My Second Year as an Indie Author: Even Sweeter Success

In December 2010, a year after I had self-published my first historical mystery, Maids of Misfortune, I wrote a piece evaluating my experience in my first year as an indie author. This December it seemed fitting to see how my second year as an indie author compared to the first.

First the Numbers:

Last December, I wrote that …there is every reason for me to think that I will do even better next year than I did this year with Maids of Misfortune…” and I was entirely right.

In my first year as a self-published author (December 2009-November 2010), I sold 2693 books, most of them $2.99 ebooks, and I made slightly more than $5000.  In my second year (December 2010-November 2011) I sold an additional 12,245 copies of Maids of Misfortune and 943 copies of my second book, Uneasy Spirits, which came out mid October. This means I sold a total of 13,188 books (again most as ebooks) and made over $25,000, before taxes.

From everything I have read on other authors’ posts and on the Kindle forums and boards, my success has been duplicated or surpassed by a significant number of indie authors this past year.

What do I expect to happen next year?

Earlier this year I began to wonder if there would be a natural saturation point for Maids of Misfortune, (all the people who would be interested in a cozy mystery set in 1879 San Francisco would have already bought the book), and if the trend of more sales each month that I saw in 2010 would be reversed in 2011.

I think that the answer to this is a qualified yes. My sales of Maids have steadily fallen since the peak I achieved last Dec-Jan-Feb (when I averaged 2000 books sold a month). For example, I sold only 376 Maids this November.  This decline in sales may also reflect both the shift to 99 cent pricing in ebooks in 2011 and the increased number of new and backlist books that traditional publishers and self-publishers put into ebook format. The competition in my niche has increased and many of these books were priced lower than my $2.99 price point. (I experimented for a month with putting the book at 99 cents, but the increase in sales didn’t justify the loss in revenue).

However, I do expect the sale of Maids will go up again, at least temporarily, as millions of new Kindle owners start downloading books Christmas morning. In fact, already this month I have seen a slight uptick in the average number of Maids of Misfortune I am selling per day (people who couldn’t wait for Christmas?).

In addition, I now have 2 books on sale. While I don’t know if all the people who read Maids will go on to read the sequel, Uneasy Spirits, nor do I know how many people will be interested in reading Uneasy Spirits as a stand alone, having the second book has certainly boosted my overall sales.  In September, before Uneasy was out, I sold a total of 589 books. Then, in November, when Uneasy had been out a full month, I sold a total of 957 books (31 books a day).

So, with Amazon reporting Kindle sales of a million a week this month and two books on the market, I have every expectation that next year my sales will equal, if not surpass, this year’s sales.

Total Job Satisfaction:

Being an indie author is not all about sales (or even about the control you have over your own fate). This past year I experienced some significant but indirect by-products of being a self-published author that have given me a good deal of personal satisfaction.

First, I was able to become a full-time writer. In 2010, I was still teaching part-time and learning how to market and I was only able to write a short story, Dandy Detects. In 2011, I determined I was making enough money so I could retire completely from my teaching position. Consequently I had the time write and publish the sequel, Uneasy Spirits. Since it had taken me 20 years from first draft to publication to get out my first book, being able to complete an entire book in less than a year was enormously satisfying.

Second, I began to pass on my knowledge to other aspiring indie authors. In 2010 I was mostly learning from others, reading their how-to books, reading their blogs, and trying out their tips. In 2011 I began to notice my blog posts were getting more comments and were being linked to more often. I was asked to do guest posts. I began to offer advice and guidance to authors who were either just starting out or trying to adapt to the new opportunities of ebook and self-publishing. This January I am presenting at the SDSU Writers Conference, where I will be one of two “professionals” (among nearly 40 agents and editors) talking about self-publishing and selling ebooks. In April I will be the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Southern California Writers Association. While not every person I have helped this year has achieved as many sales as I have, some have, and others have actually begun to surpass me. As a life long teacher, I have found helping out other authors to be almost as satisfying as writing and selling my own books.

Third, I have become part of community of authors. While my participation in various online groups like MurderMustAdvertise, CrimeThruTime, and All Mystery News introduced me to a number of authors, it has been my membership in the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative (HFAC) that has been most rewarding. The HFAC, formed at the end of 2010 by a group of historical fiction authors who came together to market their ebooks, invited me to join in the Fall of 2010. During 2011, I have served on the HFAC Board of Directors, and, in this capacity, I have participated in the recruitment of other members, the building of a sophisticated website, and the testing of strategies for marketing both the website and other members’ books. Along the way I have learned new technical skills and developed new marketing ideas, but, more importantly, I have met a wonderful group of writers.

One of the reasons I had been hesitant to retire from my job as a college professor was my fear of losing the sense of community I had with my colleagues: people I served on committees with, talked with casually in the hallways, people who over twenty years had become my friends. But membership in the HFAC has fulfilled my need for community, both through shared endeavors and frequent internet conversations. And, as a result, many of these members have become my friends. Friends I have never seen face-to-face, friends who live in the four corners of the globe, but friends who share my love of history and writing.

In Conclusion:

My second year as an indie author, whether measured in books sold, words written, help and advice given, or friendships made, has been more successful than I would have ever dreamed possible.  And once again, I have every expectation that next year will be even better.

Wishing you all a Happy Holiday!

M. Louisa Locke

6 thoughts on “My Second Year as an Indie Author: Even Sweeter Success

  1. Well done, Mary Lou. I certainly have appreciated your guidance on entering into the world of Amazon. I’m also enjoying the sense of community in the HFAC which extends way down here to Australia. All the best for 2012. Happy holidays too.

  2. Thanks for sharing your information and numbers. I’ve read and enjoyed Maids of Misfortune and will read Uneasy Spirits. Having a good book has to be the main reason for your success, but I know you put a lot of work into getting the word out. Good for you!

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