2022 was a wonderful year for me as an author. I published a new stand-alone novel (Dead Winner) and a new short story that I began using as a reader magnet (The Car, the Dog & the Girl). This keeps up the pace for my writing. I’ve published 6 novels, including audiobooks, and two short stories, also including audiobooks, since 2018. Getting out one new novel a year while holding down a day job is a pretty decent output. If I can keep that up, I’ll have ten novels in my back catalogue by 2026. It’s a long game, and it’s going pretty well.
The most difficult part of being an author is marketing my books. It’s difficult, time-consuming, and always makes me feel like I need to study more and get better at it, but it takes energy away from actual writing. So, I hired a publicity firm to run advertising for me on Amazon, Facebook, and Goodreads. They are the pros and know what they’re doing, and it saves me from trying to do it. Between those ads, several group promotions in which I participated, the promotions I ran on my own, and my growing newsletter subscriber list, I had far and away my best year as a bookseller. I also appeared on several podcasts and published several articles in magazines and blogs. My recognition factor as a thriller author has certainly improved dramatically. So, the marketing/publicity area was also a huge improvement this year.
My free short stories continue to serve as a magnet for newsletter subscribers. The Car, the dog & the Girl generated 2300 readers via my Bookfunnel link, all of whom were required to sign up for my newsletter. 32 downloaded the audiobook version, another 554 downloaded the short story from Amazon, and an undetermined number picked up the story from other ebook retailer sites. Meanwhile, the “old” short story (Fool Me Twice) continued to also be a strong draw, generating more than 1800 ebook downloads (and newsletter sign-ups) and 205 audiobook downloads via Bookfunnel and another 629 downloads via Amazon (without newsletter sign-ups).
I also periodically offered book #1 in the Mike Stoneman Thriller series (Righteous Assassin) for free with a newsletter sign-up, which generated 536 free ebook downloads and 64 audiobook downloads. Altogether, I had more than 4300 downloads via BookFunnel. As a result, my Newsletter subscriber list grew to more than 6000 members, all of whom represent opportunities for word-of-mouth advertising for my brand as well as my best readers who will be interested in purchasing new books as I get them published. My newsletter list grew from less than 2000 to over 6000. That has to be considered a big success.
I have also, late in the year, taken the plunge into “wide” distribution of my paperbacks. I’m committed to Amazon as my exclusive ebook retailer (which is working out because of the revenue from Kindle Unlimited subscribers), but for paperbacks, I’m allowed to sell via other retailers. But, setting up paperbacks with other retailers turns out not to be so easy. First, I set up my paperbacks with Barnes & Noble. Great, except that bookstores don’t like to buy books from B&N. The other option for “wide” paperbacks is IngramSpark, which distributes to libraries and bookstores. Great. I should have done IngramSpark in the first place (or it’s main rival, Draft2Digital). But, having gone with B&N, it turned out that I could not also register with IngramSpark without first transferring my ISBN numbers from B&N. Ugh. That process would take 6 weeks. I ended up registering new ISBN numbers with IngramSpark. The process took way too long, but as of year-end, I’m finally fully registered. I got a whopping $11.22 in royalties from B&N for December. Now, I can get libraries and bookstores to buy my books via IS. All I have to do is figure out how to make that happen.
On the audiobook sales front, this year I had 1055 audiobooks purchased through Findaway Voices (all retailers other than Audible), which includes the Free short stories, and another 435 audiobooks purchased/selected via Audible. All audiobook sales totaled more than $1000.
I sold nearly $500 worth of paperbacks and hardcovers directly to my readers via my website. These autographed books are great gifts! Total sales are not huge, but the profit per-book on direct sales are higher than books purchased via Amazon, which is great.
On the Amazon front, I had 2624 paid purchases from Amazon, mostly ebooks, but including paperbacks (111), and hardcovers (12), generating $3,741.06 in royalties. But the lion’s share of revenue came from readers who are Kindle Unlimited subscribers and who read a combined 1.5 million pages of my books. (At an average length of about 350 pages, that’s about 4300 books. Those readers generated $6700 in royalties, nearly double the royalties from Amazon book sales.
All-in-all, I passed the $10,000 mark in gross revenue. That’s a good thing, although my expenses still slightly exceed my revenue, so the book publishing business (First Legacy Publishing, LLC, which I finally set up this year so I have a legal entity) will finish the year in the red. That’s OK. The independent publishing business is a long game. I’m still at the beginning. Six novels and two short stories represent a good base, but I’ll need to double those numbers over the next five years in order to have a really solid back catalogue of books to generate consistent revenue along with new books.
Compared to last year, this was a massive step forward. There’s still a lot to do. I am working on the next novel and I’m scheduled to publish a novella that will be serialized in a magazine in 2023. My advertising should continue to ramp up and generate more sales and page reads as my readers plow through the entire Mike Stoneman Thriller series (some of whom are reading the box set ebook, which is 1700 pages of the five books back-to-back). The goal for 2023 is to double my total revenue and to, for the first time, have a profitable year.
Happy New Year to everyone and may we all have a prosperous and healthy 2023.