Category Archives: Sales

So, it’s 2021

I know it’s expected to come up with a list of resolutions, diet plans, and goals at this time of year, but to be honest I hate resolutions, diets bore me, and I already came up with my goals for 2021 back in November.

Goal #1: Improve my indie publishing sales

The trick here is twofold — write and publish more good books steadily, and get really, really good at promotion. Which includes Amazon ads for me (I don’t have a great deal of luck with FB ads but I’m studying up on them), as well as social media promotion, regular blogging here, biweekly newsletters, and tools such as BookBub, BookFunnel, and BookSprout.

On the book-writing front, I managed to get a novel or novella out each month in the last half of 2020, which almost completely cleared off my WIP backlog. I won’t be able to keep that up in 2021, at least not if I want to maintain my current level of quality, but the goal is to release six books, once every two months, and put out a novella or short story in between the book releases. That, I feel, is manageable, and should result in twelve titles being released in 2021.

On the promotion front, my Amazon ad game is definitely improving — I’ve been making more sales and my Advertising cost of sales is dropping steadily, which is also good. That being said, I’ve decided to blow away all the old ads and start fresh in January by implementing the things I’ve learned about Amazon ads and doing A/B testing. It’ll take some time for the algos to pick up on that and start bumping the books up, but from a long-term perspective I think it’s the best thing I can do. Still need to do some more research on FB, but I may dip my toes back in that pool sometime in February.

Goal #2: Make mo’ money

This is partially tied into Goal #1 since that’s one of my main income streams. What with the emotional and financial rollercoaster of the last four years, I’m tired. Last year I had determined to clear off all of our outstanding bills with my contract job, and before COVID got me furloughed I was able to clear all bills except one. I want to expand on that this year, plus I want savings, I want to be able to invest in the stock market, and I want Ramón to be able to retire in 2024. And the only way to make that happen is to bring in more money.

I have three income streams at the moment — indie publishing, contract tech writing work, and jewelry making. At the moment the contract work pays the most, but it’s also on hold due to COVID. I would very much like to get to the point where I make enough money from indie publishing that I don’t have to rely on contract work unless the job really appeals to me.

And believe it or not, before last year I made pretty much the same amount from jewelry making as I did from indie publishing (mainly due to my work in sterling silver and semi-precious stones). Publishing has now pulled ahead of the jewelry, but I’d like to get back to designing and creating jewelry this year. It’s fun, it’s a nice break from writing, and it’s become part of my writing process (I mull over story ideas and plotting when I’m melting silver and soldering findings together). Also, people have been asking when I’m going to put more baroque earrings on my Etsy page. It’s nice to have fans.

Goal #3: Continue working on my shitty knees

At least I now know exactly what’s wrong with both of them, and I have PT exercises that do help. But that little chat with the PA at Baylor confirmed that I’m never going to actually straighten out either knee unless I get replacements, and the Baylor surgeon did not seem willing to do that.

Which means I will continue to limp for the foreseeable future, until 1) I can find a surgeon willing to replace ShitKnee at the very least, and 2) save up the money for that, as my PT sessions drained all the money I’d saved for surgery from last year. God, I hate the American medical insurance system.

Now, I just have to implement all of these goals. I’d gotten off to a great start on 1/4 after my break, but yesterday was taken up with hauling JJ to the emergency vet because he’d been vomiting up pinkish foam (after an exam and bloodwork to the tune of $611, the determination — he had an upset tummy) and today I’m running around trying to tempt JJ to eat with soft treats and easily digestible things and Jeremy is making an absolute ass of himself trying to get in my way. Need to catch up with word count, monitor the pending Senate race in Georgia (come on, Jon!), and brave the outside world later on for a food shop.

Onward, 2021.

The Business of Writing

Well, Shadow of the Swan officially goes to its full price of $3.99 today. It’s had an absolutely excellent sale run — I’ve sold 224 ebooks and two print books, gotten 19 reviews/ratings on Amazon, and it’s gotten enough buzz that I’m using it to start a new series, God help me.

