Reflections On The First Year

Posted: March 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

One year ago today, I published 33 A.D. on Kindle. I had no idea back then what I was getting in to, and didn’t know what to expect.

In March 2010, I sold 11 copies. I might not have known what to expect, but I definitely didn’t expect that!

In April, I discovered Kindle Boards, and started talking to folks there, as well as putting up a thread about 33 A.D. I saw an immediate improvement. That month, I sold 97 copies.

Fast forward to January 2011, when 33 A.D. sold 1,293 copies. Much better. All told, at the time of this writing, 33 A.D. has sold 6,230 eBook copies. I have no idea how many print copies have sold, but I would estimate somewhere between 200-300. So roughly 6,500 copies, and I didn’t have to share any of the proceeds with a publisher. Sounds good, right? Yeah, it kinda does, but we all know that I could have sold a lot more if Random House or Penguin had picked it up. But they didn’t, so here we are. I can say without a doubt that I am glad I made the decision to publish the book myself, because otherwise it would still be sitting in a drawer gathering dust instead of paying off my house and car.

I would still take a traditional publishing contract if it were offered, but I’m no longer living for the day when the offer arrives. I’m doing what I love to do, and I’m making a modest living at it, despite the folks in the business who didn’t think 33 A.D. was worth their time.

Take That, NYC.

All told, in one year of self publishing, I have sold 13,417 Kindle books as of the time of this writing. That total does not include Smashwords sales, or B&N, or Apple, etc. I rather think that 13,000 books is a pretty good number for a guy going it alone, but that’s just my opinion. Here is the breakdown, in case anyone is interested:

33 A.D. – 6,230
The Lake and 17 Other Stories – 5,152
Saying Goodbye to the Sun – 1,114
NASTY LITTLE F!#*ERS – 390
Devil Music and 18 Other Stories – 531

Total: 13,417

Average sales per day: 37

Now, will those numbers scare James Patterson? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of them. And the best part? They are still increasing, friends. Of those 13,417 books, 6,019 are since January 1, 2011. That’s almost half my overall sales in just the last two and a half months. Just wait until I get Londinium (the sequel to 33 A.D.) out there. My best days are still in front of me, and I’m so glad I decided to take this step.

I’ve learned some important lessons over the last year, and I would like to share some of them with you folks, if you will let me. Number one, not everyone can be Amanda Hocking. You may think your book is the greatest thing ever written, and that millions will love you once you make it available, but it just ain’t the case most of the time. Right now I currently sell about 2,000 Kindle books per month across all 5 titles, and I make around $2,300 or so for my efforts every month. Hardly a life altering sum, but it is definitely a respectable income, and it’s more than most self-published authors make. And if you were paying attention to what I said above, that amount will only increase as time goes by and I release more work. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to the next few years. I may not be making 7 figures like Amanda, but I’m getting by.

Number Two: Negative reviews happen. Live with it. If you get a review that you believe is unfair, or that the reviewer just didn’t “get” your book, keep in mind it’s only that person’s opinion. It’s not a personal attack, and should not be taken as such. If you MUST reply to the review (which I heartily advise against), just thank them for reading the book and move on. Trust me, nothing good can come of antagonizing readers. I am lucky that I learned that lesson after only one incident. The best part? Once the dust settled and I realized I was being an ass and apologized, the reviewer picked up another of my books. That one did better. By a little. But the point is that she was willing to give me another try. (And if you’re reading this – you know who you are – I want to say thank you for doing so. I really didn’t deserve it, but I’m very glad you gave me that second chance.)

Number Three: As Joe Konrath is so fond of saying, this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Don’t be in such a hurry to get work out that you sacrifice quality for quantity. There is an author who once bragged in Kindle Boards how she’d only been writing a few months and had 20 books live on Kindle. Sounds amazing, right? Then, when I downloaded a sample, the work was awful. Typos, missed quotation marks, clunky, nonsensical dialogue. Zero plot. Basically, the person’s work read like a third grader wrote it. Now, I’m not Shakespeare, but I can spot bad writing fairly easily, and so can readers. If you look at this writer’s reviews on Amazon, you might be amazed at the number of one-star reviews you find. Most of them all have one common message: “This is the worst book I have ever read.” Unless you want that to be the common theme of YOUR reviews, take your time. Make your book the best that it can be. Remember, Beta Readers are the closest things to Saints in the writing world. Find some, treasure them, and use them.

