rss
twitter
  •  

Can Serials Still Be Profitable in Kindle Unlimited 2.0 (and elsewhere)?

| Posted in Amazon Kindle Sales, Pen Name Project |

17

I’ve interviewed authors about writing serials in the past, and it’s something I’ve been interested in trying for several years. The novel is my favorite medium, and I think novels are the easiest thing to sell in the long run, but there are some reasons you might want to consider trying a serial, if the notion intrigues you. I finally published my first one this summer, under my pen name. I’m going to talk a bit about what my plan was, what went right, what I could have done better, and whether I think serials are still worth trying.

Why try a serial?

As I said, part of it was just the muse. I’ve been wanting to try one, to see if I could pull it off and if people would enjoy it. The other reason was strategic.

Last year, when I launched my pen name, I enrolled her books in KDP Select (requiring Amazon exclusivity), even though I’ve never touched it with my regular stuff. It was easier to get started and build an audience quicker in the Kindle Unlimited world, where borrows counted as sales insofar as Amazon sales rankings were calculated, and quite frankly, it’s easier to just have to make mobi files and worry about uploading and making changes in one place. (I don’t recommend going exclusive for authors who want to make a career of writing and — you want to build a brand and a business and extend your reach everywhere — but for a side project you don’t want to devote as much time to, it can make sense to just focus on what’s likely to earn you the most money.)

When I started plotting out my serial, around May of this year (2015), Kindle Unlimited 1.0 was firmly in effect.

If you were willing to sign up for KDP Select and go exclusive with Amazon for a quarter, your book (or serialized story) would go into Kindle Unlimited, where you were paid for every borrow that was made, so long as the reader consumed 10% of the ebook. In KU 1.0, doing a serial actually made more sense than publishing a novel. In my case, I would have been paid six times for the six installments for my serial, versus one time for a novel. Since the KU borrow payment for an author was around $1.30, this would have been $7.80 for me for every person who read all of the installments. That’s a heck of a lot more than I or my pen name make on individual ebook sales (my pen name novels are priced at $3.99, so I make around $2.70 per sale).

With this kind of incentive, it’s no wonder that people were hitting KU hard with serialized work. But, as usually happens when I decide to jump on board with something like this, a change came around.

As you probably know, Amazon announced in June that, starting July 2015, Kindle Unlimited would change. Now it pays based on pages read rather than on books borrowed. So basically, assuming borrows and read-throughs are the same, a 100,000-word serial isn’t going to make any more than a 100,00o-word novel. I think the new system is more fair than the old, but it removes the one big, obvious incentive for creating a serial. 

Why I continued on with the serial plan, even though Kindle Unlimited changed

At the time of Amazon’s announcement, I had finished the rough of my serial and was editing it. I debated on throwing it all together and calling it a novel, but I had already ordered the cover art, and I had also designed it to be a serial, meaning it had more of an episodic/television feel. This was a science fiction romance, and I’d ended each section with a cliffhanger, and I’d also included action and naughty bits (I figured that was a requirement with a “romance” serial) in each section.

I was also curious as to how a serial might perform differently from a novel, specifically how I could market it differently. This was a stand-alone adventure only loosely related to my pen name’s Mandrake Company books, which are set in the same universe but which don’t share any common characters. It’s tough to market and sell a stand-alone anything–series are much easier since you can play with permafree or discounted Book 1s.

With a serial, I figured I could market it like a series, running frequent sales on Part 1 in order to get more people into it. Also, I planned to release an episode once a week (during August and into September, I published one every Friday), which meant I could conceivably end up with multiple ebooks in the Top 100 for my subcategory. Here are the covers, in case you’re wondering whether I made them all the same or not. (The answer is basically yes–I just changed the titles.)


FSA1-BigThumb

FSAComplete-BigThumb

The challenge?

I wasn’t sure how to buy advertising for a serial, since most places only want to plug discounted full-length novels. I was hoping that “Ruby” had enough of a following that there would be some initial sales and borrows, hopefully enough to get into the Top 100 of the Sci-Fi Romance category. (Ruby’s mailing list has a little over 500 people on it currently.) I was a little worried, though, because I knew that some people hated reading in installments and wouldn’t buy the story until it was complete. When I had episode one ready to go, I sent out the email and crossed my fingers.

