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lorna_w
07-03-2016, 11:13 PM
In two years of self-publishing, I've sold just under 40,000 books. Most of these sales have been through Amazon.

What I did to sell that many books: Write and upload. I answer fan mail and have a mailing list. I have a free, simple website. That's almost everything I do.

Except for a polite request in my booksí end matter, I donít solicit reviews, nor do I have an ARC team. I havenít worked at expanding my mailing list through FB ads. I only visit social media once a week, for an hour. Iíve never been in a multi-author bundle. I don't give away books. I don't advertise. I know that the most successful people do all this, and it might increase my sales by 10 or 20% to follow in their footsteps, but I'd rather write an extra book every year instead because I enjoy writing more than I enjoy social media and PR. My interiors are not designed beyond five minutes of formatting in Word.

The first six months of this, I grossed $1K total and learned from making a few minor mistakes. The second six months, I made $6K, an income I would have been satisfied with indefinitely, as it rivaled my midlist author palsí in trade publishing. The second year, I made more money at writing than I ever thought I could and more than Iíd ever earned at a straight job. The third year...who knows? Income could go up or down, though I suspect Iíll continue to earn a living as a writer of fiction for at least a little while longer.

Regrets? Only one: Not doing this in 2011-12 when I first realized how well it was working for others. I hesitated because I was afraid, hesitated because I listened to the wrong advice, and my fear cost me years, frustration, and money.

I wish everyone else the best. While Amazon's ebook store is more and more crowded every year, there is still room for hundreds of modest success stories of my sort, and once every few months someone hits the lottery of self-publishing and is a break-out success. In 2017, it might be you!

Now...back to writing. :)

phantasy
07-03-2016, 11:25 PM
Congrats Lorna! What sort of books do you write?

Saoirse
07-03-2016, 11:31 PM
That is such awesome to hear. I've been at this for 3 years and have yet to hit 1,000 books sold (I think it's somewhere around 600-700). I've done ads and solicited reviews. I've been in promotions and my sales spike and then drop off. I can't seem to get steady sales unless I am promoting constantly (as in, paid promotions) and I simply do not have the money to do that.

My other issue is that I cannot write book after book. I hear that's the way to go. I have wrist tendonitis and various health issues that screw with my productivity most of the time. I've been trying to write two books at once, but that has left me so exhausted I can barely function. I love it, and would love to do it full time, but I'm thinking it may not be possible for me.

Do you have any thoughts for me on this?

lorna_w
07-04-2016, 12:26 AM
Congrats Lorna! What sort of books do you write?

Thank you! I've tried everything, and I continue to write everything but romance, which is just not my thing. :) If I had to pick one genre, I'd say action.

Maryn
07-04-2016, 12:33 AM
Nosy question time? (When isn't it nosy question time, when it comes to me?) Feel free not to answer, but can you tell us about how often you add a title, or how many books you complete and put up for sale in a year? Are they full length novels or novellas or what? Are they all under one pen name, or do you use a different one for different genres? And what is your hat size? (That's to make you smile at all these questions.)

We hope one day you'll be so at ease here that you'll add a link to your books or website in your signature. Hey, it could mean more sales, right?

I'm heartened to hear people can do well without being marketing machines. I don't have that in me.

Maryn, who cringes at the occasional tweet about her books

lorna_w
07-04-2016, 12:42 AM
That is such awesome to hear. ...
My other issue is that I cannot write book after book. I hear that's the way to go. I have wrist tendonitis and various health issues that screw with my productivity most of the time. I've been trying to write two books at once, but that has left me so exhausted I can barely function. I love it, and would love to do it full time, but I'm thinking it may not be possible for me.

Do you have any thoughts for me on this?

I remember you from when I was active here! Thought one: gorgeous covers on the Fey books. Really nice. Your blurbs are solid, too. So my first thought was, "well, some people (like me) get lucky and others don't." Which sucks. I wish everybody could have my experience.

