A Self-Publisher’s Fourth Year in Numbers

So, here we are again. Another year has passed and it’s time for my annual report on how my books have sold and gained reputation during the past year. As always, things didn’t go quite as planned, but that’s half the fun, right? …right?!

I published two books in 2017, Whiskey & Whiskers – an omnibus collecting the first three books in The 9 Lives of the Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series and Polafornia – an art/travel book in collaboration with Ingvild Eiring about our trip to California in 2015. I sold a total of 368 books in 2017, which is awesome compared to the epic low of 170 in 2016.

I thought 2016 would be the year I was going to put some serious money into promoting my books, next I thought 2017 would be the year I’d finally get around to do it, but alas, 2017 ended up as the year I spent all my money and then some on wetplate photography. I did, however, get some of my photography featured in a few magazines: Norwegian online photography magazine foto.no wrote an article about Zerelda Glanton, Square Magazine featured a few images from Polafornia and Impossible Project Magazine wrote a great article about Polafornia. I also got invited to the #blihus photo festival in Oslo, where I had a stand with my photo books for two days, which was nice.

I have serious plans for my wetplate photography, so I don’t feel bad about blowing all my money on it, I even have a dedicated website in the making for my wetplate work that I’ll reveal shortly.

My plans for 2018 are as follows:

  • Publish Black Lily, the fourth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series
  • Maybe publish a short story collection (the same one that was on my list of plans last year)

Last year I had in mind to publish a book collecting ten years of self portraits, but I realised I’ve been shooting self portraits since 1999, so if I wait a few years I can publish a mammoth volume collecting 20 years of self portraits instead. In December this year Ingvild Eiring and I will have been taking pictures together for ten years, and by the time we hit December we will no doubt have done more than 50 shoots together. We’re planning to put together a book, and maybe even pitch it to a few publishers. And while I’m revealing my long-term plans, I might as well tell you that I’m about halfway through writing the first draft of the sixth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw Known as Crazy Cat series. It might not look like it here on my blog, but things are constantly moving/building/in the making in the house of Loen.

My #2017bestnine on my @julieloen profile on Instagram

The Numbers

As you’ve probably deduced from the title, I’ve made three similar blog posts to this one in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Scroll down or hit the “Annual Report” category to find them. I started doing these annual reports and sharing the actual numbers of my success and failures as a self-publisher because I missed this kind of information myself when I published my first novel in late 2013.

I’ve done things a bit differently this year. In 2016 I threatened to “throw in a pie chart or a line graph,” I actually ended up with columns.

Copies Sold 

As always, when I say “sold,” I mean all copies in distribution, including free books, giveaways and gifts. This blog post is about being honest, so I must honestly admit that I’m not making any money off this yet and I’m still very much in a place where it’s all about building an audience. I guess the PDFs will pretty much speak for themselves, here’s the first one: Books Sold 2013-2017

Promotions

So little is moving over at Amazon and Smashwords, that I’m going to leave them out of this report. Like I admitted earlier, I haven’t done much to promote my books in 2017, but I have hosted a few Goodreads Giveaways and a couple of Free Book Promotions at KDP. I didn’t go out of my way to promote that I was running Free Book Promotions, I left it at mentioning it in Social Media, but most of the copies I’ve sold of Whiskey & Whiskers is, however, a result of KDP’s Free Book Promotions.

Ingvild Eiring and I hosted a belated release party for Polafornia in August (it was released in May), and to be perfectly honest it was an utter flop. It was a one day event at Cyan Salong in Oslo – a Saturday! We were there all day with books, prints, postcards and originals galore to sell. We even had a talk lined up about our trip to California, that gained zero interest. A friend of Ingvild showed up and saved the day, when she bought the book and a couple of prints, but all in all the so-called party was a major letdown.

As you can see, I waited until now to publish this post because I wanted to include the numbers from my latest Goodreads Giveaway.