A bit of a breakdown: 59 of those sales were via pre-order, and 10 sales were courtesy of the brilliant and incisive writer Jim Wright (aka Stonekettle on Twitter and FB) being kind enough to retweet my buy links (in addition to being an amazing writer he’s also a photographer and fellow crafter so so go check out his gorgeous nature photography and handmade wooden items on Etsy). Which means I’ve sold 155 ebooks by advertising and word of mouth, which bodes well for future books. Now it’s time to bump it up to its full price and see what that does.

In other news, I’ve also decided to up the price on all of my series starters to $1.99. I kept them at 99¢ because I was following the common wisdom of “price your series starters cheaply so that people will get hooked and then buy the rest of the series.” Which worked occasionally, I guess, but but nearly enough to make it worthwhile — I sold far more copies of the series starters than I did of the rest of the series books, mainly because of the psychology that readers will see a book priced at 99¢, buy it because it’s cheap, then leave it on their TBR pile for whenever they have time. Whereas if you pay $1.99 or more for a book, you’re more likely to read it ASAP, and that leads to people wanting to read the rest of the series and going back to Amazon to buy them. My goal is to get more people to buy my series starters and then buy the rest of the series. Ironically, the best way to do this seems to be by setting the price on the series starter at a respectable rate. Who knew?

In other publishing news, between sales and pre-orders for King of Blades I am at the 2/5 mark of what I made in September, and it’s only October 7th. The goal this month is to hit $200 in sales, then keep increasing that in the following months. Seeing as I’ll be releasing three more books this year, all of them part of existing series, I think it’s doable.

And finally, I have an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow to be evaluated for a knee replacement. I know I need a replacement, and once he sees this wreck of a knee I think he’ll agree — the only potential sticking point is my weight. I’m hoping I don’t hear, “Lose 25 pounds and come back then,” but we’ll see.

King of Blades, Day *counts* 22

Yeah, I know, I suck. In my defense, have you SEEN what’s been going on out there?

Anyway, King of Blades. I’m at 45K words, past the midpoint, and I was supposed to be finished today but everything pretty much exploded out there in the last ten days so I’ll be doing 5K a day (again) until I hit the end. At least this time I know the world really well, and there shouldn’t be any surprise extra chapters popping up.

I just jinxed myself, didn’t I? DAMMIT.

In better news, last month was the first time I’d done three figures’ worth of sales on Amazon since June 2019 ($155.19, for total transparency). Not only is that five times what I made the previous month, it’s pretty much equal to what I made between January and August 2020, so that’s a definite improvement. The sales for Shadow of the Swan were a big help and provided $70 of that take, plus the two reader magnets (“A Gentle Fall of Snow” and “Beneath Their Own Blue Sea”) brought in more money and additional eyes on my other titles. My goal for this month is to do $200 worth of sales on Amazon, and between the pre-orders for King of Blades and what I’ve made so far I’m a quarter of the way there as of–

–checks calendar–

October 5th. So I’ve got that going for me. My goal for the rest of the year is to keep bumping up that monthly intake until I get to the point where I’m actually making a living wage at this job (or better yet, enough to support us both so that Ramón can retire and go find a narrow gauge railway where he can volunteer his services). But the only way I can do that is to keep releasing titles and hone my advertising game, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Speaking of releasing titles, if you follow me on Twitter or FB you probably noticed that I would up getting the rights back for my short story “Fine Dining” and my novelette “In His Name” from Evernight Publishing (one of the other authors in two of EP’s anthologies wanted their rights back, so EP pulled the anthos and sent the contributors rights reversion letters).

