Hi! I’m Mildred Colvin. I’ve been discussing some things about self-publishing with my friend and fellow author Regina Tittel. We both started publishing our books on our own a little over a year ago. My first e-book Learning to Leanwas released on the last day of March 2011. I had very little idea what I was doing and, to be honest, was afraid I could be making a huge mistake. I discussed doing this with Regina who was a great encouragement to me. Regina, do you remember how you felt when you published your first book? Can you tell us which one came first and how that came about?
Hi everyone! Yes, I can remember clearly. I didn’t want to wait three months to hear from a publisher about my manuscript Abandoned Hearts. So I followed Smashwords Style Guide, which I downloaded for free through their site, and rid my manuscript of errors in spacing, indentation, etc. Then I published through Smashwords, Pubit, and most importantly, Amazon. That was in May of 2011, and at the end of that first month on Amazon, I had sold an exciting *8* copies! We all have to start somewhere, right?
Do you remember what your first month was like, Mildred, and what was the catalyst that jumpstarted your sales?
I’m afraid I do, Regina. You outsold me by almost three to one. To your 8 copies, I sold 3 my first month and another 3 my second month. I remember getting so excited every time I found another sale! That means I did a happy dance six times in those first two months. LOL! So I added two new books in July, A New Life and Lesson of the Poinsettia. With all three books selling, my sales started creeping up. I certainly didn’t have a sale a day, but by the end of July, I’d finally made enough to be paid. My first payment came from Amazon for $13.80 and it covered four months of sales. Three more months passed before I earned enough for another payment of $14.00, and by that time, in September, I had added a fourth book.
Regina, my sales didn’t jumpstart until January 2012. But I did do something unusual at the end of December that I believe brought attention to my books. On a whim, with no idea what would happen, I made my fourth book, Love Returned, free on Smashwords. Eighty copies flew out of Smashwords, well over a thousand at Barnes and Noble, but when Amazon price matched, over 10,000 copies went out in about two weeks. I brought it back to the 99 cent price, and it continued to sell until my total books sold in January was 820. But Regina, your sales didn’t stay at 8 copies either. How long did it take for your sales to start increasing? Did it happen all at once, or was yours a more gradual growth?
Definitely not all at once. For the rest of the year they ranged between 30 to 40 sales a month. In November I added the second volume, Unexpected Kiss, and it also started out slow. But in April of 2012, I sold over 200 of Abandoned Hearts and the next month brought in over 1,000 sales. That was due in part to InspiredReads.com advertising the book, probably because of your suggestion, Mildred. (Thank you, again!) Unexpected Kiss quickly followed suit and by then Coveted Bride had been published and because of the success of the other two, it took off selling over 300 its first month and grew with each additional month. All in all, it took a year for my name to get out there and build a following.
I’m sure you have helpful hints for our readers, Mildred. Here are a few of mine. Prepare your biography for your author central page on Amazon and other e-stores. Study what other authors in your genre are sharing and learn from them. Your fans are interested in you, what your life is like, where you find the time to write, etc. Also, set aside photographs of yourself to post. They’re also interested to see who you are. Do you have any hobbies, etc?
Your author central page can also direct your readers to your blog or website if you have either, if you do, leave them something to take away. Do you bake, share a favorite recipe. How about quilting, do you have a pattern to pass on?
Those are all good, Regina. Excellent suggestions! Something I forget to do, or get too lazy to do right away, is to update my Amazon Author page. When I publish a new book, it doesn’t automatically show up on the page with the other books. Readers do check your page, because as Regina said, they want to know more about the authors they read. And here’s a tip for you readers. First though, the Author Central Page we’re talking about is found by clicking on Visit Amazon’s (author’s name) Page. This is located near the bottom on each book’s page and will take you to a new page with a short bio of the author and a list of her books. Okay, now the tip. Scroll down below the list of books and you will find Customer Discussions. This is where you can contact the author if you have a question or just want to tell her how much you enjoy her books.
Another easy thing you can do to help your favorite authors is to click on the tags on each book’s page. These are located even farther down on the page and are Tags Customers Associate with This Product. Below that heading you’ll find a list of categories the book fits in, such as Christian romance, or historical. There should be a little box in front of the category. Simply click on it and you’ve helped that book be recognized in that category. Of course, you do need to be logged in to do this.
Regina, this has really been fun. It looks like our discussion needs to wind down, but I do have one more thought for you. I’m wondering if you’ve ever regretted going into publishing without a publisher. Your books have sold several thousand copies in both e-book and paperback and continue to do so, I’ve read your reviews and see from them you’ve developed a good following, but maybe you would’ve made more money through a publisher and sold even more books. So any regrets? Would you recommend it to someone who’s been thinking about self-publishing but can’t decide if it’s a good idea?
Great questions and no, I don’t regret it a bit. By self-publishing, I retained all the rights to my books. And I’m a dreamer, so there’s no limit to how far this can go. Not only do I expect to reach competitive sales status, and therefore not have to share the bulk of my profits with a publishing house, but I also have control of selling the foreign rights of each book.
I’ve also avoided the stress of deadlines. I put plenty on myself. I don’t need to dance to those of a publishing house. And another favorable point in my eyes, I have full control of the covers. I design them myself and have included my husband on all the covers of my first series. And last but not least, the stories stay true to this author.
Am I against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. And if an author is seeking that route, then I completely encourage them to reach for it. I started out with that intent, but after better understanding the world of self-publishing, I knew this was the right path for me.
Thank you for having me on here, Mildred. I’m honored to share this time with such an accomplished author as yourself. Even when I think you can’t possibly get any better, you amaze me with your astounding talent!
Thank you, Regina, but I could say the same about your writing. I love your stories. It’s been my pleasure to have this discussion with you. I’m sure there are other things we could’ve mentioned with more time and space to do so, but I hope all our Infinite Characters readers have gained from what we’ve said and from this entire series of posts about self-publishing. We welcome any questions in the comment section below. This new way of publishing is just that—brand new. Really, it’s just getting started. I’ll have to agree with you, Regina, that I also don’t regret self-publishing. I started my career in the traditional way with Barbour Books and have twelve books published with them as well as reprints and one audio book. However, as long as Amazon and Smashwords keep their doors open to authors with no charge to publish, I’m not sure I’ll go back to the traditional way. I’m also not against any publishing company. I believe there’s room for both methods of getting good books out to readers.
Hey, Regina, thanks so much for spending a fun afternoon visiting with me. I wish you the best with your books. You have some wonderful books already available and more on the way, I know.
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