But then I checked your release dates and yes, if I had to guess, speed of release is hurting you. The most successful people do write several books a year. I bet you've tried dictation and it doesn't work for you (?) I have another friend who can only write a book a year and she struggles to get sales, too. I think it's hard to make a living at that pace--trade publishing might be the better route. Especially with a series, it might be better to write them all and then release them either all at once or in three consecutive months. Does your Fey series have a strong romance element? It might be worth begging amazon for an extra category (or just adding "romance" as a keyword). Have you experimented with going all-in to Amazon for three months? The burst of KU reads will raise your ranking and increase visibility.

Readers of ebooks seem to have short memories. (or something...I'm not sure what to call it, but you can lose their attention quickly.)

I agree with you about writing two books at a time. I have my production limits, too, and whenever I get jealous of people the next step up from me in income and try to press myself, I end up regretting it. I want to love writing, and for me that means sticking to my natural pace.

No, I don't think you should give up. I think maybe just alter your expectations. Advertise when a series is complete, not before. You might be earning a living in five years, with more books, and it just might take you longer to get to that point. Take heart!

Anyway, you made me go look, and I'll buy the first in that series, so you made a sale today! :D

lorna_w
07-04-2016, 12:45 AM
I'm heartened to hear people can do well without being marketing machines. I don't have that in me.

Maryn, who cringes at the occasional tweet about her books

I hear you, friend! I really don't like the social media bits and, as I said, do very little. And no, sorry, I won't share more about myself. I feel like I can talk honestly about numbers or reveal my secret identity, but doing both is a bad idea.

I do have a huge head. Make of that what you will. ;)

lorna_w
07-04-2016, 12:50 AM
Also, I should say, a shoutout and hearty "thank you" to Shelley, whose advice in the sticky thread here I took to heart. A couple extra answers in PM from her, and I was off on a solid path.

Saoirse
07-04-2016, 02:12 AM
Lorna, thank you for the compliments on the covers and blurbs. I think you may be right about being lucky...but I believe it is your speed working for you, too.

Dictation I've been working with. I've actually used it on and off for...14 years. For the tendonitis. But so far, I have not been able to increase my speed significantly to make it worth my while to use it in place of typing. I am going to keep with it, however, b/c I do believe it could help.

Yes, I think you are right about my releases. And maybe it will take longer to make that jump. I appreciate your encouragement. It means a lot to me. :) I will keep at it, for sure, and see what happens. I've been planning on releasing a book this year. Let's see if I can do it. :)

Saoirse
07-04-2016, 02:15 AM
Oh, yes, the Fey books have very strong romantic elements. They're essentially love stories. ;) Been looking at KU but haven't tried it yet. Something to think about.

And thank you for the sale. :)

efreysson
07-12-2016, 01:24 AM
Let me start by offering you my sincere congratulations, lorna_w. You have achieved what I and many others long for, and I can well imagine the feeling is sweet.

I came here to start a thread, but it seems I don't have to. Your story seems very similar to mine... except for the success.

I've been working on translating my books (fantasy) into English, and I released the first one in February last year, followed by the second in October, and the third at the end of April. They have gotten a total of twenty-four reviews, and to date I have earned enough for the cover art on the first one. Not great.

Now Iím taking a break from translating to work on new material, a space opera serial in eleven part. Iím in the process of releasing one a week, and the fifth became available yesterday. Iíve also just started working on a sequel novel... but the reaction to this has been almost zero. I find it very disheartening, as I had hopes for the serial.

With my disability money I only need to make modest sales to fulfil my dream of making ends meet as a writer... but so far it just isnít happening.

I never made any use of social media before I started self-publishing,as it just doesn't interest me in the slightest, and I don't have a good grasp of how it functions or how to make it work for a writer. I do have an English-language Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a simple homepage, but I just don't really have a whole lot to say aside from posting about a new release, a new review, and stuff like that.

I have been featured on the occasional book blog and tried the occasional paid ad campaign, but none of these had coincided with a blip on my sales chart. Ever. So I've become rather reluctant to spend any more money, or devote the effort to find bloggers who will give an indie a chance.

I spoke to another indie author who was a pretty big success with is first novel and I asked him how he did it, and from the sound of it he wasnít doing anything Iím not. Which does leave me with the feeling that, yes, it's basically all about luck. Still, I feel like I should be doing something.

