies and listed in their bookstore (I applied during their free period); I don’t know how many stars they gave it yet, but I think to get listed in their store you have to get at least 4 from their reviewers.

But seriously, I’m blown away and flabbergasted by the sales. Nowhere in my wildest dreams did I expect the book to do this well, and I’m not sure why it is. I know it’s not a bad book—enough people I trust to know what they’re talking about have told me it’s a solid book. But there are a lot of solid books out there, many of them a lot better than mine, that aren’t selling as well. I don’t know what I’m doing right, but I hope I can keep doing it, because Book 2 is coming out in a couple of weeks. Right about now, I’m really hoping that the old adage about nothing selling book 1 like book 2 is true.

Things I’ve learned during my journey so far:


You have GOT to promote. Nobody’s going to know your book is out there if you don’t tell them. It could be the best book in the world and it won’t sell if people don’t know it exists. This was the hardest part for me. I have a really hard time walking that line between “I’m imposing on you with my presence” and “Yeah, this is pretty darn good, so check it out!” so I tend to veer wildly between them.
Get a pro editor. Yes, they’re expensive (though they vary widely in price and quality) but they’re worth it. And if you can find one that groks your style and can fix your problems without imposing their will on your story, hold on to them with both hands and don’t let go!
Invest in the best cover you can afford, and make sure you find a designer that’s familiar with your genre, or who works in several genres. Tell them what you have in mind, but remember they’re the artist and let them do what they do. If they’re good, they’ll make changes if you don’t like something, but they’ll tell you sometimes why you shouldn’t.
Get at least one beta reader who isn’t afraid of hurting your feelings.
Bad reviews hurt, no matter how tough you think your skin is. But you’ll survive them. Learn from them, and focus on the good ones.


And that’s got me caught up. I’ll continue posting as my journey continues. If you've read this far...wow. Thanks! :)

M. H. Lee
06-03-2015, 07:12 PM
Nice job! Looking forward to hearing about your continued success. When are you planning to release Book 2?

Dragonwriter
06-04-2015, 01:14 AM
Nice job! Looking forward to hearing about your continued success. When are you planning to release Book 2?

Probably within a month or so. I'm still learning how to do releases properly, and unfortunately since this is a rewritten/edited/updated version of one of my original two self-pubbed books, I can't do a preorder (since it's already in Amazon's system, and I don't want to lose those good reviews). I plan to put out Chapter 1 on my blog and then do a cover reveal to generate some buzz, and I'll release it a couple weeks after that.

And thanks! :)

M. H. Lee
06-04-2015, 04:56 PM
Not sure if Annie is still hanging around here (posted in the how many have you sold thread a few days ago and is now over 100K). If so maybe she can share her experience with pre-orders, but to paraphrase what I saw her say elsewhere: she didn't think that using pre-orders was an effective strategy because it removed the natural momentum she saw on her releases. So, don't sweat that part of it at least.

I'd say definitely get that book two out as soon as you can to capitalize on all those readers from book 1. Do you have a mailing list? (You can get one free through mailchimp or similar services. Just know that you have to provide an address so if you don't want your home address on the bottom of each one get some sort of PO Box.)

I think the general advice on releases is as soon as you can. Hope book two sells as well or even better.

Dragonwriter
06-04-2015, 08:17 PM
Good to know about the preorders.

i do have a mailing list (with a PO box) but it only has about 10 people on it right now, and half of those are friends. :). I have some work to do there, I think.

Mclesh
06-04-2015, 08:37 PM
Congratulations on those sales, Dragonwriter! That's great! Some folks have great success with Twitter. I haven't experienced that myself--mostly just use it to communicate with friends, but good on ya!

I think Amazon's algorithms kicking in might be helping to drive your sales, too. It's interesting, to me, when I see steady sales on Amazon when I'm not doing any kind of promoting. (By steady, I'm only talking a few books a day.) When your book starts getting recommended and showing up in also boughts, also doing well in its categories--all of those things help drive sales. Having a good cover is also very important. (I think my re-release of my YA book is doing much better because of its new cover.)

This puts you in good shape for book 2's release. I'm looking forward to your updates!

Dragonwriter
06-16-2015, 03:17 AM
Just revealed the cover for Book 2 today. It goes on sale next week, so I dropped the price of Book 1 to 99 cents for at least this week.

I feel like I'm moving fast, but I want to keep the sales momentum going. I hope the second book sells!

Here's the Book 2 cover. (http://rlkingwriting.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/The-Forgotten-800-Cover-reveal-and-Promotional.jpg)

SBibb
06-17-2015, 09:08 AM
Nice cover. I particularly like the treatment of the title. The font and the glowy bits. :-)

Congrats on the sales, too. :-)

greendragon
06-17-2015, 06:40 PM
Well done! See, not all technology is evil :)

Dragonwriter
06-19-2015, 09:02 AM
Nice cover. I particularly like the treatment of the title. The font and the glowy bits. :-)

Congrats on the sales, too. :-)

Thanks! :)

All the covers are going to have that same basic title type--we're differentiating them by color. When we run out we'll cycle through again. :)

Just ordered some really nifty bookmarks today. Can't wait to see them for real.

