fearless

10/21/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Lies I Told , Mob Boss Series , Promises I Made , Reading , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three Months Indie: An Update

Lawless_front_6ix9i_RGB

Well, I did it. Lawless released last night, bringing my first full-length Indie series to a close. It’s hard to believe less than three months ago I hadn’t even released Ruthless. I was nervous and scared, wondering if I was going to look back on my decision to go hybrid as a huge mistake.

Thankfully, that is NOT how I’m feeling.

Like, at all.

😉

I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months. At least one of the Mob Boss books has been on at least one of the Top 100 lists almost the entire time, and I’ve met hundreds of new readers, all of them passionate and enthusiastic about modern romance. I’ve also met countless Indie and hybrid authors who have been incredibly generous with their information and beyond supportive of this newbie. I lost track a long time ago of the dumb questions I’ve asked along the way, but there hasn’t been a single time that someone hasn’t offered me an answer.

To give you an idea of my progress, here’s a 90-day graph showing you my sales from August 1st when Ruthless released to today.

Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 8.47.53 PM

You have to ignore that REALLY big jump at the end — that was my 2300 preorders for LAWLESS dumping into the system. It makes it look like I wasn’t selling well before, but my sales actually held steady between 200-300 a day from August 10th onward. I had a quite few days where they were over 300 —  one where I inexplicably hit 411 — and fewer where I dipped to 175, usually after the 30-day sales cliff that follows a new release. But it’s been pretty steady, with sales of around 6,000 books my first month and close to 9,000 my second month. October will probably see me around 10,000 when it’s all said and done. You can see little jumps in early August and the beginning of September which coincide with new book releases, proving that new content goes  a long way toward keeping you visible. I’m very happy with these numbers, even if they don’t grow, but I see no reason why they shouldn’t with a consistent new release schedule.

Financially, this is the best decision I could have made. I’m not going to be quite as transparent here as I was in my last update, but I will say that if you know I’ve sold over 20,000 books in less than three months, and you know I’m typically making a 70% royalty on the Indie side, you know why I am pretty ecstatic. I haven’t discounted my books at all up until now, so they’ve all sold at $3.99.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like my feet are under me, and it’s hard to explain the relief I feel knowing I’ll be paid once a month instead of twice a year (or less if I haven’t earned out) on the traditional publishing side.

But the biggest gain of all is in creative choice. If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I’ve spoken before about the necessity of writing what’s selling when you make your living writing. “Write the book you want to read” is great advice — but not always sound if one must bring home a paycheck from said writing. I’ve always loved the books I write. I pour my heart and soul into every one, and I have a powerful, lasting bond with every character and every story.

But there are other stories. A near-future sci-fi thriller. A coming of age YA novel set against the backdrop of travel on the cheap. A contemporary story about sisters that deals with divorce and mental illness. An adult thriller about eco-terroism. These are all stories that I’ve shelved at one time or another because I was told the market wasn’t ripe for selling them, or that my particular brand wouldn’t support a sale in one of these areas. To be clear; I am GRATEFUL for this advice. The people looking out for me know I make my living writing, and they know I support four people with that income. There hasn’t been much margin for error.

But here’s the thing; the kind of can’t-sleep-I’m-so-excited passion I have for certain projects doesn’t come along every day. It was the way I felt about Prophecy of the Sisters when I was writing it, and it’s a voice I’ve tried to listen to ever since. Having to shelve those ideas because financial concerns forced me to play it safe was hard and sad and creatively demoralizing. Because the financial noose has loosened, I’ll be able to take more writing risks on the traditional publishing side — with the bonus of having an Indie readership who may read those books if they don’t sell to traditional publishing.

I feel like I can breathe again. Most importantly, I’m starting to dream again. Of the books I can write (even if no one thinks they will sell) and the things I can do for myself and my family and others with this bit of financial blessing. I think that’s one of the worst parts about being in survival mode; you’re so focused on getting through it that it’s hard to remember to dream. Dreaming feels like a waste of time and energy when you’re struggling to survive, but what a loss it is when we stop. It’s so wonderful to feel hopeful and excited again — about my writing and about life in general and the opportunities I might have now to travel and write ALL kinds of stories.

