Sunday 4 January 2015

Exit 2014, enter 2015

So another year has ended, and my three-year indie publishing anniversary on January 24th comes swiftly around.

2014 was, as a whole, a great year. Of course there were disappointments, and my dream to be doing this full time will have to wait a little longer, but it was still pretty damn good.

First up, here's the stats. A small disclaimer - some of these are vague, because I don't know / can't remember / don't want to give the accurate figures. They're pretty close though.

The production stats

Words written - 506,000
Complete novels written - 4
Ebooks published - 16 (including 3 novels, 2 boxed sets, and 2 short story collections. The rest were short stories / novellas, some under pen names).
Multi-author publications contributed to - 4 (1 boxed set, three anthologies)
Paperbacks published - 6
Audiobooks published - 2

The sales stats

Ebooks sold - roughly 4500
Audiobooks sold - 136
Paperbacks sold 86

The finances

Production costs - $1500 (covers, editing, proofreading, promotions, website costs)
Income - low 5 figures (that's all you're getting, I'm afraid haha)

The vast, vast majority of my sales were my two Tube Riders sequels and the Trilogy boxed set, probably more than 90%, reaffirming that series are the only way to make real money. Case in point, my biggest seller is Tube Riders: Exile, with roughly 1800 sales, while Finding My World, my little romance book published in September, has sold 7 copies. Head of Words, which most of my core readers think is my best book, has sold less than 100. Even Man Who Built the World, which was heavily promoted, has only sold about 500, most of those at 99 cents.

So, like it or not, unless you have some insider knowledge that I don't have, writing series is the only way to really succeed in this game. The books don't have to necessarily be sequential or even an ongoing story, but they have to have some kind of linear theme.

I came into self-publishing as a writer not sold on churning out the same book over and over again. Most of the people I know who have great success have 5 - 10-book series. Because becoming a full-time writer is my ultimate goal, it's been necessary for me to adjust my own aims a little. For example, if I want to make money out of Finding My World, I would probably have to write a follow-up with the same characters, and then have Amazon price-match the first book to free. It's not something that is on the current agenda, but is definitely something that might happen in the future.

There is some potential in niche markets. My cricket short stories, under the name of Michael White, were collectively my second best seller in 2014, shifting around 150 copies. While most of these were at 99 cents, it was clear that there is some market for the genre, mainly because there are almost no books out there at all with stories about the sport of cricket. There are a couple, but I'm practically the only one doing it. And another thing about that - they only really sell during the summer months, when the English summer season is on, while my collection paperback, Tales from the Village Green Volume 1, actually outsells my Tube Riders paperbacks. As a result, one of my early projects in 2015 is a cricket novel.

My novella series, Beat Down!, under the name of Michael S. Hunter, continues to be a dismal failure. The perma-free book 1 shifts perhaps one copy a day, and I can go months on end without a single sequel sale. I have hope that it might one day take off, but the couple of douchebag one star reviews from people who quit reading within a page, plus it being partly comedy, which doesn't sell well, continue to drag it down. My cover designer has also gone AWOL, so its unlikely there will be any more Beat Down! books anytime soon. A shame, as they're actually pretty good.

So, on to 2015. What's on the horizon?

This is the bit where I get to write a list of all the things I plan to write and publish, most of which won't be done by the end of the year, but its fun anyway. I've decided to make categories this time, of what is most likely, and what might or might not ever come to pass.

 Most likely.

Publish Crow #2: The Castle of All Nightmares. I'm currently editing it, so hopefully by Feb or so.

Publish Crow #3: The Puppeteer King. Again, very likely, as its finished.

Write Crow #4. Writing now.

Write Crow #5. Thinking....

Write the cricket novel. Working on it.

Publish a textbook based on my job, English teaching in Japan. Very likely as I actually wrote it in 2008 while I was bored at work, shopped it to a couple of publishers, never heard anything and then forgot about it. I'm currently updating it to make it relevant for 2014. It will be of no interest whatsoever to my fiction fans, but it will definitely fit into a niche market.

Possible ...

Get back into the Rise of the Governor Trilogy. I have 80,000 words across three attempts at book one, so it's likely it'll get done at some point. As for the sequels that continue the story of Maxim Cale and later Halo, I have no idea. There is, however, some overlap with the Crow books, as the central character, Professor Kurou, forms part of the backstory to the Tube Riders world. You don't really see it until book 3, but it starts to build in from then.

Write the Tube Riders interlude novel set between Exile and Revenge. Part of it is done, I occasionally pull it out and tinker with it. This will be a very Tube Riders novel, full of trains and Huntsmen, except with mostly different characters as its set in London while the main group are over in France.

Finish my horror novel Dark Days, and start a series of detective supernatural books based on the central character, akin to James Herbert's Ash novels. Dark Days is a brilliant but unfinished story, but if I want to actually sell it I have to think about it as part of a wider series, and in order to concentrate on it I'll need to clear most of the Crow and TR books out of the way first. Far more likely to show its head in 2016.

Very maybe ...!

The Concept. This is still in the planning / I tell people when I'm drunk phrase. A multi-media project combining a novel, music, and art. Not sure I can pull it off, particularly not the art bit, but we'll see.

Sales targets for 2015

10,000 ebooks. After the first half of 2014, I would have probably estimated more, but then Amazon brought in its horrible Kindle Unlimited program, which ruined the sales of those of us who don't use it, so I'm being conservative. Whether I get close will depend very much on whether I can get the Crow series finished and out and whether it gets anywhere near the amount of attention of the Tube Riders series. If it bombs, so will my sales. We'll see.

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