Counting My Blessings

Writing and Salary Updates of a Self-Pubbed Bestselling Author

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013, Flickr, Wana Commons

Photo credit: 401(K) 2013, Flickr, Wana Commons

I use the term self-pubbed proudly. I use the term bestselling with a slight eye-roll because we’re talking sub-genre Amazon lists here (Time-travel & Scottish romance), not the NYT. But still. It’s a thing, and I’m one of those things, and so there. I’m using it. *Sticks tongue out*

This is an exciting week for me! First of all, I want to thank everyone who visited my blog and spread the word last week, when I discussed my decision to go indie and compared my earnings my first month as a small-press-published author to my first month as a self-published author. I got a record number of hits and as an unintentional bonus, I saw the sales of my time-travel romance, WISHING FOR A HIGHLANDER spike into unheard of territory for me. I came so close to a ranking in the #2000’s I could taste it. And it tasted damn good. (nom nom nom! yummy rankings)

Today, I’m going to overshare again and post my income earned in February 2014, my first month as an indie author. I am happy to admit I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Because of the popularity of last week’s post and the sales that came about as a result, my actual earnings will be much more than I anticipated. But before we get to the juicy details of what an indie author with a bestseller makes on a release month , I have some news to share.

On to the news!

JessiGage_Reckless_2500pxVery soon, I’ll be re-releasing RECKLESS. This book is a special one to me. As a person who has difficulty processing anger, especially anger directed at me, I found it both challenging and therapeutic to write a romantic hero with anger-management issues. I dig deep into the psyche of anger and what it takes to be able to put it behind you. I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with finding someone special worth changing for.

RECKLESS also explores themes of forgiveness. Is there any act truly unforgivable? What about an act you committed? Are you more likely to forgive someone else than forgive yourself, even for a similar wrong?

If these questions get your creative/entertainment juices flowing, head over to Goodreads and mark RECKLESS “to read.” Also sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be among the very first to know when it goes live.

In other news, I’ve been tagged by the talented and beautiful Kitt Crescendo! Come back next week to see my answers to a few questions about writing process. I’ll also be tagging some of my favorite authors to answer the same questions the following week. In the mean time, click over to Kitt’s blog to see how she gets her wips (works in progress) in shape. She’s also a hoot. If you love nostalgic music, frank discussions about just about everything, and excellent poetry, you and Kitt will get along splendidly.

Now for the money talk

Last week, I blogged about my choice to self-publish. If you haven’t peeked at that post, you can find it here. It’s long but I’ve been told it’s worth a read, especially for anyone curious about what one might make as an indie author as opposed to earning a royalty from a publisher.

To sum up, I’m glad I took the indie plunge. When I posted at the end of the 3rd week of February 2014, I predicted two things based on the data I had available (Amazon sales reports):
1. As a debut self-pubbed author, I would sell about half the number of books in my first month as I did my first month as an author with a small press.
2. My income for Feb 2014 would be nearly double what I made in my first month as a small press author.

I was wrong on both accounts, and couldn’t be happier.

Let’s take a look at my first supposition, that I would sell about half the number of books as an indie author as I did as a small press author. I based this guess on a couple of factors. One was that the small press I worked with had a decent marketing program, and I didn’t think I could match that effort all by my lonesome. Second, as a reader, I’m a little skeptical about indie authors unless they’ve been highly recommended or they have a slew of positive reviews. I figured simply by having my own name listed as publisher, I’d lose a few sales.

I prepared myself to sell about half the number of books as a self-pubbed author as I had as a small-press author, but I hoped I might be able to match the number. After all, I was dropping the list price by $2 and because WISHING is in a popular romance sub-genre, I knew I’d get some exposure if I could just get enough sales to pop up on that bestseller list again. But I wasn’t going to hold my breath.

Well, now that February is over and I’ve crunched the numbers, I’m pleased to report my sales numbers actually increased over what I sold as a debut small-press author. My total number of sales my first month as a small-press author (January 2013) was 330 books.

This February, I sold:
Amazon – 546
Barnes N Noble – 80
iTunes – 6
All Romance – 24
Total – 656

I almost doubled my sales! I sold so many copies on Amazon, my ranking shot up and I landed in the top 20 (on the first page!) of the time-travel romance list. I almost fainted when I bypassed my favorite time-travel author, Karen Marie Moning. And stayed there for more than a week. I’m still there. It’s unreal.