That I owe to the people at Authorbuzz who spearheaded the marketing campaign that started sending traffic to my book pages right out of the gate, and to my readers, who have been so lovely and wonderful and excited about these books, and whose enthusiasm has carried me forward through a difficult three month writing schedule. I also owe a thank you to my mom and my kids, because they have been right there with me, game for anything, urging me to take the leap after talking about it for years. Having people who have your back, people who believe in you and cheer for you and make you feel like you can do anything… Well, that makes all the difference.

Now that things have stabilized, my focus is expanding. I have books lined up for both Indie publishing and traditional publishing for the foreseeable future, and I’m working on a schedule for 2016 that will allow me to continue releasing my Indie stuff no more than 6-8 weeks apart with time to work on two speculative projects as well. I plan to attend a few conferences and/or workshops next year, and I’m looking forward to meeting more awesome authors.

On the traditional publishing side, PROMISES I MADE (sequel to LIES I TOLD) comes out November 24th, and my first YA love story, A WALK IN THE SUN, will be out next summer. On the Indie side, THE MUSCLE, my new serial featuring Luca, a character from the Mob Boss series, launches November 17th and will b complete by Christmas. I’m excited to share them with you!

And there’s always more to learn! I’ve found the marketing and business side of Indie publishing to be fascinating (color me surprised!), and I can spend hours reading about it or watching videos or talking to other Indie authors about the things they’ve done. I also need to work on maximizing my exposure on Nook, Kobo, and iBooks, because right now, I’m only selling a tiny fraction of my total there. I have a feeling I’m missing some promotional opportunities and methods for connecting with readers on those platforms, and that’s something I want to be better about. I’ll also be creating a dedicated website for Michelle St. James so I can further separate my two writing names and the books that go with each.

Most importantly, there’s craft, something that has always fascinated and challenged me. I want to continue getting better, and I’m excited to keep working toward that goal. Writing MORE has always been my proving ground, and I’m so very excited to know now that I’ll be able to do so for the foreseeable future.

Thanks for joining me on this crazy ride!

And if you’re curious, you can buy Ruthless, the first book in the Mob Boss series below;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

Fearless, the second book, can be found here;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

iBooks

And LAWLESS, the final book is out now;

Amazon

Nook

Kobo

(iBooks is still in review)

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09/06/15 Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless # , , , , , , ,

FEARLESS is Now Available!

Fearless_front_V2Technically, it’s not out until tomorrow, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I always pad my release dates by a day or two when I don’t set up a pre-order. That’s because each retailer has wildly different upload times.

Amazon is always the first to make a book live, so those of you reading the Mob Boss series on your Kindle are in luck; FEARLESS IS NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.

I’m still waiting for B&N and iBooks to make the book available for sale, and the paperback is also in processing, but those should be available tomorrow on the technical release date.

In the meantime, happy reading to those of you who are able to pick it up today!
<3

Buy Fearless on Amazon

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09/02/15 Fearless , Indie , Lawless , Mob Boss Series , Reading , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized , Writing # , , , , , , , ,

A Big First Month for RUTHLESS

front_6ix9i_RGB_300dpiIt’s September 2nd. A month ago today, Ruthless, my first self-pubbed novel wasn’t out yet. I had no idea what was in store, how well (or not) the book would sell, if going hybrid would change the landscape of my career like I hoped by giving me more control over my work and how it’s published and marketed.

Hard to believe that so much can change in a month.

But it did, and I’m happy to report that Ruthless sold over 6,000 copies in August. It’s a number that was far beyond my wildest expectations back when I was hoping royalties from the first month would just cover the money I spent on covers, formatting, marketing, etc.

One of the biggest reasons I decided to give self-publishing a try is because of all the Indie and hybrid authors who went before me. For context, it’s important to note that discretion is highly valued in traditional publishing. One doesn’t talk openly about advances or royalties, about the editors we find difficult, about publishing houses who have reneged on promises (it’s okay to shout from the rooftops about those we love, and we do!).

