6 Months after Novel Self-Pub, Looking Back

It was six months ago, give or take a week or two, that I published Neanderthal Swan Song. I tried a number of different things since the book came out, all to varying degrees of success.

Sales have not been stellar, but what little feedback I’ve heard has been pretty good. Even the very critical review on Amazon that took exception to a number of technical details still gave the book four stars.

So what have I learned in the past six months?

    Indie Publishing is Not an automatic Pot of Gold

– Just because you bypass New York and put it up there yourself is no guarantee for success. I was never under any illusion that I would be making tens of thousands of sales a month, but the ride has been a little frustrating at times. While there has not yet been a month with zero sales, there have been a couple that came close. If you don’t have the stomach to ride out the lean times, this is not the path for you.

    The More You Put In, The More You Get Out

– This is true in indie publishing as it is in every other aspect of life. Part of this has to do with turning around and being productive on the next project. Part of it has to do with finding what you can do on any given day to build your writing career. The output is not always going to result in sales or in profit. Sometimes the output is in education on what to do better next time.

    Stand Your Ground

– Here I am talking about price point. As an indie publisher, I have the choice to set the price of the novel anywhere from “free” to “are you serious?” The 99c e-book was all the rage earlier this year and I resisted it. If a writer believes in the story, then it should be priced accordingly. While I am certain I would have sold more copies at a price lower than the $4.95 price I selected for the electronic version, I think a lower price would cheapen the work. It is, after all, nearly 120,000 words.

    Traditional Online Advertising Has Mixed Results

– When I used Google Adwords, I got a big boost in traffic to the novel’s page on my website. What I did not get were conversions. The advertising drove traffic to my website but the users did not buy. When I targeted advertising to a specific niche market that overlaps the novel’s content, I did get conversions but not enough to cover the cost of the ad, though it did come close to break-even.

    Promotions Can Sometimes Work

– For the last two weeks of September, I publicly announced that all proceeds for my writing would be donated to Phoenix Rescue Mission, a charity local to me that feeds the homeless. I got a big boost in sales relative to my baseline and the charity got an extra check in the mail. I may do this every year.

    It is Getting Easier

– The novel was not my first piece of work I offered online. I converted a few short stories over the year and a half prior to releasing the novel. Early on, everything had to be done by hand. I even wrote a short non-fiction book to walk a person through the process. Today, most of the hard work is done by software and the software is getting better.

        Patience Pays Off

– Learning Kindle Direct is confusing at first, but so is PubIt and so is CreateSpace,and so is Smashwords. By patiently attacking one at a time, you see they are more similar than dissimilar. Once you have things set up, the next release is much easier.

There are plenty of other things I have learned, but this is what comes to mind at the moment. It isn’t easy–well, technically it isn’t bad, but the being patient part is sometimes hard. It is fun, though, and motivational. What could be better than me being the only person standing in the way of getting more books released? I can influence that roadblock.

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