Confessions of an Indie Author – What My Royalties Really Look Like

 

For the last 30 days, I’ve made $0 and sold 0 books. And chances are I’ll be making, and selling, about the same amount next month.

If you’ve ever decided you wanted to write and publish, it has never been easier, or harder, to be an indie author. The last time I checked, Amazon reported they were publishing approximately 4,000 books per day. Let that sink in. It takes me months to write, edit, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, format, & finally publish a book. And on any given day it will pop onto the market with roughly another 3,999 books who are all elbowing each other in a mad race to be discovered.

I miss the “good ‘ole days” when I could chat about my books on social media and make a decent living. Well, maybe not decent, but I could buy groceries for the month, put gas in my car, and have enough left over to fund my next project. These days, I’m spending hundreds of hours working and way too much money to get my book into production – all so I can be in the red by several hundred dollars each time I click “publish” on Amazon.

“But, Nikki, there are so many books on marketing, so many promotional and PR companies, so many marketing gurus and other authors who are making sales. Surely you haven’t tried everything there is to do to get your books out there.”

Yeah, about that. First, with 4K books hitting the virtual shelves each day, trying to get your one book (or even you as an author) discovered is like trying to get a drop of water to stand out in the ocean. It’s practically impossible. And trust me, for every one author who is succeeding at this game, there are several hundred thousand of us who are failing miserably. Like – epic fail.

Since there are now so many “writers” out there, there has been a boom in the “basement-built” companies popping up to feed off of said writers – promotional companies, marketing companies, editors, formatters, publishing houses, etc. – and most of them do not have any more of a clue about how to be successful in the publishing industry than the authors whose money they are happy to snap up in exchange for zero results and zero sales. Honestly, most of them consider “marketing” to be nothing more than posting to FB groups, creating a FB fan page, group, and twitter account, and promoting on those platforms.
As if it were that damn easy. That’s something every single author on the face of the planet is already doing, I’ve yet to figure out why authors seem to think paying someone to do the same thing to thousands of fake “followers” is going to help any more than posting to their own accounts. And if readers think the endless sea of shit-tacular books on Amazon is hard to maneuver through, you should see the ever-growing list of wannabe business owners who promise to do everything from post in FB groups to tweet your books multiple times a day – all for a price, of course. Hey, a girl has to eat I guess.

And let’s not even get on the subject of the piss-poor writers who are blowing through their savings accounts buying up their own books, buying up fake reviews by the hundreds, and paying click farms to buy and/or borrow their book and grab that elusive Amazon high rank for a whole hour – all so they can pretend they are a bestselling author and slap that lie on a book cover. Someone who is going to boast about selling 7 million copies of a book should have two things to show for it: their name on the USA or NYT Bestsellers list, and a trad publishing deal.

So here I sit, re-branding my books for what has to be the sixth time each, redoing book covers and blurbs, wasting money I don’t have on AMS ads, and writing book 5 in the Before the Sun Rises Series while plotting books 6 – 10.

Well, I can say one thing for certain. When the editors at Random House told a 15-year-old me that I shouldn’t “quit my day”, like ever, I’m glad that was one piece of advice I actually took to heart.

Hard Work Does Not Equal Success

We all love to hear success stories in the indie world. Nothing can give us all a sense of I can do this! like hearing about other authors who have been successful with their self-published books. However, I think it’s important for people to see the other side of things. It’s the side most of us see, are all-too-familiar with, but is also the side which authors are often chastised for sharing. I think it is important to keep what it’s really like to be an author in perspective while still overcoming adversity.

Late last year I was releasing my 9th book since 2011 and my 4th book to be released that year. I had a marketing plan in place, and for the two weeks leading up to my big release, I did everything anyone and everyone had ever suggested indie authors do to increase sales and get the word out about the impending release. I had three fabulous PAs who were posting several times a week each in FB groups, they were posting about my new book on their PR company’s websites and social media pages, entering me into contests, and setting up blog and podcast interviews. I did takeovers, one of my PAs put together a fabulous cover reveal party followed by a release party via FB. I blogged, I did a blog tour, I had my street team in place, I had a review team in place, I sent out my newsletter and asked other authors to include the release in their newsletter as well. The book was the third in an on-going series so I dropped the price of the first book down to just $0.99, dropped the price of the second book which had just released less than 9 months prior to just $1.99, and offered the new release for just $0.99, all in a bid to drive sales for the new release as well as the rest of the series. I took to social media and did contests, giveaways, played games. Anything anyone had ever said would help on release day I did, and then some. I even went so far as to take out Twitter ads.

The result? The day of release I had a whole 3 sales, and only had 7 sales of the book that week. In all honesty, I’ve given away more copies of that book to blogs, beta readers, and contest winners than I have ever sold. I can’t tell you how many blogs actually posted about the release as it was all set up through my PA. Out of the 6 beta readers and 6 members of my review team I had enlisted, I received feedback from one of the betas and not a single review from any of them. Despite so many people posting, tweeting, and trying to drum up interest in the release, readers just weren’t biting.

While I am extremely happy for those authors who seem to ooze success with minimal effort, I feel it’s important for authors to realize that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work or how much time, energy, and effort we put into something, sometimes success just isn’t in the cards. Hard work does not equal success. If all it took to hit it big was hard work, there would be la whole lot more NYT bestselling authors out there. I am a writer first, a business woman second. We struggle daily with trying to balance everything and it’s oftentimes crushing when we see so many authors succeeding when we have literally done everything in our power to get noticed and it just isn’t happening for us. While it can be devastating to see so many authors burning up the Amazon charts after we have busted our asses and have nothing to show for it, we should remember that we are so much more than just our sales. Sales, or a lack thereof, should not be a measure of our worth or our success as writers. So long as we love what we do, that’s all that really matters at the end of the day.

I know a lot of you are struggling with sales, seeing your dreams slowly washing away with the tide, but just remember you are not alone. Don’t let your sales, or your lack of sales, define who you are. Those of us who write for the joy of spinning a great storyline will persevere. Just remember so long as you are doing what you love to do, nothing else really matters. Sales or no sales, you are still a writer at heart.