self publishing results

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

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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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