I get it. Being professional is important in any business, and much of this information is of a highly personal nature. Still, it’s been difficult not having easy, timely access to sales numbers and earn-out rates over the past few years. It’s hard to know if you need to make changes to your marketing plan or do something different without data.

One of the most refreshing things about going Indie with my adult work has been the utter transparency, both among many Indie authors and with regards to real-time data. It’s been a little exhilarating to watch my numbers climb, and those moments were well worth the few times when they dropped and I was left wondering if it was a trend, if it was due to everyone going back to school, if maybe I’d simply reached the end of RUTHLESS’s novelty as a new book. In a way, those moments were good for me, too. They were a reminder that you can watch your numbers all day long, but when push comes to shove, you need to keep your head down and write more books.

Anyway, I’m not sure I would have taken the plunge if not for all the authors who were generous and brave enough to report their experiences before me. Because of this, I feel like I owe a debt to pay it forward for anyone else out there thinking of going this route. This is where it gets a bit squicky for me, because I don’t like talking about my personal income any more than the next person, but it’s impossible to share sales numbers without talking royalties (mostly because anyone can figure it out knowing that the standard royalty on a self-pubbed book at $3.99 is 70%), and it’s impossible to give you an idea how life-altering this experience has been without talking sales numbers.

With that in mind, I’m going to be totally straight with you, with the caveat that I will probably not do this again, at least not to this degree of detail. I’m sure there are lots of ways I can screen shot and post graphs, but it’s the first day of school and I’m running on three hours sleep, so I’m going to keep it simple

August 2015

Total Books Sold (all formats) – 6,218

Print Copies Sold – 13

Digital Copies Sold (iBooks) – 19

Digital Copies Sold (Nook) – 41

Digital Copies Sold (Kindle) – 6,145

Total Royalties – $15,198.69

These numbers are with only one book – RUTHLESS – for sale. I never once discounted it, because I feel strongly that authors (and all artists) should be paid fairly for their work. This means all 6,000+ copies of the book were sold at my current full price of $3.99.

This is what it looked like;

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 11.26.51 AMThe vast majority of sales were from Amazon for the Kindle platform. To be honest, I wasn’t very surprised. I had heard that Kindle sales compromised a majority of the digital marketplace — I just hadn’t realized how much. And while I know this isn’t going to be popular with some, I have to say; I can see why.

Buying in the Kindle store and reading on a Kindle device is so easy, and from an Indie author’s perspective, Amazon is by far the simplest to work with in ease of upload, speed of listing, access to foreign markets, and resolution of problems/questions. Like anyone, I feel a little nervous knowing that so much of my income is tied up with one distributor, but if another retailer wants that to change, they need to do better to compete in this space. Because frankly, Amazon is killing it on every level. I don’t always love the decisions they make, but the truth is, I haven’t always loved the decisions made in traditional publishing either.

Another interesting trend; RUTHLESS killed it in the UK Amazon store. Even now, nearly a month after it’s a release, it’s sitting at 503 in all Kindle books and 29 in New Adult Romance. The book also did well in Canada and Australia, with a few copies sold in Europe, and even in India.

If you read my post two weeks into the month, you know that the Facebook ad set up by AuthorBuzz was instrumental in giving the book the push it needed to get more visibility (you can see on the graph the crazy turn things took when the ad kicked in). That continues to be true, and I can’t say enough how much I recommend them for marketing and ad consultation. The ad image was just one part of what gave the books legs. Without the design expertise of the people at AuthorBuzz (they know how to work within Facebook’s parameters for maximum success) and keyword knowledge, the ad may very well have sat in the sidebar with no clicks. As it is, I have received thousands of clicks on the ad, and it’s still going strong. That traffic to the book got me more sales, which pushed Ruthless up on the list of Hot New Releases on Amazon and gave me yet more visibility. For a long time, the book was on pages 2-4 in several categories, and that really helped as well. As more people read it, more people reviewed it, talked about it, added it to their Goodreads shelves. It was a beautiful circle of momentum that began with the ad, and I plan to continue using AuthorBuzz for marketing on an ongoing basis for both my Indie work and my traditionally published work.

