Well, it’s the beginning of 2012, and it’s the time for reflection on the past year and looking forward to the new. I don’t do yearly resolutions (I find it more useful to do them on a daily basis), but suddenly I find myself looking years into the future. I guess running a business will do that to a girl.
As I did last year, I want to share where I am, a bit about my plans, and how indie publishing has changed everything for me. I hope this provides some information and inspiration for other indie authors out there, and those who are considering taking the plunge.
Last year I wrote this for my New Years post:
But this year I did do something different. I made a plan. And not just a 2011 plan, but a ten-year plan. For the past two years I’ve been watching the publishing industry carefully, listening to those who succeed, and researching as much as I can. In that time I’ve had short stories published and my first novel accepted by Lyrical Press. So it’s been a time of good news, but it’s also been a time of serious disillusionment. Like most writers, in my early days, I had mentors and teachers who told me how things work. And now that I’ve been published, I can tell you, most of what I “learned” was twaddle. The piffle became clearer when I started realising that most published authors have day jobs. I started digging into why. Why can’t an author make a living wage, even ones with agents and three-book deals?
Although disillusionment doesn’t always feel great, I actually feel quite liberated. And thus the plan. I started looking at authors who are making a living, how they’re doing it, and adapting their ideas to my own business plan.
And writing that plan, which I formulated after the usual small business startup template, changed everything for me. It changed the way I approached writing and turned me from a wannabe into a bestselling author. Some things about the plan clearly need to change. Here’s how I’d rewrite the 10 year plan and why:
- Why I’d change this goal: I smashed this goal back in September, 2011, a mere five months after my first book’s debut, and three months after I went indie. (I didn’t start making more than pocket change until I went indie, so I hardly even count those first months.) I picked a goal I thought was reasonable, and reasonable is good when it comes to plans… but in December 2011 I came close to selling 2000 books, which makes this first goal obsolete. Time to rethink what’s possible.
- Secondly, sales goals are pretty meaningless without price. When I did a two week experiment with one of my novels, I discovered it’s easy to hit double or even treble numbers selling books at 99c. Sure I doubled my sales at the cheaper price, but my weekly income went way down because of Amazon’s royalty structure. So selling 1000 books would be a snap at 99c, but that would only earn me $350. If I sell 1000 books at 3.99, the current price on most of my books, I earn roughly $2800. (or $2000 at $2.99) With this in mind, I’m going to shift my goals from number of books sold to earnings. I might maximise my earnings at a higher price or a lower price, and the most effective price may change as the market changes and I have more books on the market. The fantastic thing about being an indie published author is the flexibility! What works today may not work in three weeks, but I can make changes as needed, easy peasy.
- Why I’d change this goal: I’ve learned a lot about social networking in the past year, and one of my most important discoveries was that it’s CRITICAL to be reachable (which is different from spending X hours per week on social media outlets!) I love getting reader email, and most of the letters I get are from people who’ve found my contact information in the back of my books. Folks can google my name and I have a lot of information available on my blog. It’s just as important for me as it may be for them. I love hearing from the readers that want to know more about me and my work and this is a vital part of the plan for me.
- But… spending time on social media doesn’t sell books. Blog hops and blog tours and giving away a book here and there… those things are fun, and I’ll do them for enjoyment, but as part of a business plan… well, it isn’t really an effective use of a major chunk of my time. When Ordinary Angels debuted, I spent an entire month on a big blog event. I exhausted myself. It was fun and maybe even got my name out there a bit, but I now wish I’d spent that month working on the first draft of a new book. =)
- My mailing list is a great way to reach people that I know are interested in my work, but I now realise this list is about quality, not quantity. I also now view it as a way to give back to dedicated fans by sharing the inside tidbits, sneak peeks and giving away books instead of seeing it as a marketing tool to be counted and used.
- Why I’d change this: My first novel, Ordinary Angels, was a paranormal romance. But as I continued writing, I found myself more inspired to write urban fantasy, and I’m considering an epic fantasy for my next series. I also have two erotic novels under a pen name. As my writing has developed, for me, the romance element works best as a minor sub-plot, not as the focus of a book. In Blood Faerie, I think I found my true voice. I like a compelling love story, but the romance genre isn’t what’s calling to me. Fortunately, as an indie author, I have the flexibility to move towards what inspires me and grow as an author. So expect deeper plotlines that are more intricately developed in future series from me!
- Why I’d change this: I’ve investigated many options, and yes, I do plan to have all my mainstream novels available in print, but as far as other digital outlets, maybe not. Until recently, that had always been the goal, but I’ve discovered a boon in the Kindle Select programme. It allows me to do occassional giveaways, which have all proved to give me a substantial boost, but I also have extended my reach by having my books available for readers to borrow as part of the Amazon Prime plan. I don’t know yet how much I will receive per borrow, but I will say for certain it has not hurt my sales in any way, and in fact, I’ve experienced a steady flow of new readers since joining. So, right now I’m keeping my future options open. For the next 60 days, all my books will be exclusive digitally to Amazon, and maybe I’ll sign up again for another 90 day exclusive term.
Right now, you can see that I’m all about flexibility! Will I write a 2012 version of last year’s plan? Probably. I think it’s a great way to document the direction of my business and how I develop as an indie publisher. But things I’m going to keep in mind when doing so:
- Be as specific as necessary to give concrete goals, but leave myself room to be creative. For example I stated in my 2011 plan that I wanted to write three novels. In fact, I put out five, but of the three titles I listed, I only put out two of them, choosing to go ahead with the sequel to Blood Faerie instead of starting another series.
- That being said, I’ll still allow myself to make goals, knowing that the industry is changing and I may have to turn on a dime to keep up with it and all the many things I learn.
- Instead of focusing on sales goals or even income goals, I think it’s critical to keep goals to things I can control. I can’t control how many people buy my books. I’ve had a fantastic year and sales have far exceeded my expectations, but I also know I can’t make people find and buy my books and who knows when the party will end? Setting goals that entail benchmarks you can’t control is asking for frustration. I quickly realised this in those early days when I was with a publisher and sales reports were trickling in slowly and the numbers were discouraging. So in good times and bad, my goals will focus on what I can control: my writing output, my online presence, personal strategies, industry awareness, production process and scheduling.
So, this post is a bit late. I started the year with a cold and cough that had me knocked out of the game for a good ten days. (Yet another thing out of my control!) But I’m excited about 2012! If it’s anywhere near as exciting as 2011, I’m in for quite a year!
Happy New Year!