The Indie Experiment

I’m sure someone has said something about life being about taking risks. For me, choosing to self-publish my work has been one of those risks, though I suppose sending my work to a traditional publisher is also risky. Publishing is risky, then? Moving on.

Before I went indie, I read everything I could get my hands on. Blog posts, books, you name it — I devoured them. I wanted to know what happened when writers sold their own books and how to do it. How much do indie authors earn, etc. You hear from the industry that most indies never sell more than 500 copies of their books. Now that I’ve done it myself, I figured I’d post this to pay it forward and help the next would-be indie who may have the same questions.

Here goes.

I published THE COFFEE GIRL on May 5, 2015, and had no idea what to expect. It felt like a complete leap of faith, though I’d hoped to sell between one and five books a day. Seriously, that was what I’d hoped for, 5 books a day. And I had prepared myself to keep on writing no matter what and to play the long game.

To prepare the book, I’d hired a developmental editor (SO necessary for this one, since it was giving me some trouble), a copy editor, and a proofreader. I also hired someone to design the cover. I did all of the formatting for the ebook and paper with my hands and saved a couple hundred dollars there, but otherwise I hired experts. I know my limits, and I didn’t want to publish an inferior product.

To be honest, I hoped I’d break even within 6 months. I worried that I’d spent too much for a book that could possibly sink into obscurity a few days out of the gate. Again, I have this thing about publishing typo-riddled garbage. I’m a little bit Type-A. So I thought that I needed my experts, but I also worried that it would take me a long time to ever make a profit. I was okay with it.

On May 5, I posted about the release on Facebook and sold a few copies. Fifteen copies, to be exact. I was thrilled because again, I thought I’d sell 5 a day. Sales dropped steadily over the next few days, and I think I sold one ebook that weekend (I’d released on a Tuesday). I stopped checking my numbers altogether and continued to work on the next book, which was the plan all along. I didn’t do any other advertising other than to boost my Facebook release day post and excerpt. I spent $20 on that.

Then something happened that I can’t explain. Suddenly, a week after I released THE COFFEE GIRL, sales shot up. I remember checking my sales after not looking for days and seeing that it was 11 a.m. and I’d already sold 26 copies. TWENTY-SIX COPIES, you guys. I nearly fell out of my chair, I was so giddy. Within minutes — I’m not even kidding — an editor from a publisher in Germany sent an email expressing interest in purchasing the German rights. And sales kept climbing.

I figured at that rate, I’d POSSIBLY earn out my investment in a month. A month! I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t dare to hope it.

But that’s not what happened.

I earned out my investment in TWO WEEKS. Sales were going strong, and I have done no additional promo. As of today, I have earned back my investment in this book and made enough to cover the editing and design of my next two releases. So, three times my investment, and my book hasn’t been out a month yet.

For what it’s worth, I’m not exclusive to Amazon, but over 99% of my sales have been there. I’m not convinced I should sign up for Kindle Select, but I’ve thought about it. For now, I’ll keep my book in a lot of channels and hope it gains traction in other places.

Indie publishing has allowed me to write and publish the book I wanted to write and publish. It puts me in control, and I like that.

I haven’t made an enormous sum of money. It’s not quit-your-day-job cash. Sales could drop off tomorrow, for all I know. But taking the leap and going indie has been so much more than I’d ever hoped for or expected. So for anyone considering this option, I just wanted to share.

And to all of the readers who have loved THE COFFEE GIRL and told their friends about it: thank you, thank you, thank you.

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