SBibb
06-19-2015, 09:26 PM
Thanks! :)

All the covers are going to have that same basic title type--we're differentiating them by color. When we run out we'll cycle through again. :)

Just ordered some really nifty bookmarks today. Can't wait to see them for real.

Awesome. Good luck with your sales. :-D

Dragonwriter
06-23-2015, 10:05 AM
Well, I learned something today, which is that Amazon can take forever to get its act together. The plan was to release Book 2 today, so I put the files out last night around 9pm. I'd already uploaded the cover file a week or so ago, but I didn't hit Publish until last night.

As of a few minutes ago, they still don't have my proper cover up, just a cruddy placeholder that I'd used when I unpublished the previous version (the one I published a couple of years ago and didn't promote). The new files are there, and I've sold a few copies already and Amazon assures me the cover should be up soon (it's already approved, they say--it just has to work its way through their system) but this is frustrating the heck out of me because I feel like I'm losing sales. I don't want to promote the book until the ugly cover won't get the first thing people see.

Sigh.

greendragon
06-23-2015, 03:58 PM
Amazon can take up to a full 24 hours to update stuff :(

M. H. Lee
06-23-2015, 04:30 PM
As of a few minutes ago, they still don't have my proper cover up, just a cruddy placeholder that I'd used when I unpublished the previous version (the one I published a couple of years ago and didn't promote).

Yeah. Unfortunately, Amazon can take up to three days to get a new cover up. They'll e-mail you and tell you your updates are live, but often the cover won't be visible for a while. Everything else seems to go through pretty quickly--keywords, updated files--but not covers. Don't stress. It'll be there soon.

Dragonwriter
06-23-2015, 11:00 PM
Yep, it's up now. Now I just have to wait for the Look Inside to come online, so people can actually get a sample. So far sales haven't been much to speak of, and I think that's why. Most people (wisely) won't buy a self-pub book sight unseen.

(and I have to figure out how to add the second book to my signature!)

M. H. Lee
06-24-2015, 01:15 AM
(and I have to figure out how to add the second book to my signature!)

I kind of cheat to do this...I use the kboards signature creator tool to get the HTML code and then strip out the kboards affiliate tags (they say something like =kb123) for each book and paste the HTML in here.

Ursa111
06-29-2015, 08:28 AM
Just wanted to say, you convinced me to start a twitter account. As an introvert myself, I think my biggest weakness would probably be promotion and marketing also.

I'm so glad that things have worked out for you Dragonwriter.

Dragonwriter
07-03-2015, 09:53 AM
Great, Ursa111! I just followed you. Good luck! :)

MarlynnOfMany
07-04-2015, 06:50 AM
Thanks for posting about your experiences, Dragonwriter! It's all very encouraging -- my first self-published book will be going live soon, and I'm glad to hear that you made such a dramatic difference in sales through Twitter alone. I'm currently using other forms of social media instead, but I might have to reconsider and join the Twitterverse myself!

Also, your covers look amazing and I'm jealous. :)

Dragonwriter
07-05-2015, 09:02 AM
Thanks for posting about your experiences, Dragonwriter! It's all very encouraging -- my first self-published book will be going live soon, and I'm glad to hear that you made such a dramatic difference in sales through Twitter alone. I'm currently using other forms of social media instead, but I might have to reconsider and join the Twitterverse myself!

I'm still not convinced that it was Twitter that did it--that's the fun thing about all this, at least for newbie marketers like me: there's no way (at least not one I know of) to tell. But I certainly think it helped, and I'm sure it can't hurt.


Also, your covers look amazing and I'm jealous. :)

Thank you! :) I think going with a pro cover designer was probably the best decision I made for this go-round.

Good luck with your book! If you decide to go with Twitter, please follow me (@Dragonwriter11) and I'll follow you back and retweet you.

NatGSharpe
07-05-2015, 09:30 AM
This was super interesting! Good luck on the second book. I've followed you on twitter and am excited to see more of your self-published journey as it continues!

Dragonwriter
07-14-2015, 12:28 AM
Update: Book 2 is selling respectably since its debut last month. It hasn't (at least not yet) hit the high points of book 1, but currently books 1 and 2 are sitting at #14 and #15 (respectively) in the Mysteries and Thrillers/Supernatural/Witches and Wizards category on Amazon, and they're at the 12,000-14,000 sales rank in Paid Kindle Sales.

Just got a review for Book 2 today (the first for the relaunched version) that made me happy, because it gave me a great tagline: "Alastair Stone is like Harry Potter meets Harry Dresden with a bit of Indiana Jones!"

