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My First Year as an Indie Author

30 December 2014

From author John D. Brown:

On November 24th last year, a little over 13 months ago, I released my first indie title—Servant: The Dark God Book 1. That release was the official rise from the sideways swamp crash I had with Tor Books.

BTW, sideways swamp crashes in publishing, which can be caused by all sorts of reasons, are not uncommon. Most writers will take a hit or three in their career. That’s just part of the writing business. The question is what happens after the swamp crash?

In my case, I got to work. And, boy, was it a lot of work.

The results have been positive. It was not a phoenixian rise from ashes to glory; it was more like a damp crew patching the ship in the jungle with whatever they had at hand and then launching with nothing but a few birds making any noise. We are by no means past the many perils and obstacles on the path–right now a solid hit from just about anything could knock us out of the sky.

But we are airborne.

We are flying.

And by that I mean the business is delighting readers and generating income.

I’ll probably hit close to 23,000 paid sales since that launch.

. . . .

The good news is that the majority of writers making a living don’t appear [on bestseller lists]. The fact is that you don’t have to sell 100,000+ copies of a single title in a year to make a living. In the indie world, you can do just fine with what Russell Blake calls base hits and doubles.

So are we making a living?

Those sales have generated enough net profit to purchase us a nice used vehicle and a few other things.

. . . .

2. There are a couple of ways that I was able to make my stuff visible

The way to make my stuff visible was not by publishing on Amazon, Nook, and the rest.

Publishing means nothing.

Think about it. There are, right now, 3,079,561 books in the Kindle bookstore.

Yes, three million!

If those were physical books, and we lined them up spine-out like we do on a bookshelf, and we assumed the spines average about an inch in width, they would make a line 48.6 miles long.

. . . .

So if getting it in the store that’s 50 miles long didn’t help, what did?

Getting on a bestseller list.

I sold thousands of copies of Bad Penny on Nook when I was on the Nook’s top 100 list. I rose to #3, in the entire Nook store, then hung out around #50 for about a month. And when that burst of sales that made me #3 fell out of the algorithm (30 days later), I fell off the list. My sales dropped like a stone. Not to nothing. But they were a fraction of what they had been.

How did I get that #3 slot to begin with? The same way I rose to #30 for a few hours in the Kindle store, then slowly dropped to the 1,200s for a few days. I got it by placing an ad with the king of book advertising services, aka BookBub.

. . . .

3. In most cases, books in a specific genre are substitutes

When readers purchase a book, they are looking for a certain type of experience. And my book’s experience isn’t so singular that readers can’t get something roughly similar from another book.

I love Lee Child. But Robert Crais provides an experience that’s basically inside the same ballpark. So does Nelson Demille and a whole host of others, including me.

If Lee Child stops writing or slows down his production to one book every four years, I’m not going to stop reading thrillers. There are plenty of other authors that give me the general adrenaline, surprise, action experience I’m looking for. I’ll be sad, but there are a lot of good authors out there. And I’m sure a few will become my new Lee Child.

Of course, we aren’t all exactly the same. I provide a noticeably different tale than Lee Child does even though we’re in the same Lone-Ranger-vigilante-justice action genre. And so, if I produce the best tale I can, I will find some readers will come to prefer me to Child because I line up more with their tastes than he does.

In addition to continue to work on visibility and craft, this means I’ve got to up my production. I’m going to try for 2.5 brand new books in 2015. That’s nothing for some folks. But that’s a good stretch goal for me.

Link to the rest at John D. Brown

Here’s a link to John D. Brown’s books


12 Comments to “My First Year as an Indie Author”

  1. I heard John Brown speak at a writers conference last year. His presentation (a few of which are online for free at youtube) was great!

    I knew he’d gone indie and so I’m glad to hear a follow-up from him saying he’s off to a good start.

    Congrats John!!

  2. I agree with his point about there being many similar types of books. I think that’s so true, even of the big names in trad pub. Books aren’t all identical to each other, but neither are they special, special snowflakes either. The Childs and Pattersons are essentially just following a formula these days to keep up the sales from years ago. They’ve figured out what their readers want and they keep giving it to them. You don’t have to be a GOOD writer to do that when you get to their level. You just need to follow the script and stay savvy about what the readers want. So while I think the top trad pub authors do get what their value is to readers, I don’t think many of them are particularly good or talented writers anymore. Thanks to self-publishing I’ve found plenty of authors that I think could easily replace them one day when they choose to stop publishing. And I hope they do.

    • Patterson doesn’t actually write books anymore, does he? I thought he–like Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy in later life–brought in young writers to write to his formula and concentrated his efforts on his brand.

  3. John is a fantastic author and an even better human being. I hope he has a monster 2015. After all the crap Tor put him through, he deserves it.

    • I do not recall if it was in 2014 or 2013, but I noted somewhere that Tor had become a goatrope. Sad to see that happen. I have sympathy for the writers who got caught in that storm of ineptitude. Glad to read that some survived and thrived.

  4. Love the post. Best to you, sir!

    Am thrilled to see former trad-pub authors
    doing so well on their own.

  5. Thanks, to both John and PG, for sharing John’s story. I like 2014 ending on a positive note.

  6. I’ve never met John in person, but by the quality of his friends and the quality of his writing, he must be a wonderful man. Here’s to surviving, thriving, and a better year going forward!

  7. The result of reading this story?

    I jumped on over to the Kindle store and bought Bad Penny.

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