Category Archives: Indie

BookBub Results

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In my previous post I mentioned how my sales have suffered since the election–a common theme among indie authors–and how I decided to pay for marketing for the first time in my 5-year career.

BookBub is apparently a big deal. Since I was never interested in spending money on advertising I never really paid much attention but I did know that BookBub had built up a pretty good reputation for producing stellar results and that it’s almost impossible to be chosen for a coveted spot in one of their newsletters. Some indie authors have to submit their novels over a dozen times before they get picked. What seems to be key is a good cover, a steep discount, and hundreds of five-star reviews. Luckily, the first book in my paranormal series, The Girl In Between, possessed all three and I was selected my very first time applying.

My BookBub ad cost $115 and I selected to run it in the Teen/YA category. It was scheduled to go live on my birthday, June 21st.

It has since been 24 hours since the book first showed up on their website and here are my results:

BookBub 1

Before the ad ran I was giving away between 200-300 copies of my perma-free novel a day. Not too bad but nowhere close to the thousands a day that were being downloaded before January. The day the ad ran my perma-free novel was downloaded 18,149 times. Again, not bad, but not as many as I was expecting. I’d previously read several blog posts and case studies from authors who’d gotten at least 30,000 downloads in a single 24-hour period. But those books were also all in different categories so it’s possible that my results would be different if I’d chosen to run it in the paranormal category instead (I specifically chose Teen/YA because it was relatively cheap compared to the other categories).

BookBub likes to tout something called the “halo effect” as one of the benefits of their advertising. This means that, ideally, I’d experience additional sales and downloads for my entire backlist, which would peter out slowly, giving me more exposure on Amazon for a longer period of time. Interestingly, my paid sales did go up yesterday in addition to the free downloads (85 compared to 33 on the previous day–>still low compared to the 100+ I was selling per day before everything went wrong) but even though I still seem to be getting slightly above-average sales today, it’s not anything mind-blowing (it’s almost noon and I’ve sold 21 books). However, who knows how long people wait before they actually read the freebies they download. You also have to stop and consider that some might not read them at all. Or that they may not like the first book in the series and will choose not to continue. Or that they have to wait for payday before they can buy book number 2. With all of these things in mind, I think it’s best to not jump to any conclusions, and instead, just be patient.

The important thing right now is did I break even?
6/21 8:00AM- 6/22 12:00PM = $240
BookBub Ad = $115

Luckily, yes. But that wasn’t the purpose of this little experiment. The purpose was to see if it’s actually worthwhile to spend money on advertising, especially in this moment in time when our collective consciousness is a little preoccupied. I don’t have enough data to determine whether or not this was a success but I’ll be keeping an eye on this so-called “halo effect” that I’m supposed to be experiencing and will update this post over the next several days.

*update 6/25/17*

I’m on day 5 of post-BookBub sales and even though nothing life changing has happened I’m very pleased with the numbers I’ve achieved so far. As of today, The Girl In Between has been downloaded almost 25,000 times and my backlist has sold 324 copies (these numbers have been updated below). Prior to the ad, a typical 5-day period looked more like this: 200-300 free downloads/day; 30-40 books sold/day. It was keeping me in the $2,000-$3,000 range each month once you factored in page reads as well. But prior to January, I was making anywhere between $4,000 and $7,000 per month, which I would love to get back to. The goal for 2018 is to finally reach $10,000 a month and hover around that number with some consistency. After my little BookBub experiment, I can definitely see how running one on a regular basis might help me achieve this goal.

However, at this point I’ve also realized that one of the drawbacks of BookBub is the very thing that makes it so attractive (and lucrative) for authors in the first place. It has a huge audience and offers an excellent selection to it’s customers. The problem is, BookBub changes that selection EVERY DAY, which means that while your book is shooting up to the top of the Amazon charts, there’s another set of books waiting to be advertised by BookBub and ready to knock you from your spot the very next day. In one sense, this means that everyone gets a fair turn. But it also limits how long your book will be in the spotlight. Even if you get an insane amount of downloads that, in the old days, would have kept you in the top 100 for weeks, that longevity is no longer possible with BookBub ads being so directly connected to Amazon’s indie bestsellers.