Because titles don’t do you any good if they’re not published, I spent most of last Thursday getting both shorts re-edited, re-covered, and re-released last week. If you’d like to pick up some 99¢ M/M contemporary romance short stories by me, here’s your chance (and if I may say so, “In His Name” is one hell of a good story). Plus L.D. Blakeley will be re-releasing her short story “Mile High Rebound” and I got a sneak peek at the awesome cover today, so keep an eye out for it!

Okay, still need to make word count tonight so I’m going back to work. Talk to y’all tomorrow!

Finish one project, move on to the next

So Shadow of the Swan is out there on all online markets, earning money and reviews, and I’m happy with that (as of this moment I’ve sold 143 copies on Amazon). I’ve even uploaded a free short story titled “A Gentle Fall of Show” about Henry and Louisa’s first Christmas at Bookfunnel (all subscribers to my newsletter got the link; if you want to subscribe, click here, enter your email address, and you can download “Snow” in MOBI, EPUB, or PDF format).

So what’s next, Nic? I’m glad you asked.

Since it looks like we’re going to be stuck in COVIDland for the foreseeable future, I am setting up some structure for myself for the rest of the year. And I know I’ve said that before, but this time I’m doing it partially for income and partially because I really need it to stay sane.

So — today, I am wrapping up the re-edit of Deep Water and uploading it to Amazon, B&N, et al. Tomorrow I go back to work on King of Blades (Two Thrones 4) with a goal of finishing it by Monday, October 5. If I do 3,265 words a day, I’ll make that easily. Moreover, I KNOW I can write that many words a day easily (I knew it before, but 2019 kinda shook my faith in myself). Even better, now that I’ve been testing my lavaliere mike, Scrivener’s dictation function, and Otter.ai (oh, Holy God, dictation is a fricking godsend to anyone who needs to write fast and can handle saying stuff out loud), I should be able to crank out that amount within two hours, then spend another couple of hours editing it into shape. The rest of the work hours will be taken up with promo, cover design, et al, and outlining the rest of the books I’ll be writing this year.

On October 6, I pivot from King and let it cool for a week while I fire up Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4). People have been waiting VERY patiently for this book for about five years, so now that I have the rights back for all of the Olympic Cove books I want to reward them for their patience. The goal is to finish Current on November 2. On October 12, in parallel with my work on Cross Current, I will start editing King with a goal of getting it out to my editor and the betas by October 16. After I incorporate their changes and do the final polishing stages, I’ll publish King on Tuesday, October 27.

On November 3 I let the completed Cross Current rest for a week while I go back to work on Uncertainty Principle (and by then I’ll actually have an outline, please God — this book has been frustrating me for the better part of two years) with a goal of finishing it on December 4. Once again, I’ll edit Cross Current in parallel with writing Uncertainty, with a goal of publishing Cross Current on November 24. Uncertainty Principle will be published on December 22, and I am taking the rest of December off to let my brain cool down and get in some well-deserved relaxation by that point.

IF I HAVE TIME AND INTESTINAL FORTITUDE, I will work on The Crimson and the Black in December once Uncertainty Principle is finished. I am not going to promise anything at this point because, quite frankly, I may need to collapse at that point. Much will hinge on how well the dictation goes, how quickly I can edit, and whether or not I still have extra processor cycles available. If I decide to put it off until 2021, it will be the first book of that year.

I’m not going to post my planned schedule for 2021 yet because it’s still kind of soft and I want to get some details firmed up. But my goal is to release at least four full-length books that year (I’m telling you right off the bat, two of them will be the final books in the Olympic Cove series), along with a handful of novellas and free short stories.

And yeah, I know it looks like I’ve bitten off far more than I can chew, but King, Current, and Uncertainty are all partials so it’s not like I’m starting from square one on any of them. If I can get all of them done and out the door, I will have cleared my backlog and can start 2021 with a clean conscience. Let’s see if I can get this done.

Sale!

