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GOLD! [PROGRESS THREAD] ChickenHawk's Self-Published Fiction EBooks

ChickenHawk

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To avoid cluttering Held for Ransom's incredible self-publishing thread, https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/self-publishing-writing-authorship/46006-hello-denver-self-publishing-success-21.html#post297921, here's my separate progress thread.

The Goal: To Make a Living Through Fiction Writing. To make a great living would be even better.

My Background: I have a Journalism/English/Public Relations degree and supported myself and my family through writing for years now, slowlane style, mostly in marketing and public relations. This gives me a great head start on the mechanics, but not necessarily on story-creation.

Other Publishing Ventures: As I've alluded to elsewhere, I've pursued the traditional fiction-publishing route with only minimal success. I was able to secure a top literary agent, but not a publishing deal. The whole thing was incredibly frustrating, because I spent so much time and energy trying to get published that I didn't have any time or energy left to actually write. Plus, it was one of those scenarios where if even one person in the publishing hierarchy said no, the deal was toast. This lack of control was maddening. Plus, I'm friends with several traditionally published authors and quite honestly, they weren't making enough money to make me think it was the best use of my time, especially when juggling a family and full-time career. (More information on self-publishing versus the traditional route is available on this thread: https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/self-publishing-writing-authorship/47831-self-publishing-kindle-book-then-finding-publisher.html#post297561 )

Where I Stand Now: Thanks to the knowledge shared by Held for Ransom and others, I've recently written and published three fiction books. They all went live on Amazon this month. Here is where they stand so far.
  • Book #1 (Published 8/1/13): 17 sold, 6 borrows, about 300 "sold" during a two-day free promo.
  • Book #2: (Published 8/4/13): 17 sold, 1 borrow, about 200 "sold" during a two-day free promo.
  • Book #3: (Published 8/17/13): 43 sold, 3 borrows, about 600 "sold" during a two-day free promo.

Book #1 is about 18,000 words for $2.99. Book #2 is about 300 words for $1.25. Book #3 is about 14,500 words for $2.99. All books are heavy on original illustrations though so they're quite longer than these word counts suggest.

I'm working on Book #4, which will be under the same pen name, and Book #5, which will be under a completely different pen name because it's a very different genre, a genre with a deeper pool of buyers. It will be interesting to compare results for different genres and see which one gains more traction.

Wish me luck!
 

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Thriftypreneur

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With all these progress threads going up today, it'll be a great way to compare notes and progress. Looking forward to your updates CH. And great work so far - sales are inspiring! :)
 

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One of my favorite posters on this forum… You are going to do great. Fight through any early discouragement. This process might take a while but in the end you are going to win.
 

Tony I

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ChickenHawk,

If there is one thing I can tell you from publishing 12 books on Amazon, it is that the market is becoming increasingly saturated. I even recall MJ saying this in an interview. It violates the entry commandment, so everyone is just throwing crap on the market to "make money".

Try to get your work out now, because as more and more people start to publish your books can easily get lost in Amazon's search engines. They have already happened to some of mine.

Although there is still plenty of niches available, they are becoming harder to find by the day.

Anyways, I wish you luck and I'm sure you will succeed!
 

Breaking Free

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Tony, that's one of my concerns as well. Self publishing has opened the doors for everyone, and there are a lot of people just throwing stuff out there. Not edited, not cleaned up. It'll make it harder to get noticed, but there are also a lot of people that give up when they don't make it with their first or second book. And they just fall to the depths of Amazon's catalogue...

In other words, the idea of the more you write and publish, the better your odds.
 

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If there is one thing I can tell you from publishing 12 books on Amazon, it is that the market is becoming increasingly saturated. I even recall MJ saying this in an interview. It violates the entry commandment, so everyone is just throwing crap on the market to "make money".
Good observation. But I think what separates those folks who just "throw sh*t up" vs. the rest of us is quality & dedication. Quality always rises to the top, even if it takes time to get above the noise.

