Believe it or not, 2014 is gone. Today is the last day of the year, so it seemed fitting to wrap up the year for me with what I’ve learned and what I have planned for 2015.
KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited
I didn’t have much luck with Kindle Unlimited. I opted all my titles in in October and saw total borrows across all seven titles reach around 30 each month. My sales went down and my revenue went way down (a 30-40% drop).
I think the mistake I made was going all in with my entire catalog. The borrows and the revenue simply weren’t there and with 40% of my sales coming from outside Amazon, I lost my ass.
I don’t necessarily think the program is inherently flawed, outside of requiring exclusivity. I think it’s great for short works and for some of the titles in my catalog. I still think it’s valuable to use Select when first launching a new title, depending on the reader base.
I just released a new $.99 short story, exclusive to Amazon and KDP Select. I’ve opted all my other titles out of Select. For 2015 I’ll utilize Select selectively (no pun intended) if at all. With Amazon no longer performing for me as it once did, I just can’t go all in and ignore the other sales channels.
I wrote 40k words on a novella this year and finished a 72k word novel. I also wrote a 7k word short story. I published the novel and the short story, but the novella probably won’t see the light of day until late 2015.
I ran into a little bit of writer’s block near the end of the year, after I’d made a big proclamation to produce a shit-ton of words. Reading Dean Wesley Smith’s blog really helped get me out of that rut and made me question a lot of my assumptions. I think I’ve been focusing so much on the finished product that I lost sight of the most important part of writing: having fun. Writing the actual words became a means to an end, not an enjoyable activity.
I dug myself out of my rut by writing a short story near the end of the year. I didn’t worry about anything but the writing. It was a blast. I did maybe two or three revisions on it; much, much fewer than I normally do. It’s the most fun I’ve had writing in the past couple of years and it’s a lesson I’ll be taking into 2015. I’m already at work on Badlands #3 with 5k words in the bank. It’s really been a pleasant and fun experience just taking it a scene at a time.
My sales continue to decline as the market floods with new work from indies and traditional publishers release more of their backlist in the $4.99 and under range. Traditional publishers are also running more sales on their digital titles, further competing with indie-level pricing. Kindle Unlimited is sucking paid sales away from indies at an increasing rate, making selling books even more difficult. With borrow payouts settling around $1.30, many indies (including myself) are seeing their revenue decline.
So what does this mean for me? Well, business as usual. I’m a full-time programmer, so writing is my second job. If I sell fewer books, I can still pay my mortgage. I’ll survive. And I’m certainly not going to quit, as have some others. I’ve wanted to publish to an audience for a long damn time, so I’m not going to squander that opportunity.
I’m not planning to focus much on advertising in the near future. I just finished up year one in a five-year plan that includes completing my best-selling series and fleshing out my horror and sci-fi thriller offerings. Over the next four years I can realistically expect to finish at least five novels, so that’ll provide me with a reasonable backlist. Then I can shift more of my focus to advertising and growing the business. Until then I’ll be focusing primarily on the writing and taking the sales as they come.
I read a handful of books this year, but not as many as I’d like. In 2015 I plan to read a lot more. I bought a ton of them recently (I admit, I horde books), so I have a huge to-be-read pile waiting for me.
I don’t see much changing with the frequency of updates to this blog or with the content provided. I write what I feel is relevant here, when I think it needs to be written.
My main focus for 2015 is going to be finishing up my Badlands series. Out of the Badlands (Book #3) is first on the list. I might be able to release my novella in the same series next year, but I don’t want to make any promises. If I can get to more work next year then I will, but it’s not on the project plan.
So there you have it, my thoughts on 2014 and my plans for next year. All in all it’s been a sobering but educational year for me. Sure, the market is tougher than ever now, but the opportunity to reach readers without the need to genuflect at the feet of the Almighty Gatekeepers remains alive and well. This is still the best time ever to be a writer and I’m super excited about the opportunities the future holds.
Take it easy and I’ll see you next year!