I think the subtitle of this blog should be: Boring facts and ramblings from Mel.
Readers, this may be of little to no interest to you, but I have had a few authors ask me questions about my process and I thought I would address them here. Now when someone emails me, I will just send them to this post, lol. I will be very surprised if anyone reads it, but hey, at least I have a post to send people to if they do ask, lol.
As many of you know, deciding to self-publish was not easy. It was a long process. I had dipped my toe in the water, putting out a short story and a few rereleases, but I had not done a full on release of a series there. As an author published with several companies, I will make close to or over 200,000 dollars this year. Yep, I know a lot of people don’t realize it, but I actually make a lot of money. And now I will get bashed for saying it but oh well.
My problem was that I felt stifled by publishers. They have their own interests and they don’t always correspond with mine. That’s business and I understand that. I also had a problem with being told another Harmless book might not come out for close to 9-12 months and that there seemed to be no interest whatsoever in the spinoff series. That military series was a brain child born last winter, not recently. I tried working within the system for years and basically just gave up. I couldn’t allow this to continue. My husband is retiring in August of 2013 from the AF and for the first time in 20 years, I want him to have the freedom to do what he wants. To do that, I needed more control.
I did not go into it lightly, nor did I think I could just slap a book together and put it out there. You need good cover art and editing. Am I saying that what I put out was perfect? Nope, but I do believe I put out a good product. I also had done a lot of reading on both sides of the fence. Konrath has good posts. Okay, he can be a bit of an ass, but he makes me laugh sometimes and he has cold hard figures. He never hides what he is doing, nor does he paint pretty pictures. I can deal with the blunt truth better than having someone blow smoke up my ass. I might write romance, but I need facts. Telling me that someday I MIGHT make it somewhere for a possible four figure deal…no thanks. Telling me what works and what doesn’t, that works for me. Konrath has always done that.
People kept telling me to just start submitting to NY again. Why? So that I can possibly get 1000-5000 advance and then not get paid for another few years. (psst…I made more than that in my first full month of self-publishing, but I will talk more about that later). One thing I disagree with a few people on is that there needs to be marketing. You cannot just throw a book out there and make money. Oh, some people do, and even in my own genre. I don’t like taking risks. Calculated risks, yes, but just risks? This cappy doesn’t roll that way. So, my PA Brandy Walker and I launched a marketing plan for my books. We are doing it for all of them in different ways, but I do promo, I do have a newsletter and I actually do get out there online and talk to readers. (hint, if you are a romance author who “doesn’t have time for readers” you might find they don’t have time for you.)
For authors, remember you are not just an author anymore. You are the publisher. I cannot stress this enough. That is what self-publishing is. You are the publisher, the marketing and art department, or you hire people to do those things. Do not ever think that putting out a book yourself is easy. Is it worth it? In my opinion, yes. Ten times over. So, I launched A Little Harmless Submission on the Oct 18th. It was a success. Did I have to deal with a glitch or two? Yep. But, I think that in the end, it was worth it. And, I am so excited about my upcoming year. I get to write two paranormals I have been waiting years to do, and I get to do a lot more Harmless books, including at least two more military books and at least three full harmless books, woo hoo. This is something that would never happen if I were working through a publisher.
So, it’s been 6 weeks and here are the figures for my newly released books as of midday Dec 2 w/ combined sales from Amazon, B and N, Bookstrand and ARe:
A Little Harmless Submission
Released Oct 18th
Released Nov 14th
And this is not the only thing that happened. I watched was the rise of my older Harmless books. I think I had two of the older ones on the best selling erotica books on Amazon. I won’t get that payment for another six months, but all of my Samhain Harmless books were under 5K in sales ranking for several days. The only thing that bothers me is a slight dip in my sales at B and N. But, at the same time, my sales at Kindle have soared, so maybe my readers moved that? Not sure.
For Submission, 6 weeks of sales have me at just about 270 sales less than Addiction. I just got the figures for the first month of Amazon sales last month (it released in June) But that included Addiction’s first month of sales AND two months of preorders from B and N and Amazon. I averaged 1.80 per book, which would have gone down to 1.35 cents per book for a book with less than 60K words. And, since this was over 60K, I would have only earned 1.65 per book offsite. I averaged 2.60 per book this way. Even before the contract changes I would only get 2.20 per book, but even with just these sales and the new Samhain contracts, I would have lost 3400 bucks. Let that sink in. In six weeks, I would have lost 3400 bucks.
Am I the best seller? Hell, no. But one thing that I know is what I will get paid in December and January. I will know by the end of December what I will get paid in Feb. It is easier to plan that way.