Goodreads Giveaways

  • The 7th Bullet: Jan 17 – Feb 17. 1220 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Whiskey & Whiskers: Mar 11 – Apr 09. 1799 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Polafornia. May 08 – Jun 08. 1369 people requesting – 1 winner
  • Whiskey & Whiskers: Oct 09 – Nov 09. 2212 people requesting – 9 winners
  • Polafornia. Dec 08 – Jan 08, 2018. 1558 people requesting – 1 winner

Goodreads Numbers

Here are three charts, featuring the numbers of “To Read”s, “Ratings” and “Reviews” of my books on Goodreads. The numbers are the accumulated total, including all years, for each year. For example: My total reviews received for Embers at Dawn was 8 in 2015, 2016 and 2017. I didn’t get any new reviews those years, 8 are the most reviews of that book for all years combined. Goodreads Numbers 2013-2017. For some reason I’ve left out the number of followers at Goodreads earlier, so I guess I’ll start registering that now. I currently have 116 followers and 13 friends at Goodreads.

Social Media

As usual, I haven’t been particularly active neither here (on WordPress – sorry!), on Twitter (I still don’t quite get Twitter) or Facebook. My Instagram, however, is almost booming. I’ve even made two accounts in addition to my main account @julieloen. In October 2016 I created @aetherandinstant, that later became @studiostandstill – an account dedicated to my wetplate work. The idea behind that account was to have a place to record my progress and fails in wetplate photography from the very beginning. It has become my favorite Instagram account and people seem to enjoy it. The other new account, @polaloen, was created in February 2017 and is dedicated to my Polaroid pictures. I made @polaloen because I noticed on my regular account (@julieloen) that Polaroid pictures would often attract new followers, but I would lose them as soon as I posted something other than a Polaroid picture. Unlike @studistandstill, @polaloen is more of a project to shamelessly attract followers, and I only post Polaroid pictures there – no behind the scenes, cameras, equipment or other things that would make sense to post beside the Polaroids – it is purely a gallery. I also delete posts that get less than 50 likes, but I have yet to decide if the project @polaloen is a success or not.

Here’s my Social Media Numbers 2014-2017

Merchandise

Just like in 2016, I haven’t done much to push merchandise in 2017 either, and consequently haven’t sold much. The biggest effort I made was to promote prints for sale in my Tictail store on @polaloen.

I have sold exactly one book from my Tictail store and one print from my Society 6 store, that’s it. I am, however, bringing back my Etsy store very soon – a revamped edition dedicated to my wetplate art.

That’s it for now! As a small token of gratitude to the mad folks who got to the bottom of this, here’s a free copy of Whiskey & Whiskers (Kindle edition) – but be quick! It’s only free for three days.

 

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A Self-Publisher’s Third Year in Numbers

I won’t say 2016 has been a bad year, but it hasn’t been quite the year I had in mind a year ago either. I had expected to publish two more books than I did; another photo book in collaboration with Ingvild Eiring and a short story collection. I also thought 2016 would be the year I’d put some money into promoting my work and by doing so sell more books, but I got laid off work for three months and simply couldn’t blow money on such fancy notions.

But 2016 has also been kinda awesome. I got around to get my driver’s license (about time, I’m 35). All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton got a proper exhibition at Studio Cyan in Oslo. I finally got into wetplate photography, and I’m loving it.  And I published The 7th Bullet, the third book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series. On top of these major events I’ve met some fantastic new people and had many a good time with old friends.

So, here’s the plan for 2017:

  • Publish another photo book with Ingvild Eiring
  • Publish a short story collection
  • Publish the first The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat omnibus (Book 1-3)
  • Probably publish a photo book of self portraits I’ve shot the last ten years
  • Maybe (if time allows it) publish Black Lily, the fourth book in The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series

That’s pretty much it. I’ve got a few other things brewing too, but I’ll allow those projects to pop up as a surprise if/when they’re good and ready to be revealed.

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My so-called #2016bestnine on Instagram

A Self-Publisher’s Third Year in Numbers
A year ago I wrote the post A Self-Publisher’s Second Year in Numbers, and the year before A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers. This is the follow-up to those posts.

The Books
Embers at Dawn was published in December 2013, An Obelus Wheeze in April 2015, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton in July 2015 and The 7th Bullet in July 2016. I include free copies when I say “sold,” at this point I’m more concerned about getting my work into the hands of as many readers as possible, than getting rich. Here’s the cold, hard numbers of my books’ success so far: 

Embers at Dawn

Copies sold per year:

2013: 233

2014: 1106

2015: 337

2016: 110

Movements on Goodreads:

To-read:

2014: 929 + 7 reviews and 13 ratings

2015: 878 +  8 reviews and 21 ratings

2016: 866 + 8 reviews and 20 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon and one on Smashwords.

