Here's a video summary of the blog post plus other updates on what's next, my new office, and what I've been up to.
The links I mention in the video:
MY PLAN FOR FINALLY BECOMING A SIX-FIGURE AUTHOR: https://youtu.be/AyO6Bbfo39E
WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #1: THE RESEARCH PHASE, WHAT TO DO, AND WHAT I'VE LEARNED SO FAR: https://youtu.be/1MhJNeKAsW0
WRITING TO MARKET UPDATE #2: THE FIRST DRAFT IS DONE (AND WHAT'S NEXT): https://youtu.be/mGv6GTsIFT0
I wrote my first book in November 2011.
I wrote and published my first real book by New Year’s Eve 2013.
By 2017, I had written 8 books across two complete YA contemporary romance series and made my first few thousand dollars self-publishing.
But I still wasn’t making more than a $600-$800 a month on average. I’d only had a few $1000+ months, and I wanted more.
The first 8 books I wrote were written purely from the heart and before I learned so much more about even basic story structure. Not to mention how to market, cultivate a fanbase, and grow a newsletter.
I wanted to do big things with my next series and start making some real money from my fiction. I knew that the key to that was writing to market: finding something I loved writing that readers really wanted to read.
This is where the #BestFriendsForever series was born.
During November of 2017, I created 5 main characters and wrote down the basics of the story they would each have. Each book would feature a popular romance trope.
Before I even did that, though, I read and followed Chris Fox’s Write to Market book to a T, following his exercises step by step and reading/learning from the bestselling books in my genre.
It paid off.
Chris has an updated version of this gem coming fall of 2018, but I still highly recommend Chris's books for writers. He's a knows his stuff, but more importantly, he's worked really hard to get where he is.
So it took a little longer than I planned, but by April, I launched my first written to market book. Here’s exactly what I did and how it all went.
If you have a questions for me, feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WRITING THE FIRST BOOK
I wrote the first book, #TheRealCinderella, during mid-December through mid-January.
I made a video diary as I went as a reader bonus for later. The whole experience was a lot of fun, but I knew the first draft would need a lot of work.
Meanwhile, I looked for a cover designer. I planned for a March release, but ended up pushing it back to late April after the first cover designer ghosted me.
It ended up working out for the best, though, because then I ended up getting an amazing cover designer (Jenny from Seedlings) and an amazing editor (hey, Kelsie!), who managed to level up my story big time.
Both of these expenses were big but so worth it.
I knew that making my product as best as possible would make or break the book so I spent the money on the best editor and cover designer I could get, using freelance editing money to help fund both.
The edits were not easy to get through (I do not like editing), but by the end, I was incredibly pleased and could not believe that I had written this awesome book. It was definitely my best work to date, again thanks to my amazing editor.
I began getting ready for launch way before the week of April 24, when the book was scheduled to come out.
I created a comprehensive, super detailed launch plan comprised of everything I had learned from Chris Fox’s Launch to Market and other super smart indie authors.
After creating some deadlines for myself, I began creating book promo graphics, pulling teasers, preparing ARCs, getting together an ARC team, creating reader magnets, setting up an autoresponder, and so much more.
I also created a space where I could input daily sales throughout the launch as well as notes about rank and other info. I knew the main goal would be to keep sales increasing day over day.
So I decided to launch at 99c for a limited time (at least a week) and push the book to as many readers as possible by getting the book on the bestseller and new release charts for Teen & Young Adult Romance.
I also decided to release wide. That was more of a not wanting to put my eggs in one basket decision I had made a while back for my entire business, even though most indie YA romance authors were in KU.
I was lucky that I already had a small fanbase for my other two YA romance series. I had a team of over 130 readers who had signed up for my ARC team at the end of my autoresponder sequences, but I decided to create a new Google form and have some strict requirements for this book's advanced review team.
Taking a page out of JA Huss’s book (check out her Perfect Year YouTube series), I asked readers for their Amazon reviewer profile, check off if they had read and reviewed one of my books already, understood that they were agreeing to review by a certain date, and knew that it was a clean YA romance book.
