My friends, what a journey this has been! Next month—in April—I will have been publishing as an indie for three years. It is a decision I have never regretted. Not once. I am doing what I’ve always wanted to do—create worlds out of words…and be read.
But I have had a different and tough decision to make this past week, so I want to give you some background, and then I’m going to tell you my decision and why I made it. Let me first tell you that most publishing decisions I make are reader oriented. That is why, for example, I don’t intend to charge more than $2.99 for my books…ever.
In February 2013, I published Bullet, the book that made me an Amazon bestseller. I was in the top 100 Kindle books for five days. That was when I finally saw that maybe, someday, I could retire from a job I have despised for a very long time so that I could focus on something I love with all my soul. In fact, Bullet did so well that I (perhaps prematurely) quit my second job, the one as an adjunct professor at the local community college. Yes, until that point in my life, I had worked two (and sometimes four) jobs at a time to support my family. So I’m sure you can imagine the hope in my heart. And I will tell you this as well—if I could have sales consistently like I did with Bullet (and even with Rock Bottom), I could quit the day job.
However, since that time, I have seen sales steadily decline, and I keep analyzing (and perhaps overanalyzing) the reasons why. I’ve tried different things as well, because my thought was this—I have more readers now than I did then, so doesn’t it make sense that they would continue reading my work? Oh, I have no idea, and I’m done analyzing it. I’d rather spend my valuable time writing, not overthinking things. But I’ve spent time doing that because the numbers I’m seeing don’t make sense. I have dozens of theories as well, but they’re not worth my time. My time is best spent…you guessed it–writing!
A couple of weeks ago, I got the coolest email. It was from KDP. For those of you who don’t know what that is, the letters stand for Kindle Direct Publishing. I opened it, thinking it was an automated message, because I get them once in a while, but it was from a real person, and she and I made arrangements to talk the next week. So…I talked last week with from this woman from Kindle. It was a fantastic conversation, and she answered some of my burning questions, while I told her about my experiences as an author, especially with Amazon. If you don’t want to read about that part of our conversation, feel free to skip ahead four paragraphs. Otherwise, here goes.
I have been writing for most of my life and have, over the years, experienced a modicum of success publishing poetry, short stories, academic pieces, and journalism (under another name). The novel, though…that blasted animal had eluded me. I’d gotten some encouraging letters from editors, ones that said I had a “strong writing voice” or that my work wasn’t “quite” for them, but even with those nice rejections, they were still that—rejections. The sh*tty part about traditional publishing is that you not only have to write your book and make it as perfect as possible, you also have to write a synopsis (and I’m not talking a little blurb on the back of the book—synopses sent to editors are often three or more pages long) and a query letter, and then your manuscript will sit on the editor’s desk (or in their inbox) for months. Sometimes you have to send a submission to that editor exclusively before you can pitch it to another. And it comes down to what you saw me complaining about before—I just want to write! I don’t want to spend agonizing days or weeks getting a pitch ready for a publisher or agent when all I want to do is write a story.
Anyway…someone very close to me had success. Finally, after all her years of submitting, she got picked up by a publisher. She was going to be traditionally published! Of all the people I knew personally who deserved that chance, it was my friend. I was so excited for her. A couple of months after that announcement, she told me about Amanda Hocking (I’m sure you’ve heard of her; if you haven’t, Google her. She is one of the first indie authors to have HUGE success). I did my own research and discovered Kindle and haven’t looked back. Yes, until that point, I knew all about ebooks but had never bought my own. Well, after reading about Hocking’s success story, I invested in several ebooks and researched the hell out of indie publishing. I’d already written Tangled Web and had four of my close friends beta read it for me. Once I (kind of) knew the ropes, I designed my own cover, formatted my own book, and clicked Publish. I continued to learn and grow, but I’m a fast learner. Soon, I was publishing lots of books. A couple of months later, I did more research and found Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. But you know what?
I kept writing.
I kept learning too, because there was a lot to learn, but I’d say by fall 2012 I was pretty much in my element. I knew the ropes and it was just a matter of writing. I didn’t do too much marketing. I interacted with my readers on Facebook and Twitter, but I didn’t pimp myself out in groups or anywhere I didn’t feel I wasn’t wanted. I still don’t, by the way. By this point in the game, I had published about fifteen books.
