So this year I’m looking at making approximately 26k less than I made last year. Thankfully, I made more than I needed last year, didn’t spend the money on hats, and am going to be fine.
*Leaves chair, knocks on wood*
Okay, I’m back. Anywho, in the interest of full disclosure and helping to save others my pain, here’s what I think went wrong:
Mistake #1: A new series in a new genre that might not be a fit for me
I had this grand idea that I could release standalones in my I Bring the Fire universe and then have four different books to advertise and use as funnels for I Bring the Fire. I also really wanted to write these books, too. It wasn’t just “give me the money!”
Anywho, in September of 2017 I released Soul Marked, After the Fire Book 1, a standalone, PNR-ish, fantasy in my I Bring the Fire Universe. It got great reviews, but it took three months to earn out in Kindle Unlimited (unlike Archangel Down which I released at $3.99 and earned out first month.) Granted, I released Soul Marked at 99-cents but didn’t promote it to anyone but my list and a few NL swaps. I was planning on saving the advertisers for book 2.
In April I released Magic After Midnight. It has gotten more love and gushing from my fans than just about anything I’ve ever written. A “wicked” stepmother, a Night Elf (please don’t call him a vampire!), two villains getting their happy ever after … What is not to love? Well, no one but my really devoted fans picked it up.
I think both books maybe lacked the “beats” of a romance, and are more fantasy maybe? But they’re too romantic for a lot of fantasy lovers. (Although my male fans who read them really enjoyed both, so I don’t know …)
Which brings me to my next mistake …
Mistake #2: Not releasing Magic into Kindle Unlimited
I don’t have 1,000 peeps who will buy a book in a new series right away. I made the USA Today List, but that was on the back of a BookBub on a box set of the first four books in IBF. I need peeps who’ve never heard of me before to read my books. KU really helps with that when it comes to new readers.
I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to release Magic into Kindle Unlimited because part of it exists wide in an anthology. I have since gotten written permission from Amazon to put it in KU since less than 2% of Magic After Midnight is actually out there. It may be less, I’ve added a lot of detail, changed things up, including the POV in scenes that exist in the short story.
To help propel it out there “in the wild wide” I released Soul Marked wide for the first time and booked ALL the advertisers … and even got a 99-cent BookBub too!
Gonna say right here … all the 99-cent ads except for BookBub were a huge waste of money for a wide book in a two book series.Without the page reads, I did not come close to earning out. (BookBub did earn out.) I wouldn’t have booked the smaller sites but I never thought I’d get a BookBub on Soul Marked. But sure enough, I went wide, and boom: BookBub. The lesson here is apply to BookBub first.
Mistake #3: Not going into Kindle Unlimited immediately after BookBub
If I’d gone immediately into BookBub while my rank was still high I think I would have made a lot more simply by virtue of page reads. Soul Marked and Magic in particular are both long books. But I didn’t. I wanted to see if I could make it without KU. I released just as page reads were getting stripped, and I was nervous. (I am back in KU and STILL nervous.) I tried using Instafreebie magnets to get people to the books. The original Magic short story definitely helped … but not enough. The preview I put on IF didn’t help at all.
Mistake #4: Kindle Unlimited box sets aren’t going to be a savior anymore.
Back in 2016 I was in an amazing box set with Lindsay Buroker, Chris Fox, M.R. Forbes and others. It did phenomenally well, better than I could have done on my own. I thought after the only exclusive content rule was announced (enforced?) that I could always put my standalones in EXCLUSIVE box sets when sales started to lag. I did that with Soul Marked from January 11th-April 11th. In the end, I made about as much money in the box as I would have on my own and it was a lot more work. There just aren’t enough folks with a standalone novel to put into a box set, and we didn’t meet the 3,600 page limit and didn’t max out page reads.
Mistake #5: Not writing a longer series
Every single download of Archangel Down (the first book in my sci-fi “trilogy”) is worth 60% of a single Wolves download (the first book in IBF my USAT series.) I have only two paid books in the Archangel series. In IBF I have one novella, two short stories, and five novels. The thing is it’s HARDER and more expensive to get sci-fi downloads. It seems to be less popular than UF, and newsletters don’t perform as well. If I earn more on each download, it will even out. The way to earn more is to write a longer series.
Mistake #6: Advertising Blitzcrieg changes
Every month from late 2013 thru the end of 2017 I would have advertising Blitzkriegs. I would line up a heavy hitter like Freebooksy, Robin Reads, BookBarbarian, BookSends, Riffle, or BookGorilla with some not so heavy hitters that are good values. I would never use any advertiser more than once in 6 months. This year, I decided I would try something new: lining up all the non-BookBub advertisers over the course of a few short days. This isn’t a good idea. I didn’t get the absolute number of downloads I expected and now I can’t advertise either Archangel or Wolves with newsletter services for another few months. Which means that the new book I have in the Archangel series will have to wait until October to release it if I want advertising of my first in series to be effective.
Mistake #7: Standalones don’t sell as well (unless you’re a better writer than me?)
Archangel and IBF have overarching storylines. I think that really helped drive sales to the next in series. Also, it really makes permafree a viable strategy. 99-cents is so much more expensive to advertise with and the results are so much less spectacular.
A few things that went right:
- Archangel Down is doing well wide. Two series that do decently is a pretty monumental achievement. I’m overwhelmed and grateful to all my fans.
- Soul Marked is a great funnel to I Bring the Fire despite few shared characters. The month I got the 99-cent BookBub I did no other advertising for I Bring the Fire and my downloads didn’t go down but my sell-thru increased. So my original idea wasn’t totally daft. Sadly, except for BookBub (and probably ENT) it was still too expensive to advertise at 99-cents with a wide book.
How I’m adapting:
- I’m writing more in Archangel. I’ve got book 4 with my beta readers right now, and I’m about ready to start writing book 5.
- Book 4 in Archangel is a STANDALONE, I’ll be able to advertise it everywhere, even FKTips when the time comes but it will still be on the same series page.
- Book 5 might be readable as a standalone too. Same characters, but I have in mind an awesome action packed intro sequence that might explain the characters and universe pretty well.
- Soul Marked and Magic are in KU. I plan to advertise Magic and Soul Marked with Countdown deals. Hopefully that will make advertising at 99-cents not as expensive and boosts downloads of I Bring the Fire.
- Returning to my previous advertising schedule/strategy.
- Getting cheaper health insurance this fall. I may go with an HMO with the good hospital near my house instead of the POS I currently have that doesn’t cover the good hospital, isn’t as convenient, and is more expensive.
- Learning to update WordPress myself. I used to be a techie.
I will probably come back and write one more book in the After the Fire trilogy, because there is a character/situation that won’t get out of my brain. But it might be a few years. It will be a standalone though, and the series has no momentum anyway, so I think it will be okay. Then I’ll box up the whole trilogy, and hopefully get a ‘Bub on it and more sales to IBF. Funnels are still king!