What I’m watching for now is what kind of longevity is still possible and how long BookBub’s famous “halo effect” actually lasts.

Total *FREE* Downloads since 6/21:     24,771
Total Paid Downloads since 6/21:          324

 

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Taking Control

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Jon Tyson

For the past five years that I’ve ben self-publishing I have paid for zero marketing. I’ve paid for cover art and copy editing and that’s it. Everything amazing that’s happened to me and my books has been because of word of mouth. Sure, in the beginning of my career I spent hours planning a few blog tours for some of my earlier contemporary novels and the first book in my paranormal series. But at most I’d get about twenty reviews and never did those appearances translate into significant sales. For almost two years I’ve mostly just sat back in awe at how far my stories have travelled, watching silently while people talk about and share my books online.

But after two years of having to do absolutely nothing in order to generate sales (except write more books, of course) everything sort of fell off a cliff in January. According to other indies, the immediate drop-off in sales happened sooner–around November–when the world was in a state of panic, unable to concentrate on work, let alone reading for pleasure. There was too much to worry about. There still is. But at least the fear of falling into a “Handmaid’s Tale-like” dystopia has loosened its grip on the majority of us just enough for us to actually function. Not that it can’t happen, but even in the midst of resisting the rule of tyranny we also need to eat, and pay the mortgage, and do all of the other things necessary for survival, which means we need to make money, which means we need to work.

But how do you survive in a society on the precipice of total ruin when the product you sell is (for most people) not considered one of those essential elements of survival? Writers know the essential value of stories, but art, as well as the appreciation of art, is so incredibly subjective. This means that when the shit hits the fan no one is going to be concerned with reading more books. They’re just not.

But…we’re not totally there yet and there’s still hope that I can eke out a living a little while longer. But how? How, when people aren’t reading as voraciously as they used to? How, when people only have enough leftover energy to consume the news? How, when that news is so depressing that it makes “frivolous” activities like experiencing or creating art seem even more futile?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. All I can do is write more books–books about human beings who are learning how to cast out their demons and approach others with compassion–and take more control over how exactly my books find readers. Part of this means being willing to finally spend a little money on marketing, which I conceded to when applying for my first BookBub ad. I’m still monitoring the results, which I’ll be sharing on the blog in the coming days. But at the same time, there are still so many factors out of my control. And it’s scary. Not just as an artist but as a teacher and a daughter and a friend and a human being. But maybe I’ve been afraid of what’s next only because I’ve felt helpless to stop it. Maybe it’s time to stop being helpless.

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Seeking CPs!

It took me years to find a core group of critique partners who I felt like I could really trust. It’s the closest experience I’ve ever had to online dating and the thought of having to relive all of those awkward introductions and “first dates” has led to me putting off finding new CPs altogether.

In the past few years most of my CPs have either gotten agents or the all elusive book deal, meaning they don’t have time to read for me anymore. Others have decided to take a break from writing and some even switched careers. And when it comes to the few CPs I can still rely on, I feel so guilty asking them to read something new from me every 6 months, which means that it’s probably time for me to meet some new people.

It feels like I’ve been out of the self-publishing world for a while, even though it was just last October that I published the last book in my paranormal romance series. Still, it’s been a long time since I was in a routine and drafting one manuscript while revising another. I miss that routine and I’m hopeful that the summer break will help me find my way back. And now that I know what to expect once the new school year starts, I can do a better job of avoiding burnout and staying committed to my creative practice.

Obviously, the title of this post says it all. I’m in the market for new critique partners and I’m open to other indies, traditionally published authors, or any advice on where I might find quality CPs.

A little about me, in case you just stumbled upon this blog by accident–>

*At this point in my self-publishing career my books have been downloaded over half a million times and I have a loyal readership that’s almost 4,000 strong.

*I tend to genre hop and write everything from historical fiction, to contemporary young adult, to paranormal romance.

