Monday, November 28, 2011

Back In the Black: Or Just How Much Can You Make Writing Ebooks Part 2

BACK IN THE BLACK: Just How Much Can You Make Writing Ebooks Part 2

In May 2010, I wrote a blog article about how much one might expect to make writing e-books. I used my own figures off what I made in 2009, just as Amazon’s Kindle was starting to have major impact on my sales and the publishing industry as a whole.

Fast forward to November 2011. In 2009, I earned $38000 from ebooks, publishing through several electronic houses. In 2010, I earned $64000. And in 2011, I have already cleared over $100,000 to date. How is this happening? And how can I make it continue to happen?

I can only go by my own facts and figures, and the reason I’m doing this is once again I have people asking me about writing for epublishers. Is it a viable option? Can you make any money at it? I have my own questions about self-publishing, that thanks to open and forthcoming authors, I’ve had answered. The more authors share, the easier it is to see what’s real and what’s fantasy. I didn’t make this amount of money with one release with a publisher no one but a tiny few have heard of, and I didn’t make it with my first release in 2005. It is and continues to be a lot of hard work, full of edits, challenges, rejections, acceptances, and try-again’s.

I have fifty-six--and by the end of the year will have fifty-eight--titles published since I started writing back in 2005. I produce on average ten new works per year. Some stories that I’ve put out are older titles I’ve revised, meaning less work for the most part, but most are new. I don’t write lengthy stories. Some are novellas, some novels, but most are category-sized, ranging from 40-50K (thousand) words in length. I write erotic romance in a multitude of genres, and I enjoy what I write.

I also write fairly fast. On a good day, I can write anywhere from 10-20K words. I didn’t say they were perfectly written. They’re draft, but they’re pretty close to what I keep after edits. On a typical day filled with distractions, kids, and messes, I’ll write around 5K words. So it doesn’t take me long to write a novella. I’m currently scheduled to finish one project a month to meet deadlines. I have so many ideas in my “Pending” folder, I'll never run out of projects.

As far as marketing and promotion go, I don’t do nearly enough, and I still can’t figure out what works. I advertise through The Romance Studio and Romance Junkies, two review sites that are very friendly to authors. I’ve tried to blog hop, have offered a few contests and chats, but I don’t see the return on my time, with the exception of guest blogging. Reader blog sites can help promote through word of mouth.

I publish through the “big three” romance electronic publishers: Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id and Samhain. My over all best seller is a novella entitled Enjoying the Show. For a history on the book, see my earlier blog post. In a nutshell, I wrote the book in 2006, had it published with Samhain in December of 2007, and watched the story move into Kindle’s top 100 bestselling romances in early 2011. In one month alone I made over $8000 with this one story. That’s incredible, and it shows what the power of Amazon can do for backlist. In all, Enjoying the Show has sold 34,734 copies since its release, and it continues to sell. Like my other releases, backlist contributes the majority of my royalties, courtesy of third party vendors (like Amazon, B&N, etc).

When a new book releases, that first week it’s at the publisher’s website, prominently displayed, earns me the most money. My royalty rates are between 35 and 40% and aren’t diluted by third party commissions. The first month my book is available, I’ll see nice revenue. And then it seems to trickle away, lost among the many other releases from the publisher. But at Amazon, B&N or All Romance eBooks, my sales accumulate. There’s such a large audience buying from these places that my book is exposed to more and more people all the time.

Which leads me to a new venue I’m recently exploring--self-publication. I’d hesitated for a long time because of the predominantly negative reaction to authors who self-publish (in the romance writer world), which is regrettable. There are many talented authors out there who publish their own work. Unfortunately, there are also many, many more that don’t care about edits, cover copy or art and simply wish to rake in profits off shoddy work. Only the reader can say which is which, but the chaff out there makes it harder for authors wanting readers to take a chance on self-published titles. (Hey, I’m a reader too. I totally understand about saving my money for those books I might find entertaining, from authors I trust. But I don’t mind trying out a newbie if the price is right.)

I took a revised work I’d put out with another publisher years ago, now having my rights back, and extensively revised it, because I didn’t want to give readers the impression that my old work is my new work. (Plainly said, I write better today than yesterday and don’t rely so heavily on adverbs and dialogue tags—ugh.) I published A Familiar Face August 28, 2011. I distributed the book through All Romance eBooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and priced it at .99, since it was an older novella. To date, the book has sold 1952 copies, not counting November’s numbers. That’s not a lot of money to be made, considering I’ll only see anywhere from 35-40% on a .99 sale, but I don’t have to share with a publisher and my take is my own. I deduct a bit for promotion and the stock images I used to create a cover, and I’ve so far netted $813. Mind you, I won’t see this total amount for a while, as most of my distributors pay 60 days after the close of the month, but still. For an older book I retooled, this isn’t a bad take.

