Saturday, July 9, 2011

Highs and lows in this writer's life - Lisa Yarde

Just twelve months ago, a decision to self-publish my first book became reality, when On Falcon’s Wings premiered on Amazon. Since then, it’s been a year fraught with highs and lows, family illnesses, and plans for the future made and unmade. I’d be lying if I pretended I haven't re-thought the decision to self-publish once or twenty-six times. Thing is, I never learned how to quit.

Here are some highlights in my year of publication (mingled with some of the bad stuff too). All figures are as of Monday, July 4.

Number of books I’ve self-published: (3)

Genres and formats: (2) historical fiction in ebook and paperback - novels, (1)contemporary women’s fiction – novella

Official dates of publication: On Falcon’s Wings (July 2010), Sultana (February 2011), Long Way Home (July 2011)

Number of Copies Sold: On Falcon’s Wings (68 – paperback, 611 – ebook), Sultana (18 - paperback, 223 - ebook), Long Way Home (3 – ebook only)

Revenue Earned: On Falcon’s Wings ($1,017.86), Sultana ($631.72), Long Way Home ($1.43)

Expenses (copyright, cover art, review copies, other promotion): On Falcon’s Wings ($562.06), Sultana ($378.85), Long Way Home ($0)

Net Profit: On Falcon’s Wings ($455.80), Sultana($252.87), Long Way Home ($1.43)

Best Sales Month: On Falcon’s Wings (March 2011 - 67), Sultana (June 2011 - 52)

Worst Sales Month: On Falcon’s Wings (July 2010 - 6), Sultana(February 2011 - 10)

Best Amazon Paid Sales Rank: On Falcon’s Wings (#7,993 - ebook), Sultana (#16,762 – ebook)

Worst Amazon Paid Sales Rank: On Falcon’s Wings (#1,994,394- paperback), Sultana (#2,404,935 -paperback)

The first sale happened: On Falcon’s Wings (Kindle - – 11 days after publication), Sultana (Kindle - – 4 days after publication), Long Way Home (Kindle - - 1 hour after publication)

Longest period without a sale: On Falcon’s Wings (14 days from August 4, 2010), Sultana (9 days from March 6, 2011)

Number of freebies: On Falcon’s Wings (21,505), Sultana (37)

The inclusion of freebies has skewed my sales data a lot. On Falcon's Wings was offered as a freebie June 6 - July 2 through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords and Sony. It resulted in 21,497 downloads, of which 21,292 came from Amazon alone. If I counted the freebies, in addition to increasing ebook numbers:

• My top Amazon sales ranking for On Falcon's Wings would have been #1. (I even have a screenshot that proves it!)

• Amazon also gives a pittance (I do mean a pittance) on freebies, so there is an additional $127.45 in earnings on the freebies that I don't account for in the revenue above.

For some inexplicable reason, Amazon has made On Falcon's Wings free again as of July 7. So, my data will continue to be skewed, but I appreciate the increased downloads and the additional 4 reviews that have come in.

First thing I bought with my earnings: Added money to my MetroCard. Deposit came just in time for me to go work the next morning.

Last thing I bought with my earnings: A $20 promotional spot for Sultana this month on Indie eBooks blog.

How I felt when I got my first bad review from a stranger: Like shit. Cried for a bit, cursed out the reviewer in my head. Although I thanked her for the review, I really just wanted to smash her face in with my paperback. I've aged since then into a thick-skinned, 35-year old woman, rather than remaining a 5-year old with a temper tantrum.

How I felt when I got my first great review from a stranger: Shocked, cried a little and thanked the reviewer in my head. Now, I ignore all reviews, good or bad, or try to. It's a work in progress.

Biggest mistake I have made, so far: Thinking that publishing was the hardest aspect. I now know marketing is the hardest aspect –it’s not for me, I suck at it. Doesn't matter how good your book is, if people don't know it exists. Yet, I keep trying, cause I'm just not built to quit.

Best advice I ever had: From Gemi Sasson, who reminded me that there are people with axes to grind about self-publishing. Entertaining them won't change their views or my intent. I’m paraphrasing, but she’s right.

The one thing I have yet to learn / accept about self-publishing: It's a marathon, not a sprint. My books will be around for as long as books are being sold online. The goals are to keep writing, making the next book better than its predecessor and keep on publishing.

Number of times I’ve regretted self-publishing and decided I would give up: (2) – the first, when I got my first bad review, and the second, when I promoted my first two books like crazy in May 2011, yet it turned out to be one of the slower months for sales. That's always the worst - working hard with little to show for it.

Why do I continue to self-publish: It’s hard being my own editor, marketer / promoter, but I can’t imagine not doing this. It’s brought me out of my shell, taught me to persevere, even when things get really tough. Fear held me back from self-publishing – what if I never sold a copy of my books, earned no reviews, spent a ton of money and never saw a dime of revenue? Now, I'm motivated to take it to the next level and the next – there’s always better and I’m striving for it in both my work and marketing efforts.

What advice would I give to a writer thinking of self-publishing: It’s tough and there's risk involved. Is your writing worth the risk? Failure doesn't happen when you fall flat. It happens when you choose not to get up. If you're willing to risk the fall, jump right in with a good story, a great team that includes editors and beta readers. Make sure you keep a support network handy. They'll be there to help you up when you fall and cheer on your successes. Don't measure your own success by what anyone else has done.


Traci said...

Thanks for sharing your experience. You've got the spirit for success, and your post has given me the boost I needed this morning. Keep on writing!

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

Sounds to me as if you got everything just right and went through all the right stages of e-publishing emotions. If you ever regret not being traditionally published just ponder this: Your books would have been in the world for about two weeks. All of your books would be in the "remainder"pile just about now being sold for 99 cents in some discount store. No, the 99 cents wouldn't go to you, they would go to the "remainder" outlet that bought out the remainding stock from your publisher.

Here's the thing about e-publishing that is tantalizing. Something fantastic might happen at any minute, You are being showcased around the world 24/7. You can sell books as you sleep. The merchandise never gets stale. I began about the same time as you - late August. I have seven titles on Amazon (most of them backlist titles to which I own the rights.) I've gone through all of the emotions that you describe. The only difference is that I am much older and do not have new paper copies of the books, just e-books.

I like the way you write your blog.

Michelle Gregory said...

i'm glad you self-published because i've enjoyed getting to know. thanks for your help and encouragement along the journey.

Lisa Yarde said...

Thank you all for the comments.

@Traci, you made my day. That's part of what I love to do, encourage other writers regardless of the path they're on. I've been blessed to have that support almost every day from my writing friends and believe in paying it forward.

@Consuelo, I don't know how you've handled that gamut of emotions, but there are days I'm confused, a wreck and just don't know where to go from there. Then, I turn on the computer and go back to my current WIP. After several hours, I look up and realize I've lost myself in my characters' world again. I think the writing keeps me sane.

@Michelle, thank you, my friend. Same here.

Kristina Emmons said...

Lisa, thanks for sharing that. It was very helpful to see your breakdown. Having so many downloads (albeit giveaways) is wonderful! Your name is getting out there! I should have added in my post that I went through phases after publishing, all the emotions running, and finally I reached a middle ground as I came to the realization that we write to write, and everything else is more or less abstract. You're doing fantastic!

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