Just got word from Evernight that they’re buying my sexy hitman romance “Gentleman Jackson” for their Lawless anthology. Which may throw some readers because this story is going in the MF antho, not the MM antho. What can I say — I like mixing things up. Also, it means that if you read the snippet I posted on Wednesday and liked it, you can read the full story in a month or so. More on that as details emerge.

In other news, Lady of Thorns should be finished by next Wednesday, and I’m looking at a 10/17 release date (it’s two weeks later than I’d originally planned, but Real Life™ wound up turning into a timesink and I want to make sure Lady gets a thorough editing before she’s released into the wild). I’m concurrently working on Shifter Woods: Snarl, which should be released before Lady, and once those are out I put the finishing touches on Cross Current and get that off to Evernight. November and NaNoWriMo is going to be dedicated to Uncertainty Principle, I believe. Lord, if I get everything finished on time I’ll have written four full length books, four novellas that will be combined into a box set, and a novelette this year. Not too shabby if I say so myself.

It’s time to pull on my Big Writer Panties

degreeofresistancecoverDegree of Resistance has now been out for a shade over a week, and the bulk of my wonderful ARC readers have left reviews (thank you all, *mwah*). I have requests out to a slew of reviewers, advertising going on at various locations, and I’m in the process of getting my media pack out to various bloggers who are kind enough to host my stuff.

And so far … yeah, the sales are perhaps a touch disappointing. The folks who have read the book so far say it’s hella good (and these people have no reason to blow smoke up my ass. If I’d produced something crappy, they would’ve told me). So what that confirms is that my marketing plan is not optimal and I have to come up with a better method of getting Evie and Ben’s story out in front of readers who love smokin’ cyborg romance.

To that end, the lovely and talented Cecilia Tan (my first editor and now my cherished colleague) was kind enough to spend an hour on Skype with me on Thursday going over various battle plans and ways to promote DoR. Some of them, I must admit, had simply never occurred to me but seem obvious in retrospect (e.g. find ways to write blogs posts that will appeal to girl geek-slanted publications such as The Daily Dot and io9, since a significant proportion of my SFR-loving readers will be found there). Others will require careful use of SEO terms to boost exposure, creative use of graphics, or just plain throwing money at the problem. As I am a poor but honest writer who is still paying off the costs of Wild Wicked Weekend (Tl;dr I had a frigging ball and sold more books than last year)  I’m hoping to keep this last method down to a minimum, at least until the end of the month. I still want to try submitting Empress of Storms to BookBub, but I need to save up for that as well, plus I have to wait until I’m past the 90 day limit on sales prices (since it was on sale along with Palace of Scoundrels in December, that should take effect later this month).

So goes the life of a modern hybrid author. Still the best job I’ve ever had, though.

A Christmas Sale!

twothronesseriesheader

Which has much less Darren McGavin than A Christmas Story, but bear with me. In the spirit of the year (and because all of us need a bit of a lift right now) I’m putting both Two Thrones books on sale for 99¢ until New Year’s Eve. So if you’re new to the joint kingdoms of Hellas and Ypres, this is the perfect chance to check them out.

Empress of Storms

Palace of Scoundrels

A Slight More Balanced Thought About Piracy

Empress-of-storms-CustomDesign-JayAheer2015-smallpreview*takes deep breath, lets it out through nose*

So yesterday I launched a rant about a certain site that was promoting illegal downloads of Empress of Storms. Pretty much everyone who read it and left a comment on social media sympathized with me, reassured me that a lot of pirate sites exist to get credit card information and thus karma would visit those who didn’t know how to use a library, and generally tried to make me feel better.

I appreciate them all. And I should admit that part of my rage was brought on by the fact that Ramón was laid off on October 31 and we are both scrambling for work and trying to figure out how we’ll be paying the December mortgage (Christmas isn’t even an option this year. Paying bills comes first). But the karma bit stuck in my head. See, I used to have a blog waaaaay back in 2001, long before WordPress or Blogger or even LiveJournal were on the scene. Had to hand-code each entry, change the previous entry so that it linked to the new one, and create/update the archive pages. You kids don’t know how lucky you are, with your social media crosslinking and your SEO tags. Now get off my lawn.