Number Four: Some writers will stop at nothing to make themselves look good. Personally, I am not comfortable with sending mass emails, but lots of writers do. That’s OK, especially if you have an opted in list. But some writers troll through the net grabbing any email address they can find and send out massive amounts of spam to total strangers. What’s wrong with this picture? I’ve never bought a single thing or spent money on a single service that I learned about in a spam email. Have you? Probably not. They are annoying and they waste time.

Then there are the writers who open fake Amazon accounts. One such writer has over a hundred such accounts, and uses them to leave a bunch of 4 and 5 star reviews of his own books. I don’t think I need to explain why that’s wrong, do I?

For God’s sake, please don’t be one of those writers.

Number Five: have you ever heard the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? Yeah, well…people do. GET A GOOD COVER! Get a good cover blurb, too. You want readers to think you are professional and that they are getting a quality product. “Well, it’s good for an indie!” is NOT a defense. Readers don’t care if it’s good for an indie. They want it to be good. Period. This brings me to my final lesson, which perhaps is the most important one of all:

NUMBER SIX: No matter how many times you’ve edited and revised your book, you missed something. I promise you, you missed a typo or a missing word or a clunky phrase. Be willing to fix those mistakes when readers find them (and they will, trust me!). Granted, this is much easier to do with the digital books. But please, for goodness sake, don’t blame the reader! This goes back to my above comment about responding to negative reviews. If a reader spots a typo or a plot hole, don’t tell them they are just being anal. The readers OWE YOU NOTHING. It’s YOU who owe THEM.

You owe them entertainment. You owe them a quality product. You owe them your gratitude and respect. They have a right to expect top quality fiction. Remember: there is no such thing as “close enough.”

I’d like to end with a list of upcoming projects for you folks to watch for in 2011. Here are the books I expect to complete and release this year:

The Gallows Tree (Horror, ghost story about a tiny town in TN that is haunted by the ghost of a young black child who was lynched there in 1959)
Londinium (sequel to 33 A.D.)
The Dead Woman (A book in The Dead Man series)
Broken Men (short story anthology about men with issues)
Theron (short story about Theron which will take place immediately after 33 A.D. ends)
BAIT (Vampire horror about a guy who hunts vampires in a very unusual manner)
Untitled Short Story Collection (follow up to Lake and Devil Music)
Redemption (sequel to Saying Goodbye to the Sun)

I have a few more projects in the pipeline, but I don’t know if I’ll get them all done by the end of 2011. But who knows? Keep your eyes peeled, folks.

Well, this post certainly has gotten much longer than I’d anticipated. I could go on, but really, most of you are probably pretty sick of reading this by now. So instead of babbling about my awesome year, let me just say thank you.

Thank you for reading my blog. Thank you for visiting my website.

Thank you for spending some of your time with me. It means more to me than you will ever know.

David McAfee
March 8, 2011

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Comments
  1. Being also in my first year I found this really useful AND motiving especially when it seems easy to just give up. Great post. I loved 33 AD

  2. MJ Beam says:

    I loved this post! The realism is important and good for everyone to know. Thanks for your honesty. I am really inspired.

    • mcafeeland says:

      Thanks! I think most of us go into publishing fully expecting to be loved and adored by millions, but only a handful of people actually achieve that kind of success. To me, if you can make a living doing something you love, then that IS being a success.

  3. junyingkirk says:

    great tips! Really useful for a new author like me. Thanks!

    well done with the sales, and best of luck in 2011!

  4. Great post and congrats on your success so far.

  5. Joel Arnold says:

    Great post by a wonderful author!

  6. Great post. A real inspiration.

  7. Cindy Wallace says:

    Well done, David. Congratulations on your one year anniversary of what has become one of my favorite books. I hope current and future writers will take your words to heart. If they do, it will result in a win-win situation for both the writers and the readers.

    Your upcoming projects look very interesting, and I, for one, will be adding them to the “David McAfee” collection on my Kindle. Keep up the good work, David. I am really glad that I “discovered” you on the Kindle Boards! Best wishes to you for another wonderful year!

