Sci-Fi, fantasy and speculative Indie Authors Review discussion

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Slowness of Market, Need for Patience

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments When I first started writing, I thought the first month or two would be make-or-break, and that if I hadn't sold hundreds in that time, my novel was doomed. I guess the conventional publishing cycle tends to work that way, with books that don't succeed in their first quarter remaindered into obscurity. It seems self-pub goes on a different schedule altogether. I published my first novel The Dark Colony in June, and it was months before I got a review on a reasonably well-liked blog. Sales ticked up a little with that, and now I've got a review from the members-only magazine of a space enthusiasts' club. Hopefully that will lead to more sales, too. The point I'm making is, don't despair, and do look out for knowledgeable reviewers. They won't respond quickly (they have long lists of things to read), but they are worth it when they do.


message 2: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Another thing to remember is that writers need to release more than one book. My just-released second novel is doing far better in sales than my first one, but I've been on Goodreads and other sites for more than a year since my first novel was published. I have more experience in gaining publicity, and I'm also now on Facebook and Twitter. I had already released two short-story collections, but those don't sell (at least mine don't) as well as novels.


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments My second and third books have sold less well, but I'm thinking that too is going to change over time. The kind folks that reviewed my first book have asked to review the second (which of course I'm happy for them to do), so they will take longer too. What's hard to tell, but seems reasonable, is that having more than one book makes you look like a more substantial author.


message 4: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) And maybe as authors we should discount the importance of reviews. My first novel has several fair to good reviews; my new novel has none. Yet, the new one is doing better. Of course, that could be a function of the cover, or the opening chapters. Hard to tell.


message 5: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments I wrote a long response...then hit the BACK button by accident **d'oh!**

Basically: I started self-publishing in Aug 2013 and have had very poor sales and # of reviews. But I went into this thinking that by the time I retire I might have a small following, and hopefully a dozen or more works available. (I'll be 57 this Aug, so that'll give you a sense of my expected schedule.)

I'm not good at marketing. I don't have an author or book web site yet. I just started on twitter a week or so ago. FB I only use for personal stuff. I'll slowly work on expanding that...But I'd rather be writing!

Oh, and I'll be attending Worldcon this year in Spokane, WA (http://sasquan.org/). Hopefully there will be some people here attending as well!


message 6: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Ken wrote: "And maybe as authors we should discount the importance of reviews..."

I think their only importance is in terms of discoverability. If you've got 300 reviews and most of them are in the 4-5 star range (even if they're bogus reviews), you're going to show up higher in the Sort by Avg. Customer Review results than someone with only a few mediocre reviews.


message 7: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I think there's a difference between reader reviews, on here and on sales sites, versus reviews by professionals. There's always the possibility of games of various kinds with these sites, whereas a professional reviewer has a reputation to maintain, almost like a publisher.


message 8: by Micah (last edited Jan 23, 2015 12:06PM) (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Agreed, but the pro reviewers will only help in so far as wherever they publish their reviews get actual traffic.

I've tried looking for places to offer my works for review, but to a one they have ended up having "not accepting self-published works" or "due to time constraints we no longer accept review submissions" warnings, or they charge $ for the reveiws, or they end up being ordinary Schmoes who get maybe 5 views on their page a week.

I end up getting discouraged and just go back to writing. He he.


message 9: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I know what you mean Micah. There's so many distractions. I did get one reviewer that led to about 20 sales in a day, but another with none. Certainly wouldn't pay for a review. And it is frustrating how many are hostile to indies. SF Signal, which looks very relevant uses the phrase 'self-published and vanity publishers,' showing an amazing ignorance of the book market.


message 10: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
I'm running with the write more, sell more theory at the moment. I don't advertise or solicit reviews, but I do a promotion once a month to get my name circulating. Two years and seven books in, I'm not living off my sales, but I have seen a steady rise.


message 11: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 81 comments I would tend to agree with the write more, sell more. It seems simple. Write one good book and you might get lucky, but gaining traction is evidently difficult. Write two good books and you double the odds of a "random hit." You also double the odds of a review. At least some of your readers of one book will explore the other book, so sales in the first book increase etc. Every book promotion will promote other books indirectly.