Good news is...people are still downloading those crappy books, which tells you folks WANT books. So if they come across your book....and it looks legit (great cover, great blurb, great preview text) I think you can rise above the noise. Also, targeting what people buy helps.

If you're trying to write books about...basket weaving you're probably going to flop. If you write an entertaining romance (or erotica or YA zombie book) you might just make it.

Fact is, most people do not have the stamina to pump out 20 books in a year. Even crappy ones. I think the more you write, the more chance you have at making it happen.
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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As an update: Book 3 is doing significantly better than the first two. It's not selling a ton, but it IS selling. I've sold/borrowed about 100 in a little under a month. This is about five times the sales of the first two. This tells me that either Book 3 more appealing, or I'm benefiting from momentum. I may go back to Book 1 and try a different title/cover, just to see if that's the issue.

I'm still a week or two away from publishing book 4, but I'm moving forward every day. I also plan to publish Book 3 in hard-copy via CreateSpace, and I'll let you all know how that goes.

Then, onto book 5, which will be in a different genre under a different pen name. After that, I may alternate between the two genres and see what happens.

I can't wait to hit publish on the next one... It's SO addicting!
 

Breaking Free

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As an update: Book 3 is doing significantly better than the first two. It's not selling a ton, but it IS selling. I've sold/borrowed about 100 in a little under a month. This is about five times the sales of the first two. This tells me that either Book 3 more appealing, or I'm benefiting from momentum. I may go back to Book 1 and try a different title/cover, just to see if that's the issue.

I'm still a week or two away from publishing book 4, but I'm moving forward every day. I also plan to publish Book 3 in hard-copy via CreateSpace, and I'll let you all know how that goes.

Then, onto book 5, which will be in a different genre under a different pen name. After that, I may alternate between the two genres and see what happens.

I can't wait to hit publish on the next one... It's SO addicting!
Congrats! I'm still celebrating my four sales of book one, and getting ready to pull the trigger on the second in that series.

Speaking of, I noticed today that Smashwords announced their new series feature... coincidence?
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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I'm still celebrating my four sales of book one, and getting ready to pull the trigger on the second in that series.
Congrats, and keep us posted! From what I've seen (based on my VERY limited experience), each book seems to have an easier time getting sales, so hopefully your second book will do even better, and so on and so on...
 

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I may go back to Book 1 and try a different title/cover, just to see if that's the issue.
ChickenHawk, first congratulations and continued good luck! I highly encourage you to try a different things to help your other books. That's one of the great things about epublishing - the ability to test. Since you have a good baseline of sales you should be able to track what changes have the greatest impact. Best of luck.

Jack
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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It's been one full month since publishing book #3. It continues to outsell my first two books at a ratio of about five-to-one, and has not yet dropped back into oblivion. This is particularly interesting considering that Book #3 is very similar to Book #1. To see if I can boost some interest in Book #1, I just changed the title, redesigned the cover, tweaked the description, and did a limited rewrite, mostly to make the opening more interesting. It should be "live" tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if this helps.

Rough estimates so far:
Book #1 (Published 8/1/13): 45 sales/borrows.
Book #2: (Published 8/4/13): 35 sales/borrows.
Book #3: (Published 8/17/13): 145 sales/borrows.

I've finished the first draft of Book #4, but have a bunch of illustrations to do, so I'm probably at least a week away from hitting the publish button. I seriously need to clone myself. It's almost 2 a.m., and I've got to be at work at 8 a.m. I think I'll send the clone to work.
 
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Thriftypreneur

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Pretty amazing numbers for your first month. Anything special that you notice about book 3 when compared to the other two?
 

