Lessons Learned; First 30 Days of Self-Publishing

Since deciding to self-publish my novel, Love, Lies & Clones, I scoured the internet and obsessed over every “My First 30 Days of Self-Publishing” post; intrigued by everyone’s experience. All of them were slightly disappointing and had the same theme. How do you find readers?

Well, I thought I’d throw mine out into cyber-space too since today marks the end of my first 30 days.

Firstly, those of you who’ve been following me know my goal with writing is just to have people READ what I’ve wrote (and enjoy it.) Writing is completely a hobby so I’m not trying to make any money doing it, but I did want to share the economics. (Incidentals of writing books, computer, desk, notebooks not included.)

Expenses:

  • Pre-publishing costs: $265 (editing, stock photo for cover, ISBNs)
  • Post-publishing costs: $124 (advertising, print advanced reader copies)
    • Grand total of expenses: $389

Net Income for first 30 days:

  • Ebooks: 63 books
  • Page reads (Kindle Unlimited program): 3824 (equals about 10 books)
  • Paperback sales: 16 (it’s for sale at my parent’s zoo)
    • Total income: $95

WHAT I’VE DONE & LEARNED

Pre-publishing costs:

Editor: I’m still very happy I hired a freelance editor to review my novel before publication. I will be doing this with all my books. At the very least, it saves me some embarrassment.

Cover Creation: I know paying somebody to create a stunning cover would have helped sales, but I’m on the fence if it would have offset my costs. I’m planning on getting a few more books out there, and with book 2 in this series, hiring someone to design an awesome cover for both novels. I did really enjoy the process of creating my own. (I blogged about it here)

ISBN’s: I bought a pack of 10 of them for $25 each—as I’ll be publishing a pile of books. I haven’t seen a benefit of this yet, and probably wouldn’t have needed to purchase these as a new author.

Post-publishing costs:

Advanced Review Copies: Urgh! My big lesson: DON’T SEND OUT PHYSICAL PAPERBACKS TO GET REVIEWS. I sent out 6 of them (clearly letting the reader know they were in exchange for an honest review), costing a total of $67.44. Well, out of these six, only 2 turned into an actual review. From now on, I’ll only send digital copies—plus, I think the natural reviews you receive tend to be more positive, though I don’t have enough of these to confirm this yet.

Advertising: I tried a variety of advertising strategies.

Free Advertising:

  • Free Submission Websites: I submitted to Book Angel, eBook Skill, Pretty Hot, Awesome Gang, Armadillo, Book Bongo, and People Reads. I picked all these because other authors seemed to have some success with them. Well, I’d say they all netted me zero sales. Maybe one sale from People Reads.
  • Critters.org: I belong to this critique forum and they send out a weekly email with manuscripts up for critique. I submitted a “Woo Hoo” that my novel’s published and thanking those who critiqued it. I may have sold 2 copies from this email.
  • Headtalker Campaign: I netted 2-4 sales from this. Considering it had a social reach of over a million people, this is pretty dismal. (Here’s a link to Headtalker)
  • Kindle Scout Email: Kindle Scout let everyone who voted for me know my books was available – this netted 4 sales, though I had my price set higher for a few days here. It could have netted more with a lower price. (Here’s my blog post on Kindle Scout)
  • Cross-Promotion: By far, this was the best thing I did for marketing. I was involved in one the week after Christmas with all many authors involved in t he Kindle Scout campain. I netted 7 sales from that. Then this past week, I was involved in a big 70 author one for speculative fiction – this netted me 12 sales. The best part of both of these? I met some new friends. I found these all through Kboards(Here’s my blog post on cross-promotion)
  • Blogs: I appeared on some blogs as an author spotlight and others with a review of my book. I can’t say if these helped or not. (Minimal impact at best.) I know, my own blog helped. (Here’s one of those blogs)
  • Instafreebies: I have the first six chapters up on Instafreebies with 33 copies downloaded so far. Do they turn into sales? I don’t know. Either way, I’m happy 33 people wanted to read the first six chapters. (Here’s the link) ***Update 1/21/17**** This was changed to the first THREE chapters, because I realized Amazon changed their policy. You used to be able to post 10-20% without being in violation of the KDP Select Contract, now it’s only 10% (or perhaps the 20% had been a type-o on their part at one point.)
  • Social Media: I definitely had a ton of luck with Facebook — especially my own personal page. Twitter has not been effective for me. Twitter seems to be a great spot to connect with readers and other authors, but not to sell your book. Especially a new author like myself. (Note: I’m not talking about their advertising or boosted posts–just the free stuff.) (Facebook and Twitter here)

Paid Advertising:

