I thought it was time to revisit self-pubbing, considering I’ve done it with two of my books and AJ’s done it with one. The pictures I promised will show up on Wednesday.
Let’s start with the GOOD:
AJ’s book, Power Exchange, is still doing very well weeks after publication. He published at Smashwords, Amazon, ARe, and Barnes & Noble. He announced it on his blog. He tweeted about it. He contacted reviewers and eight or ten posted reviews. He’s made more money with PE than I have with all my releases combined (that’s the ugly part, which is coming later).
Recently, he learned PE has been on a top 100 Amazon list for weeks, and the book has been nominated for at least three Goodreads “best of” awards. AJ and his book deserve every accolade that’s been thrown at him. He wrote a wonderful, entertaining, and informative book.
In pursuit of sales, he did what many authors would consider bare minimum to get the news of his book out there. He didn’t guest blog, he participated in no blog hops, yet he’s made thousands of dollars in sales so far.
Now we come to the ugly part (and it’s no reflection on AJ; I’m merely drawing a comparison). Three of Swords sold few copies. I think it was around 35 or 40. Knight of Wands has performed even more poorly. I think this is strange, because a couple months previous, when The Blue Paradise and Phoenix Rising were published through Dreamspinner Press, they sold really well. I made quite a lot of money in that quarter, and that was before third party sales were in.
I did pretty much the same minimal promo AJ did, but in addition, I also dropped positive review quotes on twitter once in a while and did a couple of guest interviews. We both got positive reviews at Amazon and on pro review sites.
So what’s different? Why did his book sell and mine didn’t?
1. Cover. PE has an amazing cover, certified to draw the eye and intrigue the reader. Mine are okay but nothing like that. Who doesn’t want to open a book that has a sexy naked man tied up in red rope on the front?
2. PE is a full-length book, whereas mine are novellas. I don’t see the problem with this, as I priced mine cheaper because of that.
3. PE is rated 5 for heat, mine are around 3.5. PE has a lot of hot sex going on, and it’s BDSM, which is a highly rated genre at the moment (thanks to that book I will not name lest AJ throw up on my laptop). Mine have sex, and I think it’s hot, but it’s relatively vanilla.
And finally, they’re different books. AJ’s is a sexy murder mystery and mine are somewhat gentler tales revolving around a couple of gifted guys on a houseboat. Neither is better or worse than the other, but they appeal to different readers.
So what can we conclude from this?
I’m not sure, but after some distraught mulling time and a short-lived dose of bitterness, I have concluded I must continue to write my stories, whether they sell or not. I don’t depend on royalties to pay the bills (good thing, huh?) but some income from my labor would be nice.
After editing umpteen badly-written sex scenes, and writing plenty of good ones in the past, I’m kind of bored by them. Don’t get me wrong: I think sex is important. It’s part of a healthy relationship. But it’s never the focus of my stories. Maybe that will change in the future, but for now… nope. The story and characters are more important to me. If the sex belongs, it goes in. If it doesn’t fit, if it doesn’t further the story or reveal information about the characters, I skip it.
I’ve often said I hate covers with headless naked torsos on them. Can’t stand them. They look cheap and tawdry to me. I can’t think of any mainstream bestseller that sports that kind of cover. You only see them in our genre. I suppose it’s possible readers have been conditioned, and when they see them they feel an impulse to buy, but I really don’t want to go there.
Some of you are asking, “Why don’t you go back to Dreamspinner or another publisher?”
I considered it. Briefly. But the truth is, I don’t think I can give up control of my work to a publisher anymore. I like doing it all myself, even if I pay for it with far less sales.
Quitting isn’t an option. Yes, I considered that, too. Several times, in fact. But I love writing and I can’t imagine giving it up, even if I never sell another book. *thinks about that* Well, that’s probably not true. If I wrote and published and nothing ever sold, I’d get a freaking clue and hang up my keyboard.
Let’s consider this blog post food for thought. It’s five o’clock somewhere. *goes for the wine*