I am not someone who will condemn people who decide not to self-pub. Everyone has considerations in their personal life. Mine forced me to take the scary step and go out there and do it. I needed to have a steady living and I know I can trust myself. Honestly, after having a book from a bestselling series sit around for a year before release for no good BUSINESS reason, I don’t trust anyone. For those of you considering it, I would say dip your toe in. I put out a short and a few rereleases. See if you can operate this way. I don’t think you need to pick just to be self-pubbed or traditionally published. You can, but you can also try both. One thing self-pubbing gives you is a monthly paycheck and the knowledge of what that paycheck will be about 7 or more weeks in advance. It also fuels your other book sales as I have mentioned. Or it might just help you creatively. Doing something so different, like my Cursed Clan and By Blood, can fuel your creativity and that is always a good thing.
Here are a few pointers:
Start with a budget
That sounds simple, but it is imperative. You have to put out money. My upfront budget for formatting, covers and editing is 500-800 bucks. This changes depending on the size of the book, ie how many words. Know you will need that before you make any money on the book. And, if you do your own formatting or can do cover art, and I mean make it look professional, then your costs might be less. Also, depending on pics, etc, cover art might get expensive.
Understand YOU are the publisher
Marketing, editing, etc, all needs to be arranged by you. Cover art needs to be considered, when to release, etc. This is no small feat and make sure you can do this before you jump into it. I know some people have said you don’t have to worry about it. But in romance, I think you do. There is a lot of competition out there, and why wouldn’t you take that extra step to make more money?
I know that one of the reasons my first two books did so well is because I had two Harmless releases back to back. I have a shorty coming out this month, and then another Harmless book in Feb. This is my best selling series and my readers have been irritated with long waits for new books. So, I want to make them happy.
Now, I read someone make the comment that they NEEDED the recognition of other authors. I think for me, I have worked outside of the box for so long, I don’t care. Would I love for people to accept me? Sure, but I have given up on that. From the time I first got published and was told by a local RWA that I was NOT really published because I was an ebook author, to having people pretend they don’t know me because they signed NY contracts, I have lost the interest in gaining acceptance. Readers like my writing, and that is all that matters.
I am not here to answer challenges from people who think self-pubbing is going to ruin publishing as we know it. Truth is, it IS going to change. Digital is now the new mass market, as it was reported that digital fell over 50% in sales this past September. I am just putting my info out there for those thinking about it. Will everyone do as well as I do? Uh, no. And some people will blow way past me. Let’s be honest. Some unknown or newbie authors are kicking my ASS. But the truth is, no one tells people not to send to NY publishers because they might never make a lot of money. And people are condemned for talking about it. Again, I really don’t care. I think knowledge is power and anyone who throws a fit about info being revealed is afraid of the future. Painful but true. Because people decide to go this way is no reflection on you because, and I hate to break this to you, the WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND YOU. I think taking 18% on digital from a publisher is insane, but I don’t condemn anyone for it. It’s their life, their career and their decision.
I will be venturing into print soon, but I have to wait for all the Harmless books to release, and Addiction is not out until May. If there is interest I will update, because this is an ever changing business. Daily something happens. Just this week Italy and Spain were added to Kindle’s list of countries. Of course, if only three people read this, one being my mother, I think I might not spend any more time posting lol.
Here are some of the people who helped me.
Covers and all print promo: Kendra Egert is an amazing artist. I had been using another cover artist when he told me that he could no longer do covers for me. Kendra was a godsend and she is always helpful with promo ideas too. She knows the biz and her covers are amazing. Other than For Love or Honor and Sinner’s Delight, Kendra has done all my self-pub covers. She is fast and professional on top of all that.
Formatting: I have known April Martinez for awhile. She and I have been around this biz for a long time, lol. She is a great cover artist but she is also a fantastic formatter too. Always professional and very understanding when I make the gazillion mistakes that I do.
Editing: Chloe Vale is fast but she is also a very talented editor. She has a background in teaching English but she is also a READER. That is important. Anyone with good editing skills can read through your manuscript, but a reader can tell you more. Chloe is very good at that.
All of this would not mean much without my PA Brandy Walker. Thanks to her mad organizing skills, I can promote without spending too much time on it. It gives me more writing time and more reader time. One of the things I love is spending time with readers online. Since that is where I hung out as a reader, I consider some of them good friends. I was getting so bogged down in promotion that I didn’t have time to deal with it. Having her in my camp makes it possible for me to self-publish and in fact, she has been urging me to do it for awhile now.
So, there you have it. My boring self-publishing post that hardly anyone will read, but now I have that link to send people who email me, lol.
UPDATE: Thanks for the great comments and please, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. I had to spend MONTHS reading up on this stuff and still didn’t get it all right. Oh, and for the few emails I got, the Harmless in Hawaii, that is my trip next month to, you guessed it, Hawaii. I am taking Brandy with me so we research the possibility of having a reader get together and doing some book research and goodie buying for the ADDICTS!