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How do you keep repeat customers from accidentally repurchasing book number one?
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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How do you keep repeat customers from accidentally repurchasing book number one?
Good question...If this book weren't available exclusively in digital form on Amazon, this would be a real problem. But with Amazon, as long as it's considered the same book, the buyer will see a message on the top product-detail page to the effect of "You purchased this book on (date)." If the same buyer tries to purchase it a second time, which embarassingly I've tried with other Kindle books, Amazon gives an error-type message along the lines of "You've already purchased this." (How pathetic is it that I know this from experience?)

By republishing Book#1 as an updated version, rather than as a new book, I hope to avoid duplicate purchases. But I do fear it will cause at least some confusion. I included a note in the book-description and on the first page of the book itself that says, "previously published as (old title)." Hopefully this will help too. But I'd be fibbing if I didn't admit that it's still a concern.
 
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ChickenHawk

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Pretty amazing numbers for your first month. Anything special that you notice about book 3 when compared to the other two?
Thanks! Looking at the first two books compared to Book#3, Book #2 is in a semi-different genre that tends to be lower-selling anyway. I didn't expect a lot from it, but it was good experience. I think the best way to boost sales of Book#2 would be to push out a handful of related titles in this sub-genre. I may do that at some point, but probably not right away.

As far as Book #1, I think the title was a real problem. I used a word that's fairly common in my circle, but as it turns out, not as common elsewhere. I remember reading somewhere that if a buyer has to think too much about a book, they tend to just move along. Also, in Book #3, my intro pages were a lot more active and engaging compared to Book #1. I do think Book #3 is still slightly better than Book #1, but not five times better.

This will definitely be a good experiment. I'll let you all know how it goes.
 

Thriftypreneur

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Good question...If this book weren't available exclusively in digital form on Amazon, this would be a real problem. But with Amazon, as long as it's considered the same book, the buyer will see a message on the top product-detail page to the effect of "You purchased this book on (date)." If the same buyer tries to purchase it a second time, which embarassingly I've tried with other Kindle books, Amazon gives an error-type message along the lines of "You've already purchased this." (How pathetic is it that I know this from experience?)

By republishing Book#1 as an updated version, rather than as a new book, I hope to avoid duplicate purchases. But I do fear it will cause at least some confusion. I included a note in the book-description and on the first page of the book itself that says, "previously published as (old title)." Hopefully this will help too. But I'd be fibbing if I didn't admit that it's still a concern.
Pretty sure that, thanks to your books assigned ASIN#, that anyone who bought the book will be automatically updated to the latest version (if they have that setting switched). I would imagine this applies to title/cover changes, too. I doubt, with the checks in place that alert you of already purchased titles (can you even hold two books with the same ASIN on a Kindle?), that it's worth worrying over.
 

Breaking Free

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Pretty sure that, thanks to your books assigned ASIN#, that anyone who bought the book will be automatically updated to the latest version (if they have that setting switched). I would imagine this applies to title/cover changes, too. I doubt, with the checks in place that alert you of already purchased titles (can you even hold two books with the same ASIN on a Kindle?), that it's worth worrying over.
Had this happen with a book I bought. It was updated, and i was given the option to update to the latest version, like software.
 

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Are you getting some good reviews?
 

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MJ DeMarco

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As an author myself who truly loves fiction over non-fiction, this is one of my favorite progress threads. Thank you for the contribution and updates.
 

Tony I

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Rough estimates so far:
Book #1 (Published 8/1/13): 45 sales/borrows.
Book #2: (Published 8/4/13): 35 sales/borrows.
Book #3: (Published 8/17/13): 145 sales/borrows.
What are your books priced at? $.99?
 

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You totally know she is going to write a break through novel, and then we will all be looking for an autographed copy, for which she will simply send us to her web site like the rest of the peasants.

Oh well. At least we will be able to say we knew her when...
 

sitemaster

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What are your books priced at? $.99?
Tony, the answer is in the original post #1 of this thread.