I didn’t announce the serial to my regular LB fans, since this was quite frankly smuttier than any of my other stuff (even most of the Ruby stories). I’m usually an adventure first and romance when it makes sense type, even with the pen name books, but since, as I mentioned, this was a serial, I felt I had to have some sexy stuff happening in each section.

In short, I was relying a little on the mailing list somewhat but almost entirely on the cover/blurb/story to appeal and catch on, something I hoped would happen more easily with numerous installments as opposed to one book.

I figured the serial would have more time to catch on and would possibly appear in the rankings for longer than a single novel might. I was also counting on Kindle Unlimited to make it easier for people to jump in–not everyone wants to pay 99 cents every week to get stories in dribs and drabs, but KU subscribers can borrow as much as they want at no extra cost. I fully expected more people to borrow these than to buy them (I honestly wanted buyers to wait until the complete serial was available in one ebook, as that would be a better deal for them and for me, too, since I could get the 70% split on that).

So, did it work?

I think things went fairly well, especially considering I was deep in the writing of Dragon Blood 6 at the time and also road-tripping across the U.S. and going on family vacations. It was a busy month and I did next to nothing to promote the series except sending out the original announcement to my mailing list. I believe I bought an ad from Bknights on Fiverr when I released the first installment, but not much came of that.

As the installments came out, they did indeed climb into the Top 40 of my category and eventually Part 1 made it into the Top 20. I should point out that the science fiction romance category on Amazon isn’t as competitive as the other romance categories (it usually takes about a 10,000 sales ranking to break into the Top 100), but it’s also a little tough if you write far-future space-based stories. If you scan through the Top 100, you’ll see it’s largely weighted toward human-women-kidnapped-from-earth-by-sexy-alien-men kind of romances. I think sci-fi that starts out on or takes place on modern-day Earth is probably more accessible to readers that didn’t necessarily grow up adoring Star Trek and Star Wars. But I digress. My main point is that I’ve found it tough to stick at the very top of the category rankings with the pen name, even with books that are well reviewed and receive encouraging fan mail. I consider hanging out in the Top 20 for a while to be a pretty good showing.

  • As far as sales numbers go, the first five installments had just shy of a combined 400,000 pages reads in August in KU in the U.S. (I started publishing on August 7th, one a week, so the 5th installment didn’t show up until the end of the month) and about 1600 sales at 99 cents in the U.S.
  • In September, as of the 22nd (I’m writing this on the 23rd), with all episodes out and the Complete Series ebook released at 4.95 on the 6th, I had about 1,100,000 page reads, 1200 sales at 99 cents, and 850 sales at 4.95.

serial-numbers

I won’t know how much I earn from those September page reads until the rate comes out in October, but in August, I earned enough to pay for the editing and cover art and then some, so I’m considering this a success. The sales of the full-priced boxed set in September are nothing to sneeze at either.

As I write this, the boxed set is dropping in the sales ranking at Amazon, but it’s just under 1,000 after being out for 2.5 weeks. It hit as high as 500, which is actually lower (better) than any of my other Ruby books have done. I did make the first episode free for 4 days at the same time as the complete serial came out (those 740 downloads are from that), but I actually think that was a mistake, that I should have waited longer, especially since I was super busy that week and didn’t have any ads lined up.

