Friday, February 22, 2013

Ann Voss Peterson's Big Regret

Joe sez: And now a word from my frequent collaborator and good friend, Ann Voss Peterson...

Ann: Last May I wrote a guest blog here about my decision to stop writing for my publisher (Harlequin) and self-publish my new thriller instead of submitting it to traditional publishers. In the piece, I shared terms of my publishing contracts and showed how those terms translated into money, using one of my books as an example. I did this not as a complaint, but to give other authors--some who might be thinking of writing for Harlequin--a look at how the numbers stack up.

Plenty of people weighed in on this blog and others, both in support of my decision and criticizing it (some of whom didn't even bother to read the post).

So the question is, after nine months, do I regret my decision?

Let me share some numbers:

Last May 8 through 12 using KDP Select, I gave away 75,420 copies of Pushed Too Far.

In May and June, I sold 11,564 copies, netting me $22,316.30.

I also had 874 borrows during this time for another $1902.30.

So in a bit over six weeks, Pushed Too Far earned $24,218.60 and was downloaded onto 87,858 e-readers. My highest earning Harlequin Intrigue earned me $21,942.16 in the last twelve years.

Verdict: In less than two months, Pushed Too Far became my highest earning book. EVER.

As Joe has said many times, sales ebb and flow, and PTF has been no different. But for May through December of 2012, this one book (Pushed Too Far) has had a grand total of 15,257 (paid) sales and borrows, netting me around $31,179.03.

Of course there's no guarantee. I've known authors who have done better. I've known authors who've done worse. But the question is, do I regret my decision to self-publish?

Are you kidding?

I regret I didn't do it sooner.

Joe sez: Ann paid for a promo this weekend, and I hope to see her hit the Top 100 Free with Pushed Too Far.

Another friend of mine, Melinda DuChamp, has one of her Alice ebooks for free the next few days. and I also have a few titles available. So piggybacking on Ann's guest blog, I'm going to talk a bit about promo and numbers, and also link to these titles I'm discussing.

I used eBook Booster to announce these titles to 50+ free websites. I did it at the last minute, and eBook Booster suggested I put off the free period for a week, because some freebie sites need lead time. I appreciate the concern, but only charges $25 to list the ebooks everywhere, and that seems like the deal of the century. If we're excluded from these sites because we're too late, I'm okay with that. Next time I'll do it in advance. But for $25 I couldn't pass it up.

Bloody Mary by JA Konrath
Free on Kindle 2/22

Endurance by Jack Kilborn
Free on Kindle 2/22 

Shot of Tequila by JA Konrath
Free on Kindle 2/21 - 2/25

A few days ago, when I had three freebies, I was selling 1000 ebooks a day. Since coming off the freebie period, sales have slowed to 600 a day. I find that interesting, considering I'm now selling three more titles.

The "free downloads spurs paid sales" axiom seems to be in effect here. Which makes me even more curious to try making a title permafree in order to improve sales.

I'm also trying another experiment. I just lowered the price of my first Jack Daniels thriller, Whiskey Sour, to 99 cents.

It is currently ranked at #814 and I've sold 1334 copies this month at $3.99. 

Some may be saying (me included), "Joe, why would you discount a book that is selling well?"

I'd love to drop in rank and hit the Top 100 paid list. It makes more sense to strike when the iron is hot--when the rank is under 1000--then to wait for Whiskey Sour to go back to #2000 or #3000 and then lower the price. I want to make it an automatic impulse purchase, and I'm hoping enough people will buy it to goose it up onto the Top 100.

I have ZERO hope this will work. But what's the point of having all these titles to play with if I don't experiment with lowering prices? 

Whiskey Sour was earning me $300 a day, and I may be pissing that away. But I won't know until I try. Coming off freebie promos for Dirty Martini and Bloody Mary, and having seven titles in the Kindle Top 100 Police Procedural category, I might as well give it a go.

My sci-fi action novel Timecaster, which was free last week (I gave away 18,000 copies), is now enjoying its best ranking ever on Amazon, at #6400. In order to promote the series, I dropped the price of the sequel to 99 cents for a limited time.

BTW, for those keeping tallies, I've sold over 12,000 ebooks this month, the majority at $3.99, had 2200 borrows, and have given away over 120,000, all on Kindle.

I also asked my buddy Melinda DuChamp for a sales update, and she emailed me.

Melinda: "Happy to share, dearie. The two ebooks have made me over $65k in seven months. I'm working on a third, then I'm going to follow your lead and make a trilogy boxed set and a paper version via Createspace. Considering how quickly I wrote these books, this is the highest paid I've ever been as a writer per hour, even with traditional paper sales in the millions under my other names."

Joe sez: I want to stress that Your Mileage May Vary. I don't think there's any magic bullet, secret to success, or guarantees. All we can do is write good books, get good covers, and experiment until we get noticed. The more books you have, and the more you change the variables, the better chance you have at making some money.

If you regularly follow this blog, you know I'm never content. I'm always trying new things, investigating new possibilities, playing with platforms and prices.

If you're new to this blog, looking for the secret to success, here's my tried and true formula:

1. Write a good book.
2. Get a professional cover.
3. Write a terrific product description.
4. Price it right.
5. Keep writing and experimenting with self-publishing until you get lucky.

You may not be successful yet. But yet is the term you need to focus on.

Ebooks are forever. That gives you a lot of time to build a backlist, find an audience, and get lucky. The longer you try, the more your odds improve. And trust me--success is worth decades of discouragement.