They also had to promise not to share the book and let me know if they could purchase a copy upon a release for verified review purposes.
I ended up with 16 ARC members who had about a week or so to read and review. I wasn’t as strict as I could have been with a few people, but even so, I ended up with 10 readers who did review and a few who also purchased and made their review verified. I created a handy spreadsheet to track this and follow through.
A week before launch, I also did a cover reveal giveaway using Rafflecopter for a $25 Amazon gift card. The purpose of this was to get readers excited for what was coming. To enter the giveaway, readers could share, comment, like on the linked FB post with the pretty cover, follow me on Instagram and Goodreads, etc.
However, I posted the giveaway link in the post they were supposed to comment, like, and share. Next time, I won’t do that, making sure only my VIP readers can enter and not random people who just want the gift card. The giveaway also had the nice added bonus of getting me tons of extra followers on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, and Bookbub.
Meanwhile, my editor did a second round of final (minor) edits, but I made the decision to hold off on the paperback but go ahead with the ebook release the week of April 24, creating a secret preorder that went live about five days prior.
The goal with the preorder was to get the sales page for the book to be completely built and with a few also-boughts by the time the book went live on Tuesday, April 24 (or very soon after).
Also, I managed to get an international 99p/99 euros/65 rupees Bookbub Featured Deal for a new boxed set of my first YA romance series.
I knew it would be a great opportunity to get tons of extra eyes on my new release while it was at 99c. The Bookbub people were kind enough to accommodate me and give the book a slot on Thursday, April 26th.
I was very excited (and nervous) for what was to come.
LAUNCH WEEK (AND MY COLOSSAL MISTAKE)
It was hard to see straight during launch week, especially after the colossal mistake I made.
The book accumulated 15 organic preorders during the few days before release. I didn't tell anyone (except a few writer friends in a FB group when I got the pretty orange #1 New Release sticker for one of my categories).
During launch week, I staggered announcements to five different segments of my email list. I also had tons of newsletter swaps lined up with other YA romance authors, having built up some goodwill in the past several months by sharing their stuff. :)
I kept a close eye on things every single day, making sure those sales kept trickling in and increasing daily.
I ran into my first problem with AMS ads. My whole dashboard seemed frozen. My money wasn’t being spent, new ads weren’t being approved, and no new data was rolling in. I couldn’t believe it.
Thankfully, two awesome writer friends suggested Bookbub ads. David Gaughran had mentioned using them as a get out of jail free card. Well, with the mistake I realized I made plus AMS ads not working, I knew it was time to take them out of my back pocket and experiment. More on my mistake in a sec.
Everything was chugging along nicely the first few days after launch. I still didn’t have also-boughts. They were also-vieweds, but they looked decent.
Plus the book had gotten the book up as far as #16 on the New Releases list for Teen & Young Adult Romance. Normally, that wasn’t too difficult, but things had turned quite competitive all of a sudden.
Several authors in the indie space were launching or had just launched. The top 50 (and especially the top 20) of the Bestsellers list seemed impossible to crack.
The overall rank had gotten as low as 13K, but the book was hanging out around 16K for the most part. And it hit #1 in several smaller categories that week.
As far as reviews, it had gotten 6 five-star reviews and one (not nice) 3-star review. That poor review wasn’t fun to read, but I knew it was not the end of the world. I brushed it off.
So where did I mess up?
Remember where I said that I had posted in a writers group on Facebook during the secret preorder?
Well, that really messed up my also-boughts.
Around Wednesday or Thursday, my also-boughts finally appeared. They were almost entirely books about book marketing and self-publishing.
I loved David Gaughran, having met him at Smarter Artist the year before, but I did not want his books dominating the first page of my also-boughts!
So what had happened? All of my awesome writer friends had gone and pre-ordered the book!
Of course, I so appreciative of all the support, but I really shouldn't have posted a screenshot of my book or I should have made it very clear that they should not buy the book.
Quality of also-boughts can make or break the launch of a book. So you see why I was devastated.
I just remember feeling completely devastated about these also-boughts. It took a lot to make me legit upset or sad when it came to my books. I’d gotten a lot of poor reviews and none of them had ever made me truly upset. But this did.
