The Real Indie Authors of Amazon

This blog post was inspired by fellow indie authors I’ve met and come to know on Google+. I just want to say that Google+ has been a life saver for me as a writer and author. Without the Writer’s Discussion Group and the support of fellow indie authors, I don’t know if I would be doing as well as I am.

From another’s perspective I’m doing a lot better as an indie than I think I am. My stats and ranking are pretty good, mediocre I would say. But that isn’t a bad thing. I have to remember that I’m playing the long game, the big picture is there. It’s an endurance run, and not a sprint. With a series like the Wolfegang series, (ten books total) I have to keep that in mind. One day they will all flow into each other, and things will be dandy. Right now, I only have two out of ten available. With a schedule I mapped out, four per year seems feasible. Don’t you think?

So I was asked today about my expectations as a writer. I get that question a lot from my family. “How do you plan to make money?” or “How much are you making/selling?” It’s a frustrating question because I honestly don’t care about the money. I do it because I love it, and if I can make enough to keep writing, that’s enough. I keep track of my expenses and the amount I consider “career-worthy.” It’s not a lot. I made between 10k and 15k a year working at Starbucks. That’s my base goal for how much I consider “normal people income.” That is the amount where I would consider myself “successful.” That’s not including what I spend for editing and cover art. Anything above that per year, and I consider it what I would make working anywhere else. I know how to live off that much a year, it’s hard, but possible.

At this time I have two books available on Amazon, My Delicate Destruction: Book One of the Wolfegang series and Shadows in Darkness: Book Two of the Wolfegang series. From what I’ve seen when I compare sales to Amazon’s ranking system, there is an interesting development. Choose your two categories wisely, and then use those seven tag words to place yourself in the categories you weren’t able to choose. If you look through all the sub-categories, there are a ton of them that you aren’t able to select, but may be perfect for your story. One of those for me was “genetic engineering.” You can’t choose that as a category, so I used it as a tag word.

I am constantly in the top 50 of my category for My Delicate Destruction with an average of 5 downloads a day. Just FIVE. Some days it’s three and some days it’s twenty. But in my mind that’s not a lot to stay in the top 50 of a category. Same with my second book, Shadows in Darkness. The title may sound cheesy, but if you’ve read it, it makes sense. I sold nine copies on the day it was released, and I shot up in the ranks like crazy. Only nine copies! If I sell three a day I’m back in the top 50. If I don’t, Amazon doesn’t grace me with that ranking. They just show what my ranking is overall in the paid Amazon Kindle store. So, how can so few copies make such a huge difference in the Amazon ranking system?

Personally, and this is based off of no scientific data, pie charts, or statistics…there seems to be a huge disparity between “bestselling books” and average books. It seems not many books get many copies sold per day unless it’s a huge name. Yeah sure, Stephen King and Veronica Roth are permanently in the top 10 right now. But what about all the other hundreds of thousands of books? There seems to be a lot of room for us indies to make an appearance. Can you sell an average of 3-5 copies of your book per day? Right now I can’t, but in the future when I have five available, maybe I can.

Not everyone loves my books, and I’m okay with that. I probably didn’t write it for them. But the people who I targeted with my style of writing and story, love it. There are even a few who didn’t think they would, and I surprised them. That’s enough for me. It’s a very fulfilling experience to have people tell you how much they loved your book, your series, and your characters.

Let me tell you a few tricks I’ve used aside from categories and tag words to bump myself up. I started a mailing list for people who like my work and want to be notified when I have something new or I have a deal, promotion, or whatever. I reward these readers for signing up. I send them books before anyone else. I plan to send them free short stories. And I’m going to build on this as an exclusive thing. Promotions that only they can be a part of, etc. I’ve gotten about 50 people subscribed in a few months. I want to build this list until I can sell 50 copies the first day of a release.

I created a website. It was worth the money. This is where everything I do is located in one place. You can access all of my social media websites, contact me, report a typo (readers feel better about this for some reason. It tempers their Grammar Nazi rage if they can fix it), access my blog, and what I’m reading. I always respond to someone who contacts me. It makes me real, and likeable. Not hard, but it’s amazing what that can do for a new reader.

I’m literally giving away my first book. If they like it then they don’t mind paying for the second one. And so on and so forth. I ask for reviews for free books which helps build new readership. I may be losing money now, but I’m thinking long term. If I build a rapport with someone, they are more likely to recommend me to their friends.

I paid for editing. I have two editors, and this really helps catch almost all the errors. Then I go through it one last time myself. I have an “editing list.” A list of errors I search for, a list of words I know I use a lot, etc. That way I can catch a lot of things that might be missed.

So far this has worked for me. I have an online presence, and a reward system for loyal fans. I do Goodreads Giveaways, books for reviews, and presents for signing up for my mailing list. Right now, that’s all I have time for. I may have more to write on the subject after I release the third book. And the third book will have a new strategy implemented. The new Amazon Pre-Order button for Indies. I love it. Readers can buy it while they’re still thinking about it. If I have the next book available for pre-order when that one releases, it’s a constant cycle. They never have to think twice about the next book. It’s just there. How cool is that?

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