When it comes to a critique partner, I’m not necessarily looking for someone with similar sales numbers. I remember what it was like to only sell a couple copies of my books a month and how hard it was to make connections with other writers who were more successful. Because of that, my main goal is to connect with CPs whose writing skills are equal to or better than my own. In other words, I want to connect with people who I can learn from and who will push me to become a better writer. Not only will I try to offer that as well but I will also be excited to introduce my CPs to my readers and hopefully grow their audience in the process.

There are excerpts of my novels all over this blog and the first book in my paranormal romance series is perma-free for those wanting to check out my writing quality and style. FYI, I’m currently working on a contemporary YA romance that I would love to get feedback on in June. If you think we’d be a good fit, feel free to email me at lzkbooks@gmail.com or on twitter @laekanzeakemp.

Let me know what genres you write in, what you’re currently working on, what you’re looking for in a critique partner, and what you think you can offer as a CP. A short writing sample will also be helpful, whether that’s personal writing on a blog or an excerpt from a novel. If I think we’d be a good match I’ll definitely be in touch! If you don’t hear from me, it will either be due to differences in quality/style or because I’ve already found what I’m looking for.

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Numbers

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Yesterday’s blog post was a bit out of character for me. It has always been my goal to make my blog a positive space where even my mistakes can be used to offer perspective and encouragement to other writers. But, because it’s also always been my goal to be transparent, I decided to be very honest about how I’ve been feeling about my latest release. Not to encourage or even discourage other writers, but to show people that no matter how many positive reviews you get, how many books you sell, criticism still hurts. Success does not separate the art from the artist. Nothing can. My books are me and when those pieces of me are rejected it feels like I’m being rejected too.

I’ve chosen not to dwell on that feeling today. Instead, I’m forcing myself to focus on data in the hope that I’ll gain some much needed perspective. You see, 2016 was an amazing year for me as an author. Denying that would just be another form of rejection, except this time I’d be the one rejecting myself. The truth is I maintained a level of success other authors only dream about. Just two years ago I was one of those dreamers. For five years I worked and hoped and worked and hoped and still I remained invisible. But I’m not invisible anymore. I’m not a millionaire but I’m no longer alone on this journey.

Readers-strangers I’ve never met before–are buying my books and then telling their closest friends who are telling their mothers who are sharing them with their daughters who are recommending them to their classmates who are showing them to their teachers and it hasn’t stopped. For 2 years these books have been working their way across oceans and continents simply by word of mouth. I have paid for 0 advertising. I haven’t begged bloggers to review one of my novels in almost three years. I am so incredibly lucky and I hate using that word to describe any part of my success because I have also worked my ass off writing 7 novels. But when I think about all of the other indie authors out there who are doing the same…and paying for advertising, and organizing their own blog tours, and taking every online course and reading every self-publishing handbook to try to conquer their own obscurity, I’m faced with this question: why me and not them? The only answer I can think of is luck.

So, while I realize that my blog may no longer be a place (and maybe it never was a place) where other authors can find formulaic advice guaranteed to help them duplicate the success I’ve had, I still believe my honesty and transparency can help someone out there gain some perspective on what it’s like to be an independent author.

It’s been a while since I talked about numbers, but when I was first starting out, they were the one piece of the publishing process I was the most interested in. Why? Because numbers don’t lie. They show the reality of what it means to be indie, and even though some indie authors are making a lot more money than I am, there are also many who are making a lot less.

*According to authorearnings.com any writer making more than $25,000 a year is considered mid-list and this is where I fall. You can check out the earning report for October 2016 here*

2015-sales

2016-sales

These are screenshots of an excel spreadsheet where I track my monthly/yearly sales. If you look up at 2015, you’ll see that it was May when I finally got my miracle. I still don’t have an explanation for the huge jump in sales but after 20 months they still haven’t slowed down. Every once in a while I’ll get a spike in sales (again, for reasons I still do not understand since I do absolutely 0 promotion) that will take me into the $3,000 or $4,000 range but for the most part over the past 2 years I’ve been consistently making about $2,000-$2,500 a month. That’s almost what I make as a 1st year teacher.

