by Christine Kling
This month marks three years since I followed Mike J’s lead and took the plunge into self-publishing my then-new novel Circle of Bones, so I’ve decided to take a moment to share where things stand for me. As a writer on the water, I should note that I did much of this work from a sailboat while also working at writing my next book. While I do need an Internet connection, and that’s meant we’re not cruising the outer Marshall Islands at the moment, I can work here in Majuro in spite of my struggles with the local wifi.
Actually, in September of 2011, I first published what I called my baby book: Sea Bitch, my collection of four short stories, and I blogged about Going Indie. It was supposed to be my training program for formatting and uploading books. I didn’t do any marketing for it, but a few people found it and to date that little book has sold 2,411 copies and made me over $4,000.
I consider Circle of Bones my real first effort to self-publish and then market a novel. It has been quite a journey. I have self-published seven different titles now, including Bones (which is no longer available in the self-pubbed version) and the boxed set of the Seychelle series. Across all titles I have now sold 59,793 books and made more money than all the advances and royalties I had made previously on these books from the world of traditional publishing. Getting to that level of sales has been helped by my new non-traditional/traditional publisher Thomas & Mercer because when they promote my Cole & Riley books — that rising tide floats all boats.
Throughout these past three years I’ve done my best to educate myself about this business as a writer/entrepreneur. I’m not one of those self-publishing millionaires, but I have found a level of success that has enabled me to keep provisions in the galley. We authors always have to keep things fresh and seek new ways to find new readers. In 2014, I expanded my business in several major ways.
First, I decided it was time to make paperback books available through CreateSpace. The formatting turned out to be quite a task involving weeks of tweaking, but I certainly learned lots by doing it myself. The great thing about paperbacks is that the Kindle page now shows the price $14.75 with the slash through it making the Kindle edition look like such a good buy. I don’t expect to sell many paperbacks, but it was a marketing strategy.
Paperback books also meant I would need full front and back covers, so my second big investment in time and money was a cover refresh. I had all new covers designed by the wonderful Filipino graphic designer R’tor John Maghuyop whom I found through my 99designs contest. He only charges $200 per book for the ebook, paperback, and audiobook covers, and I really like how he has given my books a common branded look.
Once I had all the new cover art, I had R’tor design a Facebook cover photo, and I started a new Facebook author page. It takes more time to have the two pages, but I have utilized the ability to advertise on the business page, and I have already seen the benefits.
I also started an account on Google Play and uploaded all my books there making that the fifth vendor after Amazon, iBooks, Nook and Kobo. It takes a whole lot of time to update six books with new cover art across five vendors, but I believe in trying to make my books available in as many places as I can. Android is a huge market and Google puts you into the store they shop in. I haven’t sold many books there yet, but I’m in this business for the long term.
And finally, I have started the process of getting the last three Seychelle books produced as audiobooks. Back when Surface Tension was first published, Brilliance Audio bought the rights to Surface Tension and produced it. (By the way, Audible’s Surface Tension audio on sale for $1.99 at the moment). They never did the other three books in the series, however. So I’m learning my way through ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange), and I’ve partnered with the wonderful Rosemary Benson who is the narrator/producer for the books. Cross Current should go live just after the first of the year, and the next two books will follow shortly thereafter.
All of these efforts were leading up to doing something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I decided to make Surface Tension free (as you can see in the screenshot above), not just for a day or two, but for several months. I ran a Book Bub ad on December 9, and I’ve scheduled other ads over the holidays. Here, I’m thinking like a drug dealer. Give them a free taste and hopefully, I can hook ’em and sell more of the other books. So far that is working and sales of my other books have tripled since ST went free. It remains to be seen how long that will last.
As an author/entrepreneur I am already looking ahead at many of the big changes that are coming in 2015. Authors are still trying to figure out the impact of Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service, on overall book sales. Many bestselling self-published authors like Holly Ward and Marie Force are speaking out on how it has devastated their sales. Starting Jan. 1, the EU is going to require that their VAT tax be included in prices of ebooks meaning author’s royalties on EU sales will go down if we don’t increase our prices to reflect the included tax. Facebook is changing the way it distributes and charges for advertising on business pages. But more significant than any of these is the overall downward movement of prices of traditionally published books. I don’t know whether the publishers are setting these prices or whether it is Amazon discounting, but take a look at the prices of the top books on Amazon now. These are all traditionally published books.
When readers can get Michael Connelly’s latest for $3.99 or Laura Hillenbrand’s latest or Gone Girl for $2.99, we self-published authors have just lost our best sales pitch: price. We really are going to have to up our game in 2015. Our books must be good enough to compete against these heavy hitters by being great stories, well-edited and professionally formatted with great looking covers.
Hey, I’m up for the challenge. I’m an author/entrepreneur.
ChristineShare on Facebook