I'm now at a little over 4,100 sales between the two books (most of that is still Book 1, since Book 2 has been out less than a month).

I got Book 3 back from the editor a couple of weeks ago, discussed it with him, and ran it through another pass. Now comes finalizing the cover, getting ebook conversion done, and pouring it into the paperback template. I'm hoping to release it sometime in the late September-early October timeframe.

And I keep getting ideas for more books! I wish I could quit my job and write full time, but that's not gonna happen any time soon. :)

Dragonwriter
07-20-2015, 07:41 PM
After reading some advice in another thread here in the Self-Pub forum, I somewhat nervously changed the price of Book 1 back to $2.99 from $1.99 this weekend. The advice claimed that books sell better in the $2.99/$3.99 price point, and not so well at $1.99. I looked at the other books in the "Also-Bought" list for mine, and almost all of them were at least $2.99. I'd been told before that dropping the price of Book 1 in a series is a good thing to do, but I figured what the heck, I'll give it a shot and see if sales drop.

Sales didn't drop. They went up!

Not a lot, mind you, but noticeably. I've been selling around 30-40 copies a day of the two books combined--the price bump moved it up closer to 40 than 30 for the last couple of days.

Alrighty, then. $2.99 it is. And I sure do like getting $2.00 per sale instead of 70 cents. :D

izanobu
07-20-2015, 11:04 PM
Yay! Glad it worked for you too :)

SBibb
07-23-2015, 04:38 AM
Awesome! I'm glad sales went up for you. :-)

jenndoss
07-23-2015, 04:49 AM
Great info. Thank you! I am trying for traditional publishing at the moment but self publishing is in the back of my mind too. I currently don't have a twitter, but now I know that I need to get one up and running for future reference.

ASeiple
07-23-2015, 11:42 PM
Yeah, I came in late to the Twitter game, too. Still figuring it out.

Y'know what'd rock? A thread where AW folks post our twitters and follow each other, retweeting new books and other things.

Hm... might have to look into that... I wonder which forum would work?

Tora Uran
07-24-2015, 01:27 AM
Yeah, I came in late to the Twitter game, too. Still figuring it out.

Y'know what'd rock? A thread where AW folks post our twitters and follow each other, retweeting new books and other things.

Hm... might have to look into that... I wonder which forum would work?

Isn't that already covered in the Blogging and Social Networking subforum here? In fact this would be the thread for sharing twitter handles (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?109507-AWers-on-Twitter-Tell-us-who-you-are!) for anyone who wants to do so.

ASeiple
07-24-2015, 01:58 AM
Awesome, thanks!

This place is huge. I'm still learning my way around, even after a couple of months...

Dragonwriter
07-27-2015, 06:55 PM
I just started a blog tour today! First stop is here (http://www.longandshortreviews.com/guest-blogs/where-do-ideas-come-from-by-r-l-king-guest-blog-and-giveaway/).

I picked Goddess Fish Promotions (http://www.goddessfish.com/)to run my tour--they've got a good reputation and they've been at it for quite a while now. They've been great to work with! If anyone's considering a tour (they offer various types at various price points), I recommend them.

Dragonwriter
08-13-2015, 07:47 PM
Update: Blog tour is moving along nicely--I don't know if it's responsible for any more sales (sales have been about the same as usual, though the past couple of days they've been low. Not sure if it's just a slow period or if I'm just losing momentum a little; anybody know if August is a slower time for ebook sales?) but it has resulted in several more Likes to the series' Facebook page, which is nice. I finally broke 100 Likes, and I have 119 right now.

Getting the next book ready to go--it should be releasing at the end of September, so I need to start thinking about things like cover reveals and posting advance blurbs. This is the part of self-pub that I'm not very good at. Fortunately, this is the last book in the series that has been previously published in another form, which means I won't have to fight with Amazon about book 4.

Talking to the cover artist about the book 4 cover, and it's not going too well yet. He's so patient and helpful, but we're just not connecting (probably because I'm not even entirely sure how I want it to look). I hope we can work it out--it's one of the disadvantages of not going with original art: you're limited by whatever can be found or manipulated in the stock photos, and if what you want is nonstandard, that can be problematic.

As of yesterday, I've sold 5,338 ebooks over the two that are out currently, so a little over 1,000 per month average. The books both fluctuate between around 12,000 and 18,000 sales rank, and have remained in the top 20 (sometimes breaking the top 10) for their category. I'm pretty happy with those numbers--I hope they go up as I get more books out there, rather than just staying relatively static, but I won't complain at all if they just keep plugging along at that rate.

Interfaced
08-13-2015, 08:13 PM
Thanks for the update r.e. the book tour, I was looking into doing one myself but have decided to postpone for the time being. Very interested to hear more about how your one pans out.

