Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Self-Publishing in 2015

I started my 2014 post saying it was my third year, but 2012 doesn’t really count because it was only half and I had no idea what I was doing. So let’s say 2015 was actually my third full year in the business. I had 4 book releases this year. Each went somewhat differently so we’ll discuss them separately to see what I learned.

First, there was The Weight of a Wing, the first book in a new urban fantasy series, The Stolen Wings, released in April. I had a virtual book tour shortly after the release. I’m still on the fence on the matter of how much these tours help or are worth the effort. I guess it depends on whether you find the right audience, and it’s often hard to tell if you did. Anyway, the sales slowly peaked up. The book is also included in the Kindle Unlimited program, and the borrows really took off in June and July. Those were my best months so far. 

It’s funny because I had this book for about four years and the time never felt right to publish it. Then I tossed out into the world just to have a new release that spring, and technically, it became my best selling title. The KU borrows dropped to close to nothing in the fall, so I’m not impressed with KU at the moment, but I’ll keep this series enrolled until the whole trilogy is out. This was my second book that also had a printed edition, and when I did that, I released printed editions for all my other available titles as well.

The second release was Breaking the Chains, the first short story in The Devil You Know paranormal series. This story was initially written in English and published on my blog then the Romanian version was included in my debut short story collection “Efectul de nautil” in 2013. So it was sort of ‘tested’ before being published in English. I can’t say it did well, but I wasn’t expecting that. People tend to find $0.99 short stories too expensive. The plan was to write the second story in the series this year, if not also publish it, but I didn’t have time to do it. I could have, there’s always dead time while writing, but I lacked the enticement mostly because these are only prequels and only the third book in the series, a longer novella, will be the real story.

Third came Broken Hearts, the second novel in the Broken People series, in September. This story is close to my heart as it happens to be my favorite series. Just because the first book was enrolled in KU, I also enrolled Broken Hearts for the first three months. A big waste of time for both books, I won’t make the same mistake with the third. I did, however, run the Kindle Countdown Deals for it, and since I also had the other two titles in the series discounted to $0.99, I did make a few full series sales during that time. I can’t wait for the third novel to be released, but I have to write it first. Until then, there will be a connecting story out. More on this another time. For now, I’m serializing Broken People on Wattpad, and you can get The Nightingale Circus for free from NoiseTrade.

The fourth release was Law and Crucible Saga, all first three installments in the space opera series, No Port to Land, Point of Origin, and Bonds of Steel. I’ve been waiting for a long time to start writing it, and it finally happened. There will be more stories in this series coming next year. I’m having so much fun writing them. They’ve barely been released last week so it’s too soon to tell, but for now they’re selling and there’s also some activity on KU, which is nice to see for a change.

This is all as far as new releases go. Next stop, marketing. I used paid advertising with The Fussy Librarian twice. Once was for The Nightingale Circus, and while it did bring more sales than usual, it didn’t cover the expenses. The other time, Amazon was late with dropping the price for The Weight of a Wing so it was a bust. Bottom of line, I don’t feel like I’m ready to invest in paid advertising at this point.

Which leaves us with free advertising, including several options:
- Thunderclap and Headtalker campaigns – good for spreading the word about new releases and other big events; the trick is to start them several weeks in advance to gather the necessary number of supporters.
- same goes for Goodreads events; not so sure about Facebook events as I never had much luck with them, but I guess you need to be more active on FB to make them work.
- ebook giveaways on BookLikes and Librarything – in hope some of the winners will review the books.
- printed copy giveaways on Goodreads, which also allows people to add the books to their to read shelf – I used it for my Romanian books and it worked fine; I can’t really use it for English books because the shipping costs too much.
- Twitter – you’ll get retweets, sometimes a lot, but I still have to see proof that they lead to sales.
- Facebook book groups – good for free books, big discounts, and possibly Kindle Unlimited books, but not so useful for full price books; FB has changed the rules for posting in groups so if you post the same ad in several groups at once you risk getting banned from posting for a while; it needs to be done with great care, but it’s doable.
- excerpts posted on popular sited like Wattpad and Readwave – my Readwave account has reached over 90,000 views with the site being down way too often; no idea how that happened.
- Animoto for book trailers – the theme selection is limited, but maybe you can find one that fits your book; still not a big fan of book trailers.
- pre-orders on Amazon, Smashwords, etc. – the only advantage I see is getting the links to the books early; if you don’t have a big following, people will think twice before buying something they don’t get right away.
- Amazon KDP Select – good for the free days if it’s the first book in a series or a standalone, but only done once; for the rest, use Kindle Countdown Deals.
- Kindle Unlimited – it kind of comes as a package deal with KDP Select; you might have the surprise to get more money from KU than from actual sales, but I guess it depends on the book and possibly genre.
- free review copies –  Smashwords coupons work nicely; careful with that, people might accept the book because it’s free and then complain if the story isn’t what they expected or they’re not comfortable with the genre.
- newsletter – the trick is to convince people to sign up; I’m still working on that.

Other things worth mentioning, The Impaler Legacy Omnibus participated in Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Unfortunately, the blogger it was assigned to didn’t care for vampires so the book didn’t make it to round two. On the bright side, Mark Lawrence critiqued the first page of one of my future novels, yay!

In conclusion, I should probably write erotica or at least romance to make a nice living. The problem  is writing in both genres bores me to death, been there done that, so you’re stuck with sci fi and fantasy, I’m afraid. I should also probably stick to one genre alone instead of writing all over the place, but again, I get bored if I do that, so no. The good news is the sales and income tripled compared to last year as opposed to only doubling in 2014. The even better news is the reviews, while still scarce, are mostly positive. So I guess I’m getting somewhere, or at least closer to that point.

The slightly concerning part is I’m developing a hoarding problem when it  comes to cover art for books I won’t have time to write for 2 or 3 years. I already have 10 covers all done and paid for. *facepalm* Those are books I definitely have to write!

For next year, the plan is to release the second book in The Stolen Wings series, a scifi standalone novel, the third book in Broken People series plus a short story, and 3 or 4 new Law and Crucible Saga installments. I don’t know if there is time for anything else, but we’ll see.

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