There was a bit of a learning curve — and a courage curve — with preorders. I didn’t list FEARLESS (the second book in the Mob Boss series) for preorder because Amazon has some rules about preorders that made it scary for me. Namely, you have to upload the final file ten days before the release or lose your preorder privileges for a year. As someone who’s sometimes tweaking small things right up until the book goes live, I just wasn’t ready to commit to it, especially since I was working to get the books out close together for my readers.

But I decided to do a preorder for LAWLESS, the final book in the series. I want readers to be able to see that the final book will be available the month after Fearless releases, and I wanted to be able to put the link in the back of Fearless to make it easy. This meant I had to upload the Lawless preorder before Fearless is even out in order to have the Buy link for my formatter. I’m sure it’s a little confusing for anyone digging around on Amazon for book two to find only books one and three available, but it will all make sense in a few days when Fearless is up on Monday. Next time, I’ll build in lots of time and list each book for preorder before publishing the first one.

I can’t tell you how much fun this has been, and how, well, RELIEVED I feel. I don’t think I realized how scared I was all the time. Scared that I wouldn’t be able to keep selling books to trad pub, scared that my advances there would dwindle, scared that I had zero control over the fate of my career and my ability to support my family. For now, I still hope to sell my YA stuff to trad pub, but for the first time in a long time, I am resting easy in the knowledge that there are people who want to read my stories — and that I have the ability to get those stories to them for the foreseeable future. I’m excited to write the next series (based on characters introduced in Ruthless), and maybe to play in the serial space, too.

I know not everyone will get these results out of the gate. I’ve been lucky to have a career in traditional publishing that gave me a platform, and some of those readers have followed me to my adult work. But there is a place for good books that might not find a home in the traditional publishing marketplace, and there is some comfort to that. For you, too, I hope.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and cheered me on. Biggest thanks of all to those of you who bought, read, reviewed, and recommended RUTHLESS. None of the stories would matter if you weren’t there to read them.

<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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08/25/15 Book News , Fearless , Indie , Mob Boss Series , Romance , Ruthless , Self-Publish , Uncategorized # , , , , , , , ,

FEARLESS Cover Reveal

Fearless_front_V2You guys! Ruthless has raced to the top of the Amazon rankings in both the UK and the US. I’ve been absolutely stunned by the response, and I can only hope this means you’re ready for the release of FEARLESS on September 7th (less than two weeks away!).

Assuming you are… I thought you’d all like to see the cover. I’m sure you’ll notice that Nico looks a little rougher around the edges. That is intentional (because…. story), and I think you’ll be really excited by the continuation of Nico and Angel’s story in this next book. You can add it to your Goodreads shelf here.

In the meantime, if you haven’t read RUTHLESS, now’s the perfect time to do so. Thanks so much to everyone who has read, reviewed, and recommended to friends.
<3

Buy RUTHLESS on Amazon

Buy RUTHLESS on Barnes & Noble

Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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08/08/15 Fearless , Mob Boss Series , Ruthless , Sneak Peek Saturday , Writing # , , , , , , , , ,

Sneak Peek Saturday – FEARLESS

Giving you guys a sneak peek of FEARLESS, the second book in the Mob Boss series, as part of Sneak Peek Saturday!

FEARLESS will be out in less than a month (wheeee!). I hope you all get a chance to read RUTHLESS, the first book in the series, before then.

In the meantime, here’s a Nico and Angel fix to tide you over.

😉

She stepped onto the porch and made her way toward the shadow. He came into view a little at a time, and she had to resist the urge to sigh when she finally saw his face. The chiseled line of his jaw, the sharp planes of his cheekbones under a shock of dark hair so lush she had a sudden memory of it, silky and thick, in her fingers. But all of these were nothing compared to his eyes. In an instant, they pierced the armor she’d built over the past six months, and she was again willing prey to Nico’s predator.

Except now she was under no delusion that she wanted to escape.

She almost forgot to breathe while she was held captive by his gaze. His body was mere inches from hers, and she caught his scent — raw masculinity, leather, and soap — on the ocean breeze.

