Lindsay Burokoer, a long-time writer friend and great blogger–who recently featured a guest post of mine about the Faery Worlds Book Bundle–has posted her reflections and lessons learned from three years of self-publishing.
Lindsay and I started self-publishing about the same time. Perhaps it’s not too surprising, then, that we’ve learned some of the same lessons. I completely agree with what she has to say.
Read the whole thing, but here are some high-lights:
Lesson #2: A series with dedicated readers is what leads to reliable income.
Over time, the numbers tell you how many people go on to buy subsequent books after trying the first, so you’ve got a good idea how many buyers you’re going to have each month if you can get X number of new people to pick up the first book. You also get an idea of how many people will buy the next installment before you even start writing it. With unrelated works, things are more hit-and-miss. You might get lucky and attract an all-new audience, but you might also find that fewer of your dedicated readers will try the new characters/new world.
Lesson #3: You should give a book time on the market before giving up on it or making hasty decisions regarding series-potential.
Based off early reviews, I almost scrapped Torrent and the notion of doing a subsequent series. At one point, I was going to take it down from the store altogether. The only reason I didn’t was because it was clearly set up as a Book 1 and I felt compelled to write more in the series at some point, so people wouldn’t be left hanging.
So what eventually happened with Torrent? I left it up there while I went on to my other stuff, and it’s actually sold well, quite well when you consider that I haven’t mentioned it anywhere since launch weekend back in September. Even for launch, I didn’t do more than announce it to my newsletter, and throw up a post on Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t spent a penny on advertising (I always figured I would wait until I had more books out in the series). I’ve also had some nice emails and comments from readers who enjoyed it and want to see more. In addition, I got an email from someone at Amazon last month, and they may include it in some kind of featured sale in a couple of months (no guarantees, but, hey, they’ve never emailed me about any of my other books). So that brings me to…
Lesson #4: Glowing reviews don’t always make for a best-seller and the book that gets hammered hardest might just sell well.
I should note that I agree with some of the critiques for the book, and I’ll try to address certain points and improve on things as I go forward in the series. However, it’s also worth pointing out that…
Lesson #5: If you publish something in a different genre, you risk displeasing people who prefer the old.
As authors, we sometimes like to jump around and explore new genres and different styles of writing. (Why of course it’s time to try something in first person!) There’s nothing wrong with that, but we have to realize that those people who really liked our old genre and old style of writing may not be excited about the new. I think the next time I jump to a different genre (there’s going to be a space-age SF series eventually, so look out!), I’ll mention it to the mailing list but won’t do the big discount to try and encourage them to try it. If they do and they like it, great, but I’ll go to the book blogs and genre-specific advertisers and try to first put it in front of those who really dig that type of book.
There’s much more so be sure you read the rest on her blog.