  • Facebook: I ran a Facebook ad briefly, before it was pulled. (My rant about that is HERE.) It turned out to be quite expensive for what you got out of it. (I’m thinking no sales. Maybe a Kindle Unlimited read. Total cost: 18.41 –I had run three different ads, really experimenting on how the whole thing worked.) I’ve read a lot of success stories, but I think this’ll take some trial and error–if I go down this path again.
  • Paid Websites/Email blasts: BKnights-through Fiverr: $6 gave me 2 sales. Booktastic gave me 2 sales for a $7 ad, eBookHounds for $10 gave me 1 sale. None of them paying for themselves. My book was priced at 99 cents this whole time.
  • Goodreads Giveaway: I listed two paperback copies to giveaway for free. Total cost of the book plus shipping was $16.54. 658 people requested my book, 262 people put it on their “to read” list (along with hundreds of other books already on their lists), but even with all this, I don’t think it netted anyone actually reading my book–yet.
  • Amazon Marketing Serivice Ads: And now, I discovered AMS ads. These take a little bit of work to fine tune a short “hook” to make people click your book and then honing the keywords that trigger your ad on people’s searches. I’m still working on this, but they’ve definitely brought me some sales at a cheap enough cost. I’ve spent a total of about $2 so far (been running since January 1st) and brought in at least 3 sales and some page reads.

Other lessons learned:

Pre-orders: I had mine up for two weeks. I think a week is long enough or a much longer period (months). In my two weeks, I had a bump of people ordering it in the first three days, then nobody for a week, then it picked up the last few days again. Total pre-orders were 19 copies.

Blurb: The book blurb is so important. The cover may draw the reader in, but the blurb is what sells the book. It needs to be punchy and leave the reader wanting more.

Book Pricing: I’m still struggling with this one. I’m currently at 99 cents, but I’m nervously raising my price tomorrow to $2.99. (I expect zero sales for the next 30 days at this price.) I’m not trying to make more money, but have multiple factors contributing to this decision. Urgh, the psychology behind this whole thing makes my head hurt. Love, Lies & Clones had been on pre-order for 99 cents and raised the price at go-live to $2.99, causing me to have zero sales for 3 days. I panicked and lowered it back to 99 cents for the first 30 days.

  • I think some readers may think books priced at 99 cents may be poorly done.
  • I want to try a countdown deal for more exposure and I need to be priced at $2.99 or more for a month to do this.

Things I’m doing with the next novel I’m publishing (Blood & Holy Water):

  1. Continue to pay for an editor. Money well spent.
  2. Make a more genre specific book cover. (Match the top sellers in the genre.) I’m still making it myself as I’m not ready to spend the big money yet.
  3. Pre-order for 1 week only, don’t advertise this to my loyal followers until a few days before – in an effort to raise my rank.
  4. Try Kindle Scout again. I think it was good exposure—especially when my book is sitting with the editor.
  5. The free services for exposure don’t seem to work, so I’m skipping them. Devoting my time to writing and useful marketing.
  6. Cross promotion is awesome. I’ll sign up for as much of this as I can find.
  7. Continue with Amazon advertising (AMS) and fine tuning it. It’s prime real estate exposure. We’ll see how I feel about this when I raise the price of my novel to $2.99.
  8. Price book at 99 cents for the first month—at least until I get more followers.
  9. Hit it big for launch week. Schedule a blast of promos for one week, don’t scatter them. Any ranking you build up, quickly falls between promos.
  10. Digital only advanced reader copies, and these still may not turn into reviews, so don’t count on them.
  11. Write a supurb blurb to hook the reader.
  12. BUILD A MAILING LIST!

But then, my entire experience could be because nobody cares about a clone’s desperate search for her father. There’s a ton of forums and tools out there for writers to try to identify what’s “Hot” and writing to that market. That’s not me though. I’ll keep writing whatever crazy idea springs to mind. Be it clones, vampires & angels, or superhero wives.

Wow, thanks for reading this WAY TOO LONG blog post! Until next time.

–Joy

Feel free to share your thoughts and wisdom in the comments.

 

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About joynellschultz

Writer & lover of all types of speculative fiction. I'm shivering in northern Wisconsin. Début novel LOVE, LIES & CLONES is (finally) here: http://goo.gl/fcwxfL
This entry was posted in Love, Lies, & Clones, Marketing, My Writing Journey, News! and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Lessons Learned; First 30 Days of Self-Publishing

  1. Irene says:

    I love this! Thank you for sharing your experience! I have some novels I have written over the past seven years and I hope to finally start doing something with them. I appreciate it with authors share these things. Oh and I do hope to read your book! Is it available for Kobo? I’m on vacation in two weeks and am compiling a TBR (by the beach) pile! Cheers! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That is some serious analysis. I was no where near that functional with my first book. I think I was just amazed to get it out the door. LOL. It took me several months to start analyzing what was effective and what wasn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. nickimags says:

    Great post and what an eye-opening experience for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tony Luessow says:

    Thanks for sharing. Personally I feel there’s even more that goes into book that you didn’t mention. Such as: time spent writing, any research that went into any information that was put into the book, plus just basic writing knowledge/experience/education. It was a great first book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Joynell,

    Nice blog and lots of good information for your readers! I have to agree with much of what you said. I wouldn’t fret over the cover, personally, I thought it was one of the best I saw on Kindle Scout!