Book #1 is about 18,000 words for $2.99. Book #2 is about 300 words for $1.25. Book #3 is about 14,500 words for $2.99. All books are heavy on original illustrations though so they're quite longer than these word counts suggest.
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement! It really means a lot to me. :)

Are you getting some good reviews?
So far, I've gotten 4 reviews per book, 12 reviews total. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, but alas, they probably should be, given the fact that 10 of reviewers were friends/family. On Held for Ransom's amazing self-pub thread, he mentioned that less than one-half of one percent of buyers leave a review. If my stats follow his pattern, I'll need to sell 200 books to garner a single review. I guess I'd better just sell some more, darn it all!

As an author myself who truly loves fiction over non-fiction, this is one of my favorite progress threads. Thank you for the contribution and updates.
Awwww...thanks so much!

You totally know she is going to write a break through novel, and then we will all be looking for an autographed copy, for which she will simply send us to her web site like the rest of the peasants.

Oh well. At least we will be able to say we knew her when...
This slayed me, oh to dream!!!
 
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ChickenHawk

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An update: My fourth book is now live on Amazon. (Whoohooo!) However, the "look inside" feature isn't active yet, which will probably hurt sales (Boooooo!). I priced it at $2.99 again to be consistent with other offerings. One thing I might do differently is hold off on a free promo, at least for a few weeks. If nothing else, I'd like to see if I'm gaining any non-free traction now that I have a few books out there.

Speaking of traction, I've noticed a slight upward swing on my very first book, which is great to see. This seems to support the theory that the best thing you can do to promote a book is write another book.

For my next project, I'm leaning toward pulling out my very first novel, which falls under a different genre and pen name. Before I shortened it for a publisher request, it was 110,000 words long. I was looking at it today, and even though splitting it in half doesn't quite work, oddly enough, dividing it into three parts might work nicely with the flow of the story. Plus, there's a really hot genre right now that this story could fit in, assuming I slanted it that way.

To tap this genre, I'd need to make the book much more explicit and ratchet up the drama, but this could actually improve the story and help justify adding enough words to create three full books. In the end, I'm envisioning a three-book trilogy with each book around 50-60K words.

If nothing else, it will be interesting to compare genres.
 
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ChickenHawk

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Since it's been a while since my last update, here's where this stands:

Sales of book #4 were significantly lower than book #3. I believe this is for two reasons:
(1) The "Look Inside" feature was inactive for the first week after I hit "publish." Since my books are heavy on funny illustrations, this was a huge drawback, especially right out of the gate.
(2) Unlike I did for my three prior books, I resisted doing a free promo to get the ball rolling. Since sales were low, this means my "also boughts" remain virtually non-existent. I'm running a free promo now to see what happens. Hopefully, it will give me a boost. Even for Book #3, which was a strong seller (relatively speaking), it didn't take off until after the freebie.

Aaaaaaaaand....I'm switching my focus to a different genre and different pen name. I'll still chip away at genre and pen name #1, but I don't think this is the most profitable use of my time. Basically, there were two schools of advice, which I now realize were contradictory. In Held for Ransom's legendary thread, he said you should choose a genre with a deep pool of buyers. In a different thread (not here on the forum), they advised picking a genre where you could score in the top 20. Well, I scored in the top 20 consistently for my sub-genre, but it didn't result in a ton of sales. In contrast, others who haven't scored in the top 20 in their genre are selling significantly more books than I am in my genre.

This tells me that I'm playing in too shallow of a pond. People in my genre ARE making money, but even the top ones aren't necessarily hitting grand slams. In contrast, if I play in a deeper pond, there's a higher chance of more money flowing my way.

On the new pen name, I'm 20K words into a novel that has a very deep pool of buyers. Plus, I'm reworking a previous novel into a trilogy in this same genre. It will likely be a few weeks (maybe longer, depending on the day job) before I can hit publish on either of these, but I can't wait to see the results.

I'm really enjoying everyone's updates too! It's helped teach me a lot, and I'm very thankful for all the added insight as we travel on this road together.
 

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