Writer In Residence: March Update! How To Make $

I have far too much fun sending out a newsy piece for the librarians at Saskatoon Public Library each month. This is what I wrote for March.


Writer in Residence


I can teach you how to make $50,000 dollars over the weekend. Actually, I can't teach you that (unless you're a romance author). I just put that sentence up there to get your attention. I've been talking with writers all month about how stories are everywhere and we're all storytellers.

Let's say you were late for work this week. I bet you didn't just say, "Yo! Bossy Wossy, I'm late. But I'm here now." Instead you likely added details like, "Well, when I turned the corner I saw the bus was already speeding towards the bus stop. I ran like the dickens to get there, valiantly risking a fall--you remember I have a glass hip, right?--but I had to stop to let a group of goslings cross my path. Otherwise, I would have been on time." See, that's a story. And in it you were the valiant protagonist.

So I encourage you to add those details to the stories you naturally tell. For example if a patron returns a book with dog-eared pages you could say, "Oh, that's perfectly okay. Only one in three people who dog-ear pages gets a visit from the Terminator. So the odds are on your side."  See how that perks up the interaction? Take a look at that $50,000 in a weekend offer again. Your mind can't help but write a story about it. Maybe you make that sum by stuffing envelopes or selling skin products. But it could also be that you could make that money by putting on a dusty hat, grabbing a bull whip and smuggling a rare book from an ancient Mayan temple to Saskatoon. See, the story just writes itself.

Amber Fang: Self Publishing A Book Part 2 (The amazing results!)

Here they are. The latest results from the launch of Amber Fang. If you want to read why I self published this novel, including a look at which editors I employed, who did the cover, and other self publishing methods used, then please click here. If you want to read a really short version about why I self published the book then here it is:

I wanted to make a million dollars.

Or at least break even. 

When was the book released?

The official launch for Amber Fang was Tuesday, October 25th, 2016. There was a pre-sale on several channels for two weeks before that. The numbers I'll discuss will be from pre-sale on Oct. 4th to Nov. 16th, 2016. The ebook was available on all channels. The paperback was available only through Createspace (Amazon's Print on Demand service).

C'mon, show us a chart!

Okay! Okay! Here's the most important chart. These are the launch week sales on Amazon.

 A really exciting Kindle chart

A really exciting Kindle chart

So that's it. Report over. Oh, wait, I'll dig a bit deeper. So worldwide amazon sales on launch day (the spike in that chart) were 126 books (priced at 99c). The highest rank Amber Fang hit was #2005 overall in the Kindle store. That meant it made several bestseller lists: 

This is helpful because it gets more eyeballs. Err, on it. I don't mean you literally get eyeballs. And hitting #1 in a category also means you get the cute "bestseller" tag:

So obviously that's helpful. The book reached similar positions in Amazon Canada (but not so high in the UK store). The US centric results are mostly due to the advertising I'd purchased in newsletters being mostly targeted at US book readers. After the initial launch it settled in to sell about 10-20 copies a day.

But how many copies did you actually sell? Fess up!

This calls for another chart: 

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 10.15.26 AM.png

So there were go. A month of sales has tallied up to 839 copies. 

Are you happy with that?

No comment! By that I mean I'll answer your question later. Here's another chart to distract you.

So as you can see Amazon was where the majority of my sales were. Kobo was #2 and Apple #3. The Createspace paperbacks are also included in the chart. I had decided to go "wide" (that is, not exclusive with Amazon) because I didn't want to disappoint any of my fans (and I  like the idea of a wide open market). Those 40 copies on Kobo propelled the book to #1 or #2 on several of their charts. The curious thing is that all of those copies were purchased in Canada. I didn't sell a single Kobo copy to other countries. But Canada is Kobo's largest market, so I guess that explains the result.

C'mon. Where's the money? Tell us about that.

This may surprise you, but I have another chart:

And there it is. The breakdown of income and expenses. As you can see Amazon (and Createspace and affiliate money) amounted to most of my income. I put the expenses chart there, too. So there is money left to earn before this vampire book breaks even. On a cheeky note, I was going to title this blog post: HOW I MADE 78,000 CENTS IN ONE MONTH!

So are you happy with the results?

Mostly. Like any project you want it to be an outstanding, mind-blowing success so you can pay off your mortgage and buy a moonbase. But--it turns out selfpublishing is work. These numbers are something I can build on. Right now the book is selling about 10-20 copies a day on Kindle (which nets me about $20 to $40). My understanding of the Amazon algorithm is you have about 90 days before the book drops off. So if it continues at this pace, then I'll earn my money back in about 60 days. Sales have trickled to very little on the other vendors. Each day my newsletter is growing (3200 right now) so by the time I launch my next Amber Fang book (in about 4 months), I'll have a larger launch platform. Generally the reviews for the book have been quite positive, so that is also encouraging (especially the good reviews from readers who don't normally read vampire novels). 

Plus, I've committed to at least do three books in the series. I don't like to leave things undone.

Any last words?

Yes. If this info has been helpful to you, I dare you to click the pic below (or this link) and give Amber Fang a try. 839 readers can't be wrong! Oh, and comments are welcome. I obviously still have so much to learn.



Amber Fang: Why I'm self publishing a vampire novel (and you can too!)

Vampires! They just won't stay dead.

I'm going to lay out the steps I'm following to self-publish Amber Fang on October 25th, 2016. I'll make big ol' headings so you can skip any sections that don't interest you.

Why Are You Doing This?

I wanted to test out self publishing fully. I've put my traditionally published books up for sale on various e-vendors (after I got the rights back, of course), have used Createspace to resurrect three of my paperback books and I've put an audio book on Audible, but have yet to take a project from scratch and release it on my own. I've been following a variety of blogs, Facebook groups and podcasts about the writers who are thriving as indy publishers. I have a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit alongside my creative mind, so I like the challenge.

