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Most of you probably haven’t heard of Amy Miles, but if her success continues to climb at its current pace, you’ll know her name well soon. When I heard about Amy’s recent success with self-publishing one of her many novels on Amazon, I asked her to share her story here. I think you’ll get a lot out of it–not only those of you who choose to self-publish, but also those who are trying to get published (or are already published) traditionally. It also helps that Amy is a genuinely sweet person, and I wish her all the success in the world. Here’s what Amy has to say about her experience publishing FORBIDDEN:
My journey as a writer may have begun during childhood, but my “career” only began 45 days ago.
Two months back, I was a struggling self-published author. I had the passion, the book, but only a small smattering of faithful fans. I was making enough sales to keep me on Amazon’s mediocre rankings, but I was certainly far from being noticed.
When I began my journey back in November 2011, I did a lot of research about e-book prices. I wanted to know, from the people who were selling their books like hotcakes, what price I should list mine at. I was a newbie author with zero street cred. To throw out a price like $4.99 would have been career suicide. So I had to decide what was most important to me: a little money now or growing my readership so I could sustain a career for years to come?
I chose the readership.
So as soon as I published FORBIDDEN, I listed it at $0.99. With Amazon’s commission rates, this put me in the 35% range. I could have chosen to list it for $2.99 and jump up into the 70% range, but I doubted many people would be willing to take a chance on my book over so many other great ones on the market. I have no doubt that if I had chosen to make money rule my decision, I would not be where I am today.
I did pretty well too. I wasn’t setting any records ablaze or anything, but I was happy. I was gaining readers, starting to meet some amazing people and it was all flowing for me. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that something just wasn’t connecting. I was worried about my book cover.
During the last week of May, I made the choice to upload a new cover for my teen paranormal romance, FORBIDDEN. It was a tough decision. I went back and forth about it for weeks. My original cover held a lot of meaning for me since I am friends with the photographer, but I knew that if I wanted to succeed as an author, I had to present the entire package.
Therefore, I forked out the money and purchased a new cover from Shutterstock.com. I paid a one-time $50 fee and that allowed me to download five pictures, with the ability to use the image for both an e-book as well as paperback. I don’t own the image, it’s sort of a lease agreement, but it works well for me.
Everything about this image called to me, as if the artist somehow knew that my trilogy needed him. My new cover went live on June 1st, 2012. That day, my sales doubled to 12. To most, that would be a tiny accomplishment, but to me, it was the spark I needed. The following day I sold another 12 copies. On the third day, I set an outrageous goal: 12 copies sold every day of that month. Up until this point, the most I had ever sold in a month was just shy of 200, so this was a big deal.
When I was ten days into the month, I knew something special was happening. I started doubling my daily goals, then stretching beyond that. My Amazon rankings started hovering higher and higher. With each ranking jump, my stomach would give way, only to drop even lower the next day.
And then it happened. My husband woke me up early, on my only morning to sleep in, to tell me that I had hit a top 100 list, in my book’s category. As soon as his words sunk in, I instantly forgave him from robbing me of precious Saturday morning bliss. There were some definite whoops and hollering going on that morning.
I flitted in and out of one top 100 list for several days before hopping into another one. I couldn’t believe it. FORBIDDEN was starting to gain some notice. With each book sale, I snuck higher and higher on the lists. By the end of the month, I was hovering comfortably near the middle of the two top 100 lists, and then added a Fantasy Romance Best Seller rating on top.
Awestruck. Dumfounded. Flabbergasted. Call it what you will, but I was certainly each of those, with a side of ecstatic added in.
A fellow self-published author asked me what I was doing that she wasn’t, and I honestly didn’t have an answer for her. I had been too hard at work on my sequel to even give my author blog much thought. I wasn’t doing any crazy marketing schemes. I wasn’t going out and doing face time with the locals. I didn’t hire anyone to flood the internet with news about my novel. I simply wrote a book, which I felt had merit to teen readers, and updated my cover to something that I felt was visually appealing.
Honestly…that is it.
If you are looking for some sort of miracle answer, I am the wrong gal to ask. All I can say is that I have some amazing new readers, who have been a true delight, and blog readers who must be passing around my name.
For the month of June, I more than doubled my goal. For July, I set a crazy new goal and blew past it three days ago. 45 days into this amazing journey, I have sold just over 3,000 copies and my sales keep climbing. I can’t explain it, but I am just hanging on and enjoying the ride.
The best part of this whole process is the amount of people who have taken the time to contact me. They get all giddy when I respond to their email or Facebook messages, but what they don’t realize, is how much they brighten my day. They are the reason I write.
I never want to be so busy that I can’t take time to chat with a reader. They are just as invested in my character’s fate as I am. I’ve had so many emails recently begging me to tell them when the sequel, RECKONING, will be available. Readers become fans, and fans become friends. It’s a lovely cycle for an author to experience.
I’ve also had some newbie authors (which I still consider myself to be) contact me asking for advice and this is what I’ve been telling them:
If you write for money, people can tell. My goal is to entertain. To pull people away from their daily routines just long enough to let them forget about the reality they left behind. Isn’t that why you pick up a book?
Is FORBIDDEN the best book on the market today? Heck no! It is flawed. I am flawed. But, I genuinely love what I do, and I hope that shows through my writing.
Criticism- we all hate it but it is the lifeblood of all authors. I won’t lie and say that everyone has loved my book. They haven’t, and for good reasons. It is not from praise that you grow as a writer, but from the criticism.
Not too long ago, I received the dreaded 1 star review, and let me tell you, this reviewer held nothing back. There was no doubting her hatred for my book, but I appreciated everything that she said. It wasn’t easy to read. In fact, it hit me in the gut like a wrecking ball and took no prisoners, but I needed that blow to help me see the weakness in my writing.
How you handle criticism speaks volumes to your readers. Could I have made a snide comment back, about how wrong she was to slate my book? Sure, but instead, I thanked her. Out of all of my reviews, hers helped me the most.
Rejection, in any form hurts. I have been there. I have shed the tears, screamed into a pillow and hid under the covers, because I was sure that every word I wrote wasn’t good enough. I have my pile of agent rejections. I have experienced getting my hopes up, just to have them dashed yet again, but I wouldn’t change a bit of it.
As a writer, I grew up.
If you are a writer, with dreams of someday landing a publishing deal, or even going it on your own through self-publication, you need to learn something that I have only just begun to comprehend: Becoming an author isn’t about luck.
The publishing industry is a business, so treat it as such. Stop begging agents to read your query and offer them something that will have them leaping for their phones to contact you. Research the market. Create a website or blog for yourself. Build a readership. Write a book, then rewrite it three more times, until you have cut every piece of fat that you can. Perfect it and then sell it. Offer agents a book they can sell, not your dreams.
Will I someday be on that New York’s Best Sellers List? I hope plan to be.
What will you do today to take a step toward publication?