2013: A Look Ahead

Now that 2013 is fully in motion it’s time to look ahead. Any business needs to be constantly thinking about the future, and being an independent author is definitely a business . . . at least for me. So here’s my business plan for 2013.

Publishing:

The heart of any writing business is the publishing of the books themselves. I had a very ambitious schedule last year that I didn’t really make. That was largely due to inexperience. I didn’t understand how much I could realistically get done in one year.

In 2012, I published three books — two short stories and a novel. (Technically, I published three short stories, but one was a loss-leader designed solely to interest people in the Wolf Dasher series. It was never intended to be a part of my catalog.)

I want to hit that three-book threshold again in 2013, but this time I want to publish two novels and a short story. That would amount to an increase in the number of words I write, and it will improve my opportunities for increasing my profitability. Short stories may be faster to turn out, but I don’t feel I can charge more than 99 cents for them, and that impacts the amount of money I can make.

Sleeping Beauty CoverFor example, “Sleeping Beauty” emerged as my bestselling book last year. However, I only make 35 cents per copy, so, even when it sells really well, I have to move three copies of it to equal the sale of one copy of Red Dragon Five. Thus, from a financial perspective, it makes more sense to publish novels over short stories.

I still think there are benefits to publishing short stories, but I’d rather work on one a year, mixing it in with two novels.

This year, I plan to release the following books:

Calibot’s Revenge — A fantasy novel concerning a young man, who is estranged from his father, the most powerful magician in the world. First quarter.

“Beauty & the Beast” — A short story that is a modern retelling of the classic fairytale. This formula worked very well for “Sleeping Beauty”, and my goal is to create a collection of re-imagined fairytales. Summer.

Roses are White — The next novel in the Wolf Dasher series. November/December.

Marketing

If you want books to sell, you need to spend some time marketing them to readers. We’re all still trying to navigate the new seas of indie publishing, and that includes cracking the code on what works best with getting the message out.

Last year, I spent money on advertising in a number of different venues. I ran ads on book websites like The Kindle Book Review and Digital Book Today, and I experimented with Facebook advertising. My impression was these efforts did do some good. I believe they helped get my name/books out to a wider audience.

However, the amount of money I spent advertising didn’t even come close to equaling the sales those ads generated. Thus, while I helped expand the reach of my brand, I’m not sure that was the best investment of my resources. I will likely spend some more on advertising this year — there are still some experiments I want to run with Facebook — but I will definitely be choosier about how I invest in this area.

The other most successful marketing ploy I conducted last year was enrolling several of my books in Amazon’s KDP Select program and running some free days. Once again, I’m quite sure that helped raise my profile and sell some books.

I am growing concerned, though, that there a lot of readers who believe they don’t need to buy books anymore. They just have to wait until they are offered for free. Because I’m in this business to make money, I worry that I am undercutting my long-term success by offering free books through Select. That’s not to say I think there is no value in a free giveaway, but I am going to evaluate other ways of doing so. I think, for the time being at least, I’m going to back away from running any more free events.

Amazon and KDP Select

Despite my plans to turn away from Select’s free days, I will continue to keep some of my books enrolled in the program. The reason is twofold. First, my sales at Barnes and Noble are so tiny as to be statistically insignificant. Until BN does something to help me get my books into the hands of Nook users beyond the Pubit! platform, it just doesn’t make sense for me to focus my business efforts there.

I have done better with Smashwords, and they certainly seem interested in helping authors get their work over more than BN. However, my sales at Smashwords, while better than BN, are dwarfed by those at Amazon. Thus, I need to put my focus where the money is.

The second reason is the Amazon Prime program. Books enrolled in KDP Select are eligible to be borrowed. To date, I’ve only had two borrows, but I want to remain eligible for this benefit, especially since Amazon is adding an additional $1.5M to the pool for December through February. Thus, for the time being, I plan to continue to take advantage of KDP Select for some of my books.

Blogging

Last year, I redesigned my website and refocused this blog to be dedicated solely to my writing career. I eliminated other things I was blogging about (although you can still read my thoughts on the Cincinnati Bengals over on my other blog, The Who Dey Herald).

This year, I plan to tune “Pleading the Phyth” even more. I’ve spent a lot of time blogging about the business side of writing, and that’s interesting to other indie authors. I’ll probably still write some about that.

But it doesn’t do a lot to draw the people I really want to be cruising my website: readers. I want to interest potential and existing readers in my books, and the blog is a means of doing so. Thus, this year, I’ll be writing more about my writing and charaters than about running my business.

That’s what I’ve got planned at the beginning of the year. We’ll see how the plan evolves as I get into it. In the meantime, thanks for reading! I hope both “Pleading the Phyth” and one of my books keeps you entertained throughout the year.

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