I have one book. I am writing my second. I couldn't dine out once a month on my sales, never mind living on them.

However, I am happy that my book is read and enjoyed.


message 12: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Anthony wrote: "I couldn't dine out once a month on my sales..."

Dine out? My sales don't even cover the cost of coffee consumed while writing! ;D


message 13: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Brink | 23 comments I'm now beginning my fourth year (more like 3.5) as an indie writer/publisher, and my expectations and philosophies have been evolving as I go. As of now I've come to believe that:

1. Throwing a lot of time and money into marketing when you only have 1 or 2 books up is pretty much a waste. You can't make a living on one book.
2. A big chunk of the marketing sites and services out there are probably a waste anyway. Better to focus on the big ones than the rinky-dink ones, but those require money and reviews. (Thus, they'll have to wait.)
3. Knowing my own buying habits, reviews are probably more important than advertising. Giving away books and querying blogs and small magazines worked fairly well for my first book.
4. Overall, it's best to just keep my head down and write more books. The avalanche of sales can come once I have a dozen or more items for readers to buy. The more titles, the more sales, and the more likely a new reader is to happen across my work.
5. Being an overnight millionaire writer is as likely as winning the lottery. Plan on it taking years to just pay the mortgage, much less living on it entirely.

Of course, this is all theory. I have had a net loss every year thus far (costs over income), but I've also consistently made more than double for each year over the previous one. That, at least, is encouraging. I'm hoping to have three more books to my name this year, maybe more.


message 14: by David (last edited Jan 24, 2015 11:10AM) (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 21 comments I now have five books to my name, and it certainly seems to be the case that they promote sales of each other. As reviews have come in I have begun to spend more on listing sites, and in each case the expenditure has been more than recouped. Most months, I'm happy to say, I can afford for the wife and I to dine out at least twice. As for affording to write full time, maybe that's another five or more books away. Keep writing; keep publishing; keep enjoying the process.


message 15: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Morrese (dl_morrese) | 49 comments It sounds as if most of us are experiencing much the same thing. It's tough to get noticed as an indie writer and close to impossible to make a living at it. I published my sixth book in December, and as several people have already said, the royalties barely pay for the tea I drink while writing. I have to admit that I had high hopes with my first book. I thought it was different enough to attract attention. It never did. It got some good reviews, but few people read it. Fewer reviewed it. I kept plugging away, thinking the magic mark was ten books. Now, I've come to the conclusion that there is no magic mark. I have read enough dreadful bestsellers to form the cynical opinion that what sells is largely a matter of luck and marketing. I'm not a salesman and I'm not counting on luck, so I don't expect my books will ever make enough money to justify the time and effort I put into them in economic terms. I try to think of writing as my hobby now. I enjoy it, but I don't expect to make money at it. Still, it would be nice if I thought people read and enjoyed them.


message 16: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) D.L. wrote: "It sounds as if most of us are experiencing much the same thing. It's tough to get noticed as an indie writer and close to impossible to make a living at it. I published my sixth book in December, ..."

I think you've hit the mark exactly. Just think of it as playing the lottery without having to buy a ticket.


message 17: by Sue (new)

Sue Perry | 175 comments Hi all, I am glad to see this thread and I appreciate the perspectives. I've been getting discouraged by my lack of readers, and weighted down by the publication process, and have been hiding out away from internet and social media to try to recalibrate my attitide. I can't say that I feel better after reading these posts but it helps nonetheless.


message 18: by J.A. (new)

J.A. Ironside (julesanneironside) | 653 comments Mod
I've been following this thread with interest. I'm in the unusual position of being a hybrid author who has yet to self publish a novel as I'm waiting for the release of my first book via Small trad publisher n the next couple of months.

