3 S.R. Johannes: Updates from the Indie Front

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Updates from the Indie Front

My Indie Sales Update

I've gotten a few emails asking about my book progress. How it is doing? If I can share stats.

Sorry I haven't been connecting as much. With spring break and Rt convention (which was amaz-balls) and a tummy virus in my family - a good month has gone by.

I realize I haven't done one in a while and anything I have accomplished, I owe to you. It's always a bit awkward posting numbers because you don't want people to judge you for being arrogant or for having sucky numbers. So it takes a while for me to build up my nerve. The traditional side doesn't talk number as freely as the indie side so it's just awkward. :)

So here goes:

Sales to date

  • Untraceable almost 6,200 copies in 6 months. I would say 85% are ebook sales and 15% are paperback. 65% have been sold on Amazon, 30% on B&N, and 5% other
  • On the Bright Side - 500 copies in 3 months. (80% amazon, 20% B&N. 90% ebooks, 10% paperbacks)
  • The Indelibles Anthology - about 15,000 downloads.

I have broken even so I have more than earned out in my mind. :)

Not too shabby for an experiment but it's been a tough and hard road for many reasons.

As expected On the Bright Side (being MG) is not selling as well as I'd hoped. I knew it was ahead of indie pubbing curve and most self pubbed books tend to reach a different audience (more ebooks) than traditionally published books. I'm hoping MG will get bigger in ebooks in the future.

What's Next?

  • Unspeakable - a Grace eshort releasing outside of Anthology in May
  • New Sci Fi eShort called "Suffocate" releases in June.
  • Uncontrollable, Book 2, releases in aug/sept (I am taking requests for blog tour and review copies now. Sign up here.
  • Unstoppable (Book 3) is scheduled for Dec 2012 just in time for xmas :)
Lessons Learned Along the Way

Thought I would break down some lessons learned along the way over the last 6 months.

First, let me say that everyone has a different strategy so it doesn't mean it will work for me. But I will share with you everything I have done so it can maybe help you to - some will help

Things that did not do as well as I planned:

  1. I paid 199$ to drop a press release - waste-o-money. I was not happy and was surprised at lack of results. I've done press releases for clients in the past with great results.
  2. Paperback. I love the paperback but it has not been a huge seller. 90% of my sales are ebooks. But I love having it. As soon as I get my distribution set up - maybe I will focus on that.
  3. Giveaways are nice but they don't necessarily drive up sales. But they do drive up word of mouth.
  4. The stigma is real and gets me every time. I have had some wins but also some hard rejection. It's part of the road. I'm less sensitive to it now b/c I feel I am proving myself but it was hard in the beginning.

Things that worked well:

  1. I priced my book lower to capture impulse buys. I must say - I hate it when my book is priced at 99 cents - b/c I think my book is worth more. But being a new author it got me noticed. 
  2. I have totally done grass roots effort - bloggers. I LOVE them and they have been very supportive. I bet you I have contacted about 500 bloggers and have been featured in some way on 1/2 of those.
  3. I have not scrimped with my free ebook copies to bloggers or giveaways - I'm hoping for word of mouth
  4. My focus was not money. My focus was/is rankings and buzz to get noticed. 
  5. My ad and cover investments have helped. Especially my cover - it was worth every penny and more.
  6. Starting The Indelibles - it has been a huge support system when things get tough and the stigma kicks in. It has also been a great cross promotional group.
  7. The Indelibles Anthology - it definitely got me sales and teased people on my book. IT was a great marketing tool.

Various advertisements:

  • The Kirkus review was very good for me. Not necessarily in sales but opened doors by adding credibility. Maybe it just gave mt the confidence to know I was good enough. It was what kicked me off on the right foot in my mind.
  • Blurbs from traditional authors helped to open doors as well. I think Kimberly Derting's blurb opened up many - especially with bloggers who normally didn't review indie books.
  • Kind Nation sponsorship was a great return and I probably broke even on the ad vs copies sold. But it got my rankings up. (made money back). I think when you do ads, it helps to mark your book on sale to grab some people who might not normally pick up your book.
  • POI - Love Pixel. They are the best yet! (made money back plus some). It pushed me over the top and got me noticed in rankings and kickstarted big sales for me.
  • efrugal reader - I saw no difference :(
  • Kindle Fire Department - definitely saw an uptick in sales and ranking but I dont think I made my money back.