    • mcafeeland says:

      Thanks, Cindy. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I haven’t had time to get Saying Goodbye to the Sun and NASTY LITTLE F!#*ERS set up for print, but when I do you’re getting signed copies of both. 🙂

  8. Congrats! Also, thanks for sharing. I’ve always thought that your cover for 33AD was awesome.

    • mcafeeland says:

      Thanks, Sheila. I’d love to take credit for it, but it was designed by my friend Jeremy Robinson. (www.jeremyrobinsononline.com)

  9. Kimber Marie says:

    Congrats, David! Awesome post.

  10. Lee Goldberg says:

    Excellent post — and congratulations!!

    Lee

  11. At $2300 a month you are making more than a lot of traditionally published authors! One of the best things about this new publishing paradigm is that great books that New York passes on can still reach readers. A lot of readers.

    Congratulations for striking out on your own! It’s a great time to be an author.

  12. Cate Gardner says:

    Congratulations on your success, David.

  13. N says:

    IMHO, you would be making fifty times these numbers if you had stayed with GWP.

    -N

    • mcafeeland says:

      Ah, well. Guess I’ll have to find the time to be sad about that someday. Not today, though. Tomorrow’s not really looking good, either…

      • N says:

        You’ll come ’round eventually. The GWP lineup is about to control the ebook publishing world. Only a matter of time. : ) All digital, with a dash of print.

        However, MOTHS is still coming out in hardcover.

        Keep looking to the skies.

        -N

  14. M Aragon says:

    Just want to say that I am so glad I found you on Kindle Boards. I am a big fan of Vampire Novels and when I read yours (33 A.D.) I was really surprise how much I liked your story. Once I finished it I downloaded all of your other books too. You won me over and I will definatley be looking for all of your new books. I have also been recommending you to all of my friends. Congratulations on your sales and on the birth of your new son.

    • mcafeeland says:

      Wow. Thank you. You have no idea how much I needed that today. (Been a rough day) Thanks a million! I hope you enjoy the rest of the books!

  15. monkeyluis says:

    Hey David,

    Great job so far. I literally just finished 33A.D. and enjoyed it very much. I’ve also read Lake & Grubs. Grubs kept making me itch all over. I look forward to more of your work this year & will not hesitate to click the buy now button on Amazon. Have a great year of continued success. See you over at kindle boards.

  16. Tyhitia says:

    Congratulations on all the sales and a job well done. You deserve it and more, Dave. 🙂

  17. Stacey says:

    😉 I’ll be watching for Londinium. Ramah is a hell of a character.

  18. Jaq says:

    David, I’m very happy for you mate!
    Congrats on the sales at Kindle and other places.
    Obvious proof that self-publishing isn’t a dead end for writers after all. If they’re prepared to put in the hard work needd to produce a first rate novel in all respects.

    Are those posts above from N really from Nefarious Neil or is someone just being funny?

    Keep up the good work.

    Cheers: Jaq.

    • mcafeeland says:

      You know, I’m not sure. They might be Neil, the email address sounds like its one of his, but I couldn’t say for certain. In either case, they are pretty darn funny.

  19. Steve Emmett says:

    Just want to record that I read 33AD and really enjoyed it. I got a publisher for Diavolino, but not a major one. The big ones rejected it. Reviews are terrific and I hope they are regretting it now. Good luck to you – you are a better writer than many of those hogging the Amazon limelight.

  20. Barry Gold says:

    I’ve read both of your books; 33A.D. and Saying Goodbye to the Sun and found them both refreshing and original. I just recently downloaded AFTER, Taras and Theron and am looking forward to reading it. Please keep writing, your take on the Vampire is very welcome to the same old boring (LH and CH). Not naming names but I do like your writing style and hope you keep it up for quite a while.

    • mcafeeland says:

      Thank you, Barry. I hope you are enjoying AFTER. The next Bachiyr novel, 61 AD, should be available late this month.

  21. My first year as well working as and independent editor. I loved NASTY LITTLE F!#*ERS but noticed a couple of things (sorry, sometimes being an editor is a subconscious act for me).

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