January 22, 2020, 05:51:02 PM

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Re: Using social media I have some advice  for you, Eli, but it may not be encouraging. :)  And it's not in regards to social media, but just about indie publishing in general.

I may have told this story before on here, but after pitching it to multiple publishers and agents (and striking out) my first book was bought and published through a (very) small press in 2013. It didn't really sell, even though it was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award and got a few decent reviews from other authors. This was partially my fault (they were mainly a thriller/mystery press) and partly because I didn't have any real marketing connections.

After the first print run, I got the rights back, revised it a bit, and self-pubbed it in 2015 (no traditional press was going to touch a small press book that sold nothing). Since the relaunch, thanks to some more good book blogger reviews and the fact that I have more cross-promotional connections (other, more successful authors willing to vouch for me) my first book has sold ... okay. But it's priced at $0.99 cents, which is part of reason people are willing to take a chance on it.

If you're doing self-publishing the way we've both done it, the "right" way (from your post, that's my understanding) you're spending money on a (good!) editor, cover art, revising your work from multiple readers ... basically, everything a small press or traditional publisher would do ... and you're throwing down a chunk of change for each book. You probably won't get that back anytime soon and unfortunately, that doesn't change ... at least not for awhile.

You're going to be in a hole until you've been at it a couple of years and have a large stable of books - the only reason I could afford to put my first two books out myself (and pay for editing, cover art, etc) is because I have a day job to support me. That's the price you pay for self-pub, at least from what I've learned about it. Only maybe 1% of people doing indie/self-pub (at least in SFF) actually start making a profit in the first year or sooner.

As an indie author, you really only make your investment back in two ways - your first book sells insanely for whatever reason (often, pure dumb luck or some celebrity author endorsement) or you eventually write enough books and have a big enough backlog and devoted audience that you break even or start to make a profit. That's how you succeed as an indie - a large number of books, all high quality, published over multiple years as you've slowly built an audience.

Two of the more successful indie authors I know (Stuart Jaffe and Chris Kennedy) are both great promoters, but moreover, they've developed a loyal following by writing and publishing a large number of good books over a long period of time. We're talking 10 to 20 or more.

You likely won't be "profitable" with your first book, your second, or even your third or beyond, but it can happen if you slowly build up an audience and keep putting out quality books. Just don't expect that to happen in one year, or two years, or even three or more. If you're going the indie route, it takes time.

Ultimately (again, IMO) if you're acting as your own publisher, you should keep trying to get your newer work published in traditional press (even if just short stories) and do it because you want people to read the best work you can put out, NOT because you're hoping to make money. You'll be much happier/less stressed that way. I know several authors who have three book deals with publishing houses in the Big Five and they still haven't quit their day jobs. Unless you're Stephen King, writing SFF is more about telling the stories you want to tell than making money.

All that aside (disclaimer!) I can tell you that I've seen the largest sales spikes from one factor alone - book bloggers. With my first book, I've been fortunate that several bloggers have read it and really enjoyed it. They in turn recommended it to their regular blog readers, and thus copies sold. The "sales uptick" I see from a positive review from a book blogger outweighs any tics from blogging (self or cross-post), social media, author endorsements, ads, or convention appearances by an order of magnitude.

The problem? Most book bloggers won't review indie books. But if you can find one who does, and they like it, that's probably where you'll see your biggest uptick in sales. That's been my experience anyway.

I hope this is helpful without being discouraging. I'm very fortunate in that I have the luxury to write the stories I want to tell, but I'm still aggressively writing new books and pitching them to traditional press. So long as you still love WRITING your books, and at least someone is reading them, try not to get too depressed by the lack of sales or $$. Just take comfort that some people out there actually enjoy your stories. :)

January 05, 2016, 10:05:49 PM
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