This month marks my one year anniversary as an indie publisher. LIGHTBRINGER: A Celestial Affairs Novel was the first of four self-published titles I’ve released since last October. It has been a busy year, and while I’m usually focused on the next goal I’ve set for myself, this seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned and how well I met my goals.
In terms of sales, I didn’t really have any specific goals. I had no idea what an unknown author like myself could expect. I had read about a few phenomenal success stories, but I figured they were from the far right edge of the bell curve. I hoped that I would join them there, but I didn’t really believe I would. Not in this first year, anyway. My minimum was that I wanted to break even within a year.
LIGHTBRINGER started slow, selling only about 12 copies a month for the first five months. I wasn’t doing a lot of promotion other than blogging and facebook (and not much of the latter). At this rate of sales I figured that it would take me 2 1/2 years to break even. I was a little depressed. Even the holiday bump only increased my sales to 22 in December, and half of that was because I’d introduced a second title, WITH HEART TO HEAR. But I’d only been at this for a little over two months. Way too soon to get discouraged.
Then I decided to try Kindle Select and use the free promotion after a friend reported significant success with it. Amazon was already changing its algorithms by then, but I still experienced a 650% jump in sales to a little over 80/month. A few months later when I found more sites to notify about my free promos, sales jumped again by 250%. By this time I’d published a third title, DANGEROUS TALENTS.
Overall, in this first year I’ve sold just under 1000 copies of my self-published books (and given away over 35,000). That doesn’t sound like much, but sales are trending upward. I’ve achieved my minimal goal, breaking even on my investment. And I’ve achieved something else that is worth more than money to me: empowerment. I am happy doing what I’m doing. It’s challenging to balance production with promotion. I firmly believe that getting more great books out is the single best way to improve my sales. Beyond that, it’s a challenge trying to determine what works and what doesn’t, and what I’m willing to spend my time on to improve my books’ performance in the marketplace.
Here are five things I’ve learned this year, in no particular order:
- Expect to learn as you go. You can’t know it all before you begin.
- Be nimble and willing to experiment. Indie publishing is shifting rapidly. Vendors and distributors keep changing their ways of doing business, while new promotional opportunities seem to arise daily.
- Keep writing. You never know which book will be the one that catches on. The more books you have out there, the more opportunities readers have to find you.
- Think hard about where you invest your time. There will never be enough of it to do everything you want to do. It’s a finite resource. However you spend it, make sure what you do is either productive or fun.
- Listen to others, then make up your own mind. It’s your career.
For next year? At minimum I expect to triple my sales. But my goal is to sell ten thousand copies. I’ll let you know how it goes.