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
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.
March 8, 2011