You say you spend an hour a week on social media, and that frankly seems more than I do. I guess my question is... I don't know... how do you engage?

ASeiple
07-12-2016, 08:06 AM
Hello, Lorna! Thank you for sharing your story, and I'm happy to hear of your success!

I'm trying for a similar path myself. So often people focus on the big wins, the breakout successes, that the quiet, modest successes fall by the wayside.

Which they shouldn't, because it's still a good living if you can find your pace, niche, and equilibrium.

Be well!

Old Hack
07-12-2016, 10:33 AM
Lorna, I understand completely about not wanting to share your identity here. But I'm interested in how many books you publish a year, and how long they usually are. If you feel comfortable in sharing that information I'd be glad.

Barbara R.
07-12-2016, 04:14 PM
L

Dictation I've been working with. I've actually used it on and off for...14 years. For the tendonitis. But so far, I have not been able to increase my speed significantly to make it worth my while to use it in place of typing. I am going to keep with it, however, b/c I do believe it could help.

:)

Because I teach on line in addition to writing my own books, I'm always looking for ways to type less. You might want to give Dragon a try, if you haven't already. I had some problems with earlier versions, but the latest is astonishingly accurate; and I find it takes me less than half the time to speak my notes compared to typing them.

Barbara R.
07-12-2016, 04:22 PM
Lorna--fascinating story, and congratulations! Selling 40K copies would be spectacular even for a published writer, let alone self-published. (I'm assuming this number doesn't include give-aways.) Since you do nothing in particular to draw attention to your work, how do you think readers are finding you?

I once interviewed a writer named Susanne Lakin on my blog. She's had huge success self-publishing, and I wanted to know what she did. In the post (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=777)(and in private email discussions surrounding it) she suggested that a lot of it had to do with getting her books listed high on Amazon's list of very specific genre bestsellers, like "sweet Western romance." Do you have anything in particular (apart from writing lots of books quickly) that seems to help you?

lorna_w
07-13-2016, 09:50 PM
efreysson, Thank you. My main forms of fan engagement are a once a week tweet about something that's not PR and answering every mailing list sign-up personally. I blog irregularly but suspect it does little for me.

oldhack, I had trunk novels so was able to put out four the first year, though this use of the trunk cannot continue indefinitely, as I've only one trunk novel left. I now try to keep the new books short. I've learned to revise less than I once did (at the line level--I used to fiddle a lot but learned to stop doing that), and that helps me release faster. Speed is part of the formula to success for (I would guess) 90% of those who are making a good living at it. I hope to release three the third year.

Barbara, no I didn't count give-aways in that figure. Yes, what Amazon does making books visible is a crucial component of this story. It takes a lot more work to make that happen at other vendors, which is why for someone like me (who so hates PR), being exclusive to Amazon makes sense. So the Hot New Release placement, top 100 list, top 100 authors in genre lists, (ETA: also-boughts), etc....all of that is advertising, but not advertising I have any direct say in. After you sell (some magic number--can't tell you what that is), Amazon also emails people about your book, people who buy a lot in that genre. When you have a strong-selling book and put it on countdown, they also feature those strong sellers near the top of the countdown list. So *I* don't advertise, but Amazon advertises for me. They wouldn't if it didn't make them money, of course, but it also partly explains my doing fairly well. I suppose I'd put it this way: you hit a certain level of success on your own, and then Amazon really starts to work for you. It is all done without any direct communication, though. They do assign a representative to the top ??200?? (no one knows for sure) selling self-published writers to facilitate communication with them. In any case, I'm not anywhere close to being one of them, but the 900 or so additional self-published authors earning at my level get this sort of advertising automatically. I'm sure to people struggling to reach that level, that feels unfair, but somehow (good writing, advertising on your own, being a social media whiz, or having a stroke of luck), you have to reach a certain level for all of that free promotion to come into play. And then yes, it matters a lot.

ASeiple, thanks, and good luck to you!