Anyway, without giving you way too much history (too late, right?), I discovered what worked and what didn’t. I became very familiar with the different platforms I was utilizing to publish my books.
And one of those companies was far and above a clear winner as far as sales go. Far and above.
So, this is what I was telling the lovely (and I mean that sincerely) KDP lady over the phone. Sure, KDP had its issues, but it was a fairly easy platform to use and I was often able to find the answers I needed quickly when I wasn’t sure about something. Representatives were usually responsive to questions. I’m no techie either, but I found the platform easy to maneuver and understand.
But there’s more to it than that…there’s an ugly truth that some folks may not want to hear. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Let me start by saying that Amazon has been very good to me. My sales on Amazon far outweigh sales I get from any other venue. Without naming names, let me just say that Amazon accounts for over ninety percent of my sales. The second highest venue is around nine percent and the final is about one percent. I’m not including print books because I don’t sell enough of them each month for those sales to matter. I am strictly speaking about ebooks.
So my KDP rep asked me if I would consider going exclusive with Amazon again. First, I told her why I didn’t. And what was cool? I was able to be completely honest with her. I told her I didn’t like how Amazon made it that an author can only utilize certain features—like sales or offering free books or having her books in the Kindle Lending Library—if she has committed to exclusively offering her book on Amazon for a minimum of three months. I chose in August of 2012 to not ostracize my Nook readers and I didn’t feel like any additional sales I made through the perks Amazon offered would make up for that.
Fast forward to last week. My KDP rep and I had a long, heartfelt conversation about my future. Remember earlier in this post where I told you that further success has eluded me, that it seems that no matter what I try, sales keep slipping? Folks, I don’t want or need to be rich. I don’t. But I do want to retire from my godd*mn soul-sucking day job. I see the potential in my writing to do that and, as I said earlier, if I could sell a book like Bullet or even Rock Bottom, something that successful? I could do it. And guess what? I offered both books the same way—one week introductory priced at $1.99, followed by the capped price of $2.99. I didn’t have to be greedy to make money. I want my readers to be happy and I don’t want to break their banks. And that’s why my next paragraph pains me a little, but I wanted you to know the whole back story.
My KDP friend made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I don’t feel like I can share the details, because it was just between her and me, but if I offer my next book (Be Careful What You Wish For) exclusively with Amazon for three or more months, she has promised that they will make it worth my while. She told me (and I trust and believe her) that they can help me push to that next tier, get my book in the hands of readers who are new to me. Yes, I want to keep all of you, my faithful readers, happy, but I will never get to retire from that sh*tty job if I don’t get new readers as well. So I am going to trust her. My next book will be exclusive to Amazon for three months. I have agonized over this decision, because I tend to put you, my readers, first when I make decisions, and here’s what ultimately helped me make the final decision—even Nook and other pad readers can download a Kindle app onto their computers or phones or other devices, and that app costs nothing. I know, because I used the apps when I first started publishing. I have a Kindle app on everything I can put one on. Please know that this was a difficult decision to make because I had to weigh all of you (okay, not all of you, because most of you use Kindles, but some of you!) against my desire to write full time. So, I guess, if you love my writing, the decision will help you in the long run as well. But I have to put my faith in Amazon. Over this three-year journey, they have not let me down yet. Not once. Their customer service—both as an author and as a reader—has been consistently stellar and that they reached out to me says it all. Thanks to that conversation, I now have my first Amazon pre-order (Fake—Nicki Sosebee), and I predict that many other good things are coming.
Please know that this decision has weighed heavily on my mind for the past week, and it is one that I have not made lightly. That is why I felt the need to share it with you. Also know that the rebel in me wanted to reject it outright, but when I took a long, hard look at it and weighed the pros and cons, I had to ultimately make this decision. Now time will tell if I made the right one, but I wanted to explain it to you now—before I make that actual step—because I want you to know why I made that decision.
Peace, love, and ROCK ON!!! ~Jade