Amazing sales numbers, truly an inspiration! I'm interested in discussing more about your experiences with Twitter. I've built up a sizable number of followers over the years of my blogging (just under 5k now, and I follow 1k so the ratio is good) and now that I've just released my book I'm interested in how to turn that into something tangible. Outside of my usual circles in the futurist community, are there any particular hashtags or other nooks that have worked out well for you? I've heard that #fridayreads is good...

M. H. Lee
08-13-2015, 11:09 PM
anybody know if August is a slower time for ebook sales?

Yeah, there was a big discussion elsewhere that most people were seeing a drop in sales this month. Probably 80% of the authors who responded said they were way down and the ones who weren't were either doing a lot of promo or had a recent new release.

Great sales numbers! Best of luck on moving up from there.

Katharine Tree
08-14-2015, 12:08 AM
Yeah, there was a big discussion elsewhere that most people were seeing a drop in sales this month. Probably 80% of the authors who responded said they were way down and the ones who weren't were either doing a lot of promo or had a recent new release.

Great sales numbers! Best of luck on moving up from there.

I blame the weather. Everyone wants to be outdoors having fun, not reading. My husband has an indoor hobby-type business and always sees a big drop May-September.

Dragonwriter
08-14-2015, 09:55 AM
I use #bookboost (that one automatically retweets you), #indiebooksbeseen, #IARTG, #urbanfantasy, #indie, #kindle, and #book most often along with #amreading, #amwriting, and #amediting. Also the day specific ones like #fridayreads and such. I also retweet a lot of others' stuff, and they often reciprocate.

Edit: That was in reply to Interfaced's question. I thought I quoted their post, but apparently I was mistaken. That'll teach me to post from my iPad... :P

raelwv
08-15-2015, 05:41 AM
Thanks for those, Dragonwriter. I've been trying to do better with Twitter and having some good tags will help a lot.

Interfaced
08-15-2015, 09:20 AM
Many thanks Dragonwriter, very useful! I'm already getting some pretty good traction as far as 'reach' is concerned...although it doesn't seem to be translating into sales yet. But you have to play the long game with these things!

Dragonwriter
09-24-2015, 09:59 PM
Update:

Released the third book in my series this week. Still waiting for Amazon to get its stuff together (no Look Inside yet--I don't want to really promote it hard until people can see what they're in for).

I did a 99 cent sale for the first two books over the weekend to get my sales rank back up, which worked reasonably well.

Still selling decently (about 20 books a day between the two--too soon to tell yet about the third, but the second took a couple of weeks to get traction, so I'm not worried). I'm hoping the release of book 3 will bring those numbers up for all three of them.

Planning to look for some more promotion opportunities now that I've got three out there. Book 4 comes back from editing this weekend, then I need to send book 5 off.

Book X (it doesn't have a number yet since I deliberately wrote it so it can be dropped in anywhere--it's a prequel) is currently being workshopped as part of the Novel Writing certificate program I'm participating in.

I'm 55,000 words into Book 6 and rolling along.

Need to figure out how to promote on Amazon, and also thinking about trying to get a table at a small convention and try out the "selling in person" thing just for fun.

Need to update my signature picture and add the new book. :)

ASeiple
09-24-2015, 10:39 PM
Wow! Sounds like things are going pretty awesome...

From what I've heard, tables at small conventions aren't hard to secure. Just have to figure out who's running the show, be there on time, and see if they'll let you defray table costs by doing panels or small events.

J. Tanner
09-24-2015, 11:07 PM
Been following your thread all along but just noticed your location. You're just down the road from me. I was in your neck of the woods yesterday at Game Kastle near the airport.

So, uh, howdy neighbor. :)

J. Tanner
09-24-2015, 11:12 PM
It looks like you've got your series in position where (if you aren't already) you should be submitting your first book to Bookbub as often as they allow (once a month or so?) until they accept it.

If/when you're lucky enough to get in, then build a promotion plan around it with smaller promo sites.

Dragonwriter
09-26-2015, 04:07 AM
Been following your thread all along but just noticed your location. You're just down the road from me. I was in your neck of the woods yesterday at Game Kastle near the airport.

So, uh, howdy neighbor. :)

Heya! Yep, I've spent a bit of time at Game Kastle. :)

Dragonwriter
09-26-2015, 04:09 AM
It looks like you've got your series in position where (if you aren't already) you should be submitting your first book to Bookbub as often as they allow (once a month or so?) until they accept it.

If/when you're lucky enough to get in, then build a promotion plan around it with smaller promo sites.

Yep, I submitted my first book a little while ago, and it was rejected. I plan to try again when it's eligible. I need to get my housekeeping up to date, though--still need to update my websites with the new book.

Dragonwriter
10-09-2015, 10:02 PM
Just found out a couple of days ago that my second book, THE FORGOTTEN, has been awarded the Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence! I'm pretty stoked about that. It hasn't shown up on their site yet, but I've got the seal so it's real. It should be there soon.