There are a few reasons I can come up with as to why I’ve done better as a self-pubbed author. Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Lower price ($3.99 vs. $5.99)
2. New cover
3. Supportive indie community
4. In the past year, I’ve established some minimal name recognition that might have paid off
5. Blog love. Before last week’s post, in the first 21 days of February, I had sold 291 copies of WISHING on Amazon for an average of 14 sales/day. After the post, I sold 255 more copies in just 7 days for an average of 36 sales/day.

Who knows whether any, all, or some combination of these factors contributed to WISHING kicking butt sales-wise. Whatever the reason, I’m thankful! If you bought my book after swinging by to read last week’s post, I’m sending you massive e-hugs with cherries on top right now.

I’m just so happy my stories are getting into the hands of readers. That’s why I do this. It’s an awesome feeling.

Get to the money, already!

Okay, okay, cool your britches. Here it comes.

One nice thing about self-publishing is access to sales reports. I could always contact my publisher and ask for my sales numbers, but generally, I had to wait about three months to see what I sold in a given month. This is because retailers don’t pay until 60 to 90 days after the close of a sales period. Once the publisher got paid, they’d process royalties and send out statements and payments. So I was always thinking in terms of, okay, here’s my check. This represents what I sold 3 months (or more) ago. It was hard to get used to.

I still won’t get royalty payments until 60 to 90 days after the close of a sales period, depending on retailer, but I have almost immediate access to my sales numbers simply by logging into my accounts with each retailer. It takes me about 5 minutes to check all 5 places I’m selling books and see what I sold the month before.

Amazon is the most informative. Their Kindle Direct Publishing reports provide sales-to-date data for the current and previous month as well as royalty reports for the previous six weeks. Barnes N Noble is pretty good too, providing a running count of your month’s sales and royalties. All of the retailers I’m working with provide at a minimum sales data for the previous month pretty much immediately after the close of the sales period. Which is awesome for a gal who likes to play with numbers.

So, what did I make off my 656 sales? I have yet to receive the deposits (talk to me in 60 days), but I’m pretty confident my income for February’s sales will be $1764.05. This averages out to $2.69 per sale.

To give you an idea how this compares to my experience publishing with a small press, my best month as a small-press author was May 2013. I sold 509 copies of WISHING and earned $703 in royalties for an average of $1.43 per sale.

Am I happy I took the indie plunge? Yeah. I am.

Is it for everyone? No, it’s not. See my myriad caveats in my previous post. Hard work, good judgment, yada yada yada…

Would I do it again? Yes. In fact, I will be self-publishing five books this year. Sign up for my newsletter to get a brief email when my new releases come out or swing by my website’s books page for blurbs and covers the second I get them from my awesome cover artist, Kim Killion.

Thanks for stopping by. Every click on this site feels like applause. The self-pub community rocks. It’s a good season for me as a writer.


About Jessi Gage

USA Today Bestselling Author Jessi Gage is addicted to happy-ever-after endings. She counts herself blessed because she gets to live her own HEA with her husband and children in the Seattle area. Jessi has the attention span of a gnat…unless there is a romance novel in her hands. In that case, you might need a bullhorn to get her to notice you. She writes what she loves to read: stories about love. Leave a comment to introduce yourself! There is no better motivation to finish her latest writing project than a note from a happy reader! Don't forget to sign up for Jessi’s newsletter so you’ll never miss a new release. Thanks for visiting!
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22 Responses to Counting My Blessings

  1. I’m so, so, so, SO happy for you, Jessi! I wish you continued success…and I’m happy to help in any way that I can. You rock!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks Kitt! Your blog is so much fun. I hope this writing process tag gets you some new followers. By the way, I facebook posted a nostalgic music video yesterday and thought of you. It was “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” by Donna Fargo:

      I sing this song to my daughter every morning to get her out of bed. Strangely, threatening to carry her to the potty works better than the song. But I still love the song.

  2. Hi Jessi,

    I used to sing Good morning, good morning, it’s great to stay up late. Good morning, good morning to you, from Singing in the Rain to my sons to get them up. They did not appreciate it.