I'm interested to know how many of you have created mailing lists, the details of which are in the back of your books ? I'm starting to build one now - prior even publishing - and from speaking to others and reading I think it might turn out to be one of the effective tools for marketing. ( along with the odd blog post if you're so inclined and the occasional strategically placed advert as and when you can afford it/ it's appropriate). Any thoughts? Most interested to hear your opinions. I have no expectations of making my fortune but I don't think expecting to be able to live off my writing in a few years time is unreasonable - especially as I lubbers modestly and have no major drains on my resources aside from the usual bills. Not that I'll be giving up
My job as a librarian by the way - I like it too much :)


message 19: by Kara (new)

Kara Jorgensen (karajorgensen) | 97 comments J. A. wrote: "I've been following this thread with interest. I'm in the unusual position of being a hybrid author who has yet to self publish a novel as I'm waiting for the release of my first book via Small tra..."

I don't have a mailing list, but if you subscribe to my blog, you get the updates emailed to you. Currently that is acting as my newsletter. I paid for an ad with the Ereader News Today (ENT) for $15 and made over 80 sales when I advertised that my book was 99 cents for two days. It worked really well for the money. This month has been great for me, and the ad has a lot to do with it. I wouldn't use a big, expensive advertiser like BookBub (which runs you several hundred dollars) until you have quite a few books. My blog has helped a lot though, that and networking/bonding with other authors on Facebook.


message 20: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
No mailing list for me because I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to make it interesting. The closest I've come to marketing is my last blog post, where a stuffed toy robot begged for sales.


message 21: by Sue (new)

Sue Perry | 175 comments Christina wrote: "No mailing list for me because I wouldn't have the first clue as to how to make it interesting. The closest I've come to marketing is my last blog post, where a stuffed toy robot begged for sales."
I love that. It never occurred to me to go after the stuffed toy robot market.


message 22: by Hákon (new)

Hákon Gunnarsson | 283 comments Sue wrote: "I love that. It never occurred to me to go after the stuffed toy robot market. "

I didn't think of that either. There are several robots in my micro story collection and I hadn't even thought of marketing it to robots, even though they are the obvious target group.


message 23: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I'm focusing on the non-financial rewards, as I've discovered my target audience is very hard to reach. One of the engineers at a rocket co-op in Copenhagen tweeted a picture of my book resting on their re-entry parachute, which had me dead chuffed. Also, I'm going to a space conference in Germany and leading a discussion about the ideas in my book. Fun stuff.


message 24: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Morrese (dl_morrese) | 49 comments I do not have a mailing list, but I have a web site and blog, Twitter, Facebook.... I've run freebie promos, lowered the price of my eBooks to 99¢, and did a promo video on YouTube for the release of the last one. I've yet to see much of a result from any of these marketing efforts, although I do have followers and one or two people one might be tempted to call fans.


message 25: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Hm... I do have sporadic review posts and the next one is going to feature Nica. Perhaps I should offer the robot's views as well.


message 26: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments I strongly endorse the notion that best markets for your current book is your next book. Spending time on marketing that distracts you from writing is generally not a plus.

In traditional publishing (for genre fiction especially), the limited shelf life pushed the marketing model. An indie author has all the time there is. For indie authors (who want to make a living off their work), the key is staying power, so it's much better that your fourth or fifth or seventh book take off than your first.

If your first book takes off, you can find yourself trying to play catchup with your reader's expectations. That may seem like a "nice problem to have" but, if you are in it for the long haul -- and especially if you are blindsided by your own success -- it's still not a good thing to have happen.


message 27: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Buchanan | 8 comments As always, despite some of the less then enthused statements here, it's wonderful to see so many impassioned and determined writers. The reality is that the advance of indie-publishing, and removing the stigma of what was once a death knoll, there are a great many new books entering the flow each year. The key is how to get noticed. We all want to believe, at least I do, that cream always rises to the top. How we help that rise is open.
As for me, to rasie the odds, I knew I had to create a unique approach. So I did something different, that I hope in time will garner my writing attention. I took a gamble and went with a photo/storybook. Drawing on my background as a director I photographed a science-fiction novel I'd written. A wonderful experience. I then founded Cinenovel and have recently published the book as a novel/app to Apple.
I'm not saying this is the way by any means, but the idea was to explore ways to stand out amidst a very large, and growing market.
If anyone so desires, the novel/app is on iTunes under "The Plunge of Icarus." To see sample frames and genre. Not everyone's cup of tea by any means.
Granted, this is an exceptional case, because I had the know-how to put together a complex production like this. But it represents an alternative to the status quo. And this is something I feel everyone can agree on; "we can't keep coming out of the same holes," as David Lean once said.

