A Leap of Faith

by Christine Kling

I know I often write about my adventures with boats and bikes and my attempts to live simply, but tonight, it is another adventure that is on my mind. I haven’t written about the sales of Circle of Bones, and I guess the time has come to share that story with you.

I often refer back to the sub-title of this blog because it is the story of my life. I quit my job and moved onto my boat to become a full-time writer and sailor. It took a huge leap of faith to do that, and over the past few months, I’ve had many occasions to wonder if I’d done the right thing in taking that risk. I’ve written here for two years about my efforts to finish this novel Circle of Bones – in fact, it was the readers of this blog who helped me pick the title of the book. I wrote about my vain search to find a new agent to represent me and my new book, and how I felt that nobody wanted it (or me), not even my editor at Ballantine. I’ve written about my struggles with the decision to self-publish and the difficulties of learning how to format an indie book.

Finally, after five years of working on this book, I published the ebook of Circle of Bones on December 19 before I left to bring my boat down the ICW from New Bern.  In January, I sold about 70 copies, and in February, it was around 90. I studied the market, and though I had no money for advertising, I found I had some free ad credits on Facebook and Google AdSense, and I created ads and worked hard at tweaking the book’s description trying to improve my sales. I wrote to book bloggers to get reviews, and I ran a contest on Goodreads. Then, having seen the success that Mike J and John Urban had with the Kindle Select program, I decided to give that a try in March.

On March 10 when I  began three days of giving my book away free, I had sold a grand total of 62 copies so far that month. I had spent days writing to every site I could find that listed free books, and I bought one ad for $40 that was a Social Media Buzz package. I decided not to use this blog or the usual writers’ sites. Instead, I looked for sailors and readers, and I used Facebook and Twitter. Over the next three days, Circle of Bones was downloaded by over 37,400 readers. It made it to the #2 spot on the Amazon Top 100 Free list. Sales started slowly after the free days, but by the third day, my book had climbed to #20 on the Amazon paid bestseller list. By the end of March, I had sold 7,900 copies of the book.

It has now been three and a half weeks since my free days, and Bones is still ranked at #272 on Amazon and has sold 765 copies in the first five days of this month. Why? I don’t know. I worked hard to make my book the absolute best it could be, refused to be in a rush, and then I hired private editors and professional cover artists – but others have done the same and not had the same success, so I acknowledge that a huge part of it is just plain damn luck.

But you know, I’m not wondering anymore whether I did the right thing by quitting my day job and taking that leap of faith. I’m just wondering how long it’s going to take me to write the next book featuring the adventures of Riley and Cole – The Dragon’s Triangle.

Fair winds!

Christine Kling

Author of CIRCLE OF BONES
Available for Kindle 

p.s.  I have also written about my Desire to Acquire new technology, and I’ll bet you’ll never guess what my first purchase was – yup, a new iPad.

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About Christine Kling

I have spent more than thirty years living on and around boats and cruising the waters of the North and South Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Caribbean. I’ve written articles and stories for many boating publications including Sailing, Cruising World, Motor Boating & Sailing, and The Tiller and the Pen. When I was married, I helped my husband build a 55-foot custom sailing yacht. After launching her, we sailed through the Panama Canal to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we chartered for over two years. While in the islands, I received my 100-ton Auxiliary Sail Captains license. It was that sailing experience that led me to set my first nautical suspense novel, SURFACE TENSION (2002), on the waterfront in Fort Lauderdale. Featuring Florida female tug and salvage captain, Seychelle Sullivan, the first book was followed by CROSS CURRENT (2004) and BITTER END (2005). The fourth book in the series, WRECKERS’ KEY was released in February 2007. At the end of the 2010-11 academic year, I took the motto of this blog to heart. I quit my day job as an English professor at Broward College in Fort Lauderdale (just when they offered me tenure, I said no thanks and took early retirement). I was living the dream of full-time cruising on board my 33-foot Caliber Talespinner on my very tiny pension and whatever I made from my books having parted ways with the big publishing establishment. I self-published two books on my own: a small collection of four short stories entitled SEA BITCH: Four Tales of Nautical Noir and my first stand-alone sailing thriller set in the Caribbean, CIRCLE OF BONES. In 2012 I was offered a publishing deal with Amazon's mystery/thriller imprint Thomas&Mercer and they reissued CIRCLE OF BONES. The sequel to that book, DRAGON'S TRIANGLE came out in June 2014. And as for me, I'm no longer a singlehander on my little boat. I met Wayne Hodgins in 2013 and after a whirlwind Skype courtship, I flew to meet him in Fiji and we sailed a nearly 2000 mile passage to the Marshall Islands for our "first date." We now sail together aboard LEARNATIVITY, a 52-foot motor sailor with our family including Barney, the Yorkshire Terror and Ruby, the Wonder Dog.
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18 Responses to A Leap of Faith