Important note to self: Make sure, when you do a 99-cent promo on two of your books, to not only reset the price when the promo's over, but also reset the royalty rate. I'd forgotten to do that, and of course Amazon won't tell you, so I've been getting 35% royalty for about two weeks. That's lost me about $400. *sigh*

Book 3 is out and has started picking up a bit of traction now. Sales are between about 22 and 29 per day between the three. Still need to figure out how to promote better.

Did an actual photoshoot (with a body model and a real photographer and a studio and everything!) to get some poses for my designer to use with upcoming covers. That was a lot of fun--fortunately both the photographer and the model are longtime friends, so I just had to buy them dinner in exchange. Blog post here (http://rlkingwriting.com/2015/10/374/) about the shoot. I can't wait to see what the designer does with the new shots!

Also working with another friend (this one I'm paying, since he's a real pro, union voiceover artist) to do an audiobook of Stone and a Hard Place. I just got the first three chapters back today and I'm planning to listen to them at lunch time.

And...I found out recently that I'm going to be part of the Origins Game Fair author program--I get to be on panels and everything! Still waiting to find out if I made the cut for Gen Con too, but...woot!

For now, at least, things seem to be going pretty well.

ASeiple
10-13-2015, 11:01 PM
The Origins author track? Oh you lucky devil! I was hoping to get into that once I had more books out...

I'll have to stop by and say hi, and get a signed book or two! I always hit Origins, it's just a hop away for me.

J. Tanner
10-14-2015, 12:01 AM
Yup. Seen it confirmed so many times. $3-5 for regular price, and $0.99 for sales.

morrighan
10-17-2015, 08:12 AM
I just started a blog tour today! First stop is here (http://www.longandshortreviews.com/guest-blogs/where-do-ideas-come-from-by-r-l-king-guest-blog-and-giveaway/).

I picked Goddess Fish Promotions (http://www.goddessfish.com/)to run my tour--they've got a good reputation and they've been at it for quite a while now. They've been great to work with! If anyone's considering a tour (they offer various types at various price points), I recommend them.

I am totally enjoying your self-publishing journey and have checked out Goddess Fish Promotions for a future blog tour when I release book 2 of my trilogy and another book that's the first of a series. Loved how Twitter got the ball rolling for you and just followed you.

Dragonwriter
10-17-2015, 09:43 AM
I just got the first cover back from my designer today that used the body model from my photoshoot. I can't stop staring at it! I think it's the best one yet, and I can't wait to reveal it!

Dragonwriter
11-05-2015, 10:40 PM
Lots of things happening lately. I've been reading and studying a lot about marketing and promo from folks who are selling well, and one of the things I've decided is that I need to focus on growing my mailing list. I've written a 25,000 word novella to use as a freebie, only available to those who sign up. It's in editing now, and the cover is being worked on.

I'm also coming into the home stretch on another novella (which is on the verge of leveling up to a short novel--it's 43,000 words now and will almost certainly hit 50 before it's done). This is because when my editor returned his comments on Book 4 of the series, he called me out for taking the lazy way out in the epilogue. He told me what I had was not an epilogue, but a whole other book. So I'm writing one. :P So my current count is:

Books 1 through 3 published and available
Book 4 done with editing and cover design, still needing final minor revisions and formatting
Book 5 (short novel) almost done, still needing editing and cover design
Book 6 (back to full novel) done, ready to be sent to editing. No cover yet.
Book 7 (full novel) almost done writing, still needs big climax section
Book X ("origin story," can be dropped in anywhere) done in first draft, being workshopped in my Stanford Online Novel Writing Certificate program courses, will publish after program is over (so sometime next year)
Freebie novella done, being edited, cover design proceeding

I'm very excited about where things are going! I've also signed up for tables at three different conventions early next year to try to sell some hardcopy books and create some more buzz.

The only thing that's making me sad is that the last two or three days my sales have been way low. Normally I sell around 20-30 books a day, but the last two days they've been down to 12 or 13. I don't know what's wrong--I'm hoping that it's just an Amazon-wide slump, and not the sign of things to come. I don't have a new book coming out until December, and I'm afraid I'll lose my momentum if things drop off. I'm hoping my upcoming advertising push will help get things back up again.

Katharine Tree
11-21-2015, 07:43 PM
Dragonwriter, if you don't mind me asking, what do you do about Amazon keywords for your books? Do you choose single ones, do you stuff them, do you research phrases, do you look at Amazon's category requirements, what?

Dragonwriter
12-05-2015, 10:06 PM
Hi Katharine,
Sorry I didn't reply sooner--for whatever reason I don't get notifications about replies and I haven't been checking recently.