An Obelus Wheeze

Copies sold per year:

2015:  39 

2016: 9

Movements on Goodreads:

To-read:

2015: 595 + 5 reviews and 15 ratings

2016: 570 + 6 reviews and 17 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon.

The 7th Bullet

Copies sold per year:

2016: 22

Movements on Goodreads:

I have hosted one Goodreads giveaway for it where I gave away nine books, 1092 people requested it.

To-read:

2016: 416 + 3 reviews and 5 ratings

It also has one review on Amazon.

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton

Copies sold per year:

2015: 15

2016: 29

Movements on Goodreads:

I have hosted two Goodreads giveaways for it where I gave away one book, 1036 people requested it in 2015 and 1332 in 2016.

To-read:

2015: 407 + 3 reviews

2016: 694 + 3 reviews

Social Media and Merchandise

Followers per year: 2014 – 2015 – 2016

WordPress: 35 – 49 – 53

Facebook: 130 – 144 – 175

Instagram: 98 – 147 – 363

Twitter: 67 – 137- 209

I haven’t made any new merchandise and pretty much ignored the whole thing in 2016, and consequently not seen any of the stuff that’s already for sale move. I’m considering bringing my Etsy store back to life and fill it with darkroom prints and wetplates, but it’s not on top of my list – I need to get a few unfinished projects done first.

So, there you are; my third year as a self-publisher in numbers. I sold a total of 170 books, an epic low, but I intend to change that trend asap. Until next time, have a good one!

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers

Happy new year, y’all!

2015 has been an absolutely amazing year. I published two books, An Obelus Wheeze – the second book in the The 9 Lives of The Outlaw known as Crazy Cat series and my first photobook, All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton, a collaborative project with model and costume designer Ingvild Eiring. Images from Zerelda have been Exhibited at Fotografiets Dag, featured in Floz Visions, and I was recently granted NOK 25.000,- from Norske Fagfotografers Fond to put together a proper exhibition. Ingvild and I also went to California for a week, it was – to sum it up short – AWESOME!

In this brand new year we call 2016 I’m fixing to publish The 7th Bullet – the third Crazy Cat book and a travel journal with images and stories from Ingvild and mine’s awesome trip to The USA. I also intend to put the money from NFF to use, but I need to find a willing gallery first. These are the plans I’m most certain about, whatever else I might cough up will have to be a surprise …and I assure y’all, there will be surprises 😉

On the road to Yosemite, somewhere between Merced and El Portal.

A Self-publisher’s Second Year in Numbers
A year ago I wrote the post A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers, this is the follow-up to that post. In 2015 I decided to not spend any money on promoting my books. The only promoting I’ve done in 2015 are Goodreads giveaways. Why on earth would I skimp out on promoting my brand new books? Because it’s not worth it… not yet. I’m sorry to say that I can’t recall where I picked up this particular nugget of advice, but here it is: When you self publish, especially in regards to a series, the reader might not believe you will finish the series before it’s done (or at least have a few books out). So, if you wait until you have a couple of books out, the money spent on promotion will have more value, because the reader will trust the series to be completed.

From Amazon to All Over the Place
During 2014 my first (and then, only) novel, Embers at Dawn, was available exclusively via Amazon for Kindle and as paperback. In early 2015 I opted out of KDP Select and made Embers at Dawn available permafree via Smashwords, E-bok.no and Google Books. I am very happy about this decision, I can trust a steady trickle of copies being picked up each month via Smashwords. It took the better part of the year before Amazon adjusted the list price from $0.99 to free. When it finally got listed as permafree in November, sales started moving there too. KDP Select can be great, but for me, it is pretty clear that selling books via more channels works better – the world of e-books is bigger than Amazon.

The Books
Embers at Dawn was published in December 2013, An Obelus Wheeze in April 2015 and All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton in July 2015. Here’s the cold, hard numbers of their success in 2015:

Embers at Dawn
Embers at Dawn sold (I include free copies when I say “sold”) 1340 copies in 2014 and 337 in 2015 – 148 via Amazon, 183 via Smashwords, 8 via E-bok.no and I have no idea how many via Google Books because their reports are a pain to decipher. I hosted two Goodreads giveaways for Embers at Dawn in 2014, but in 2015 the only thing I did for it was make it available on further platforms. Last year 929 people had marked it as “to read” on Goodreads, now there are 878. Last year it had received a total of 7 reviews and 13 ratings, now there are 8 reviews and 21 ratings.