Channels that are best:

  • BLOGGERS! They are #1 in my eyes. Invaluable and I <3 them.
  • Email ads seems to be the best - whenever I do an ad that includes an email distribution to subscribers, I see an uptick. More so than if it is just Facebook or twitter.
  • Twitter ads are great for click throughs and in building awareness about my book but it does not translate to direct sales.
  • Facebook - I have not used this yet. But I hear it can be effective. It can just get costly.
  • Goodreads giveaways - I can't measure it in sales but the giveaways definitely get my book added to shelves which to me is awareness. Since it takes 7 times for someone to see something before they buy it - this helped.
  • Conferences/conventions -  These don't seem to pay off in sales vs cost. (Though I did sell tons of copies at RT. But the networking and building awareness is invaluable. Plus the more you speak, the better you are. In addition, I have gotten asked to 2 additional places because they heard my talk was good. So never underestimate word of mouth. I also use these reference when approaching larger ones about speaking. It gives credibility that you can do it.
  • Social Networking - I will say I think my platform helped. I started building relationships three years ago and I had so must support from everyone. Just know if you start building your platform, you may not see immediate returns or a sales impact. But the support and friendships have been priceless.
  • Contests - I have entered contests and gotten nominations which has been great for PR and media interest.

What I would do differently:

  • Send out review copies much sooner. At least 3 months in advance.
  • Submit to places like Kirkus, PW, ALA much earlier. They require a huge advance time in doing reviews.
  • Would not play with price so much. Be more strategic about when book is on sale vs when it is not.
  • Roll out paperback and ebook in separate releases. It's hard to do it all at once.
  • Spend more time up front creating detailed plan and making sure all channels of distribution were ready to go.
  • Spend more time targeting some micro markets that my book would be of interest too. I have focused on larger markets and have probably missed opportunity.
  • Gotten an intern sooner. I have an intern helping me with stuff now and I already adore her.
Any Questions or suggestions? Maybe things that you heard work well? I'm all ears :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing all of this! I'm not quite ready to publish my stuff yet, but it's good to see what's working for others and what I should avoid!

Jemi Fraser said...

You are amazing for sharing all of this info. I think the MG/tween ebook market will pick up in the next few years. Last year, I had 1 student in my class with access to an ereader - this year I have 4. If that trend keeps going, in a few years, they'll be fairly common.

It's so sad that the stigma still exists. I thought it would disappear more quickly, but old habit die hard.

I'm impressed you've done so well. I'm looking forward to your next releases!

Anonymous said...

You are doing all the right things, Shelli. And you are doing well. Congrats on your success! :)

Christina Farley said...

Wow. This is amazing. I'm soaking this all in. Thank you for sharing. Y

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing. It's interesting to see what worked and what didn't. And awesome you have an intern working with you.

Margo said...

Shelli, this was wonderful! Thank you for sharing this valuable information and analysis. Congratulations on your successes!
Margo :)

Isabella Amaris said...

This is really helpful! Thank you so much for sharing what you've learned, and congrats on your successes so far:)

Kristie Cook said...

Congrats on your success! I didn't really see anything that contrasts with my experience. Bloggers are the bomb. At this point, building a fan base is more important than money (it will follow), and giveaways are great for this. For newer authors who need the exposure, paid sponsorships in Kindle Nation, POI, etc., may see returns. I did a couple of these recently, and although sales spiked, it wasn't enough to see a return on my investment. I hate to see my books at 99c or free, as well, but it works in gaining readers better than anything else.

I think you're doing awesome. Keep on keepin' on and it will pay off. Good luck!

Jaima said...

Thanks for sharing! This is all good to know.

Daisy Whitney said...

Wow. Amazing.

Kai Strand, Author said...

Shelli, thank you for sharing this. I hover on the edge of the indie world afraid to take the risk (mostly because I know my weaknesses are in some key areas) and seeing such detailed info really helps!

I wish you continued success.

DawnRaeMiller said...

Great stuff, Shelli. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

Thanks everyone. Hope it helps.

Unknown said...

There is so much here! I like that you've taken so much time to go so deep into what you're doing and how it's helping. Some of the things I've had questions about, and though these questions aren't necessarily answered, I have some help to decide what to do going forward. Thank you.

Kriston Johnson said...

Thank you for sharing this information and paving the way for the rest of us! Looking forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Laura Pauling said...

Yay! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I adore you too <3 As much as I loved my old job I honestly believe this job will be more of a challenge and the fact that you trust me with so much makes me feel valuable.

Much love!

Nickie said...

Thanks for posting this set of 'lessons learned'. I've started working on the rough draft of a YA novel that I am planning to self publish, and these are some great tips and pointers for the journey ahead. You inspire me!!

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

*YOU* are truly amazing, Shelli! I'm so proud of you and so in awe of you and so happy for you! These are pretty terrific numbers for just getting started. I'm following your career with interest and thoroughly enjoyed UNTRACEABLE.

Graeme Stone said...

Am I the only guy writer on here or what?
Shelli. Truly, thanks for being so transparent as Washington DC is always going on about. It's wonderful to have so much information that took so many months to log. I know so little about marketing that this will really help me get started. Though I have an agent, I do have shorter material I'd like to get out there, and the process is the same for material long or short. Thank you, thank you, thank you.