Updated: Oct 30, 2021
I suspect I'm like a lot of authors - I've got sixteen million handwritten and iPhone notes about books I want to write. 2021 became the year I finally got up the gumption to publish my damn sci-fi romance series. Y'all, the 'rona did a number on my head, and I was stuck at home with a lot of angst and anxiety and burnout - and writing was a healing place for me.
When I started writing the actual books, I really struggled with how to set expectations for what the journey of authorship looks like. What kind of time and money would it take up front? How long would it take me to write? What were sales realistically going to look like?
I'm sure every author experiences this path differently, but I've decided to share my personal journey and stats here, in the hopes it helps other newer authors make their journey a bit easier.
I'm going to address my specific experiences in an upcoming series of posts, and I'll link them back here as I get them written!
Part I - Expectations and Early Experiences (this post), Release Day stats
Part IV - Ongoing Updates
What I Expected
I spent a lot of time reading about authorship online to try to get an understanding of how the journey goes for indie-published romance. Ultimately, I gleaned a few points which do seem to be pretty accurate
1) Romance readers are serial bingers - so the faster you can get out a series of books, the better
2) Most authors don't break even until they've published something like 3-4 books at least. Let's cover that again. You'll likely be paying to edit, get a cover, market three or four entire books before you're in the black. This isn't the case with everyone, but it's an overarching theme
3) The actual writing of the book is what takes the least amount of time
4) Building up your tribe and online following is the single most critically important thing you can do
5) You can publish on just KDP/Kindle Unlimited, or you can publish "wide" on other platforms outside of Amazon. The processes differ quite a bit, but there's a great FB group called "Wide for the Win" that's a wealth of info if you'd like to go that route. I opted for KU after talking through the options with my coach.
I had those expectations going into this journey, but I don't think a lot of romance novelists really take this to heart. Making money as a romance author is a long game for most folks, and you have to really be ready to treat it like a business (unless some random shit happens and you get lucky, but I didn't want to count on that!)
What I Experienced
I hired an author coach, which is something most new authors don't do. I'm planning a post about the million reasons I, personally, did this - but she was a godsend for me. She helped me to level set my expectations based on the research I'd already done, and that was incredibly helpful.
A couple things that surprised me were:
1) The up front expense. Much of what you'll spend money on with that first novel are one-time expenses, but they added up for me. These included things like writing and editing software, website and hosting, marketing courses, logo and branding elements and more. Not all of that is 100% necessary, and there are ways to minimize your expenses....but there's a bare minimum you need to do to show up online in a way that resonates with potential readers.
2) Social media followers don't necessarily translate into sales. In fact, I'd argue that if even 5% of your IG and TikTok followers actually buy your book, that's pretty stellar. It's important to build your tribe and make connections, but the connections piece was much more valuable for me than just building up a big group of followers on social.
3) I realized off the bat how important it is to have a strong brand presence, but I really struggled with getting it to where I want. I'm still working on this to be honest - but every marketing course I took to prep for this journey reminded me over and over how YOU are the brand first and your books second. I really took this to heart, and this is the current iteration of how my branding shows up online.
4) I was also REALLY unprepared for how much time it would take to build up a social media following and engage with other authors, bookstagrammers and potential readers. Time spent doing hashtag research, following and connecting with authors and bookstagrammers, talking to my mentors, taking and editing photographs for my posts, filming reels and more. It was SO damn time consuming and it really surprised me. On top of the time engaging, that initial time to set up Facebook Page, Facebook Group, IG, TikTok, Pinterest etc was a very long process.
My First Book Release
In this series of posts I'm going to talk about how I personally attacked getting that first book out. I can't honestly say I've got it all figured out, because I absolutely don't. But I did feel really good about release day and how things turned out stats-wise. I'll share those here, and then we can dive more into the stats further as I get more data.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there's anything in particular you'd like me to share!
Here are the stats I thought might be most interesting, and I'll update this every time I release a book. You can see I focused pretty hard on IG and a bit less on TikTok and Facebook.
I had no idea what to expect for pre-sales, but I was pretty happy with how that turned out!
My goal in sharing all of this is to start to ID trends as time goes on. So, what else do you want to know?!