Devil Ledbetter
07-28-2016, 05:20 PM
Lorna, thank you so much for sharing this story. What you have done is exactly what I am planning to do. I have several trunked novels because I love to write novels, hate the query process, and already have a great career doing something else. This year I decided I would self-publish my novels one at a time on KPD and Createspace. I started revising the first in mid-Feb and it's nearly ready to roll. I'm just waiting for my designer to finish the cover (and proofing for the zillionth time while I wait). I've built an author website, and may do an author FB page but beyond that, I really don't want to end up with a social media time-sink on my hands.

I LOVE hearing that you are selling novels without having to constantly work at social media. Once a week sounds perfect.

zoedragon
07-28-2016, 06:03 PM
Hi lorna_w, what an inspiring story! It's making me think twice about going the traditional publishing route. I had a question about something you said... what does it mean to "go all-in to Amazon for three months?" I understand what it means in poker, but I have no idea what that means on Amazon.

ASeiple
07-28-2016, 08:41 PM
Hi lorna_w, what an inspiring story! It's making me think twice about going the traditional publishing route. I had a question about something you said... what does it mean to "go all-in to Amazon for three months?" I understand what it means in poker, but I have no idea what that means on Amazon.

I can answer this one. Amazon has a program called Kindle Unlimited. It lets people in the Kindle Unlimited program read your book at no cost to them. In exchange, Amazon divvies up the monthly pot from Kindle Unlimited subscription fees, and pays authors participating in the program. The amount you get depends on the total amount of your pages read. Usually it works out to about half a cent a page.

But to put a book in Kindle Unlimited, it must be Amazon exclusive, and you must sign it up for a minimum period of three months.

So to go all-in on Amazon means to put your books in Kindle Unlimited, and withdraw them from other services. (Nook, Kobo, etc...)

Does that about sum it up, Lorna_W?

WriterBN
07-28-2016, 09:14 PM
It's a little more than KU: what you're describing is enrolling in Kindle Select. KU is simply one part of that, although it's definitely the one that gets the most visibility.

What you also get from Select:
* The ability to run a free promotion or a Countdown
* Access to Amazon's pay-per-click advertising program (AMS)
* 70% royalties for a few countries like India and Japan, where you would normally be restricted to 35%

The downside, of course, is that your book must remain exclusive to Amazon during the 90 days.

james86
07-28-2016, 11:31 PM
In two years of self-publishing, I've sold just under 40,000 books. Most of these sales have been through Amazon.

What I did to sell that many books: Write and upload. I answer fan mail and have a mailing list. I have a free, simple website. That's almost everything I do.

Except for a polite request in my books’ end matter, I don’t solicit reviews, nor do I have an ARC team. I haven’t worked at expanding my mailing list through FB ads. I only visit social media once a week, for an hour. I’ve never been in a multi-author bundle. I don't give away books. I don't advertise. I know that the most successful people do all this, and it might increase my sales by 10 or 20% to follow in their footsteps, but I'd rather write an extra book every year instead because I enjoy writing more than I enjoy social media and PR. My interiors are not designed beyond five minutes of formatting in Word.

The first six months of this, I grossed $1K total and learned from making a few minor mistakes. The second six months, I made $6K, an income I would have been satisfied with indefinitely, as it rivaled my midlist author pals’ in trade publishing. The second year, I made more money at writing than I ever thought I could and more than I’d ever earned at a straight job. The third year...who knows? Income could go up or down, though I suspect I’ll continue to earn a living as a writer of fiction for at least a little while longer.

Regrets? Only one: Not doing this in 2011-12 when I first realized how well it was working for others. I hesitated because I was afraid, hesitated because I listened to the wrong advice, and my fear cost me years, frustration, and money.

I wish everyone else the best. While Amazon's ebook store is more and more crowded every year, there is still room for hundreds of modest success stories of my sort, and once every few months someone hits the lottery of self-publishing and is a break-out success. In 2017, it might be you!

Now...back to writing. :)

This is truly inspiring stuff! Would you feel comfortable sharing your Amazon author page or blog?

Whibs123
09-03-2016, 07:23 PM
Inspiring! Way to go!