Monday 18 November 2013

A Year in Self Publishing (Part 1!)

Goodness, time really flies by, doesn't it?
Actually it's been a little over a year since I published my first few titles on Smashwords, and longer still since I first started looking into self publishing, but now seems like a good time to have a quick look back at how this first year in the indie community has gone for me.

Overall, I feel as though I've had a very strong start to my career as an author. It hasn't come on in the leaps and bounds over the months that I hoped for after my initial success last January, but it's certainly at the level where I feel comfortable calling this my "job", rather than just a hobby or something I'm struggling to break into.

Sales numbers started out slow (practically non-existent) last September, before picking up rapidly into the triple digits in November/December when I got published on Amazon and Smashwords started distributing me to other retailers, before peaking at pretty fantastic levels in February/March, and finally settling down into modest but consistent numbers over the rest of the year. Right now my sales are really starting to perk up again, and I'm hoping for the beginning of 2014 to bump my income up another notch and hopefully stay there for a good long while.

What's pleased me most about this year has been the consistency of sales, even when they've been less spectacular than I've hoped. I attribute this mainly to having books spread out across multiple retailers, rather than having all my eggs in one basket in KDP select or some similar service. If one retailer doesn't do so well, I can rest assured that at least one of the others is probably going to pick up the slack in some way. Even during drought periods of content when I've been busy working on a large project, or otherwise delayed by other happenings in my daily life, sales haven't dwindled away to nothing. This probably has a lot to do with the serialised structure I've been using with my releases. At most there's usually only around a month between releases right now, so I've almost always got something new-ish out there to attract attention.

However, the biggest help to me by far has been the free promotion for erotica titles available through What to Read After 50 Shades of Grey and more recently Korner KafĂ© Exposed. I send titles their way roughly once every couple of weeks, and my freebies every few months as per their submission guidelines, and the results have been absolutely fantastic. We're not talking massive explosions of sales overnight, more a consistent handful of purchases every couple of weeks, and incredibly helpful bumps to free titles to help them get into (and stay in) the top 100 in their category on Amazon.

Visibility is everything, and having a free title hanging around in the top 100 of its category has consistently netted me around double the number of sales I've gotten in months when my books have been floating around in the vacuum of low Amazon rankings.

Of course, getting into the top 100 of a popular category in't super hard, but staying there certainly is. Tempted to Submit, the first part of my debut eRom novel, has been as high as #2 in Amazon's free erotica category before, but it's never stayed in the top 100 for more than a few weeks at a time before other titles hop in to take its place, and the rank has always fluctuated wildly on a daily basis. Erotica is a big old slush pile, and new titles are being shovelled on every day. Unless you're a big name like Selena Kitt with lots of promotion and authorial clout across the web, it's hard to cling on to a spot in the top 100 and rely on it for consistent visibility over time.

That's where a nice niche can help!

The first part of Wild Instincts, my paranormal eRom title, has been hanging on to a very consistent rank and rarely moving more than ~10 spots up and down the top 100 of Romance > Paranormal > Werewolves and Shifters for roughly a month or so ever since it arrived there. A month isn't the longest time in the world, but the fact that a title can hold on to its spot so consistently tells me that there's far less competition in this subgenre, which should mean that Wild Instincts will carry on netting itself a lot of visibility for a good while yet, even if it slides a long way down the overall Amazon rankings.

The monetisation model of serials and shorts has definitely been a big contributor to my (very modest!) success as well, but I think I'm going to save that topic (and perhaps a few more) for next week!

There's a lot to cover in a year of self publishing, even for a quick and dirty recap like this, but hopefully I can get around to all the key things that have been most important to me by this time next week!

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