    I’m so pleased to hear that going Indie is working for you. I’m a struggling author, hoping to make some money. I would like to share your story with my writer’s group, if that’s okay. This is so encouraging. I am currently revising book 3 in my Paranormal Mystery Series, with the help of Mae Clair. I think you know her! She is so great. When I’m ready to market my books again, maybe I can pick your brain…a little? I know you’re probably really busy, but it won’t be for a while yet.

    I’m so happy to hear of your success.

    Mary E. Merrell

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Absolutely, Mary! Share away! And I’m always here to offer any help I can. I think my little bit of success here is largely as a result of writing in a genre that isn’t very big and has a loyal following (time-travel & Scottish romance). But I think mysteries are really popular too. It’s a bigger genre, so harder to get on a list that will get you noticed. So we’ll have to put our heads together to make your author brand stand out. Shoot me an email at jessigage “at” gmail “dot” com any time!

      And yes, I know Mae! And love her. She’s a bright, generous spirit with amazing writing talent. We’ve traded critiques in the past, and I’m a big fan of hers!

  3. Mae Clair says:

    Wow, you are kicking butt, girl!!!!! Indie pubbing was definitely the right move for you. I can’t believe how well it’s paid off. I’m doing a Snoopy dance in your honor. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find a smidgen of that success with my indie releases.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      I think you’ll do well, Mae. You’ve got so much going for you. Plus you’re in a similar situation to me in that you have some name recognition out there. And like I said to Mary, mystery is a popular genre.

  4. Wow! Congratulations! I’m actually trying to decide how to publish my recently completed manuscript. I submitted to four publishers because I’m not sold in going the traditional route. I appreciate posts like this because they give more insight to the “indie” way. I wish you continued success as an indie author! 🙂

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks for dropping by, Kristen. Is this your first manuscript, or are you a pro at finishing them but haven’t had any luck getting them noticed? I was in that boat for years. YEARS! Okay, like 5 years. Not a huge deal, but not knowing WHEN it would happen for me was so hard.

      Hang in there. Write good stuff. Think about what your author platform will be. As far as marketing yourself and your books, definitely check out Kristen Lamb’s blog.

      Good luck!

  5. Pingback: Self Publishing vs Small Press: One Author’s Experience | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

  6. Good for you. I’ve found I did much better as an indie published author too.

    • Jessi Gage says:

      That’s good to hear. It makes me wonder what the benefit of going with a publisher is. I mean for a mid-list author like me… For a big name, yeah, the big advances. But if you’re not at that level, it seems like SP is more lucrative.

  7. Jessi, you don’t know how amazing it is to read a post like this especially when I am 30 days from self publishing my debut novel and plan on publishing two more before the end of the year. I am one of those people who didn’t even try the traditional publishing route. I sent out 8 queries and was rejected by everyone one, so I stopped. Even though in the back of my head, I know people send out hundreds before getting discovered. I didn’t want to wait any longer. People I respect in the industry have read and say they love my novel. So, I am so super excited to take the plunge and am happy I found your blog for some real numbers advice. Thanks so much for sharing.
    BTW, Kitt is one of my favorite people. Any friend of her’s . . .

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Awesome! I’m so glad you found this helpful. I debated whether or not to post my “salary” because, well, it’s kind of tacky. But some self-pubbed authors are starting to post what they make in an effort to help those deciding which route to go. Courtney Milan is one of those. Her blog is so helpful!

      I love Kitt! So nice to meet you through her!

      Good luck with self-publishing. Let me know if you have any questions. My email address is on this site somewhere…I think.

  8. Fantastic news!! *hugs*

  9. terryspear says:

    Great job! You might consider adding to Kobo and Google Play. Both started out slow for me, but sales have continued to build. Good luck!

    • Jessi Gage says:

      Thanks, Terry! I have added those retailers. And, yeah, they’re slow starting off. For a while there, I didn’t know how to get my categories listed on Google Play, so my books weren’t coming up in any lists. Now they are. I figured out you have to paste your “subjects” into the blurb. How weird is that?!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Found this late but love your story.

  11. I’m so happy for you! I’m glad that self-publishing was the way to go! Wishing you continued success!

  12. Pingback: One Indie Author’s Debut Year Income | Jessi Gage…A Time to Love

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