I might as well go into some of my mistakes, in case you’re thinking of trying a serial (or in case I try another one!):

Mistakes (or things I could have done better)

  • I released the six installments at 99 cents, one week apart, and I think that was a good thing (I’ve seen people make their installments further apart, releasing at two week intervals, but I think there’s more of a chance that people will forget about you or forget what happened in prior installments that way). However, I released the complete serial in one ebook only two days after the final episode came out. My reasoning in doing this was that I didn’t want the people who were opting to skip the installments in favor of getting the whole thing to have to wait long. I had the complete serial finished before I started releasing things, and it was hard not to just put it all out there for people. The problem is that I think I cannibalized my own sales by doing this. Almost as soon as the complete serial turned up, the individual episodes dropped out of the rankings. At one point, I believe I had all six installments in the Top 100 of my category, and they were selling fairly well. I probably should have waited at least a couple of weeks, until the installments had started to drop down in ranking and the first one, in particular, was out of the Top 20.
  • I should have waited until the rankings slipped to run a free promo on the first installment. Because I was busy that month, and you set things up in advance for KDP Select free runs, I set the dates ahead of time, figuring I’d give things a boost at the same time as I released the boxed set. I do think making 1 free for a while helped with sales of the complete serial, since it debuted fairly high, getting that 500 sales ranking, but 740 downloads is nothing, really. That’s a result of not having any ads linked to it. And also, as I said, Part 1 was still in the Top 20 at 99 cents, so it was really too early to use that boost.
  • More of a marketing plan and some advertising could have helped. I had two things working against me. First, as I said, I was more focused on other projects and family stuff during the time this was going out, so it was almost a set-it-and-forget-it thing (I used pre-orders to schedule the latter releases ahead of time). Second, because I haven’t invested time into building a social media following for my pen name, she couldn’t do promoted posts or tweet freebies every week to pimp the new episodes — I definitely would have done this with an LB title. I do think the serial format itself helped with the marketing, though, since I had “new releases” every week, and they were sprinkled throughout the SFR Top 100 as well as in some other sci-fi categories. Also, being in KU definitely helped, since those borrows increased my sales ranking. (Some people will tell you that borrows cannibalize sales, but you have to remember that not everyone who borrows would buy.)

Things I did correctly (and would repeat)

  • Overall, I think I put together a pretty entertaining story, for a serial newbie. It’s not great literature that’s going to win a Hugo (that can be said for any of my stuff), but a lot of people who picked up Part 1 went on to buy the other installments (it’s hard to judge that, just looking at page reads, since the installments were all different lengths, but when I look at the purchases over the entire time, I can see that people who went on to Part 2 tended to end up buying all of the parts). There’s action (and, ahem, action) in each segment, and I tried to set up the end of each segment to be cliffhangery without seeming forced or gimmicky.
  • Solid cover art without spending a fortune. I don’t know if I would have gotten more mileage out of doing different covers for each episode, but that would have been more work and a bigger expense. The folks over at Deranged Doctor Design put this together for me quickly and inexpensively. It’s obviously just using stock art, but that’s typical for the genre — if you surf through the Top 100, you won’t find much custom artwork, and you will find some fairly dreadful photoshopped stuff. As I’ve also found with steampunk, it’s tough to find stock photos that work in this genre, so kudos to the people who can make decent sci-fi romance covers!
  • Fair length for the price. I hardly ever write anything less than 40,000 words these days, because I want to be able to make the price at least 2.99, so I can get the 70% split from the retailers. With a serial, there was no way I was going to charge 2.99 an episode, and I didn’t feel I needed to, since I’d be focusing on getting those KU readers. The installments ranged from about 15k to 28K words, with the first one being the longest. The entire serial came in around 120K words. Since authors often charge 99 cents for short stories under 10K words, I thought my serial was fair, even for people who bought the parts individually. They would end up paying a little under $6 for the complete story. Those buying the complete set at $4.95 got a deal. Most of the Ruby books range from 70-90K and are $3.99, so this was in line with the pricing structure I had set up. I’ve seen people do 2.99 installments for serials or charge 99 cents for episodes that are only 5k long (or their serial runs 10+ episodes so people are paying a lot for the complete story), and I think that can breed resentment. Six parts at 99 cents seemed to work well.
  • Enrolling the serial in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited. I’m positive that this serial wouldn’t have done nearly as well if I’d gone wide with it, especially given how little promo I did for it. The ability for readers to borrow it without risk on Amazon brought in a lot of new readers and it helped me stay higher in the sales rankings for longer. Also, going wide would have meant a lot more work, since I’d be uploading seven books (the six installments, plus the boxed set), including artwork and description, on every platform. If you’re someone who updates the back matter for each retailer, that would be even more work. If, at some point in the future, I decide to go wide with Ruby, I’ll probably just put the complete serial out there and not bother with the individual episodes (I may eventually take the individual episodes down from Amazon, too, especially if I write a sequel and then don’t need Part 1 for loss-leader/marketing purposes).