I look at Amazon's category requirements and try to hit everything that fits my books. I just recently found out that Amazon considers everything between the commas as one keyword, which really opened things up for me. (For example, instead of "cat, dog, horse, gerbil, monkey, bird," you can do "cat dog horse, gerbil monkey bird," etc.) You're only limited by the maximum number of characters in the field.

Dragonwriter
12-06-2015, 03:00 AM
Couple of things going on in the last few days:

1. My new website at rlkingwriting (http://www.rlkingwriting.com) is now live, and set up to take signups for my mailing list. If you have any interest in urban fantasy/paranormal thrillers and would like to receive two free ebooks (book 1 in the series and an exclusive novella you can't get anywhere else), I invite you to sign up. I'll be doing other special offers as time goes on.

2. My new book, THE SOURCE, #4 in my Stone Chronicles series, is available for preorder now at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B018YEFMQK). It's a self-contained story but the third book in a trilogy, so if you haven't read the at least the first two in the trilogy, you might want to check them out first.

Dragonwriter
01-05-2016, 09:11 AM
Update: Book 4 released on December 15, and my numbers are back up again, all the way to March levels for the second half of the month/early January (selling between 50 and 80 books a day, hovering around 60-65 right now). Total sales for December: 1,271 ebooks. I'm getting very close to 10,000 total books sold (I think I'm about 75 short right now).

My Facebook ad to increase my mailing list signups is doing very well, and I've gone from 10 members on Dec. 4 to just about 560 today, with between 10 and 25 new signups coming in every day.

I'm getting a boxed set ready to go, featuring books 1 through 4 in the series, and plan to release that in the next couple of weeks. I'm told by some folks who've done very well selling self-pubbed series that box sets are the way to go. I might experiment with raising the price of my individual books from $3.99 to $4.99, and offering a discount on the set (all four books for $9.99, which will get me about $7.00 royalty per box set). Again, I'm told this is an effective strategy.

I'll be doing an author talk at a local bookstore on the 21st of this month (BookBuyers in Mountain View, for any Bay Area locals--also, they're always looking for self-pubbed authors to do talks, so if you have a book to promote, it might be worth checking with them), I'll be part of a panel on self publishing at our local writers' club meeting in February, and I'm planning to sell books at three local conventions in February and March, including Silicon Valley Comic Con and FOGCon.

It hasn't been a year since I started publishing my books yet, but at the end of the calendar year, I'm still blown away by how this has all gone. I'm nowhere near achieving my dream of being able to quit my day job and write full time, but at least now it's a dim possibility instead of a "no way!" I'll take it. I'm still waiting for the bubble to burst and things to go back to my previous abysmal levels. Until then, I'll keep plugging away writing the books. :)

Still need to get that signature graphic updated with Book 4. :P

Dragonwriter
01-27-2016, 08:24 PM
Woohoo! I got a BookBub!

So excited - it's for my box set, which includes the first four books in my series. I've tried before, for my first book, and gotten turned down. Surprised the heck out of me when I got the email yesterday.

Now to make sure all my ducks are in a row before the date! :)

ASeiple
01-27-2016, 11:03 PM
Booyah! That's gotta be a good feeling.

FionnJameson
01-28-2016, 03:27 AM
Wow, you are kicking butt! Congrats on snagging a Bookbub spot.

Dragonwriter
02-25-2016, 08:56 PM
My BookBub starts tomorrow! I'm very excited, and hoping that it proves to be as successful for me as it has for some other posters here.

I ended up discounting my books early, because I thought Smashwords would take longer to push the changes out to the other retailers than they did. My box set has already shot up to the low 2,000 sales rank in paid Kindle sales, and #5 in two of its subcategories. I hope the BookBub is able to get me at least one #1 ranking in a subcategory (crosses fingers). I've got a few other promos lined up as well over the same period, so we'll see.

I also hope Smashwords and Amazon are as fast about getting the price back to the normal level once the promo is over as they were about discounting it!

morrighan
02-26-2016, 12:32 AM
Good luck on your Bookbub ad! I went ahead and got your box set!

davidjgalloway
02-26-2016, 03:35 AM
Very cool :) But a question, are these literal boxed sets or figurative ones? :) Meaning, are the books enclosed in additional paper/cardboard to make them a set, or is this that they are sold together? I see both usages online, and since many PODs don't do literal boxed sets, I was curious.

M. H. Lee
02-26-2016, 05:36 PM
Very cool :) But a question, are these literal boxed sets or figurative ones? :) Meaning, are the books enclosed in additional paper/cardboard to make them a set, or is this that they are sold together? I see both usages online, and since many PODs don't do literal boxed sets, I was curious.

Pretty sure the answer is sold together. Book Bub ads are for e-books.

Dragonwriter
03-03-2016, 08:52 PM
Pretty sure the answer is sold together. Book Bub ads are for e-books.

Yep, they're ebooks. I wish I could have a real box set, but I doubt I could sell it for enough to make money on it.

