A Cat Among Dragons hit the electronic stands in the fall of 2012. Since then I’ve released three* other series, four if you count the Alexi stories as a series, and several stand-alone works, plus series-related short stories. I’ve not been as successful as I’d like, but that’s mostly my fault.
So, what have I learned and what has changed? A great deal.
First, when I started, five titles was the magic number of Amazon, and wide release was key. So I released on B&N and Kobo as well as Amazon, and put out more Cat books as fast as I could afford. And the goal posts changed to 10 titles. So I took a deep breath and kept going. And then Amazon KDP came along, and wide release seemed a mixed blessing. After looking at cost and value and where my sales came from, I became Amazon exclusive. It did not help that Kobo had fouled up Christmas distribution one year by giving people less than five days notice that they would be shutting down new-title approvals and launches from mid December to early January for administrative changes and site maintenance. Add in the great pron-purge, which went too far (at one point, having a model on the cover wearing a pearl necklace and either showing too much neck, or not enough neck [it changed at least once] was enough to get the book removed) and Kobo stopped looking so good for my marketing efforts as compared to Kindle Select.
I passed ten titles and the magic boost did not appear. Now it was ten titles in a series, or several series that totaled ten titles. And Amazon reworked their search system, cleaned out reviews (Round One) and no one quite knew what the magic number or phrase was.
The Cat series was joined by the Colplatschki Chronicles, which have become my best long-term seller. And in 2014-15 the power of the Long Tail in sales became glaringly apparent to a lot of indie writers, self included. Those years I also wrote the three Powers books, and the first of the Alexi stories. And Language of the Land just because I wanted to try steampunk and needed a hydraulic outlet, so to speak.
2016… yeah. In terms of sales it stank compared to 2015. Election jitters, ACA health insurance woes, major dental work in July and August… those were the downers. Writing a new series was an up, as was LibertyCon. I had very high hopes for 2017.
Thus far 2017 has been a mix. Sales have not been what I wanted, in part because I suspect readers are tired of Colplatschki and the Cat series. What sold were new things, like the Familiar Tails and Shikari. The merchant story went very well, in terms of writing, but I hit a wall with the Chinese fantasy novel, in part because the characters are… not the kind of people I usually write. But progress is being made. And several story problems in other books got fixed, including the third Powers novel.
What have I learned? To beware of repeated words, such as “utterly” and “very.” That I need dialogue tags. That covers make or break book sales, be they e-books or print. That marketing is my bane and the lack of marketing is why my books do not sell as fast as I’d like. That readers get series fatigue. That taking seven months to finish writing a novel is not a mortal sin, but I do need to quit moping about not getting it written and write it. That there is no magic number for sales – five books, ten books, ten books in a series, three series under the same name… None of them unlocked the vaults at Gringrots. Work, producing books on a regular basis, and marketing those books are what lead to sales. I also learned that Vellum software is a wonderful, delightful, magical tool that can still be messed up by the operator if attention is not paid to details.
What comes next? In 2018, if all goes well, the Cat and Colplatschki series will draw to a close at ten books each. The Powers will also end, just not quite the way I’d originally planned, and more Shikari will appear. At the moment I have the Chinese book to finish, a sequel to Of Merchant and Magic, perhaps more Familiar stories, the Leigh Kendall/Powers stories to compile and publish, and then? I have no idea. Every time I start worrying about running out of ideas, I get sandbagged by ideas.
*Colplatschki Chronicles, Shikari, the Powers, and the Alexi stories, although those can be purchased as a single volume omnibus.