An Obelus Wheeze
I did the launch for An Obelus Wheeze very properly. I set a date for its release and made it available for pre order (one person pre ordered it – my boyfriend) and sent out a newsletter about its upcoming release to the good folks on my mailing list. I also hosted a Goodreads giveaway that ended on the day of the book’s publishing date, 852 people requested it. When I hosted another giveaway, about six months later, 872 people requested it. Not bad, I think, for a second book in a series where barely anyone has read the first book. To my great shock and delight, 595 people has marked is as “to read” and it has garnered 5 very nice reviews and 15 ratings. A mere 39 copies have been sold – the statistics of the feedback, considering the number of copies in circulation, is beyond my comprehension… I am humbled and grateful and gleefully surprised to find that so many has jumped into the world of Crazy Cat without the proper introduction of the first book (the series is really meant to be read as one big whole) and still enjoyed it.

All the Things a Woman Oughtn’t Do – The Ballad of Zerelda Glanton
Ingvild and I have been creating buzz around the cowgirl project, that eventually culminated in the book, for two years. A lot of people have shown great interest in it, but as of right now, only 15 copies have been sold. We thought we would easily sell at least 20 copies at the release party for the book. I have hosted one Goodreads giveaway for it where I gave away one book, 1036 people requested it. 407 people have marked it as “to read” and it has received 3 ratings, but no reviews. I’m not entirely disappointed with the sales of Zerelda, but I have learned that selling a photobook is a very different shot of whiskey than peddling free and cheap e-books and affordable paperbacks.

Merchandise
The Crazy Cat emporium hasn’t exactly boomed during 2015 either, but I’m pretty happy about seeing the Crazy Cat merch move at all. On Society6 I’ve sold three T-shirts, one duvet cover and one framed print. On Tictail I’ve sold 3 signed copies of Zerelda, and on Zazzle; 3 Zerelda 2016 calendars. I’d call that a fair increase, compared to last years two buttons, one mousepad and a coffee mug.

Social Media
I don’t do much, if anything – I know! I’m terrible! – to gain followers on Social Media, but the increase in followers since last year is pretty decent nonetheless. My followers on WordPress have gone up from 35 to 49 – tipping my hat to y’all! Facebook, from 130 to 144. Instagram from 98 to 147, and Twitter from 67 to 137. I know I’ve been a terrible blogger, the few posts I’ve written have mostly been announcements about new books or happenings… Exactly the kind of things one are advised against to blog about too often. Because boring. Facebook is pretty much the same as it was last year, a place where primarily friends follow me. Twitter is still a mystery to me. I’m still no good at it and I tweet seldom. A lot of my followers there are book promoting sites who are obviously fishing for customers, the rest are mostly authors. Followers are nice, but they are not necessarily customers.

All in all I’m happy with the 391 books I sold during 2015. I’m also happy about getting my first reviews on Amazon, being contacted by a book blogger who posted a nice review on her blog and Goodreads, and receiving fan mail! That was a BIG WOW moment. I completed the first draft for book 4 and 5, and am currently in the latter stages of editing the third Crazy Cat book. I’ll let y’all know the details about how 2016 went in a year, maybe I’ll even throw in a pie chart or a line graph. Until then: Have a good one, y’all!

A Debut Novel’s First Year in Numbers

When I released my debut novel a year ago I had pretty much no idea what to expect. I found it frustrating that so few (or is it just me that haven’t found them?) were willing to share the actual results of their promotional efforts and overall sale when starting out. Vague words like “good” or “bad” was the norm of what little information I could find. So, this is me sharing what I would have loved to have read a year ago myself: An honest report of a self published debut novel’s first year in numbers.

My initial goal was to sell 1000 copies in a year. That goal changed pretty quickly, to have 1000 copies in circulation within a year – giveaways or sold – kindle or paperback. There are currently 1340 copies of Embers at Dawn (my debut novel) out and about. I’ll be the first to admit that I haven’t gone completely overboard with marketing, but I have certainly made an effort.

I’ve spent a total of approximately $1420 on the circus that is publishing and promoting, which includes: Proofreading, submission fees to competitions, copies of paperbacks (for giveaways, the local store etc.), promotions and postage for giveaways. I’ve earned a total of $242. Needless to say: I ain’t quitting my day job yet.

