Less than a year ago, I was at a crossroads with my writing career. My first publisher, Samhain, had dropped me about 18 months earlier. My most recent publisher, Lyrical Press, was about to be bought out by Kensington, a NY-based publisher that subsequently ended up offering me a 2-book contract to sign with them. I had also published my first indie title, which had done moderately well in sales. I struggled mightily with brand and name recognition and often thought about just stopping writing altogether, because at times the entire business seemed overwhelming and more work and angst than it was worth.
In early January of 2014, I made the decision to devote 1 year to hard-core publishing work, on my own. I turned down the Kensington contract, deciding I wanted the control, timeline, and greater profits that indie publishing seemed to offer. I had some ideas for stories I wanted to write, but I had no idea how fast I might be able to write and publish them on my own. I also wanted to spend more time and money on marketing my author name. I set a budget of $5000 for the year, which was meant to cover all expenses from publishing (covers, editing, ads, etc) to travel, conferences, and promo items like pens, bookmarks, etc.
In 2013, I made just under $800.00 in royalties. I had 5 books published with a traditional publisher and 1 book indie published, on my own. Though I didn't keep careful records, I'd say I probably spent about $500.00 out of pocket on my writing career.
So far in 2014, I have spent just under $4400 on my writing career, and,my total royalties to date equal just over $8000. I now have 5 books published with a traditional publisher, 6 books indie published, a boxed set with 9 other authors, and an upcoming boxed set of my own. In all honesty, I didn't plan on releasing so many new titles, but it's funny how things work out.
Now, I know authors who spend far less on their writing - and authors who spend far more. When I set out this year, I was hoping to break even. Looking ahead, my total costs for the rest of the year should fall under $500, and my total royalties should be somewhere around $1000 if I'm predicting accurately, so it's looking like I'll come out ahead :)
What did I do? Besides continuing to write on a regular basis, and studying what other authors did that seemed to work, I attribute my success this year to 3 factors:
1. I managed to get a BookBub ad in May 2014 for The Promise of Paradise. Although this was a free book, the 60K downloads, the sales that resulted from it, and my name recognition, along with the 75+ new reviews I got on Amazon, were definitely worth the rather steep ad price (just under $300).
2. I participated in a boxed set, Passionate Kisses, that has so far sold around 65K copies. Not only did this help sales of my other books, it gave me wonderful connections with other authors (and their fans and followers).
3. Finally, through a bit of a fluke, I sold the rights to 5 of my audio books to Audible. That was certainly unexpected, but I think the key lesson there is to diversify as much as you can - sell in other markets, other formats (ebook, print, audio), explore other markets, etc. etc.
Whew! Looking back, I can certainly say I'm pleased with the direction my writing career has taken this year. I don't know if I'll be able to duplicate it in 2015, but I hope so! My advice for other authors, especially those starting out? Don't give up, and learn as much about the publishing industry as you can. Take calculated risks - and most of all, do it because you love it. It's too tough otherwise :)