Why Not Go With A Publisher?

I did show this book to a few publishers and was told that Vampire books don't sell. They're probably right. Or at least, they're right that big publishers can't sell vampire books. Publishers are great at going wide. But if you can find the right niche, an individual self-published author can make a tidy sum. I also do not like the 25% of net deal that publishers are offering for ebooks. Especially when Amazon is offering 70% of gross. Obviously they can't match Amazon, but...well, anyway that's a long conversation.

Amber Fang: The Concept

I can't remember when I first got the idea. But I loved the thought of a librarian vampire who becomes a hitwoman for a secret organization. It's a little cheesy. A little bloody. And...well...fun. That's what I wanted from this story. So when I wrote the book, I really thought about creating a quick read. The final version is only 45,000 words long (Kobo says it should take the average reader about 4 hours to read) It zips along at a rip-roaring pace. It's a book that is targeted at the older young adult market, the new adult market and older readers, too. So it's for an older audience than I usually write to.

Uh, did you edit it yourself?

 Bev the editor

Bev the editor

No, I did not. I really wanted the book to be professionally edited from top to bottom. So I hired Bev Katz Rosenbaum who did an excellent job on the "overview" edit.  Lots of great comments and a helpful writeup about the overall story.

When it came time for the copy edit and proofread I used a company in Australia called Polgarus Studio. They've worked with several authors that I recognized including Hugh Howey and Mark Dawson (he's one of the brilliant self published authors I've been following).  They're speedy and professional and I'll gladly use them again. I found Polgarus through Joanna Penn's "editors" page. I should point out that I also got quotes from Reedsy (it's a great site) and Book Butchers but they were a little more costly than I was looking for (the sample edits were great from both places and I'm sure they were worth the $).

Can I See A Chart Now?


There! It's an outline of all my expenses, including advertising. These are in American funds. So weep at the exchange rate.

What About the Cover And Formatting?

With the cover I went to Go On Write. I've worked with the designer there on several projects and he's fast and does a great job. And he has a very British (and funny) sense of humour. I actually found the images and he did all of the fancy dancy designing. 

With the ebook formatting, I originally was going to use Scrivener (where I do all my writing). They have a great export to ebook function (though, like all things Scrivener, it can be tricky). But eventually I settled on using Vellum.  I. Love. It. It's expensive ($199). But totally worth it (since I'm juggling about 14 different ebooks right now).  Alas, it is Mac only.


What's Your Big Ol' Clever Sales Plan?

There are more theories on how to sell ebooks out there are zombies in The Walking Dead. Really, there are. I have the website page here along with a pre-sales offer of a fun gift. That's to reward people who pre-order the book (pre-orders are very important for launch day). I'm using a universal link from Books2read. The idea is that there is just one link that people click on then it takes them to their favourite ebook vendor. Actually try it out here please: books2read.com/amberfang1

I am curious as to whether it works for you. It should be able to detect what country you're in then take you to the right e-vendor.

I chose to go wide. By that I mean the book is not exclusive to Amazon. I didn't like the idea of just having one company selling my book (even though they are such a large part of the market and there are huge advantages to being in their exclusive KDP Select program). Many of my readers are Canadian, and there are more Kobos up here than in other countries! 

The pre-sale for Amber Fang is on now at Kobo, Kindle, and iBooks (but not NOOK since they don't have a pre-sale option). The book is priced at .99 cents. It won't stay at that price, this is mainly to encourage as many sales as possible during the first thirty days of the launch. On October 20th there will be a "soft" launch on Kindle. It will be available for sale on that day (though the official sale day is the 25th). The soft launch is so my beta readers can put up their reviews and when October 25th comes along I can push as many people towards the book and they will see that it has already been reviewed (glowingly, one hopes).

Here's a calendar:

Amazon is the big gorilla in the market place. According to Adam Houge, Amazon uses a thirty day rolling Algorithm. What this means is that Amazon decides where you end up on their sales rank partly be measuring how well you do over a thirty day period. So for the first week of my campaign I have ads running on Facebook. Then on the 16th I will pre-sell the book to my newsletter subscribers (3000 people). On the 20th I'll ask my beta readers to put up reviews. Then I'll increase my ads on Facebook and also have the book reader ads (like Kindle Nation Daily and Bargain Booksy) on specific days leading up to launch day. On the 25th of October I will send another blast to my newsletter. That should be the highest sales day. Then I'm done. A few days later I will raise the price to 2.99. And later to $3.99. Hopefully by that point Amber Fang will be "sticking" to a good place in the rankings. I'll be spending a lot of time crossing my fingers.

As far as the other vendors like Kobo and iBooks, the pre-sales all count toward the first day of sales so the book should climb up the charts that way. 

What About a Real Book? Err, by real I mean paperback.

Right now I'm putting together the Createspace version of the book (that's Amazon's Print on Demand version). Though that means most other traditional bookstores won't order it. So I am also looking at putting an Ingram Spark version together. I do have a great relationship with bookstores, since I have eighteen traditionally published books, but I do see paperback sales for Amber Fang as being secondary to ebook sales. That's partly because it's just too hard for an individual to promote to the bookstores.

What will you consider a success?

Making my money back is my first goal. The second goal is to make a profit. Whether I will make enough to pay me for the hours of writing, well, that's up to the readers. And the algorithm gods and goddesses. It is the first book in a three book series, so in many ways it's a lost leader. Once the launch is done, I plan on writing book 2.

Please share any thoughts you have about this plan. I'd love to hear them.