The First Two Years of Being an Indie Author – An Honest Assessment

It’s been a bit over two years since I began this journey into the unknown, into the world of indie publishing – this ominous thing I’ve heard about; this possibility of leaping into a different carreer. It has been exciting, disappointing, fulfilling, and leaving me hanging on by a thread, all usally within a day’s time. Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic but I definitely went through the highs and lows just like any other author who had just jumped out of the starting gates. After two years of white-water rafting the currents of the great river that is called self publishing, I feel that I’m finally heading toward calmer shores. This article is an assessment, as true as possible, of where I am currently.

I didn’t use a professional editor for my first book. I couldn’t afford it. Now I know I couldn’t afford not to. I got 50 reviews, mostly 4 and 5 stars, but some readers mentioned spelling mistakes and some editing issues. The first book, I know now, is not meant to be read by a lot of readers. Maybe later. Maybe once my tenth book has been written and readers are beginning to read my stuff. Maybe then. I’ve got a little time to bring it to an editor and polish it before that happens.

Pushing that button for the first book to go on Amazon was what I imagine it would have felt like for NASA to put the first man on the moon. It was epic. It was like the promise of the most spectacular fireworks in the history of fireworks, over Paris while standing on top of the Eifel Tower. Well… something must have gone wrong with the lighter or maybe the fuse got wet. There was one small fire cracker going off somewehre in the distance with a puff. Hugh Howey gave me a shout out on the day I published. I sold 25 copies that day. I was extatic. I thought that was it and that, from that day forward, I would be a world renowned author.

Hmm…

Dreams and expectations can coexist peacefully. I know that now.

Then came what I now call the Age of Oversharing (at least that was my perception of that time). I plastered facebook with quotes, links, (good) reviews, and whatever else I could find that had to do with my book. I was very excited and thought it wouldn’t hurt if others knew about it. I’m not sure if it did. I think there is a fine line between keeping readers and people informed and forcing someone to look at your posts several times a day. I’m still not sure where the line is but I’m more aware now and my outlook has changed since then.

My first book, The Three Feathers, sold about 450 paperbacks locally through my book store. That number is pretty high due to the fact that I visited about 15 schools in the last two years and did readings in 3rd through 5th grade classes. That must have been one of the highlights of the last two years in this my self appointed part-time job in indie publishing. For one of the author days I did, I received $1,200. Others I did for free. In some I sold two books, in others fourty. I made about $2,000 on the books I sold locally so far.

On Amazon, from May 2012 until and including June 2014, I made $350. Here is my sales chart from the last 90 days. The numbers on the left are units.

Untitled

So, I made about $3,500 in two years. Production costs for the three books I have out right now, were about $3,400. That does not include facebook adds. I am estimating that to be another $600 for the last 2 years which brings the whole number to about $4,000 in cost. This does NOT include the 50 paperbacks I gave away for free to friends, family and through giveaways.

Writing, right now, is a hobby and one that, besides taking up a good chunk of free time, isn’t that expensive. I see it as my apprentice years. In Germany, a large part of the educational system is based on apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you make very little money but you learn a tremendous amount about your craft which pays off in excellent jobs you can get once your apprenticeship has ended.

Where am I now?

I have learned an incredible amount of things in the last two years. A lot of that is, plain and simple, what NOT to do. But that’s just part of it all. There were many things that I did right as well and the learning curve has been steep. The one thing I know now, is that I should probably write roughly about one million words before even thinking about making a living as a writer. If it happens earlier, that’s fine but I’m in for the long haul so what’s 700,000 words among friends, right? That’s not that much in the grand scheme of things.

I know now that, besides that newsletter sign-up list everyone is talking about (I have 23 people on that list and roughly 50% of them actually open the thing), the back log of written books is the most important tool of my writing career. Keep writing the next story and don’t worry about present sales data. I’m still dreaming. Every day. But for now, I’m writing, working on getting closer to those one million words, honing my craft, becoming better and better, publishing all around higher quality products, and developing my voice, my individual voice as a writer.

That’s all.

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