What about running serials on other platforms?

I guess I already answered this in my last bullet point there, but unless you already have a following on the other platforms, I’m not sure it would be worth the extra work. I don’t think it would have been as easy for me to do well with this without the KU/borrow thing working in my favor. That said, if you’re already wide with your other books, and you do have a following, it could be worth trying the serial at the other retailers for the reasons I already mentioned:

  • You basically have a little “series” in your hands with a serial, so you can make the first installment free or inexpensive to spur sales of the rest.
  • More frequent releases means the opportunity to potentially take up more spots in the charts. My serial is clearly science fiction romance, but it could also be plugged into the space opera, genetic engineering, and exploration subcategories under science fiction. One of the installments went under “pirates” too. The serial can let you stick different episodes into different categories, if they fit, thus possibly helping you be discovered in more places.
  • Having the installments out at 99 cents can make the complete story version look like more of a deal. In my case, 4.95 is actually higher than my average pen name novel, but because it was $6 to buy the individual episodes, the $5 boxed set looked like a deal.

If you’re reading this and you’ve tried serials on other platforms (and also if you’ve tried them recently on Amazon), I would love for you to leave a comment and share your experiences.

Would I do another serial again?

I don’t have plans to write another one right now, but I may indeed try it again, especially in cases where I want to do a stand-alone story that isn’t related to my other works and thus isn’t an “auto buy” for fans of my other series. If I did one with my regular name, I would be tempted to use KDP Select/KU for the first 90 days, even though I usually shun the program because of the exclusivity requirement. With the serial, the benefits of being in KU were that noticeable.

Comments? Thoughts? Questions? Please share below. Thanks!

Pen Name Update: 10 Weeks In (Earnings: $12,824)

| Posted in Amazon Kindle Sales, Pen Name Project |

40

I’m about ten weeks into my pen name experiment, which I first blogged about back in November: Pen Name Launch: First Month Earnings $3043 (what worked and didn’t for marketing).

The first book launched around October 10th at 99 cents and went permafree about a week later, at roughly the same time as I launched the second book. The third book was ready to go four weeks after that. On Christmas Eve, I launched a fourth book, but there hasn’t been time for it to do much, so today’s post will focus on the first three books.

For those curious as to the earnings, my pen name has made approximately $12,824.88 between October 10th and December 25th. (I say approximately, because the second and third books are in Kindle Unlimited, so I’m guestimating what the December borrows will be worth, based on November’s rate). Also, several regular readers emailed me after my last blog post on this matter, letting me know that they had figured out who my pen name was. I know some of them picked up books, so we could subtract $200 or so from the earnings, since those books would not have been sold if the pen name author was not me. As far as influencing Amazon rankings, I believe those sales were statistically insignificant (as of December 25th, only one LB book appeared in the also-boughts for the pen names books, and it was eight pages deep).

I revealed my pen name to my newsletter subscribers and Facebook followers yesterday, so whatever earnings and rankings come from these books in the future may be a little fuzzier. I don’t know how many of my fantasy readers will cross over and try the science fiction romances, but I would guess it to be less than 10%. That will be hard to judge, though, so this will be the last post where I can say that these results could be achieved by a brand new author, coming into this without a following or even any family/buddy early reviews starting out.

I detailed my launch strategy (such as it was) in my last post, so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much, but I’ll discuss the last 5-6 weeks or so, whether I experienced the 30 Day Cliff, and how I managed to “stick” in the Top 20 of my sub-genre for a good eight weeks or so before dropping. I’ll also talk about some of the things I could have done better, in the hopes that what worked and did not work for me can help others.