TDOTN came out in October so payout for those pre-orders will be on 2017’s spreadsheet. However, you can still see the surge in downloads for that month, which adds up to about $7,000. Since then, November and December have also seen an uptick in sales due to the addition to my backlist. In November I made about $5,000 and this month I’m on target to reach $4,000. I’ll be interested to see if the addition of TDOTN keeps me in the $3,000 range once things settle down a bit or if sales will fall back down to the $2,000 range. Whatever happens should give me a better idea of how much I can expect to make with the release of future novels.

These projections will be important for figuring out when I might finally feel comfortable transitioning to writing full time or how I should reinvest that money in order to grow my reach & diversify my product beyond just e-books. If things fall off unexpectedly, it might also help me determine if going hybrid and subbing a few novels rather than self-publishing them would be a good choice.

Some people might think I’m crazy to still be debating whether or not to make writing my full time job but in my opinion 2 years of steady sales just isn’t long enough for me to see the big picture. While $31,000 a year is definitely enough to live on if I were to continue living in an apartment and had no plans to reinvest in my business…it is not enough to grow. And not just my business but myself. I want to grow this thing I’ve created and that means minimizing the risk now so I can take a huge one later. One of the greatest lessons self-publishing has taught me is to be patient so that’s what I’m doing. I’m still dreaming, except I’m no longer dreaming of conquering obscurity. Instead, I’m dreaming of something else. Something bigger and not quite fully formed. Something worth waiting for.

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Not Your Normal Paranormal

I promised goodies in exchange for this long hiatus, so I’m finally sharing a new FREE box set I’m a part of! There are nine books total by a diverse group of authors, all of whom specialize in stories that aren’t your “normal paranormal.” I hope this will tide people over until The Daughter of the Night comes out this summer!

Strange

Nine Complete Novels Featuring Psychics, Demons, Aliens, Angels, Gods and Goddesses, Time Travel, and More!

Amazon | Apple | Kobo | Google

Dive into nine different worlds that aren’t your normal paranormal. These aren’t your run of the mill vampire, werewolf, and witch stories. Immerse yourself in these unique, full-length novels from national bestselling authors:

Bad Vibrations ~ Christine Pope
When psychic Persephone O’Brien reaches out to famous ufologist Paul Oliver for help, they soon find themselves drawn into a far-reaching alien conspiracy that sends them on the run…and into one another’s arms.

Pisces ~ Rachel Medhurst
The bracelet around my wrist is a permanent reminder of my mission. The silver charm attached to the leather cord is stamped with my birth sign. Mission: Unite with my twin flame soulmate.

Beyond the Veil ~ Pippa DaCosta
Muse must decide whether to trust a Prince of Hell or the assassin sent to kill her. Little do they know, she’s more dangerous than both.

Bitter Ashes ~ Sara C. Roethle
She’s not their long lost fairy princess. She’s their executioner.
Thrown into a world of Norse Myth, Madeline must work her way through a web of deceit and intrigue. Maddy might just survive, but many others may die in her place.

Deception ~ Stacy Claflin
After meeting a gorgeous stranger on a blind date, Alexis feels like she’s known him her entire life. Suddenly, dark long-forgotten memories swirl in her mind. She realizes she’s powerful, stunningly beautiful, and marked for death.

The Legacy of the Key ~ S.L. Morgan
Men in Black meets Avatar! Reece Bryant is just an average young woman on Earth, or so she thought! Follow Reece as she is brought into an enchanting dimension for protection and discovers the truths of who she really is!

Nolander ~ Becca Mills
As an orphaned and perpetually single photographer in a tiny rural town, Beth Ryder Knows she’s different. Still, when strange monstrosities begin cropping up in her photos, she thinks it’s a cruel joke, until she’s plunged into a world she never knew existed.

The Girl In Between ~ Laekan Kemp
Bryn Reyes is a real life sleeping beauty who spends most of her time alone in a dream world made up of her memories. Until one day a boy she’s never met before washes up on the illusory beach of her dreams with no memory of who he is.

Rune Gate ~ Mark E. Cooper
Alex Yorke is a top police clairvoyant on the edge of sanity. Living inside the heads of serial killers has taken its toll. Can she do it one last time?

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