Monday 2 December 2013

A Year in Self Publishing (Part 2)

Carrying on from where I left off a couple of weeks ago, today I'd like to talk a little about how my business model for self publishing has worked out over the past year.

When I initially hopped into the indie community I was planning to build up a portfolio of simple erotic shorts, cheaply priced and numerous in number, in order to work my way up to a reasonable income over time. Based on what I've heard from my contemporaries this is certainly still a legitimate way of making money, but there are a few tips and refinements to the model that have influenced my business model over the past twelve months.

First and foremost: a series sells better than half a dozen standalones. I hear this consistently from my contemporaries (not just when it comes to short stories, but full novels across multiple genres as well), and my own experience has confirmed it. The lion's share of my sales have come from my serial novels, and even my most popular short stories rarely break even with the sales of my least popular serial instalments. You want to give readers more of what they want, and there's no better way to do that than writing an ongoing story. It's very easy to read a standalone title or two by an author and then move on to other writers, but less so when there's a niggling need at the back of your mind to find out what happens next in an ongoing narrative.

This leads on to the pricing model. As most indie authors will confirm, you don't generally want to be selling anything that isn't a loss leader at less than the $2.99 mark. This is primarily due to Amazon's royalty rates, where anything below $2.99 can only net you 35% of the sale at maximum. While $0.99 titles can seem appealing, you have to be selling roughly six times as many of them to break even with a 2.99 price point.

At present I sell all of my individual shorts (~5k words), and serial chapters (usually closer to ~10k words) for $2.99, with bundles of three shorts at $4.99, and completed nine-part serials at $9.99.
I'm not gonna lie, it's pretty pricey compared many ebooks. However, you can often get away with this in niche markets like erotica where such pricing points are generally pretty acceptable for short stories. It's also been something of a necessity for making anything like a reasonable income for me. If I wasn't using this business model I wouldn't be able to justify writing full time, and I'm still making less than minimum wage overall.

If you're a prospective indie author, expect to get some unhappy reviews if you go for this pricing model. Thankfully the vast majority of my titles are sitting in a healthy 3-5 star rating range on Amazon and Goodreads, but 90% of the negative comments I get are based on the price of my titles (heck, one recent 2-star review mentioned it while admitting they hadn't even read the book >:|). I fully intend to lower my prices via condensing serials into longer segments, which I've already been working on for individual chapters (His Darkest Desire was around 6.5k words per chapter on average, Wild Instincts was closer to 10k, and Broken Moon should end up at even more), but at present it's just not a realistic option of I want to keep making a liveable income off my writing.

So in summary; this business model absolutely works. It's tried and tested by many authors, but if you're writing for glowing five-star reviews, it might not be your best option. Even if people love your work, some of them are still going to be peeved by the pricing point.

...And I think that just about covers all the main businessy things I've picked up in a year of self publishing! I've learned a huge amount about writing in general, of course, but that's something to cover in other articles.
Hopefully over the course of 2014 I'll learn a whole lot more!

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