Sales Rising and Falling with the Success of the Peramafree Title

All of the books except for the first one are in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited (so they’re exclusive to Amazon). I’ll go into the why later on, but let me talk about the book that isn’t first.

The first book in the series, Mercenary Instinct, has been permafree since the second week I released it. I made it 99 cents at Amazon and free at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Smashwords. Eventually, Amazon price-matched.

As I mentioned in my last post, it did well as soon as it was dropped to free. Even though it wasn’t picked up by Pixel of Ink or any of the major sites that monitor such things, I think the 70 or 80 sales I manage to get while it was 99 cents helped thrust it onto people’s radars. Even though the cover art is just made with stock images, I think it’s better than a lot of what you see in the science fiction romance niche (admittedly, a tough genre to nail with stock art, since models so rarely dress suitably for a galaxy far, far, away), and I’m sure that helped get people to download it. It reached around 225 in the free list at Amazon and hung out in the Top 500 of its own accord for quite a while.

I did buy a few ads, the most useful being an Ereader News Today ad for $15. Later in the month, around Thanksgiving, I spent a whopping $85 for an ad on My Romance Reads. That was the most I spent on any ads, and it resulted in around 2,000 downloads, which was nice since the momentum had started to wane by that time.

In December, the freebie dropped further, hanging around 1,000 for a while, and it’s now dropped to 1600. A couple of days ago, I tossed $40 at eBookBooster to see if they could try to get it onto some sites that hadn’t already featured it. I also paid $30 at Kindle Nation Daily for a spot in their automated daily freebie roundup this weekend. I don’t think either service will give it a big boost, but maybe it will pop up a bit in the SFR free chart for a little longer.

Why bother?

As you might guess from the sub-title of this section, the sales of the second and third books have risen and fallen in sync with the freebie. As long as the freebie was getting a lot of downloads, the other books stuck in the Top 20 of the SFR sub-category on Amazon, which has resulted in steady sales. Lately, the books have been dropping off, appearing on the 21-40 page. They’re still selling — I can hardly complain about a 3,000 sales ranking (paid) in the Amazon store, especially when none of my LB books are in that range, except for the recently released Patterns in the Dark. But they haven’t sold as well as they did in November, when both were under 2,000 in the Amazon store for quite a while.

If my second and third books featured the same hero and heroine as the first book did, I suspect the sales would have been even better. Once of the tough parts of writing romances is that you typically wrap up the story at the end of the book and bring in different protagonists in future novels. All of the stories center around the same spaceship, and main characters become side characters in later books, so I’m sure that does help, but for those of you writing a clearcut series with the same heroes continuing the story from book to book, you might do much better than my pen name has done, especially if you can push a permafree Book 1 and keep it up there in the free rankings.

What I’ll be trying in the future with the permafree angle:

The big thing is that I’m mulling over making the first book $3.99 (the price of the others) after a while. I don’t think there’s much point in having a permafree that hangs out at 6,000 or some such in the free store. My Emperor’s Edge Book 1 is dealing with that now, after being free for years, and the sales have really dropped off on the rest of the series. I’m kicking around some ideas for bringing it back to life in 2015, but it’s definitely a challenge to keep even a free ranking up, because there are so many offerings out there. Also, for people who are KU subscribers, they have no need to browse the free books when everything in the KU store is essentially “free” for them.

If I revert Mercenary Instinct to a paid book, I’m thinking that I’ll either make something else in the series permafree for a while or I’ll use the Kindle Countdown Deals (an option for those in KDP Select) to temporarily make the other books free or 99 cents. One perk of this being an open-ended series, with different heroes in each one, is that people don’t have to have read Book 1 for Book 3 or 4 to make sense. So I do have the option of trying to get people into the series using the other titles. As I get more novels out, it may make sense to cycle between the first three or four, having a different one free at different times in the year.