Good luck to all and keep writing.

Jeff


message 28: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Mitchell (glennhmitchell) | 46 comments Richard wrote: "I'm focusing on the non-financial rewards, as I've discovered my target audience is very hard to reach. One of the engineers at a rocket co-op in Copenhagen tweeted a picture of my book resting on ..."

That is so cool.


message 29: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Mitchell (glennhmitchell) | 46 comments Regions are interesting. Never thought of focusing on the UK but most of my sales now come from there. The reviews are great. I feel like an idiot of course because I completely saw the regions as geographical rather than different demographics. I also brushed aside any thought that using UK English might in some way deter US readers. It all seems obvious now but let's face it, we're suddenly expected (at least pressured by ourselves) to become adequate publishers, overnight. The best advice I've read on this thread is to publish often. I plan to be prolific and expect my first book's sales will increase with the release of each new book.


message 30: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Don't know about British English putting off American readers, Glenn. I write in a sort of bastard mid-Atlantic accent, and most of my sales are in the US. I think it has more to do with where people link to your work.


message 31: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) After more than a year of self publishing, I finally made my first sale in Australia. That one sale propelled my new book to #55 in Military Science Fiction on Amazon Australia. I assume the market there for that niche is very small, but it's often the small victories that make your day a little better.


message 32: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Here's that photo I referred to. Made my day, getting that.




message 33: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Very cool, Richard! Either I was imagining a much bigger parachute or your book is enormous.
Ken, back when the Canadian market first opened, I was lucky enough to get an early sale that put me at #1 in my category and top 100 overall. It lasted for all of a few hours and since then, I might have sold a grand total of three more books in that market, but I made sure to take at least fifty screenshots. I may have also done a rather embarrassing dance in public.


message 34: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I haven't sold in Canada yet, but early on I sold a couple of books in Germany. I've been wondering if those were purchased-in-error sales. If so, they were never returned.


message 35: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
In my experience so far, books in English sell in Germany more often than Canada or Australia. The reason might be that the market has been around longer. At least on Amazon.


message 36: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Glenn wrote: "I also brushed aside any thought that using UK English might in some way deter US readers. It all seems obvious now..."

I'd like to think that's not too huge an issue. It's not for me anyway. I barely even notice anymore because many of the authors I read are users of UK English (like PF Hamilton, A Reynolds, IM Banks).

Of course, I'm also not a typical US reader.


message 37: by D.L. (new)

D.L. Morrese (dl_morrese) | 49 comments Although I'm American, my favorite authors tend to be British. So are my readers, apparently. Sales of my books in the last month have been 60% UK and 40% US (on Amazon), and my biggest fans, well, people who care enough to Tweet about my books, tend to be from England, South Africa, Australia, and Canada.


message 38: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Brink | 23 comments I've started keeping better track of my numbers and even though it doesn't FEEL LIKE I'm doing any better, at least the numbers show a different story. Over the last few years I've basically doubled or better my sales from one year to the next. Which over a long time may just add up. Hey, if it takes a bar graph to reassure me that I'm headed in the right direction, I'll take it. :)


message 39: by Sean (new)

Sean Golden (seandgolden) | 13 comments I am brand new to this whole self-publish scene. I just self-published my first book two weeks ago, and have been drinking through a firehose on the marketing angle since then. I've had 62 books downloaded, half "sold" and half KOLL/KU. I don't know if that's good, bad or indifferent, all I know is that I am a nervous wreck every day trying to walk the fine line between reasonable expectations and panic. I do think that you need more than one book, and I'll be working on my second starting Monday. This week I had dedicated to learning about marketing. I just signed up for a $1,000 seminar on succeeding as a writer, so I've got to sell about 500 books just to break even. LOL.


