Monday, March 28, 2011

Books by the Numbers

There is a persistent belief that if you go indie, you'll never sell much. They say people like Amanda Hocking, Zoe Winters, JA Konrath, Tina Folsom, etc. are just "lucky" and the fact that they are now making a living with their indie books is a fluke. Ok, yes, they've gotten lucky - the luck that comes with writing a great story, being enthusiastic, learning what you need to know, believing in yourself, and taking a chance. The luck that is defined as "preparation meets opportunity."

Someone else whose "luck" is increasing due to the same formula, is my blogosphere pal, Edie Ramer.  She just sold 1000 books on Kindle this past month and I couldn't be happier for her.  I fully expect that as more people read her books (which are fabulous, by the way - I LOVED "Dragon Blues") those figures will increase and she will soon be making a living wage at it herself.

My former critique partner, Amber Scott, is also doing amazingly well. Like Edie and Zoe, Amber's enthusiasm and passion for what she's doing is carrying her far. In fact, I recently told her she is my hero right now because I remember clearly the first time we met in Barnes & Noble. Neither of us had been published, both were very shy - she, exceedingly so - but were having fun trying to make something of what we had. Now that formerly shy young woman is burning up the internet with her podcasts, vblogs, interviews, presentations, panels, you name it, and her book "PlayFling" was in Smashwords top 20 for weeks.  And I fully expect her next book, Fierce Dawn, to do really well. Go, Amber!

Now, as for me, I didn't really have very high expectations venturing into the Indie Arena. I had seen how badly things turned out for my grandfather when he self-published (in the days before Kindle), and I've read all the caveats (even by successful indie authors) that say don't get your  hopes up too much in the beginning. And of course, there is still some stigma attached to it. But I was willing to try it, to see how it went.

Since "Unmasked" is a re-release of an older novella--as well as a bit niche in its audience*--I didn't do any promotion except to mention it a couple of times on my blog, Facebook and Twitter.  I put it out there to see what would happen, and to test the waters of this Kindle publishing thing.

To my surprise, I've already sold more copies in the past month than I did the whole time it was with its original publisher, and I'm within 15 copies of matching my first month's sales of "Managing Maggie" at Cobblestone Press - and MM was their bestseller for that month.  (At first, I thought I had surpassed the sales figure, but when I looked up my royalty statement from last year, saw that I'm almost there.) Fingers crossed that I can match it in the next three days, but even if I don't, I've still been pleasantly surprised.

"Unmasked" started out ranking at around #1 million something, then got to around #300,000 the first few days, peaking so far at around 20,000 in the US, but generally ranking between 25 and 40K.  I was a bit discouraged by that number until I bought the most recent book by a well-known, traditionally pub'd  author that I like a lot, and hers was ranked at #36,000+ that day.  But about an hour ago, I just found out to my surprise that "Unmasked" was #36 on the Amazon UK's list for bisexual erotica - I broke into a top 100!  Who knew?!

Now, in reality, the number of sales this month aren't going to pay my rent (especially with Unmasked now priced at 99cents), but even so - color me hooked!  Being able to control whether and when my story gets put for sale was so liberating and empowering. Now I'm asking myself, "If my first niche novella that I've hardly promoted at all can do this, what might happen if I promoted a book that has a wider audience range -- one that I'm also very enthusiastic about?"

That will my next experiment.  I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Meanwhile, I know Charles Gramlich, Avery DeBow, Sidney Williams, Marcia Colette, and Steve Malley have all also tried the indie route recently - any of you want to share your experience so far? :)


*When I first wrote Unmasked back in 2006, it was in response to a call from a publisher looking to fill slots for an erotic anthology about a masquerade ball held by the gods. In researching the editor, I discovered she really liked male/female/female menages, so I wrote a story with that in mind and sent it to her. Two morals to that story: One, if you want to have someone else publish your books, research the editor; and two, even if your book has a limited audience, that doesn't mean it has NO audience, so don't give up!


  1. Thank you for stopping by My Little Blogspot :o)

    Come back and visit me again!

  2. Congratulations! It sounds like you're off to a pretty good start.

  3. Hi Inowak! Thanks for stopping by - I'll be back. :)

    Thanks, Travis. :)

  4. Congratulations! That's awesome! See, sometimes you just gotta jump in. lol

    Thanks for the shout out. I'm happy you loved Dragon Blues. I really have to get more books out. I need to write faster.

  5. So far for me the money has been quite minimal. I've gotten good reviews on the work and I know my friends and a few others have bought it, but I'm not going to be able to make a living at this rate for a longggg time.

  6. Thanks, Edie. I need to write faster too!

    Oh, I understand, Charles - I should make it clear that the money for me right now is minimal also; but so it has been off and on with my current publisher. My point and excitement comes from the fact that if it's similar to my experience with the e-pubs, then I can do that much myself and have more control over what happens. And there is the possibility that it could grow into more with more effort. :)

  7. Informative and inspiring post; thanks for sharing. As for what it told me about you as a person - wow! You've got an engineer's affection for numbers! (FYI, for nerds like me, that's considered a compliment :)).

  8. Thanks, Mohamed. Maybe all it says about me is that I'm a little obsessive-compulsive and I used to work in accounting! lol

  9. Way to go with breaking into the Top 100!!

    As for my experience, I've got no complaints because I *love* writing again. Right now, BITTERSWEET is ranked at 137,000. Sure, that seems like a lot. But when I look at my March royalty statement, I have to remind myself that I'm making more money from BITTERSWEET by choosing not to park it under my cyber bed. That alone tells me that there's something to this indie thing. Whether I hit numbers like Konrath or Hocking, I'm glad I went this route. It frees me to write whatever I want and that's what matters most.

  10. You're right, Marcia - like you said, whatever you make on BITTERSWEET is money you didn't have the day before - and more than you would have if you did nothing with it!

    I hope people catch on to BITTERSWEET soon - I enjoyed it a lot and thought it had much more depth than most teen paranormals I've read.


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