Anyhoo, since I knew that big block of uninterrupted text tended to turn readers off I had a habit of trolling the net for appropriate images, downloading them, and using them in my blog entries. I did not buy these. Back then, you didn’t even think twice about it. You found a picture on the net and you just used it. There was no question about reimbursing the artist who took the photograph or created the artwork. If it was on the net, it was free for use, QED.

So, if I am brutally honest with myself this may be karma doing a little bitchslapping of its own for using creative material that I didn’t pay for. And now that my blood pressure has settled, I do have to admit that having 612 downloads and 41 four- and five-star reviews is actually kind of flattering. At least 612 people liked my story enough to grab it from a torrent site and read it. 41 of them liked it enough to leave good reviews.

(I still wish they’d left those reviews on Amazon, but whatever.)

Seriously, though, if you can’t afford a copy and will frigging explode if you can’t read about Matthias and Danaë, don’t go through a torrent site. Email me and I will send you a copy for free. All I ask is that you leave a honest review somewhere, ideally Amazon but I’ll take Goodreads/B&N/iBooks/whatever. That way, karma blesses us both.

A rant about ebook piracy wherein I channel my inner Lewis Black

Book with pirates flag(ATTENTION: There will be a great deal of profanity in this post. You have been warned.)

Well, fuck me. I did my usual check for reviews this morning and stumbled across a pirate site called readpremiumbooks dot com that has Empress of Storms.

612 downloads. Allow me to repeat that — SIX HUNDRED AND TWELVE DOWNLOADS. And that’s just from this one site. That’s $1,709.32 that I lost, assuming that people would have bought it through Amazon. That would’ve been enough to pay our bills this month and have cash left over for Christmas presents (and things are really goddamned tight around Castle Cameron right now).

And you wonder why I despise pirates. Not all of us are bestselling authors who can blow off piracy as a left-handed form of promotion. For some of us that income means paying the bills, or the mortgage, or picking up necessary medicine. But apparently people think I don’t need that money — hey, I’m a writer, I must be rolling in it, I won’t notice one pirated copy.

Surprise, motherfucker. I notice. So do my creditors. And I can’t even send these RPE fuckers a DMCA takedown because they advertise themselves as an “external affiliate” who cannot guarantee the presence of a particular file because they draw from third-party sites.

But losing income actually isn’t the most irritating thing about this. Want to know what’s really chapping my ‘nads? EoS has 41 fucking reviews on this site, all of which appear to be five stars. I can’t get people to leave me reviews on Amazon, but pirate sites? No problem. Goddamn it, I offered the book FOR FREE if people would just leave an honest review in return. Not one nibble did I get. But they’ll go to a pirate site that could be loading their ereaders with Cthulhu knows what sort of malware to get reading material AND LEAVE REVIEWS THERE.

And people wonder why I drink.

I’m big in the UK

So I’ve been checking my Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard, as you do when you’re a nervous self-pubbing author. While I was there I noticed an upwards swing in sales for Empress of Storms today, which is awesome because money around the holidays is always a good thing.

And then I dug into the stats a bit deeper. It seems that the bulk of the recent sales have come from amazon.co.uk. This pleases me as Ramón is in fact an Englishman and it’s nice to know that some of his countrymen (or women, as the case may be) are digging my work. So if any of you lovely British bookbuyers are reading this, thank you and please spread the word to your friends. I wouldn’t mind becoming a smash hit in the UK at all, especially if I could whomp up the funding for a book tour.

Keep all sharp objects away from my reality bubble. I’m allowed to dream.

Meanwhile, NovelRank is reporting that I have sold absolutely nothing in December and my only sales have been within the US. So bugger to you and your bizarre sales determining algorithm, NovelRank.