    Good luck in the next 30-days!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. B.C. Laybolt says:

    All I want, for the rest of the life of the internet is for every person deciding to independently publish to read this article before they decide.

    And, while production costs feel tough, they are short term sacrifices. They can be often redeemed through long-term progress and benefits, through quality investment in your future.
    You’re actually, probably, saving money by investing in your initial output.

    Thanks for following my blog. Only because it prompted me to check out yours, and I was delighted to find your excellent insights.

    Off to buy your book now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. Thank you, though I know I didn’t stick enough money into production, but there’s always the future. I’m super happy you enjoyed this post–believe it or not, it took me forever to write it, because of all the data crunching, but hey, my ledger for 2016 is done now. Have a stellar evening!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Some great ideas. Thanks for sharing. I might give AMS a go.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. J.R. Handley says:

    What I’ve done that works is my blog, my mailing list, my reader magnet and the ‘Friends and Family’ plan. That plan works best if your people are Catholic and breed like rabbits but generally only works once. At a certain point they’ll expect you to sink or swim on your own.

    My first novel is $0.99 but the second one is $2.99, so they get an intro to the series at a price they’re comfortable with. Starting with two novels in the series and the reader magnet helped, but it really only works for your first series. Once you have momentum, you jump on and hold tight with both hands. We haven’t done any paid advertising, so thanks for analyzing those!! I was featured in a bi-monthly mailing list of science fiction deals and got a bump in sales.

    The biggest boon to sales has been the interest the blog generated with my World Building Wednesday (my process) and Marine Monday (insights into the world of books). Those themed blogs helped. Also, I do book reviews and interviews of authors in my genre which helps cross pollinate our fans and gets me into ALSO BOUGHT lists. This then helps me reach a point where Amazon does some of the marketing for me with its mailing lists etc.

    Hope that helped add to the conversation!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re too wise. You’ve nailed a few key points that I forgot to mention in this post. To get your name out there, you need to write more. More novels. Better blog posts, grow your mailing list, etc. You can’t just publish a book and disappear. (And lucky for me, my family is Catholic and I have a ton of Aunts and Uncles! — Plus your comment made me laugh–out loud.)

      Thanks for the tidbits! I can’t express how grateful I am you shared them. Also, congrats on being featured in the bi-monthly mailing list!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lana says:

    This is such a good post for someone who is looking into self-publishing (like me)! I’ll definitely be saving the link and adding it to my big doc of info about self-publishing. I love the analyzation and seeing what worked for you and what didn’t.

    I love the trial and error process of self-publishing–I think it is so great and allows for so much growth! I also love reading your posts about it and seeing what I can do better when I start publishing/advertising/etc. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you found it useful. The key piece of advice I learned, that I didn’t write here, is the best way to get your name out there is to keep writing. Publish more books. I’ve heard that by book 3 or 4 people start to notice. I appreciate the comment, since I write these posts in hopes somebody finds something useful in them.

      Like

  10. Lori says:

    Hi Joynell. This is great info. Thank you for sharing your experience. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but I’ve been extremely disappointed since I raised my price from .99 cents to $2.99. I had an introductory offer for the first week of release for .99 cents and sold 20 books. I’ve sold two since I raised the price, but they were paperbacks to people I know that asked me for them.

    i know you said you aren’t in it for the money, but it would be nice if us authors could at least make enough money to have a salary that would pay the bills for just one person . . . us.

    I’ve had no time to write. I don’t know how you got a second book ready already, but I’m done marketing. I need to get to my books. But, it sounds like I’ll have to learn how to use Amazon Advertising.

    P.S. Glad I met you on the kboards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well…Day 1 of my book priced at $2.99 and ZERO sales. I’m still committed to waiting it out these 30 days so I can do a countdown deal. I’m learning and feel this is part of the Kindle experience.

      I do agree with you that it’d be nice to be able to support yourself writing…heck, it’d be nice to be able to cover the costs of writing a book–now if you could also collect an hourly wage of some type. (Ha! Even $1/hr would be nice.)

      The only reason I have a second book ready is because I wrote it in July when I was sick of Love, Lies & Clones. I now want to get that one gone so I can focus on a new project. One at a time, I did WAY to much in 2016 and felt I was being pulled in too many directions. 2017 motto: Life balance.