I won’t say I wouldn’t like to still find a NY print publisher for broader distribution of my work, but finding the right place has been tricky. Agents and publishers are being far more selective now than they ever were, and with the publishing model changing so much, they have a right to be choosey. But so do I.

I write ebooks, some of which go into print. I get paid monthly , though two of my publishers pay me quarterly. I don’t need to worry about earning out an advance because I don’t get one. I’m paid for what I’ve sold, and I like that. I write daily, as it’s my job. I also schedule releases by making sure I have product to give to my publishers. I’m not late on submissions or edits, and I keep a professional tone because this is my business.

When I first started getting published electronically, many authors still snubbed ebooks. An RWA chapter I used to belong to refused to allow me to list my accomplishments alongside traditionally published authors because they didn’t consider my book “real.” Well, now the big 6 in the industry are promoting electronic books, and I’m making a comfortable living writing them. It’s work, no doubt, but it’s satisfying. And the self-publishing aspect is freeing. I don’t worry about cover art matching the book or my voice being changed by my editor. I also have no one to blame if my books is crap, because I’m the writer, editor, artist, etc. Or at least, I’m responsible for finding qualified people to do those things for me.

I am very happy publishing with Ellora’s Cave, Loose Id, Samhain and Total E-Bound. I also enjoy creating stories and publishing them myself, when time allows. I do think it’s very possible to be successful in epublishing, but I think self-publishing successes happen more when an author has a following or writes that extremely rare breakout book that gets a lot of buzz.

My 2011 is nearly finished. I have a new title I’m publishing myself--Bodywork-- which releases in just a few more days. It’s a brand new, 60000 word contemporary erotic romance that I hope readers will enjoy. In December, my sequel to Enjoying the Show, entitled Closing the Deal, releases with Samhain. I can only dream that it will do what Enjoying the Show has done for my career.

In 2012, I have 7 books contracted for release. I intend to have finished, and hopefully released, 4 more. Lots to do and little time to get it done. But with time, enjoyment, and hard work, I’ll make my deadlines and enjoy the fruits of my labor. If I can do it, I know others can. I’ve heard of one self-published author making over $100000 on one book, and this from a romantic suspense author not published with a small or large print house, but by herself. I know of small press epublished authors making the same or more than I’m making, and I also hear of authors making much less.

In any case, I feel that if just one person enjoys the book I’ve written, I’ve been successful. The dollars help, because hey, I need to pay my bills, but I could make money working at a nine-to-five job. Writing is a calling and a passion, one I’m happy and lucky enough to enjoy. If you’re serious about writing and want to make a living doing so, don’t stop because someone rejects you. And don’t stop because it’s hard or you hate hearing try again. Suck it up, type the words, and listen to criticism. Write the best story you can, and believe it or not, the rest will come. And if not, you can always say I was full of crap. See? A silver lining, any way you look at it.


KC Burn said...

Marie, thank you for this post! I haven't reached my 2 year published anniversary yet, and I don't write as fast as you, but my goal of being able to reduce my EDJ from full to part time seems at least marginally possible (someday).

Marie Harte said...

Thanks, KC. I've read your work, and I don't think you'll have far to go before just working part time. I LOVED Wolfsbane. :) I do think the key to making money with epublishing is writing good books, plural. Because when you have backlist, you have more to offer new readers who find your work.

Samantha Storm said...

Thanks for sharing. It helps knowing what is possible ;-)

Carly Carson said...

Interesting post. I agree that productivity is key to a reasonable income and you have that nailed. Here's wishing you lots more success!

Marie Harte said...

Thanks, Samantha. I love when authors post their progress. I'm fascinated with the self-publishing sales now.

Marie Harte said...

Glad you liked the post, Carly. Thanks for the well wishes. I'm well aware that one year may be stellar and the next poor. So I'm keen to write the best stories I can and hope for good tidings. :)

Ayla Ruse said...

Thanks for the post, Marie, even though I'll still tell you - put this together for a WORKSHOP!! Oh, and hearing your figures helps because DH is more and more willing to give me more and more time to write! :D

Kayelle Allen said...

thank you for sharing this. Your news is encouraging and hopeful. It can be done. Again, my sincere thanks for telling it like it is.

Marie Harte said...

I know, I know, Ayla. I do need to get a workshop together. I just need to figure out how to frame it. :) Keep bugging me about that. And keep writing. I'm looking forward to your Christmas story.

Marie Harte said...

Thanks,Kayelle. I look forward to reading news about other writers as well. Every success story makes me glad to know it's possible for those of us published in ebooks to continue.

Lisa Pietsch said...

Thanks for posting this, Marie. It gives us all hope as well as a road map. Let me know if you need help creating that workshop. The angle seems obvious to me and I'd love to help you put it together.