Here’s what I’ve done to get those 1000+ copies in the hands of readers:

KDP SELECT

Embers at Dawn has only been available as paperback and Kindle edition during the year it’s been out. I started off pricing the book at $3.99 and lowered it, over time, to $0.99. I have sold a few at the $0.99 price point, but I don’t need more than two hands to count the sales.

I have used KDP Select’s Free Book Promotion as often as I could. The results have varied, but have generated more “sales” (can you call it that when you’re giving away something?) than varying the price. The results of my Free Book Promotions are as follows (unless otherwise stated the promotion have only been marketed via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and my blog):

  • Five days in December 2013 – Copies given away: 224
  • Two days in March 2014 – Copies given away: 73
  • One day in April 2014 – Copies given away: 24
  • Two days in May 2014 promoted via Digital Book Today – Copies given away: 107
  • Two days in September 2014- Copies given away: 73
  • Three days in September 2014 promoted via Digital Book Today, E-books Grow on Trees, FreeBooksy and It’s Write Now – Copies given away: 751

GOODREADS

I have tried two different approaches to promoting my debut novel on Goodreads. I have hosted two giveaways where I gave away nine copies of the book and advertisement. I can’t say that the advertisement did much else than rob me off $50, but the giveaways were a major success. I kept both giveaways open for a month, as recommended by Goodreads – one directly after the book was released and another about six months after. 1286 people requested the book during the first giveaway. 1130 during the second. There are currently 929 people who have marked it as “to read” and I have received 7 reviews and 13 ratings.

COMPETITIONS

I have only submitted Embers at Dawn to two competitions: One dedicated to western literature – I didn’t win anything, and to IndieReader’s discovery award – I didn’t win anything there either, but I got a professional review out of it and a IndieReader feature (that I had to pay extra for). Can’t say that I got anything out of it, besides something to put on Amazon while I wait for reviews from readers to appear there.

AMAZON

I don’t have a single review on Amazon, except a quote from the IndieReader review, but I haven’t done anything to get reviews there either, beside asking on my blog and offering the winners of my second Goodreads giveaway a free copy of the next book in the series if they give me a review on both Goodreads and Amazon… I asked nicely on a hand-written note.

SOCIAL MEDIA

My blog is also my author website, so I’m doing my darnedest to keep the content on point and of quality. It’s good to have a platform where I get to properly went the thoughts I have on the writing process and share what I’m up to creative-wise, both as an author and photographer. I have 35 followers as of right now.

My Facebook fans mainly consist of people I know. It doesn’t seem like it does much for marketing my work, except for giving friends a platform they can share content from when they feel like promoting what I do. I have 130 likes on my page.

I love Instagram. I don’t really get Twitter. I don’t think either has lead to much as far as sales and exposure goes. I have 98 followers on Instagram and 67 on Twitter. Too many cats, too little content, I guess.

I have also made a book trailer. It has had 134 views and received 4 likes on YouTube.

MERCHANDISE

With a background as a photographer I am, of course, a sucker for the visual. I enjoy building the world of Lee (the protagonist in my western series) both on the page and off. I have no illusions about getting rich and famous by selling T-shirts on Zazzle or bookmarks on Tictail, but why the hell not, right? I enjoy designing the stuff, and I hope that some of you enjoy it too. I have sold exactly two buttons, a mousepad and a coffee mug – the mousepad and coffee mug was bought by a good friend.

LOCAL EFFORTS

An independent bookstore in Oslo, Tronsmo, is selling my book. They bought five copies and have not asked for a re-up, so I can only assume that they’re not sold out. I have also been interviewed by local media: a newspaper and a magazine. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But I honestly can’t say that it’s done anything to boost the sale.

I expect and accept that building an audience and platform as an author will take time, patience, a lot of hard work and a fair amount of money. I look at my Flickr account and take heart. I became a member in 2006 and was very active for a few years. When my efforts turned to writing, more than photography, I stopped uploading new work at a regular interval. But before I quit Flickr (at a regular basis) I had already uploaded a considerable body of work. In my absence, my followers have grown from some 3-400 (if I remember correctly) when I left it in 2010-2011ish to a whooping 1262 in my absence. I like to believe that if you work hard and make something worthwhile people will take notice… Sooner or later.