      I haven’t figured out AMS advetising quite yet–We’ll see if it gets me any sales at the higher price.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad I met you through KS & Kboards.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lori says:

        Hey, quick note. I just got myself into two book fairs at local libraries here. They aren’t for a while yet (one in March, the other in April). Should be interesting to see if I sell any. 😛 Thought I’d mention it in case it’s something else you’d like to consider. Good luck with the countdown deal and AMS. Mine is going on sale again (.99cents) just for this coming weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Congrats on the book fairs. I envy you. My social anxiety would get the best of me at something like that. Maybe I’d be okay if somebody else booked it for me. Hmmm… My husband is a salesman. I’ll have to bribe him to represent me. I’m going to do some research.

          Good luck with your 99 cent sale this weekend. I hope you sell a TON of them!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Lori says:

            Thank you. BTW, I won’t be the only author at the book fairs, so I consider it just an opportunity to socialize, maybe make some friends. I’m okay at that … but NOT selling. I can’t go into an independent bookstore and try to get them to sell my book one on one. My husband is good at that. I’m hoping he’ll do it for me … eventually. 😛 Anyway, what I’m sayin’ is that I kind of understand the anxiety.

            Liked by 1 person

  11. Really good helpful post, you are great at keeping records too, I’ll copy you on that one. Do you listen to The Creative Penn podcasts? She gives self publishers lots of info about this sort of thing. She also says you won’t make any money until you have at least 3 – 8 books! 3 is the ideal boxed set and apparently the key to your fortune starting.
    Keep on writing, and learning, onwards and upwards

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just subscribed to that podcast. I had never thought of listening to podcasts for ideas. Fantastic! I really appreciate it.

      Yeah, that 3-8 books thing is what I hear too. Here, when I was writing my first novel I thought one would be all it would take. Boy, was I wrong.

      Thanks for the comment and for sharing your wisdom.

      Like

  12. Joynell, what a fantastic and positive post. It is so impressive that you managed to do all of this as well as write books. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. Now I will be following you … and although speculative fiction is far from my normal reading, I’ll buy your book as well. My first Kindle book, The Priceless Princess – a children’s story – is doing nothing in the US but I am getting rave reviews, unsolicited, from people who have come across the paperback in Australia. One called it “a Harry Potter for young girls”. How to mobilise the enthusiasm? So good of you to share your experiences and ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I knew how to “mobilize the enthusiasm.” I checked out your book and it looks awesome. I’m far from an expert, but I think what’s working against you is that you have no reviews in the US. I’m booked out now for reading, but I’ll read & review it for you in February. Also, you may want to consider breaking the book description into two or three paragraphs–maybe add some bold text? It may not do anything though–just ideas I’ve read. Maybe try AMS advertising with the line “Harry Potter for Young Girls” as the hook. Okay, I’ll stop now. I apologize if I overstepped my boundaries.

      Like

  13. Oh, and I forgot to mention: I didn’t hesitate to buy your book at $2.99. Pretty much on principle I never buy books at 99c and never download “free” books … if the author values the work so little, why would I value it more? But, at the other extreme, I absolutely will not pay the prices the traditional publishers are asking for e-books, like $15 or over and since I won’t buy print copies it means I just don’t read a lot of the current “hot” books and stay with the indies instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. A huge THANKS. I really hope you enjoy it.

      I love your philosophy and agree that the prices from traditional publishers on books is ridiculous–especially considering the author only makes pennies on each of them. (I’ve also recently seen ebook prices from traditional authors at $15 and can’t believe it. Ridiculous.)

      What are your thoughts on Kindle Unlimited?

      Like

  14. Pingback: The Indie publishing community – and some thoughts on pricing your e-book. | Annette Hamilton's Writing Zone

  15. Writing and even editing the book is easy. Marketing is not. Thanks for this analysis and sharing your journey. I have a “test project” (I shouldn’t say that, it’s a real story) out there to try to work through all of this marketing/social media stuff before I put my novel out there. This is more than I every thought of doing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree so much! The worst part, is marketing can completely consume ALL your time and you stop writing. I’m struggling with that a little–though I am making progress on editing.

      I checked out, “Twenty-Four Hours of Freedom.” What a brilliant idea, testing the waters with a short story (and hooking them with the first chapter to your novel.)

      Hmmm… Maybe I should put my short collection on Amazon. I’ll watch how you do. 😉

      Like

  16. Hi, I’ve just discovered the ‘zero to book’ podcast by Jeff Goins. I’m half way through them, and have picked up lots of tips.

    Like

  17. Interesting and helpful, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Steve Vernon says:

    Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    There’s some great inspiration right here for all of you folks out there trying to make your way through the world of indie publishing!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Wow! Thanks for all the valuable information.

    Liked by 1 person

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