message 40: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
Honestly, Sean, those are very good numbers. If I had 62 sales in a month I would consider myself a success. Heck, if I average one sale a day, excluding free promos, I consider it a good month.


message 41: by Sean (last edited Jan 30, 2015 09:09AM) (new)

Sean Golden (seandgolden) | 13 comments Christina, I am guessing about fifty of those are family and friends. They won't be buying it every month...


message 42: by Owen (last edited Jan 30, 2015 09:37AM) (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Ken wrote: "I haven't sold in Canada yet, but early on I sold a couple of books in Germany. I've been wondering if those were purchased-in-error sales. If so, they were never returned."

Our books are far more popular in Germany than any other market except the US. But as people have mentioned, the markets elsewhere seem to be small. (As mentioned, two sales in a day will boost you way up in sci-fi in AUS.) I think maybe people in Germany like military sci-fi. My co-author's fantasy novel sells better in the UK.

I talked a friend who's married to a Canadian about why I didn't see more sales there, since I know her husband loves SF/F. (She is also an author.) She said that Canadians just don't like Kindles (e-readers in general) much. So that would be a big factor as to where eBooks sell.


message 43: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Sean wrote: "I am brand new to this whole self-publish scene. I just self-published my first book two weeks ago, and have been drinking through a firehose on the marketing angle since then. I've had 62 books do..."

Sean, those are good numbers -- family and friends, or no. But (as I've said elsewhere - hope I'm not repeating myself), the "marketing" angle for new authors is way overrated. The best marketing you can do is to write more books.

If you haven't already, check out Hugh Howey's blog. He posts regularly on marketing (don't do it), on the market, and on independent publishing in general. I suggest reading him before spending any money (or much time) on marketing your books.


message 44: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Glenn wrote: "I also brushed aside any thought that using UK English might in some way deter US readers...."

A lot of US readers think British English is cool. (I gotta say,the "naughty step" is an awesome phrase.) We like the accent over here too. ;-)


message 45: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Richard wrote: "Here's that photo I referred to. Made my day, getting that."

That is very cool. When you learn that your book made someone happy the that degree, it's worth a lot!


message 46: by David (new)

David Staniforth (davidstaniforth) | 21 comments Sean wrote: "I am brand new to this whole self-publish scene. I just self-published my first book two weeks ago, and have been drinking through a firehose on the marketing angle since then. I've had 62 books do..."

Good figures Sean. It took me a year and four books to get to that level.


message 47: by Hákon (new)

Hákon Gunnarsson | 283 comments Owen wrote: "If you haven't already, check out Hugh Howey's blog. He posts regularly on marketing (don't do it), on the market, and on independent publishing in general. I suggest reading him before spending any money (or much time) on marketing your books."

I sometimes read Howey's blog, and he has often got quite a interesting point of view.


message 48: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Hákon wrote: "I sometimes read Howey's blog, and he has often got quite a interesting point of view."

He has real data on the market and market trends for independent authors. I like that. I see a lot of articles quoting this and that out there regarding trends, demographics, what have you, that are completely bogus because they rely on out-dated views and increasingly irrelevant info sources.

I'm afraid too many new authors are exposed to that and get a completely skewed picture of what is going on.


message 49: by Kara (new)

Kara Jorgensen (karajorgensen) | 97 comments The worst part about having a great month is knowing the next one probably won't be nearly as good. I had about 115 sales this month between kindle, KU, and paperbacks (marketed using ENT during a 99 cent sale). I know next month won't be great.


message 50: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Kara wrote: "The worst part about having a great month is knowing the next one probably won't be nearly as good. I had about 115 sales this month between kindle, KU, and paperbacks (marketed using ENT during a ..."

Doesn't that imply that the best thing about a lousy month is that the next month will probably be better?


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