Last year I rang in the New Year with my daughter, who had just had her first baby. I was exhausted (she had had a difficult delivery) and elated at being a grandmother. This New Year’s day, as I look back at the wonderful year of watching that sweet grandson grow and develop, I can’t help but notice some of the parallels between my experiences as a newly published independent author and that of my grandson.
Last New Year as my grandson was trying to figure out how to nurse, when I added up my first month of sales of Maids of Misfortune, the historical mystery I had self-published in both ebook and print form, I discovered I had sold only 47 books, mostly to friends and family. I had a author website (but no reviews), and a blog (where I hadn’t posted anything yet), and I had read enough advice on self-publishing to know that I had a lot of work to do if I wanted anyone else to even discover my book existed.
In the first six months of 2010, as my grandson learned to hold his head up, blow bubbles, babble, and sit up, I learned how to market my book. I found out who would review a self-published mystery and garnered a solid number of positive reviews; I began to chronicle my journey as an indie author on my blog, posting about twice a month, and had the good fortune to become a regular contributor to Publetariat, expanding my audience considerably; I lowered my price down to $2.99 for the ebook and wrote a short story that I offered for free on Smashwords and 99 cents on Kindle, and between April (when I sold 46 books-the same amount as I had the first month of sales) and May (when I sold 80 book)s I saw the beginning of a steady monthly increase in sales.
In June of 2010, when the book had been out for seven months, my grandson now had his first teeth, and I had succeeded in getting Maids of Misfortune properly included in the Amazon browsing category of historical mysteries. This was just in time to take advantage of the bump in sales caused when Steven Windwalker featured my short story, Dandy Detects, as one of his Kindle shorts on the Kindle Nation Daily. I became a mover and shaker for a day on Amazon and the two day spike in sales pushed Maids of Misfortune to a top spot in the historical mystery category in July, where it has steadily remained ever since. Fortuitously this was the same month that Amazon began to offer a 70% royalty for book on Kindle.
In the Fall of 2010, as my grandson learned to crawl and pull himself up to a standing position, I continued to publish blog posts, join in conversations about self-publishing on different blogs and writer’s and fan sites, seek out additional reviews, answer my first fan emails, and began to work on the creation of a Historical Fiction eBooks Coop that will curate and market epublished historical fiction. Each month saw a tiny increase in the books I sold. In August I sold on average 11 books a day, in September and October, 14-15 books a day, and November, 17-18 books a day.
And then came the Christmas holidays. While we sat around and watched our grandson practice his first words, “back pack” and “map” (he is a fan of Dora the Explorer), and try desperately to take his first steps, I watched my sales climb day-by day. I had already noticed a distinct increase starting with the Thanksgiving holiday, as I began to sell often as many as 25 or 30 books a day. I figured that since most of my sales were on Kindle, this reflected people downloading books to take on their travels. But even in the beginning of December, my print books began to sell at a faster clip, and this surely meant gift sales. Then the day before Christmas my grandson took four steps all by himself, and two days after Christmas, as all those new Kindle owners began to download books, I had my best day ever, selling over 262 copies of Maids of Misfortune. I couldn’t have been more proud of both of us.
So it is now January 1, 2011. My grandson has weathered his first birthday party and birthday cake, and I have added up my sales to discover that in the past year I sold an astonishing 4,625 books, 1932 of them in December alone. I can be pretty sure what this next year will bring for my grandson: more firsts. First skinned knee, first full sentence, the first, but not the last, use of the word no. For me, I hope the future holds seconds: second novel written, second novel published, and second novel selling as well as the first. But whatever happens in 2011, I will never forget how extraordinarily special 2010 was, as the grandmother of a newborn, and a newbie indie author.