I laughed about it to my author friends, afraid I might start crying instead. I had been working on this since November. A LOT of sweat, blood, and tears (and money!) had gone into this launch. And I had messed it up by posting a screenshot on Facebook.
Now Amazon would start recommending my book to authors instead of YA romance readers. NO!!!
It was especially hard because I had these super high hopes and expectations for the book (having never had a successful book before).
So this is where Bookbub ads came back in (I didn’t even have AMS ads working!). I dug out my business credit card, determined to fix these also-boughts and get the book in front of the right people (not on page 2 of David’s Strangers to Superfans also-boughts).
FIXING MY MISTAKE AND RESULTS FROM FIRST TEN DAYS OF LAUNCH
I hardly stepped away from the computer during launch. I kept a super close eye on things, refreshing the book page constantly and managing ads too.
Thankfully, the Bookbub ads really helped and the also-boughts got better and better by the day. Bookbub ads saved this launch! They cost a pretty penny, but it was worth the investment, even if it got difficult toward the end to find good comp authors.
David Gaughran has a lot to say about BB ads, if you want to learn more. I turned them off once the book went to full price, but I definitely recommend them for free or 99c.
The book stayed pretty sticky on the charts and did well. Here are some stats as of the first week and a half.
#TRC got as low as #6 in New Releases for Teen & Young Adult < Romance < Contemporary
It got the orange #1 New Release sticker for a few smaller categories
It got as low as #17 in Bestsellers for Teen & Young Adult < Romance < Contemporary (large & competitive category right now)
It got the orange Bestseller sticker for Teen & YA Dating & Intimacy Books (not super easy to crack) and Teen & YA Self-Esteem Books
The book got as low as #3781 in the entire Kindle store!
The book sold well over 400 copies in its first week and a half of launch!
Plus I reached 40 copies sold in one day on the 26th, the day of the international Bookbub Featured Deal, and the sales kept increasing!
Despite my big mistake, I was really happy with the launch and thought that overall it was a success. It was definitely my best launch ever. The best I'd done before this was hit about 17K, briefly, for another not written to market book.
My pie-the-sky-but-within-reach goals for this launch were top #3000, top 3 for new releases, and top 20 for bestsellers. I was SO CLOSE!
I thought I had a good chance of hitting top 3 of Teen & YA Romance new releases, but the competition in this category was intense. A lot of big and smaller authors had new books out, and they were pushing them hard.
However, I pushed just as hard and even harder than I planned due to my also-boughts mistake and AMS ads not working as I thought they would. Crazy how that happened. I ended up getting an ENT (ended up being meh) and a couple extra (big) newsletter swaps (made a big difference!) and extended the launch until the ABs were fixed.
My original aim was to keep sales increasing over 5 days, but I ended up keeping my foot on the gas for several more days. To keep readers excited and give them an extra cookie, I also ran a launch week giveaway, this time for a signed paperback. This got them sharing my new release again.
However, I wondered whether the book would stay sticky... That's really worried me, but I hoped that I had proved its worthiness to Amazon with the steady sales from the past week and a half. That next Saturday was a slow day for sales, but that's when the rank actually started dropping below 10K. Go figure.
As of that weekend, the launch was officially over, but the book picked up some steam of its own. I sent out the last call for 99c email to my entire list, letting them know the sale would end that day. The plan was to raise the price to $3.99.
I wondered if the book would keep rising in the charts and lowering in rank if I left it at 99c, but I decided to go ahead and raise the price since that’s what I had told readers.
As far as wide sales on other platforms, there were not a ton because there's just not the same visibility over there, like categories, bestseller charts, new release charts, etc. But the boxed set did well and got me some extra income, so that was great.
POST-LAUNCH RESULTS (DID THE BOOK STICK?)
Even after the launch was over, the book continued to amaze me!
My biggest worry and question was whether it would stay sticky, but it did! It was surreal.
It continued to rock the top 10 in new releases and even bumped back up sometimes in rank as well. It was at 6-8K and then went back down to 5K and #25 in Bestsellers plus #5 in New Releases. No other book had come anywhere near these kinds of numbers.
