The bottom line: 2018 was a record-setting book sales year for me. I had my best sales year and single best pie-in-the sky month, hitting goals that once had seemed impossible. I had set a focused strategy, followed the plan, and didn’t allow myself to get sidetracked.
I took advantage of unexpected opportunities that came my way, but I made sure that the opportunities aligned with my brand and the readership base I was trying to grow.
In retrospect, my strategy seems ridiculously simple, but it worked: get my ducks in a row and build on past successes.
I capitalized on the popularity of Alien Mate, which had been published in 2017. I wrote and released two more books in the series, and when I joined the Intergalactic Dating Agency group author project, I wrote an Alien Mate spin-off series, the Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides, rather than write something completely different. Darak (book 1) and the Dakonian Mail Order Brides series, did extremely well, outselling Breeder, which had previously been my best-selling book/series. I’d chosen to do the IDA project because it seemed to be perfect fit with my brand.
Over the years, I’d participated in eight other group publishing projects (anthologies & special series), but the IDA project is the first one that resulted in significant earnings for me. Contributing to the success of the series was the amount of cross promotion by participating authors of the IDA project. When you have a village promoting a book, big things happen.
As part of my strategy, I paid careful attention to the timing of new releases and promo, updated back matter, and redesigned book covers. I was fortunate to get two BookBub featured deals (both on Alien Mate series books), in addition to a BookBub new release deal. I changed my new release strategy to offering long preorders rather than trying to hit a high Amazon rank during release week. I sell more books through a long preorder period than I do from the Amazon algorithm new release boost. The bottom line is about sales, not ranking.
Another positive development was an increases in sales with other booksellers. I had committed to “going wide” a couple of years ago because I didn’t want to put all my eggs in the Amazon basket. At the start of the year, other booksellers combined accounted for 29 percent of my sales; by the fourth quarter they accounted to 45-50% of sales. I did test KU v. non KU by putting my old Rod and Cane Society series in KU. The results were lackluster. When the KU contact expires this month, I’m going to make that series wide again.
One thing that did not work for me—but I’m not giving up—was paid advertising on Facebook and Amazon. I took Skye Warren’s Facebook Ads Intensive class and tested a bunch of ads, but was never able to turn a profit from the ads. But I have some new ideas and strategies and plan to do more ad testing in 2019.
My reader newsletter continued to be a key component of my author platform. In 2017, I doubled my subscriber base from about 2000 to 4000. When I set goals for 2018, I’d initially wanted to try doubling it again, to 8,000. But 8K wasn’t what I really wanted. I wanted 10K. (Such a nice round number!) However, even 8K seemed impossible. How would I ever achieve 10k? Well…I ended the year with 10,300 subscribers—and that’s after deleting 3K inactive subs. I increased my subscriber base by 150% and maintained a healthy open rate of 35+%.
Growing my subscriber base across many platforms to reach new readers is always a goal, but I don’t apply the same attention to all platforms, because I can’t do everything. So, some platforms grew organically; for others I actively sought to increase my following.
In 2018, my goal was to write and publish four new books. I did seven, however that was due to the Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides (Intergalactic Dating Agency) series. Three short novellas (25-35K each) took the place of what would have been one new novel-length book in the fourth quarter.
I decreased blogging this year, which had been the goal. I used to blog 4-5 times a week. I’m now down to 1-2 times per week. When I first got published, blogging sold books. It doesn’t anymore. Many authors are no longer blogging. However, I enjoy it (if I wasn’t an author, I’d probably be a “professional” blogger). However, time is limited, and I have to focus on what delivers results.
I’m still trying to get a handle on time management and learning to write faster. Frankly, I want to get away from the computer more.
I offered many promotional drawings, seeking to provide interesting, creative giveaways. I held a prize drawing every fourth Friday (Freebie Friday) for Amazon gift cards, SWAG, autographed paperbacks, free ebooks, etc. My sci-fi romance Alien Mate is set on a frozen planet, so I took a copy of the book to the Arctic Circle, then signed it, held a drawing and gave it away. The heroine of Darak: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides (Intergalactic Dating Agency) was a pastry chef, so I held a drawing for some Wicked Good Cupcakes to promote the series.
This year, my husband and I took three vacations.We spent almost three weeks on a trip to London and a cruise of Norway. We visited an ice hotel and we saw the northern lights. (This is how Alien Mate went to the Arctic Circle). We spent a week in New Orleans and another week in Las Vegas for our daughter’s wedding.
Life intervened in other ways, too. My 80-year-old mother had two surgeries, got a couple of infections, ended up in ICU & spent sometime in a skilled nursing facility. Stressful and time-consuming. (She’s home & doing all right now). As much as I would like it to be, life is never perfect. There will always be problems and distractions. I just have to keep moving forward.
The Year in Review – By the Numbers
Books published – 7 (6 new, 1 re-release)
- Hunted by the Cyborg (Cy-Ops Cyborg Romance 6) – January
- Rescued by the Cyborg (Cy-Ops Cyborg Romance 5.5) – March,previously published in Pets in Space 2
- Alien Attraction (Alien Mate 2) – May
- Alien Intention (Alien Mate 3) – July
- Darak: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides #1 – October
- Aton: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides #2 – October
- Caid: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides #3 – November
Words Written: 239,155
Increased subscriber base 150% percent, from 4,000 to 10,300
Sent out 33 newsletters (about 3 per month).
Total page visits: 63,691 (643,783 total since 2011)
Total page views: 81,769 (968,486 since 2011)
Blogs written: 137 (a 40% decrease over 2017’s 226 blogs)
Instagram – 900 to 1092
(This is more of an increase than it seems, because I deleted and blocked 300 bots & sketchy types who’d been following me. IG isn’t a big part of my platform, but it’s fun to me. Sometimes you have to do stuff for fun).
BookBub – 765 to 1775
Facebook Friends – 3179
Facebook Page Likes – 2098
And that’s the year that was.
Do you have any questions about strategy or tactics?