Of course, it’s possible the pen name will get to the point where it has a big enough fan base that I don’t need to use permafree to gain momentum and keep relatively new releases in the Top 20 for the sub-genre, especially if I’m able to keep putting out books regularly. I would love to manage one a month, but I’m still writing books for my regular name, so it’s more likely that I will get a new novel out every 6-8 weeks. Still not shabby. We’ll see how things work out. In the end, science fiction romance is a small sub-niche, and the space operas I like to write are even smaller (I’ve been watching the Top 20 of the niche for a while, and the stories that are set on Earth, usually involving hunky aliens coming to visit, seem to be a much easier sell than the far-future outer-space stuff). I’m not sure how many readers there are, overall, to tap into. There’s a reason why the Big 5 doesn’t touch this niche.

Still, I’ve found a lot of people so far, and I can hardly complain about the early results!

Launching with More Than One Title (and why I wish I’d had Book 4 ready to go sooner)

A permafree alone doesn’t do much for you. As I’ve mentioned, one of the reasons the pen name books (2 and 3) sold decently right from the start is because Book 1 was free and a lot of free ebooks were being downloaded at the same time as I released Book 2. When I released 3 about four weeks later, the freebie still had some momentum. I did see some of that momentum wane in December, at which point I was basically ignoring the pen name stuff (not attempting to promo anything) and working on getting the new Dragon Blood book out.

I wish I’d had the fourth and fifth books in the pen name series ready to go like clockwork, 30 days after the release of the previous ones, as I think this would have helped keep the momentum going. No, not everyone writes that quickly, but if you’re launching something new, it might make sense to hold back on the release of that first title until you have some more in the pipeline.

I believe the reason launching with multiple titles really helps is because it gives you some more promotion options (you can make one free, or maybe trying some rolling Kindle Countdowns if you are in KDP Select), and it also gives readers more of a chance to connect with you as an author. A world or a set of characters is much more likely to stick in a reader’s head if they’ve read several of your adventures instead of just one. Assuming they like the experience, they will be more likely to remember you and seek you out in the future, even if they don’t sign up for a newsletter or follow you on the social media sites.

Also, when you’re releasing something every month, you have the opportunity to be featured as a hot new release in your category on Amazon. If you’re worried about falling off the “30 Day Cliff,” then having a new title to take the place of the old makes sense (I didn’t notice the cliff, but I think that’s because the permafree was what was feeding my Book 2 and 3 sales, rather than any particular loving from the Amazon algorithms).

Do you have to keep up this pace indefinitely? A book a month? I don’t think so. Ideally, you’ll reach a point where you have XXXX newsletter subscribers and so many people waiting for your new releases that even if you’ve got a 3- or 4-month gap between titles, your new releases should make it to the top of your category lists.

Of course, if you can put out a book a month, it can only help, especially if you’re writing in any of the romance sub-categories, where readers tend to be voracious. But it’s a pretty nutso pace for most people, and I’m sure I’ll drop back to one every other month or so, since I’ll be writing and releasing my usual LB fantasy novels too.

How often you need to publish to keep the momentum going likely depends on your genre. I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of churn in those romance categories, but in some other categories, where readers might take longer to consume books on average, it may be easier to stay in the charts without publishing every month (if you have thoughts on this, feel free to comment below!).

How Kindle Unlimited Helped with the Pen Name Launch

I talked about this in the last post, but right now, there’s an advantage for any author in Kindle Unlimited, because borrows get weighted as heavily as sales, insofar as your overall Amazon sales ranking goes (which affects how high up in your chosen categories you will appear). To get paid for borrows, a reader must get to the 10% point in the book, but right now, every single borrow that is made gives a boost to your sales ranking, regardless of whether the person reads any of it. (Here’s my earlier post where I hypothesized about this, and here’s a more scientific approach from a German publisher that backs up my suspicions).

What’s the big deal, you ask? A borrow is a heck of a lot easier to come by than a sale. As I mentioned above, for anyone enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, every book in the program is free under their $10 monthly fee. They can borrow 10 books at a time, and all they have to do is return one to grab another one. Just think about how you used to grab books off the shelves at the library (back before we were all doing this digitally). If you’re like me, you’d leave with a huge pile every time, even if you only ended up reading two of them. There was no punishment for checking something out, not getting past the first paragraph, and returning it, so why not do so?