My BookBub went better than I could have hoped!

Between Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, I sold over 6,500 copies. I hit #19 in overall Kindle sales, #1 in several large subcategories (including knocking J. K. Rowling and Stephen King out of their top spots in a couple!) and made it to #86 in overall Amazon author rank. Last weekend was quite a rush! I made a healthy profit over what it cost me to run the BookBub ad, too--I hoped I would at least make back what I paid, but I'm very happy with the results.

The only bummer (a small one because I didn't really think it would happen, but with my sales there was a small chance) was that I didn't crack the bottom of the USA Today bestseller list. Being able to put that on my book covers would have been quite a cool thing.

But that's okay. I screenshotted all the numbers on Amazon, including those #1 banners under my book and my position on the top 100 author list (where for a few hours I was beating out the likes of Jim Butcher and Neil Gaiman!) so I'll always have those.

I wonder if I can put anything on my book covers about this...

(Oh, and morrighan, thank you for buying the box set! Hope you enjoy it!)

ASeiple
03-03-2016, 09:04 PM
:: ROARING APPLAUSE ::

Beautiful! Those numbers... wow.

If you don't mind my asking, how much did the Bookbub ad run ya? Feel free to message if you don't want to talk about it publically...

Dragonwriter
03-04-2016, 01:58 AM
:: ROARING APPLAUSE ::

Beautiful! Those numbers... wow.

If you don't mind my asking, how much did the Bookbub ad run ya? Feel free to message if you don't want to talk about it publically...

Nope, I don't mind telling. It was $350.00, for US, UK, and Canada (UK and Canada were a very small part of the cost). I made about $2300, so almost $2K profit.

M. H. Lee
03-04-2016, 05:02 AM
Well done!! Great to hear you did so well with the promo.

ASeiple
03-04-2016, 06:50 PM
Hm! $350's within reach...

And my third book's dropping around August if I keep up my current rate...

Thanks Dragonwriter! I'll have to give it a whack myself, see if I get accepted. But not before I've got enough books out there to make it worthwhile.

Dragonwriter
03-05-2016, 10:06 PM
The price is based on genre. Some are higher than that, and some are lower.

Here's the list of their prices, by genre and discount level (https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing).

ASeiple
03-06-2016, 12:08 AM
Ah, okay!

Hm... that scale makes a fair amount of sense. I'll have to think on it, then.

Thanks!

Dragonwriter
03-16-2016, 01:39 AM
Released Book 5 in my series a couple days ago, and it's selling well. The box set is still selling well too (obviously not nearly as well as when it was 99 cents on BookBub, but I'm seeing a definite increase in sales). Just sent the manuscript of book 6 to my editor today. Hope to get the final files back for the audiobook of book 1 next week--the preliminaries sound fantastic, so I'm very excited about that.

My tiny little self-publishing empire is growing, slowly but steadily! :)

Dragonwriter
03-22-2016, 06:43 AM
Spent the weekend selling books at Silicon Valley Comic Con. Got myself an Artist's Alley dealer table and set up shop. Sales weren't great (I didn't really expect them to be--I have much better luck with ebooks) but I handed out a lot of bookmarks, got some visibility and mailing-list signatures, and had a great vantage point to watch all the cool costumes walking by!

I think the best part of the weekend was when a couple folks stopped by and told me they'd already read my entire series, loved it, and were waiting for more. One of them even bought the full set of paperbacks! The other one told me she was a "fangirl." I've never had a fangirl before (even cooler--my "fangirl" is a professor of anthropology who teaches at a local university)!

The other best part of the weekend (which might be coincidental) was that my ebook sales shot up significantly, including the box set. I hope that's more related to the fact that I just put out book 5 than to the con--I remember reading somewhere that 5 books is one of those "magic numbers" where a series can really start taking off, so I hope that's true!

Dragonwriter
04-02-2016, 01:24 AM
March was a phenomenal month for me! Sold almost 2,600 copies of my books through Amazon, but almost half of those were the box set, bringing my monthly royalty total to...well, let's just say if this rate keeps up (and I know, it probably won't), I'll be earning more from my writing than from my day job. That feels pretty good. I think March was riding the momentum from the BookBub at the end of February followed by a new release in mid-March.

My narrator is pretty close to being done with the Book 1 audiobook, so that should be coming out soon <fingers crossed>. Book 6 is in editing, and I expect it back in early May for a June release. Getting great reviews on the box set and Book 5 (lots of 5s, a few 4s, and one 2-star that might actually be helpful, since a lot of my readers enjoy the very thing the reviewer called out as not liking).

Dragonwriter
06-30-2016, 07:41 PM
Guess I should update this (as well as my signature one of these days, since I've released three more books!)