And now that the book was at full price, I was actually making some good money!
AMS ads started working again, so I left a couple on, but other than that, I relied on Amazon's algorithm and the book’s stickiness to keep it sailing.
By this time, 2-3 weeks after launch, the book was selling an average of 25 copies a day. I was very pleased.
However, I also learned that it never gets easy, and there's an incredible amount of pressure once a book of yours does well. Will it stick? Will it just drop off? Will book 2 do as well? HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
But the great sales were also great motivation for getting the next book out!
I think that the long (steadily building) launch and push along with a great cover and blurb was what made the difference here. Get the best cover, editing, and blurb you can. And write what readers want!
(P.S. Book 2 just came out a couple weeks ago. Look out for a launch results post on that book soon!)
Here is an overview of all the costs that went into this launch. I did spend quite a bit of money (since it was the first book of a new series, that made sense), but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t spend some crazy amount that would take forever to make back.
TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS
COVER $550 (including a $100 rush fee)
EDITING $410.32 (PARTIAL SWAP FOR PROOFREADING)
TOTAL PRODUCTION COSTS: $960.32
TOTAL COSTS DURING LAUNCH AND FIRST FULL MONTH
AMS ADS: $1067.10
BOOKBUB ADS: $269.75
AMAZON GIVEAWAYS: $44.65 (mostly for newsletter swaps)
COVER REVEAL GIVEAWAY: $25
SIGNED PAPERBACK LAUNCH WEEK GIVEAWAY: $12
TOTAL REVENUE FOR MAY (FIRST FULL MONTH)
This includes revenue from the boxed set featured deal on Bookbub and my other books, but the vast majority of income came from the new release.
AMAZON: $2535.46 (over $2200 from #TRC)
WIDE: $112 (not counting paperbacks; don't have access to those stats; about another $50-$100)
I made about another $1500 on Amazon in June, not counting the other retailers and paperbacks. Not bad!
AMS ads ended up spending like crazy the next month or so. It was frustrating to see that much money go to ads when I wasn't sure how much they helped.
I've never made this much money off of my books! It was super exciting and it hit me that making money off of my fiction was really possible for me.
Just about hit all my reach for the sky goals :)
Took quite a bit of spend to reach said goals (not for the faint of heart) but it was an investment and I understood that.
My biggest fear was (and still is): will it last? How long will the book stick? But there's only so much you can do. If you can have an excellent cover and good editing, you're already mostly there.
Seeing how well the book did and how well it was received gave me lots of motivation to finish writing, editing, and launch the second book and keep going.
Feels great to be paid more than a few dollars a day :)
Previous book sales, before launching this book, were about $400 to $600 a month total. They were closer to $600 to $1000 in 2016 when I was marketing, before I burnt out and had a baby.
The plan is to release a new book in this series every 3 months; there are four more books in this series with potential for more or a sideways series at another school, with minor characters, or something.
I can probably only focus on this series for now and will need to put other ideas on hold. There will be little to no room for other projects or collabs. A book every 3 months for me right now is about my limit, but I'm also trying to push my word counts higher and higher and trying not to lose momentum during the revisions process; getting an editor (and the associated deadlines) helps a lot with that.
I'm really excited to see how book 2 does; there is that fear of it not being as good as the first and what price to launch at. Don’t want to get behind on post-production and editing this time around, although due to focusing on the launch, I already am... (spoiler: all went well! Look for a post on that launch soon!)
So yeah. Overall, #TheRealCinderella launch was a success and my best launch to date. I think my biggest lesson learned from this write to market experiment is to put out the best book you can.
Especially your book cover and editing. If you have to get a part-time job or freelance to do it, then do it. That's what I did.
Pay attention to the popular tropes in your genre and find the story that readers will love and that you will have a blast writing. I am loving writing this series.
And like I said, I highly recommend Chris Fox's book, Write to Market. Start there if you want to try this yourself. I also have some videos of everything I did along the way to get here.
Got any questions or comments? Leave them below!