  1. Christine, I guarantee you’ve done the right thing. Circle of Bones was fantastic and I can’t wait to see the next book. You’re experience with Amazon seems to be universal from the other authors I’m talking with. Plus, a really great book helps as well. Nice job.

  2. I’m not sure it was luck as much as a writing a fantastic book. It may have taken readers a few months to get to know about the book, but I guarantee they won’t be disappointed now that they have found it.
    Congratulations, Christine!
    Good decision!

  3. Nancy,
    Thanks so much for the kind words about the book!

    I’m so pleased that S/V Fawkes has made it to the Caribbean. I look forward to reading your work on my Kindle app for iPad one of these days!
    CK

  4. Thanks, Victoria, and I have lots to thank you for. You wrote a great review for the book on Amazon way back in January (when I didn’t have many reviews), and those reviews really help sell books. I never coulda’ done it without those reviews.
    MWAA! <----- That's me sending a big air kiss your way! CK

  5. PJ Parrish says:

    Chris,
    I am so happy for you. I know how hard you worked at this and I remember our talk as you were making that first leap away from the working world. Congratulations, and I hope you can ride this wave for as long as possible. And catch the next one!

  6. Mike says:

    Christine, you only mention Amazon. Barns & Nobel also carries your books. I chose a nook reader because at the time Lee County, Fl didn’t support the Kindle format. I have read all of your books and think they are great. I have also paid for them all and hope that B&N is passing the royalties on to you.

    My wife has three children’s books that were written and illustrated by her father in the 1950’s. We will be attempting to get them into a format that is usable by publishers. They were written and illustrated on large poster paper with colored pencil. Suggestions from you or your large cadre of friends on how to do this will be very much appreciated much appreciated. I am on your facebook friends list.

    Thanks and keep the books coming!

  7. PJ/Kris,
    Thanks. Yes, indeed, it was a tough decision, but I have now made more in 3 weeks than the amount my first 2-book contract paid as an advance per book – and that contract has not yet earned out.
    It’s a new world out there.
    CK

  8. Mike,
    Thanks so much for letting me know you’ve read the books and enjoyed them. Readers will never understand just how important that is to those of us who write in quiet rooms without the sound of applause.

    Yes, I did only mention Amazon because the program I entered on March 1st, Kindle Select, requires that authors make their books exclusive to Amazon, so I had to take the new book off the Nook for 3 months. We are in the middle of a device war reminiscent of the old VHS vs. Beta days. Amazon is not the only culprit – Barnes & Noble has fired back with a program called Nook First that requires books be exclusive to their platform. Both companies help authors with internal marketing and favoring of those who enter their programs. Hopefully, we will see the day when we come up with a standard format. In the meantime, if you buy DRM-free books on Amazon, you can use a program called Calibre to reformat them into ePub so they can be imported and read on the Nook and vice versa.
    CK

  9. gerald dowling says:

    Dear Christine, in the first part of your blogg you used the word faith, and ended up with the word luck. Both good words. However I wish to believe that it was the faith that has brought you this far. I think Faith took you and your boat, and shaggy fire ball North and then brought your home again, safely. Having faith in something unseen, even though we don’t seem to know why, or even how. That is a gift in and off itself. The ability to be grateful is so ofter sold short. My expectation for you is only that good shall pave your way. One book at a time. Keep on, Keeping on. We may be the ones that turn the steering wheel, but it is the unseen rudder that steers our way. We press the keys on our computers, but it is the current that sends the messages. Happy Easter Chris, and we’re happy for you.