In short, if you’re selling enough books to get into some Top 100 lists, being in KU can be a huge advantage right now, especially if you’re a new author. (As others pointed out on my earlier posts, being in KU doesn’t do much at all if you’re not moving enough copies to make those lists and show up in other authors’ also-boughts.)

Will my pen name stay in KDP Select indefinitely?

I doubt it. Even though I’m talking about the advantages right now, I believe that if you’re trying to build a career and want this to be a reliable source of income, then it doesn’t make sense to rely completely on Amazon. With my LB books, I could pay my bills and make a living (albeit a more modest living), based on my iBooks/Smashwords/Kobo/Audible/CreateSpace(paperback) sales. Even though I sometimes lament that I’m missing out on the opportunities that being exclusive offers (for the moment), I feel a lot more comfortable knowing I wouldn’t be dead in the water if Amazon decided to freeze my account tomorrow or if Amazon suddenly decided all ebooks only receive 35% royalties instead of 70%.

Because I don’t depend on the pen name income, and because KDP Select offers tools that help a new author with visibility, those books are in the program for now. I do plan to start cycling some of them out later in 2015. As long as being in there is an advantage, I’ll probably put new releases there, but I think these titles could do well on other sites too, especially since the first book is already out there as a permafree.

Social Media and Mailing Lists — did I use them?

I talked about this in the earlier post, so I’ll keep this brief, but I did start a mailing list and website for the pen name. Right now, I’m only giving information about book releases on the blog, and I send out a newsletter when I have a new release. There are 120 subscribers, so far.

I’m debating if I’ll give away a free novella or something like that in the future, as an incentive to get more people to sign up for the list. I haven’t done that with my regular list, but I know a lot of authors do give away extras, designed to entice existing fans onto the list (i.e. You finished the first book and want an extra epilogue with these characters? Sign up here…). I wouldn’t bother trying to get people onto the list who haven’t read at least one of the books, such as by giving away gift certificates or the like. Those guys don’t usually stick around, and they’re not the true fans you really want to gather to you.

As for social media, I haven’t done anything yet. I may do a Facebook page eventually, just because I enjoy sharing snippets of the works-in-progress, but as far as promotions go, I’m seeing that social media can help but that it isn’t necessary for every author. If you write fun stories and you’re prolific, you can probably focus on putting out good books frequently and on taking advantage of advertising and less time-intensive methods of increasing visibility at Amazon.

Advertising — how much did I spend?

Less than $200. For kicks, I tried to get a Bookbub ad for the permafree, but they rejected me. It’s probably just as well since I’d have to put these under science fiction, there being no SF romance category, and I’m not sure how many of those readers would turn out to be romance fans too. ENT, at $15, was the best deal, and My Romance Reads did decently, though I suspect that site is better for contemporary romance authors. I’ll see how the eBookBooster thing goes (these guys, for $40, submit to a big pile of the sites that will mention your free book for free), as some of those plugs should come out in the next week or two. Overall, though, I didn’t spend a lot, especially not when you consider the overall earnings in the last couple of months.

Cover Art — anything special?

A few people mentioned this in the comments of the last update, that I had money to spend on really professional covers (they hadn’t seen my covers yet at this point, har). With few exceptions, these are the cheapest covers I’ve had made. They’re completely based on stock photos. I’m lucky that this is pretty much what everyone in the genre does, unlike epic fantasy, where custom illustrations are common (and expensive).

So what’s the pen name… name, anyway?

For those who want to check things out, here’s the author page for the pen name. As I mentioned, the genre is science fiction romance (specifically space opera romance, so it’s a tiny niche, but I think it’s a lot easier to gain visibility if you can come on strong in a small niche).

Will there be more updates?

I just released a fourth book, and I’m enjoying writing these stories, so the pen name will continue. But since I’ve now shared the name with my regular readers, future results wouldn’t be as pure, insofar as the new-author-starting-from-scratch concept goes. I’m planning to continue to blog about how things go, though, most likely sharing what I’m doing with KDP Select and Amazon-specific promotions. So if that’s of interest, please stay tuned in the new year!

Contact";