I recently made the decision to terminate my contract with my indie publisher and re-self-publish my first novel, Moonburner. This post is to explain why!
As many of you know, I published Moonburner last June with Soul Fire Press, a division of Christopher Matthews Publishing. Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience with Soul Fire and CMP. I was pleased with my cover design and the quality of the book that was produced–I felt like it was a product I could be proud of. So certainly, I don’t regret my initial decision to publish with Soul Fire. At that point in my indie author career I knew next to nothing about launching a book, I had 200 people on my mailing list (most of whom were my friends and family), and I didn’t know a lot of other authors. My reach was pretty small. I tried to educate myself about how to do all the right things for my launch, but ultimately I was not happy with how the book sold. Everyone who read the book (when I could get someone to read it!) has really loved it, (even strangers, not just friends/family who got review copies), so I felt that I had a good product, but there was something going on that was keeping people from buying the book.
Flexibility and Control
Over the past year, I’ve been educating myself a lot about the publishing industry as well as connecting and networking with a lot of other indie authors, especially through the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, started by Derek Murphy (I am hugely grateful to be a part of that group because I have learned so much). Through my research and networking, I’ve learned out that if your book isn’t selling it’s going to be a result of one or more of a few things: Your cover, your blurb (book description), your pricing, or keywords/categories on Amazon. As an author through a publishing company, I didn’t really have a lot of control over any of those things. I could change the blurb and I could ask my publisher to change some of my keywords/categories, but I wouldn’t have real-time feedback on these changes (because I only get royalties twice per year), so it would be really tough for me to know if those types of changes were having an impact. Also, I didn’t have control over pricing, which I felt was an issue for my book. The eBook is $5.99, while comparable eBooks are $2.99 or even $.99. The print book is $16.95, which I feel is too high for a paperback. So there were a number of things I wanted to change.
The other option I would have as a self-published authors that I didn’t have when published through a smell press was to enroll in KDP Select. KDP Select is a program in which your eBook is only available on Amazon. This was not something I initially wanted to do, because I like the idea of having my book available “wide” (on all platforms-B&N, Kobo, iTunes). I have a Nook, I don’t have a Kindle, so I figured if I couldn’t even get my own book, it probably wasn’t the best solution for me. But the more I learned about KDP Select, the more appealing it was. Being in KDP Select means your book is in Kindle Unlimited–where there are thousands of Amazon readers who can borrow your book for free. Even though they don’t pay to borrow it, Amazon does pay you for borrows and page reads. That is a low-cost entry point for readers who may not normally take a chance on buying a book from a new or unknown author. Also, publishing through Amazon, you can take advantage of Amazon advertising. A lot of authors I know are having a lot of success with Amazon advertising, and I wanted to explore that. The other benefit of KDP Select is that you get to have 5 free days every 90 days, which is another low-cost entry point for new readers. For me, at this point, it’s not about making money, it’s about getting my book into the hands of more readers, and beginning to build a following. So I really liked the idea of exploring all of those things, and I could not do that without being a self-published author.
Pricing Promotions and Data
The other promotional tactic that a lot of indie authors are having success with is price-drop promotions. Traditional publishers are getting clued into this, and I could do this through my indie publisher. I did two $.99 promotions on the Kindle eBook, and it worked all right. I had to email my publisher, and he had to contact Amazon, so it just required additional coordination to make sure it was getting done. We weren’t able to do the price drop promotion on the other platforms like B&N, for some reason which is still unclear to me. But again, it was really hard to see in real time the success of these promotions, or the promotional sites I was paying to promote my “deal” on, because I didn’t have access to real time sales data. As a self-published author, I could time my promotions over several days, and then see exactly how many books sold on what days, and identify which promo sites were successful for my book. It was just one more thing that I thought–if I was doing this myself, I could do this more effectively.
Publishing the sequel
The other big factor is that I’m publishing the sequel, Sunburner, this summer. My publishing contract for Moonburner is for 3 years, and I knew at the end of the 3 years, I would want to get my rights back and try self-publishing for all of these reasons. So, even if I wasn’t going to terminate early, I was going to get my rights back eventually. At that point, my publisher would retain the cover and interior design, and I would need to re-do Moonburner. I realized that if I self-published Sunburner this summer, designing it to match Moonburner as it is now, I’d have to redo both books when I got my Moonburnber rights in 18 months. That’s not inexpensive, and a lot of work for me as well, so I realized it was preferable to pull the trigger and re-self-publish Moonburner now, so I only have to redo one book.
So, those were the factors that played into my decision to leave Soul Fire and self-publish. There are some downsides to being self-published–like you get a little additional street cred from being with an indie publisher versus being self-published. It’s potentially easier to get into libraries and bookstores, and some review sites or bloggers will not accept self-published books. But really, I found (and this is another thing I couldn’t have known before I indie published) that I’m not getting into bookstores and libraries anyway, and I’m not getting any traction with bloggers or review sites where I don’t have a pre-established relationship, so I don’t see a downside for me personally. I don’t feel that I’m losing anything.
Everyone’s path is different, of course, and there was a lot of value for me in having my book published for me the first time. It would have been pretty overwhelming to learn how to produce a book and learn to market all at the same time. But now that I do have additional knowledge and education, I think it’s time for me to strike it out on my own!
Hopefully you will all check out the newly refurbished and relaunched Moonburner in August, and Sunburner in September! Stay tuned for the amazing new covers, plus lots of fun extras I have up my sleeve, like a book trailer, map of Kita and Miina, and character sketches of Kai and Hiro!