  10. Gerald,

    Thanks for the happy holiday wishes. Same back atcha.

    The definition of “faith” is confidence or trust in a person or entity. I took the leap because of a belief that I could somehow make this work. In this post I was intending to say that I believed in myself. I admit that it wasn’t simply a matter of me doing everything right – that luck played a huge part. But there is also a quote I like:

    “When you work seven days a week, fourteen hours a day, you get lucky.”
    — Armand Hammer

    I may not be THAT dedicated, but I don’t wait for someone to steer success my way, either.

    CK

  11. Diane Capri says:

    Chris, this is simply fabulous and phenomenal and well, damned inspiring!! Good for you!! I’m so thrilled for your success. I recall when Circle of Bones was just a twinkle in your eye and I’ve watched it progress from there to here with something like awe at your determination and grit. It’s a great thing when such dedication pays off. Congratulations to you, my friend.

  12. Terry Odell says:

    I’ve heard great and not-great stories about Amazon Select. Some love it, and I’m glad it’s working for you. I’ve never had success with giving books away carrying over into sales. I decided to try a different approach for my newest book. I went with Barnes & Noble’s “Nook First” program. (It’s not advertised, and I admit to a great deal of luck in finding it).

    This is a program that has Barnes & Noble behind your book. It’s on their home page, they send out emails to Nook owners and people who have bought your other books. And it’s only a 30 day commitment.

    I was thrilled when on day 1, I’d sold 53 copies of the book. Imagine my glee when on day 2, the book was in the top 100 of all Nook Books. My typical Amazon sales of all titles were averaging about 60-70/day. On Barnes & Noble, I’m now selling hundreds. It’ll slack off, I know, but for now, almost all my books have risen to well under the top 1000 in rankings, including 2 that are in the top 100, whereas my best-selling Amazon titles hover around the 3000-5000 mark.

    I’m a firm believer in doing what works for you. For me, I’m reluctant to put all my eggs in one basket, and as soon as my 30 day commitment is up, I’ll be uploading the book to every possible site.

    My takeaway is that for me, prior to this, I had very few sales at B&N. Many others have said, “since I’m not selling there, why bother?” For me, I’m glad I did, because I’ve tapped an entire new readership, and my Amazon sales haven’t suffered at all.

    (Sorry this is so long!)

    Terry

  13. It’s heartening to read your reports as I contemplate self-pubbing an original mystery. It is scary to approach the expense of an editor, cover artist, buying ISBNs, etc. without knowing if this money will be regained or if the work has merit. It is, as you say, a leap of faith. There’s also the agony of writing advertising copy, harder to me than writing the book. Next up: Nook First or Kindle Select? So many choices. We’re spending more time on business matters these days than writing.

  14. Diane,
    Thanks. I would say that judging from the fact that your new novel DON’T KNOW JACK is still ranked very high that your sales have been excellent, too. Congratulations back at you!
    CK

  15. Terry,

    I had read your blog that shared the success you’ve had with the Nook First program. I even mentioned the program is an earlier comment on this post. I agree – I am made uneasy by making my book exclusive to one platform, but at the moment that is how they are playing out the device wars and we might as well take advantage of these promo opportunities while they are there.
    Congratulations on the excellent sales of your new release.
    CK

  16. Nancy,
    Thanks for your comment. Indeed, it is time consuming work, but there is also a satisfaction in feeling that more is under your control. You don’t get much of that with a publisher. Never before have authors had so many marvelous tools at hand for experimenting. It’s really interesting to be able to watch your sales on a minute by minute basis and be able to gauge the success of your online buzz work.
    Good luck and I’d be happy to share my editor’s and cover artist’s names if you are interested.
    CK

  17. Wow, great news, Christine. I love it when good things happen to nice people (not to mention talented and hard-working, too.) So glad you took the plunge (maybe that’s not a good word to use to someone who lives on a boat?)
    I’m looking forward to reading the old fashioned print version of Circle of Bones, as I’m still in the traditional format camp. I’m thrilled, regardless, of the great opportunity you’ve found online. Fair Winds, indeed!

  18. Susan Fleet says:

    Congratulations Christine. You worked very hard and have earned every bit of your success. Brava!

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