Last couple of months have been great. Haven't reached the heights of March (all hail BookBub!) but I've released another book (for a total of six), an audiobook (for a total of one), and had the chance to participate in the Origins Game Fair "Library" (writers' symposium/authors' alley) as a panelist, as well as having a story included in their anthology.

Still stockpiling money from the book and audiobook sales and paying off debt in anticipation of trying to make a go of it as a full-time author starting in January. I'm so excited about this, and trying hard not to get "senioritis" at the day job six months early. Planning to take a six-month leave of absence to see how things go, and if they go well, I'll take the plunge (supported by the spouse's job--I could never do it if I was alone, so I tease him about being my "sugar daddy." :D). Also trying to get the money together to get Audiobook #2 produced, since #1 is doing well. (Not sure *how* well yet, since I've only gotten a royalty statement for a few days in May, and ACX's arcane accounting methods make it pretty much impossible for you to predict how much money you're going to make based on number of sales.)

Oh! One other thing I'm pretty stoked about: my Shadowrun novel, Borrowed Time, has been nominated for a Scribe Award by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers! I find out at San Diego Comic Con whether I won or not (honestly I don't think I have much of a chance of winning, but it's an honor even to be nominated.) I'm going to fly down for the day and attend the ceremony (where I'll get to be on the panel, so that should be fun.)

Sorry this is a bit choppy, but I need to get back to work. I just figured I should probably post something since it's been a while. No idea if anyone's even reading anymore, though. :)

ASeiple
06-30-2016, 09:00 PM
Dude! A Scribe award? Nifty...

Good luck with the full-time maneuver! I'm curious to know how it goes.

SBibb
07-01-2016, 06:40 AM
Congrats on the successes you're having, and I hope they continue. :-D

Thanks for sharing the information about you're progress. :-)

Dragonwriter
11-02-2016, 11:58 PM
Just realized I haven't updated here in quite a while.

Things are moving along nicely. About a year and a half after I started this grand experiment, I've got seven books, an audiobook, and a box set out, book 8 is in my editor's hands and planned for a December release, I just finalized the cover art yesterday, and book 9 is at 76,000 words.

Last month was quite nice, thanks to a Bookbub deal on October 2. Not my best month of the year (that was March, when I had another Bookbub at the end of February) but definitely a close second. I'm still kind of amazed at how well things are going and keep expecting the bottom to plummet any day now, but I figure I've got quite a few books out there now, a steady pipeline in the works, and as long as Amazon keeps letting me sell books and people keep enjoying them, I should be okay. So far this year I've made enough money to qualify this as a respectable full-time job (maybe not here in the Silicon Valley, but anywhere else outside of pricey metropolitan areas) and I'm on track to make almost as much as I make in my "real" full time job.

I think I can legitimately call myself a "self publishing success story" now, at least in a modest way. I'm no Mark Dawson or Annie Bellet (or even sniffing at the distant reaches of their sales figures) but hey, I'm pretty darn pleased with how things are going.

Getting really excited about starting my six-month leave of absence in January to see if I can make a go of this. It's scary, but I think I've done everything I can to position myself to make this work. I'm a bit nervous about the state of the economy if political things go certain ways, but I figure even if that happens people will still want to read books to escape, right?

Mclesh
11-03-2016, 03:36 AM
Congratulations, Dragonwriter! :snoopy:

ASeiple
11-03-2016, 04:24 AM
Nine books! Ah, you're putting me to shame. That's well done, that is!

Eh, don't sweat the politics. It's looking like it should be fine, barring catastrophe. And yeah, during the height of the last recession, quite a few dollars were going towards entertainment. Don't think it'll get quite that bad, but we should be fine.

CathleenT
11-03-2016, 09:19 PM
I'm so glad to hear of your success. You're giving us all hope! :)

Catherine
01-06-2017, 03:17 AM
Hello! I just found this thread last night and read through the entirety. Congratulations! Hope you are enjoying your leave from work, assuming you were able to carry out your plans.

Just wanted to let you know I'm following your story and looking forward to your next update. Thanks for sharing all of the details you've learned along the way and posting your numbers. After reading your story, I'll be setting up a twitter account. Until now, I've been resistant to it. Guess it's time to challenge myself to be more outgoing.

Wishing you continued success in 2017!

scubaduba
01-22-2017, 10:35 PM
This whole thread is amazing. So heartwarming to see you out there killing it! I've always been skeptical of self-publishing, and am currently in the querying trenches with my only completed MS, but this makes me want to consider self-pubbing if that doesn't pan out. I'm curious to hear an update from you, and I'm wondering if you queried your original book before you decided to publish yourself.

Curlz
01-23-2017, 01:14 AM
:Thumbs::Hail::Hail::Hail::Hail::Hail::Trophy::app lause::e2dance:
But why no links to books on Amazon?

RaiscaraAvalon
01-23-2017, 04:15 AM
Just read the entire thread, you're doing great!