Our self-pubbed author blitz continues with K.C. May, a speculative fiction author. Her first self-published book The Kinshield Legacy received 2nd place at the Kindle Book Review Indie Award in September 2011. Read how she took a title a small-press publisher struggled to sell, and made it an Amazon bestseller.
Back in 2009, I asked my publisher to make my book The Kinshield Legacy available in Kindle format, but he refused, saying it was available as a PDF, which can be read on the Kindle.
That didn’t make sense to me — if most ebook buyers bought direct from online retailers like BN.com and Amazon and Kobo, why not provide the books in the format best suited to the ebook readers? Ereaders were becoming more popular, and I knew this market would be growing.
I asked again in 2010, and his response was to cut me loose from my contract.
A New Direction
In 2010, I self-published The Kinshield Legacy. I bought a new book cover, took a crash course in ebook formatting and uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords. The first month, I made ten sales, mostly from Smashwords. I think I had 2 sales on Amazon that month.
For the first nine months or so, I did all the usual promotional things — jumped on every new review blog to get reviews, did give-aways, tweeted and Facebooked, etc.
L: When did you see your sales increasing?
A few things happened:
– I put The Kinshield Legacy on sale for 99c on April 1. Sales started picking up.
– On April 8, it was featured on Pixel of Ink. Sales went from 4-5 per day to 15-25 per day.
– Game of Thrones aired on HBO on April 17. (My book isn’t that similar, but it’s in the same genre.) Sales went from 15-25 per day to 25-40 per day.
– On May 7, it was featured on Ereader News Today. Sales went from 25-40 per day to 50-70 per day.
The Kinshield Legacy sold over 2000 copies in May, over 4600 in June, almost 6000 in July, 7700 for August… The sequel, The Wayfarer King, came out August 3, and it sold 6300 copies its first month! On August 24, I reached my 25,000-sales milestone (across all books, all venues). On September 9, I hit 40,000, and by the end of September, I’d sold over 50,000 books.
The Snowball Effect of Word of Mouth
Once Amazon starts to recommend your books, an enjoyable story professionally presented can enjoy months and months of excellent sales while the writer develops a loyal readership. And that’s really what we’re after, right?
When I first got the rights back for The Kinshield Legacy, I initially thought I would shop it around to another publisher, but I’d heard that Amazon offered a way for authors to upload their books to sell on Amazon.
“They” say that most self-published books sell about 100 copies in their lifetime. I sold more in the first three months than the original publisher had sold in the five years he had the rights. Ironically, his other titles are now in Kindle format. I like to think I was a lesson to him. 🙂
L: What happened then?
When I finished my second book in November 2010, The Venom of Vipers, I did query my agent, just in case he wanted to try selling it to a traditional publisher. When two weeks went by without a response, I proceeded with my plan to self-publish it. By then, I knew that self-publishing was for me.
The day-by-day feedback on book sales is so much better than the quarterly reports my publisher *cough* sent (or didn’t send, as the case may be). I knew which days of the week were the biggest sales days and could focus my marketing to take advantage. One thing I learned since self-publishing my first book: spreadsheets are my friends.
L: What advice would you give new writers thinking self-publishing may be the way to go?
Decide what your goals are and hang out on forums where self-published writers go, such as the Writers’ Cafe at the Kindleboards. I learned a lot by reading the trials and tribulations of others with the same goals. There’s a lot of work involved, and it’s not for everyone. Reclusive writers may not want to self-publish when they find out how much interaction they need to engage in to get word out about their book. Writers who aren’t very computer savvy might be intimidated by the effort in formatting, uploading and managing their books online.
If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and don’t mind the expense and hassle of self-publishing, it can be extremely rewarding!
Thanks K.C.! You can follow K.C. May on her blog, subscribe to her newsletter off her webite, or follow her on Twitter. To read more about K.C. May and her upcoming work, check out this fabulous post she wrote for Nathan Lowell presents.
Your turn. Do you look at the publisher before you purchase a book? Does it matter to you if it’s self-published? What sells a book to you?
Did you miss the other posts in our series? Find them here: