Holy Smokes! 2018 Almost Killed Me. 2019 ~ Survivor Mode.

Written By: Jackie Weger - Jan• 27•19

In 2018 Awful Things Happened. Some I Understand. Some I Don’t.

First up, I fell ill. We’d no more get one issue in hand and another would pop up. I spent time having sonar grams, MRIs. wearing heart monitors, swallowing cameras  and visiting one specialist after another.  I had so much blood drawn I could feed a hungry vampire  for a week.  I get being sick. Happens to all of us. Yet, through out the year, I designed monthly promotions, sent out my newsletter, arranged Tweet Fests, hired a Twitter guru and looked around for what else I might do.  While five and seven day promotions were successful, I still saw my sales flat-line, as well as KENP.  No more halo effects on promotions. Something changed. That’s what I couldn’t figure out. Still haven’t.

Coming soon in 99c Pre-order.

When I had everything in hand and under control and was preparing to publish a new book, along came Wells Fargo. I filed one complaint about fraud when I discovered recurring charges in my bank account. Wells Fargo went wild and filed complaints against thirty-five of my favorite vendors and service providers on Paypal. Worse, Wells Fargo penalized my vendors $20 or $25 for filing complaints against them with Paypal.  You can read the horror story here.  The snag was while the complaints were being sorted, I didn’t own the cover to my new book. I didn’t own the formatting. I didn’t own the editing because Paypal held all of their fees in limbo. I couldn’t publish. Took until January 8, 2019 to sort the snafu and get bank and Paypal back to normal.

But I discovered I’d been robbed of my spirit and motivation. Not my confidence because I own that. My energy on a scale of one to ten was a one.  Disgust prevailed. Because we rely on habit when all else fails, I muddled through. Kept moving forward, if only an inch at a time.  I kept thinking:  Do something! Amazon had changed something. Algorithms? Fact: A five or seven day promotion no longer created a halo effect or generated readers to buy down my list. Promoted books, even with 5K or 7K downloads did not keep good stats or stay in the public eye as had promotions I’d run in the past. Nope. Once the promo closed stats fell like stones.

Our monthly Accent on Romance cooperative promotions features a dozen books/authors. I monitored all and with few exceptions, discovered loss of stats and sale throughs were happening across the board. KENP pages read on borrows fell to hundreds or less per day.  Amazon introduced Page Flip and Scrolling, insisting those are only navigational tools, but some savvy authors did assays on their books and reported scrolling produced only one page read. Other indies report the exact opposite. I don’t disbelieve either author. But I see what I see and eNovel members are reporting sudden drop offs, too. Absolutely some author’s mileage varied. Soccer-themed and sports romances caught on. According to the authors, erotica books kept their audiences. Yet experienced and established indie authors were reporting new release promotions were not performing as in the past. One of my long time colleagues, a household name and every one of her books a best seller, told me during 2017-2018 her income dropped from five and six figures monthly to 2K$ and 3K$.  Moreover, her Bookbub acceptances dropped from seven or more a year 2013-2017 to one acceptance in 2018.  She’s as confused as I am.

Where did our readers go? Where did our sales go?

Nobody knows. We have more than sixty members in eNovel Authors at Work. All fine writers. Some of us are USA Today best sellers. Some NYTs. Some publish exclusive with Amazon. Some publish wide to all sales venues. Some of us were contracted authors for years and now are indie. We know the ropes. We know how to market our books.  We get behind and support one another’s promotions. Yet, we are not seeing the sales and successes our efforts generated in the past.

Find on Nook. Apple iBooks. Kobo. Google Play. Amazon.

Yet in review of 2018, I see some positives. First, my books earned enough to pay their expenses. I did something I never thought I would. I put Count The Roses and The Sheriff’s Woman wide and put both in back to back free promos to build an audience on all venues. I did a first cover reveal for All Tomorrow’s Memories. I’m scheduling it for a 30 day pre-order and publishing it wide at 99c. I’ll learn if I snagged a new audience. Starting in January 2019, I’m scheduling two newsletters a month. Both feature a 30 day Rafflecopters. One promotes free and 99c books, the second newsletter features up to six books, new releases and priced books, along with FREE and 99c. The goal is exposure and list building. Silverton Studios  published an audio and CD of The Reluctant Hero. I registered a new hashtag on Twubs for JackieWeger on Twitter: #bookbazaar and hired a Twitter guru to brand it in combo with #eNovAaW. A virtual Assistant is putting all my books in memes and posting them on Instagram.

I invite commercial promoters to join our monthly promotions. We feature and pump their newsletter sign up in exchange for promoting our books over  five or seven days at No Charge. eBookBetty has been one of our top sponsors. Michael Gallagher of fkbt is sponsoring our February 2019 cooperative promotion. It’s a win-win. We help build their subscriber lists and our books get featured to their audiences at no charge during our promotions.  Thus we increase the audience for our books from our own average aggregate of 125K+ subscribers to between another 50K to 100K.

3.95 on Downpour. $13.97 on Audible.

Years ago before there was such a thing as digital, I created a self-help, self-hypnosis  cassette, Fiction Focus. It was very popular and I sold thousands. I used it myself. It worked. No matter what was going on in my life, it drove me to my keyboard. A PhD in Psychology did the voice.  I still had the master tape and asked Silverton if it would be interested in publishing. Yes Silverton would,  and published it as an audio book and a MP3 CD. Reasonably priced at $3.95 on its Downpour site.  The irony is, I’d use it today to boost my motivation, except three years after I created the tape, I went deaf as a doorknob. I know the text by heart so I just ‘listen’ to it in my mind~bio feed back style.

I can’t tell anyone what to do to stay in the game. I know this much: Exposure is everything. I’m taking advantage of AMS sponsored promotions. I’m having memes designed for all of my books and using those on Twitter. I’m keeping a Tweet pinned to my Twitter bio. A good colleague designed a smashing Twitter banner. That’s up. I’m looking at every resource available to me and evaluating it. Using what I can and improving on it if possible.

What I know: We can’t go back to square one. Square one is gone~off the board. We need to continue to build our subscribers lists, nurture and appreciate them.  When one audience leaves us, my experience is that another steps in. I also think our reading audience is distracted. We’ve lost thousands to fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and winter storms.  Affected people cannot put their lives back together overnight. We need to wait it out and hang in, keep doing what we know how best to do,  adjust to new market trends and try new avenues to success, whether that’s selling ten books or a hundred. Most of us promote our ebooks daily, weekly or monthly. We need to start promoting our print editions and audibles, too. Our newsletters are prime real estate for that. As well as back-of-book-matter. Readers do buy print editions. I bought four already this month.

I did not make any 2019 New Year’s resolutions because I didn’t think I’d be around to keep them. Surprised myself! Here I am.  What I’m going to do is work off my 2018 To Do list and all of the above. I’m so not as energetic as I would prefer, but I don’t need a wealth of energy to get tasks done.  Muddling along will do it for me.

I’ve been a writer since 1980 and every dime I’ve earned since has been by writing something. My experience is this: Some years are flush, some dry, some skimpy. Some of us have to stop our career for weeks or even years to take care of family issues. I did. Now, when I do all things right and it still doesn’t work out, I stop. I go play, do something I enjoy, make a garden, buy a trunk load of books and do a marathon read. Meanwhile my craft is still there waiting to be activated again. I don’t judge my writer self-worth by what the next author is achieving or not, because I can’t mimic another writer’s goals, life, craft. I can’t even get past typing thirty words a minute, and then I have to revise the dang things. My suggestion is to write, publish and promote on a path that works for you.

Do I think the indie publishing industry is in dismal shape? Nope. It think it’s in flux. It’s changing. New avenues of production and sales will open up. Wattpad comes to mind, soon to open a publishing division.  The shine may be off indie authorship and digital publishing for those of us who’ve been doing it for several years, but I can tell you the first time indie author is flush with excitement and plotting her success. Consider keeping a little excitement in your pocket and use it. Lastly, a terrific goal I keep is: My books have to return my investment in them. Through 2018, they have. 2019 is a new look out so I’m going to tread lightly and go slow.

@I’m Jackie Weger, 2019, Founder of eNovel Authors at Work. Proud to tell you we’ve been a cohesive group of indie authors supporting one another for six years now.  Comments Welcome. If you have any new ideas or innovations we’d love to hear from you. Learning from one another is one key to our success as indie authors.

 

 

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20 Comments

  1. Linda Lee says:

    I marvel at your perseverance, Jackie. You are an inspiration to other Indie authors. Thanks for sharing your personal life and your publishing/marketing experiences with us Hope you have a healthier and more lucrative 2019!

  2. It’s a crap shoot. All we can do is watch, listen and try different avenues to promote our work. Hopefully, we shine!

  3. Wounded but still marching – what a trooper!
    Let’s hope 2019 is more settled and brings health and happiness.

  4. Emily Kaplan says:

    On to better things in 2019!

  5. Well, if you’re ‘muddling along,’ Jackie, I can’t find the verb for getting exposure. Thank you for giving me another kick in the assets and like you, I keep writing–no matter what. Tx, too, for the reminder that I can take a day off to do whatever I want. BTW, your willingness to share “real” stuff about your life is what I admire most. (I did not know you’d lost your hearing).

    • Barbara: I was struck with Meniere’s disease. Woke up March 31, 1994 with a roaring in both ears. That’s the only sound I heard for a year. Couldn’t hear voice, birds chirping or even thunder. With years of treatment, vile steroids, we managed to return about 10% hearing in my right ear. It doesn’t hurt, just annoying and I learned to read lips in two languages. I have a wonderful wireless gadget I use for one on one conversations. And oddly, I can hear certain voices for the first time using the new iPhones with ear pods. I’ve lost the ability to sort sounds which hearing people do without thought. For years voices sounded to me like puppies barking and police sirens still sound like rushing water. The worst side effect is vertigo attacks. Those can take a person with Meniere’s to his knees. This makes me laugh: People say to me: “If you would just listen to what I have to say…” Me, reading their lips: “Would do if I could hear.”

      Here’s a fact: People cannot give directions without turning their heads and pointing away. They cannot look at me so I can read lips and give directions. Next time you’re in a grocery store and ask where a product is, watch what happens. For me it’s like trying to read lips from around a corner. But the poor clerk is flummoxed.

  6. Sandra Hutchison says:

    Thanks for calling it like it is, and good luck with your new initiatives. Most of all, here’s wishing you better health going forward.

  7. Thank you for the insights, Jackie. I hope you’ll get stronger and stronger from this point forward. I had the worst year saleswise in 2018. No idea what happened there… but sounds like it’s not just me. Worried to hear the page counts may not have been registered properly in KENPs in the past. Whatever it was, let’s hope they fixed it. I have regular sales for my latest novel (sold in episodes) and KENPs too, so I am hopeful for better days. For what it’s worth, I’ve learned that if a book is permanently priced low, like at 99c, with a low trickle of sales carrying on (say, after a promo or launch), after 2 weeks Amazon will recommend the book to the KU subscribers for borrows. I learned this from Dave Gaughran’s reader magnet book, Amazon Decoded. He explained the Amazon algorithm has changed to this effect. That’s why we no longer see spikes in KENPs straight after promos. So, to see a spike to KENPs a fortnight after the promo we really need to pick a book that’s perma 99c, not a KCD deal, and make sure sales carry on for a fortnight. We can do this for our new release too, like I did for my episodes (all priced perma at 99c).
    Effrosyni

    • Thanks for sharing that tip about perma-priced 99c books, Frossie. I’m in hopes the new AMS ads will display books on Kindles as in the past. I do have a unit I’ve been holding at 99c. Prolly need to promote it better.

  8. Thanks for all of your insights, Jackie, into this baffling, frustrating yet exhilarating self-publishing world.

  9. Robyn M Ryan says:

    Thank you for sharing your year’s insight, Jackie. No matter the situation, you keep yourself and others thinking positively. You motivate by example and sometimes-needed kicks in our assets. I love Fiction Focus—a must for writers needing to find creativity or more productivity. I’ve learned so much in this past year from eNovel Authors. 2019 WILL BE an awesome year!

    Praying your health improves with no repeats from 2018. But through it all, you definitely take the SuperWoman title!

    ~ Robyn

  10. You’re truly inspiring and, while you say you’re not as energetic as you’d like to be, but wow! I marvel at your tenacity, application and grasp of the publishing world we are in.

    Much of what you say about your experience of the market in recent months echoes mine, and those of fellow indie authors in the UK. We have to be optimistic that this is just a phase and that things will improve.

  11. Was thinking of quitting yet again (no sales = no food = no will to write) but guess I can keep going a little while longer. Knowing you’re not alone does help, albeit only a little. You are some trooper. THanks for sharing.

  12. KarenE Frost says:

    Jackie I have read everything you have written and I don’t know what is going on either. I will continue to support you anyway I can.

  13. What a great overview Jackie. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insight.

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