This is likely to be a long post so grab a cuppa and settle in.
First things first – I’m doing 11 months instead of 12 because Ink Bound doesn’t go live until August, which puts it at the 13 month mark. So I figured I’d do 11 months.
Books published during these 11 months:
(4 Infernal Hunt, 3 Ink Born – 1 currently on pre-order).
Average length of said books:
The Infernal Hunt books follow a hunter, someone who keeps the supernals in line, in a world where magic is hidden.
The Ink Born books follow a magician with a secret who wants the quiet life, in a full fantasy kitchen sink where magic is fully out in the open.
Now with full data.
Stolen Ink (Ink Born 1) is by far the bestselling book, but Blood & Ink (Ink Born 2) is hot on its heels.
This is the graph taken from my Book Report showing the money earnt per month over these 11 months.
This shows the hard data – how many sales and pages read on each book.
This shows a breakdown of which countries I’ve sold books in – I do a happy dance every time a new country pops up.
And finally, these are the pre-orders for the books. Keep in mind that Ink Bound doesn’t go live until August 4th and I haven’t told my newsletter that it’s available yet. They’re just the people who’ve found it or been notified by Amazon’s little follow button.
Cracked the top 2,000 on Amazon (with Stolen Ink).
Earnt over $1,000 in a month.
Sold over 1,000 copies of one book.
Earnt over $2,000 with one book.
I feel that this works best if you have a good idea of how I came into this. Holly Evans didn’t exist until late September or early October 2015.
I started a Twitter account and plotted out the Infernal Hunt books through late 2015. I started completely from scratch, no following, nothing. I also didn’t have very much spare money. $30 for a promotion was a bit of a squeeze, I had to be careful and make the most of every free opportunity I could.
The Infernal Hunt books were written as a push back against previous Urban Fantasy that I’d written. I made them far quicker paced and more plot driven than previous books. Infernal Ties was my first ever attempt at a novella. They were an interesting experiment, but very definitely outside of my comfort zone.
The Ink Born books were a drastic swing in the other direction. They’re the books that I wrote for me. I was burnt out, and by the gods I was going to write what I wanted to read.
Expectations vs reality.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed in the Infernal Hunt books. I’d expected to earn $250 that first month, as you can see I actually earnt $130. The only promotion that I could do back then was a few tweets on Twitter. I managed to bring in 10 ARC readers but I believe only 6 of those actually left a review on Amazon.
I really did expect them to pick up and do better after I released Witch Infernal (Infernal Hunt 3), and then when the series was wrapped up with book 4. I can see how why they didn’t. The simple fact of the matter is that Evie, the protagonist, is too far from the market standard for an Urban Fantasy heroine. She drove me completely mad in the end, but that was due to my screwing up book 4 and having to rewrite a third of it in the space of 48 hours.
On the other end of the scale, I expected Stolen Ink to do well. A lot of people were very interested in the gay tattoo magician concept. It surpassed my expectations, and Blood & Ink led to me crying tears of joy for a few days.
On the writing front, I expected it to be easier to publish more books quickly. The simple fact of the matter is, that while I do write quickly, (1600 words in 20 mins quickly), I also have a lot on my plate. My books also need extensive copy editing. They only have light developmental edits, but the copy is intense thanks to my learning disability. That slows everything down.
I expected to be able to push myself harder than I can, but then, I didn’t expect to move country this March. That led to a helluva lot of stress from November last year onto now. Juggling everything involved in a country move, the visa stuff, the normal business stuff, the household stuff, family stuff, and keeping on top of the writing and publishing, was incredibly difficult.
Promo that worked
This is a bit of a complicated category. What worked for one book, didn’t work for another. What worked last September, didn’t work this February.
Social media promotion – as in tweeting quotes, tweeting links to the books, blog posts about the books, none of that did anything noticeable. I avoid doing that now, I don’t want to bug my followers. Social media is social for me.
Paid promotional websites are great generally speaking, but can be hit and miss depending on the book and the day. For example, Freebooksy did fantastically for Infernal Bonds last year, but a few months later, there was a definite decline in numbers and tail.
To go into a bit more detail:
I found that promoting Infernal Ties was a bloody nightmare. It’s only 30k long, which puts it at 100 pages on Amazon. A lot of promotion websites have length limits, and that just isn’t long enough. I struck on the bright idea, of what if I promote Infernal Bonds instead? I made Infernal Ties perma-99c, that seemed liked a good price for a novella. Readers can begin the series with either Ties OR Bonds, so I figured what the hell, let’s give this a go.
So that’s what I did. I dropped Bonds to free a couple of times and booked it with Freebooksy and somewhere else, I’m afraid I don’t keep great records of this. And it did great! My income that month was double the usual, fantastic! That came from people grabbing the free copy of Bonds, and buying the 99c Ties at the same time.
I did really struggle to get the requisite 10 reviews for promotion, which did limit my options a lot. The simple fact of the matter is that not enough people were buying the book, which meant I wasn’t getting the reviews.
Aside from paid promotion websites, I also joined in a few multi-author promotions. These were where a group of authors, sometimes over 100, got together and promoted the entire collection of books via social media.