He headed for the back of the house, then turned to look at her. “You coming?”

They entered through the glass doors off the living room. A fire burned in the hearth, and she had a memory of Nico, his naked body entwined with hers on the sofa while rain pelted the windows. She forced her eyes away from the fireplace, taking in the sweep of wood floor, the stone walls, the glass that made the ocean feel like it was part of the house. She’d forgotten how much she loved this place, how at home she’d felt here.

Nico reached for her bag, and a shock of desire winged through her body when his skin brushed her cold fingers. He set the bag on the ground and crossed the room to pull a blanket off the back of the sofa. She watched as he made his way toward her, his eyes locked on hers while he leaned in to wrap the blanket around her shoulders. She hadn’t realized she was shivering until the warmth settled over her skin. He let his hands rest on her arms for a moment before turning away, and she exhaled a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding.

She had forgotten how hard it was to breathe around him.

“Drink?” he asked, already heading for the bar.

“Please.”

He poured something into a glass and returned to hand it to her.

“Thank you.”

He nodded, and gestured at the couch. “Please, sit.”

She took a seat on the sofa and felt the sting of rejection when he sat at the other end. Complicated was an understatement for all that was between them, but she couldn’t deny that all the old feelings were still there. Was it simpler for him? Had his feelings for her changed?

“How are you?” he finally asked.

She took a drink, then looked down at the whiskey in her glass. “I’m… okay. Still getting used to everything the way it is now.”

“And David?”

She looked up, somehow surprised that he would mention her brother. “He’s okay, too,” she said softly. “Dealing with all the unfinished business between him and our father.”

“I’m sure that’s very difficult,” Nico said, his voice full of regret.

She nodded, then took a deep breath. “I’m sorry about Carmine.”

“Thank you.”

She looked into his eyes. “What’s going on, Nico?”

“I thought you might know,” he said.

“Me?” She shook her head. “I’m not involved in the Boston operation, but I doubt Frank has the ambition to come after you.”

“I thought the same thing,” he said.

“Besides,” she said, “why would someone kill Carmine? Wasn’t he just a Consigliere?”

She was still learning the terminology of her father’s illegal businesses, but she knew that Carmine had been a kind of advisor to Nico, the same way Frank had advised her father. Consigliere’s weren’t supposed to be part of the battlefield.

“I’m not sure I would use the word “just” to describe Carmine — or anyone in that role.”

“You know what I mean.” It came out sharper than she intended. She didn’t know much about the business, but she wasn’t stupid.

She thought she saw a flash of appreciation in his eyes. Figures. Nico wasn’t the kind of man to be turned on by complacency, however much he might have railed against her stubbornness.

“I do,” he said. “And you’re right. Someone in Carmine’s position isn’t usually a target for this kind of message.”

The whiskey and blanket conspired to make her more comfortable than she should have been, and she let the blanket slip off her shoulders. “What kind of message is it?”

“If I had to guess, I’d say it was designed to remind me that my allies are rapidly decreasing in number.”

“Why would someone want to do that?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “There could be a hundred reasons.”

She thought about it. “If why isn’t the place to start, how about who?”

“If I knew that,” he said, “I wouldn’t be sitting here.”

“There isn’t anyone you can think of who would want to hurt you?”

A smile touched the corners of his lips. “There are a lot of people who want to hurt me.”

She took a drink of the whiskey, savoring the way it worked its way into her system. Already everything seemed a little less intense. Nico was so close. It would be nothing to cross the space between them, to take his face in her hands and touch her lips to his.

“What are you going to do?” she asked.

He stood, then walked to her end of the couch.“I’m going to go to bed.”

He held out his hand.

 

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Buy RUTHLESS on iBooks

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Michelle Zink is the award-winning author of over seven novels. She lives in New York with too many teenagers and too many cats.
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Michelle St. James Online
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Acclaim

"This arresting story takes readers to other planes of existence…"
- Booklist (starred review)


“An intense and captivating story…”
- VOYA (starred review)


“A fresh and engaging cast of characters, a page-turning plot and lyrical prose add up to an accomplished feat of storytelling…”
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@MichelleZink
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