They were fantastic last year when they were new, but now that everyone’s doing it, they’re definitely not as effective. They’re also a really good test of a book’s cover though. The way they’re usually set up is to have a page with just book covers on, each cover clicks through to the relevant link. That means that readers choose purely based on the cover. Fortunately my covers always did well.
Finally! I tried making Infernal Ties perma-free and threw that onto Instafreebie to try and grow my mailing list. I used a whole heap of group promotional efforts to get people to sign up via Instafreebie. That resulted in 1600 new subscribers within 30 days. Having that mailing list definitely helped me launch Stolen Ink with much more of a bang.
I was really unhappy with how Ties performed as a perma-free. It didn’t get as many downloads as I wanted when promoted and there was no uptick in sales on the rest of the books. So I put it back in Kindle Unlimited once my month on Instafreebie was up.
I’ve since decided that the Infernal Hunt books have run their course in Kindle Unlimited and they’re all going wide. Ties is out now, that’s back on Instafreebie and I’ll be doing more multi-author promotions to gather subscribers to my mailing list. Once the rest of the books are out I’ll put Bonds up on Instafreebie too.
Oh and slightly off topic, but I noticed that the tail (that’s to say the increase in sales on all books after a promotion) has been far shorter the past few months. It was a good 4 or 5 weeks last year, and we’re down to a couple of weeks now. I had barely any tail at all last time I ran a free promotion. That’s leading me to hem and haw over whether to try Stolen Ink at free or continue to price-pulse it to 99c.
On the topic of Stolen Ink being 99c, I’ve tried doing some newsletter swaps but haven’t found them to be particularly great. I suspect that’s because I myself only have 1600 subscribers and I need to add a zero on the end of that to do swaps with people with those size lists. One step at a time.
Carefully chosen paid promotion websites are a godsend. I’ve spoken in previous posts about using those to help stop the impact of the 30 and 60 day cliffs. You need to do your research and see which sites work well for your particular books.
Instafreebie when coupled with large multi-author pushes is fantastic. You can gather a large number of highly-engaged newsletter subscribers via Instafreebie.
I learnt that I need to write what I love, and I have to stop trying to push myself so damn hard (she says while recovering from burning out yet again).
I learnt that blurbs do make a difference. As I noted in a previous blog post, my sales on Stolen Ink had a significant uptick after I tweaked that opening line of the blurb.
I learnt to go with the ebb and flow. Sometimes you’ll have a bit of a down month. Maybe the politics were iffy. Maybe the weather was bad so people read more beach books to escape it. Maybe I’d been too long without promoting my books. So many maybes. The simple fact is, there will be good months, and not so good months. The best thing I can do is to keep writing. I can try and beat the 30-day cliff with promotion, but other than that? Keep on writing.
I learnt to stop looking at my rank and sales. I can’t change it. Looking at it is a complete waste of energy. I keep a close eye on those things when I’m running a promotion so I can see how well said promotion is working, is it worth my money? Other than that, *shrug*
I learnt that that stupid little image making reviews out to be a magical bullet is exactly that – stupid. I’ve had books in the Amazon mailing lists with no reviews. I’ve had pre-orders with no reviews with 15 pages of also-boughts. The only time reviews are worth trying to get is when I need those first 10 to book the promotion websites. Even then, it’s not worth hassling people on social media for said reviews.
I learnt that understanding my market, my readers, is very important. Yes, I must write what I love, but if I don’t give my readers what they love they won’t return to buy more of my books.
What I’d change
I’d change the Infernal Hunt books.
I’d make Infernal Ties a full novel. I don’t do well with novellas, I’m a novel writer. I’d also work on Evie’s personality, and probably play with the plot a little bit. The bare bones are there, and I adore Infernal Bonds, but I feel like it just doesn’t give readers what they want.
I’d remind myself to take more me time, to breathe, and try to stop feeling like I’m being selfish and worthless if I’m not working. Burning out is bad for business.
I think that’s about it. I feel pretty good about where I am, and what I’ve done. Things are ticking along quite nicely, I feel like my craft has come on leaps and bounds. I’ve experimented, learned, and had a lot of fun along the way.
Kindle Unlimited vs Wide.
You can see my stats up above – I get a good number of page reads on my books. For me, Kindle Unlimited works well for my books. I’ve heard that Urban Fantasy does well in KU in general. I haven’t really tried wide yet because I just don’t have the money to throw into the promotion I feel would be needed to do that. I’m quietly putting the IH books wide so I can put them in Instafreebie.
I’ve used 90 day pre-orders thus far to try and help build reader trust. I’m still a new author, I’m still very much in the building phase of this. By putting up that pre-order I hope that I’m showing readers I am committed to continuing my series. I won’t leave them in the lurch.
Blood & Ink hung out at around about 25k on Amazon throughout its pre-order, and it jumped down to 2,100 when it went live. I’m happy with that, I feel like that’s a good result.
That being said, I do think I’m going to try not doing a pre-order on Ritual Ink (Ink Born 4) to see how that works out. A lot of people say that pre-orders cannibalise rank on a book. I’ll find out for myself in November as I feel like I have enough of a following to take that risk.
I think that covers everything. If you have any questions do let me know 🙂