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My Author Journey – in stats!

 
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Last updated: January 2022

Intro

I am NOT a natural business woman. I'm just a crazy person with stories in my head that I desperately want the world to read and fall in love with.

 

There are a lot of folks out there who have a more numbers-driven approach and who do things much more profitably than I am likely ever to do (see my lack of man-chest covers *wink), but 2 years into committing to this book thing, I'm working as an author full-time and able to keep my head afloat, travel and buy my dog fancy coats that he refuses to wear. I am extremely proud of both the quality of work I've put out into the world and deeply humbled by y'alls response to it. 

Below, you'll find all the high-level facts of how I got to 60k in my 60k case study. Because I'm a storyteller, I obviously couldn't help but include the long version and, at the very bottom of this page you'll find the resources I just couldn't (and still can't) live without. I hope this is of help to you wherever you may be in your reading, writing or authoring career!

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Plans for 2022

  • More! More of everything! In 2022, I want to work harder, write faster, and get into a bunch of new stuff, starting with...

  • Because I refuse to quit and I adore the Population universe and Kane is the book boyfriend of my dreams, I am going to try one. more. time at a Population rebrand 😅😅😅😅😅 I told myself not to switch series in the publication schedule, but the idiot that set my preorders up (i.e. past Elizabeth) did what she did and now I'm locked in so stay tuned for that coming up shortly.

  • Instead of working more reactively and pushing books out as soon as I have them written, I'm going to take a slower approach with Dark City Omega and try to build some organic buzz for it, launching my first "street team", not to mention get all formats completed (including audio) prior to publication just to experiment with this as a strategy

  • Releasing my first novellas – one in an anthology, another in my first box set

  • Releasing my first audiobooks (they are in production now!)

  • Releasing my first box set

  • and last but not least, spend less money! I feel like I learned a TON through all of my wacky experimentation in 2020 with ads, different promo sites and different tactics and strategies. this year, I have a better idea of what to spend for my releases, what to spend on ads during non release months and no longer feel like i need that experimentation phase to know when to scale (except for Amazon ads, which will require some finagling)

  • So far, my sweet spots have been $1500 for release months and around $10/day non release months. I also have enough of a back list now, that I'll be experimenting more with full price releases (without an accompanying sale)

2020

2020 Overall revenue: $21,960.53
📚Bought 2,824 of my ebooks
📚Read 3,711,113 kindle pages of my books (if you divide by the average length of my novels, this comes out to about 13,300 books 😱)
📚and ordered 56 paperbacks

 

What changed?

  • My year started off working in a blockchain startup (random, right?) and ended with me being a full-time author of crazy scifi romance novels (super random, right??). Because I lived in Germany and received social benefits after quitting my job, I was able to keep my head above water for the next few months while putting the first Xiveri Mates books out into the universe.

  • I started with the most modest social following, a rapidly cobbled together ARC team from past releases, and zero clue what I was doing other than writing (what I think are) good books.

 

What I got right:

  • Xiveri Mates marketing 👉🏽 my stories, covers, blurbs, and the timing of my releases (when more folks started picking up monster and scifi romances, and just before Ruby Dixon popped off) all worked together

  • I managed to rapidly release the first three books 2 months apart (the release of Taken to Sasor was my best selling month in 2020 and my first time earning over 4k in a month)

  • I was introduced to several super helpful author online groups and to Nick Eric's online 30 day author marketing challenge course which marked the moment I started actually trying to think like a business person and earn money and not just an author trying to write stories (though I still do more of the latter than the former)

  • Relationships with my people

 

What I got wrong:

  • Experimenting with marketing strategies and tactics, I definitely lost money as I learned which platforms were best and which ones were the worst for me

  • Switching series didn't work so well – the release of Generation One in November 2020 has been my worst performing month to date and was a month where I barely broke even

  • The Population rebrand also didn't go very well (as evidenced by a survey I sent out recently) BUT word of mouth sales have continued to bring in more revenue than expected for that series considering I put no effort into marketing it

2021

Overall revenue: $59,406.01 (and yes, I’m counting every cent 😏)
👉🏽Kindle Pages read: 9,613,061
⭐️ most KENP read in September (following the Lemora + Pikosa rapid release): 1,201,578
👉🏽eBooks sold: 7540
⭐️ most books sold in January (y’all love Krisxox and Svera): 1,118
👉🏽Paperback books sold: +/-380
⭐️ most books sold in December (thanks to the special edition cover): 64
👉🏽Hard cover books sold: +/-34
⭐️ most books sold in December (thanks to the special edition cover): 21

What I changed going into 2021:

  • Cut out what doesn't work and what brings me no pleasure, i.e. Facebook. I stopped using Facebook as anything except for a tool to communicate with other authors, that means ads, groups, etc. and chose to pick two social platforms only that make me happy and do those "well" (I chose Insta, and then about halfway through the year, TikTok)

  • Launched a Tiktok account

  • I took a break to move internationally, which was only possible because of Tiktok and organic growth "snowballing" a little bit and keeping my revenue relatively stagnant

  • Tried a back-to-back rapid release (separated by thirty days) as an experiment

 

What worked:

  • Back to back release of Lemora and Pikosa Warlord

  • Releasing all in the same series

  • TikTok as an unpaid sales platform

  • Bookbub ads (finally figured them out and now am converting above 10% and spending less than .35c, per ad on average – best ad performance is at 20% click through rate)

  • First illustration (by @mermammal) and special edition cover – y'all really love bringing my characters to life and it's been fun selling more signed books (though exhausting 😅)

  • In the break I took in the latter half of the year, I managed to write the first book in my new Omegaverse-inspired fantasy, Dark City Omega. It's LONG and it is, to date, the best book I've ever written. I am obsessed with it.

  • In the break I took, I also managed to write my first ever short story and I absolutely love how Jaxal and Lisbel's story turned out!

  • Generally, I want to learn how to write faster. I'm not a naturally fast writer. (I'm not a naturally good marketer of my own books, either, but that's another point lol) I want to get more books written this year than any other.

 

What didn't work:

  • Amazon ads - I still haven't figured them out

  • Instagram ads - a total flop, money down the drain

  • Facebook ads - great conversion, but the amount of time wasted on the phone with FB reps for "violating community guidelines" was absurd; no explanation ever given, my FB ads account was shut down a dozen times; became absolutely not worth it

  • Too many giveaways?? - I gave away almost 30k books because, as I mentioned, I'm not a great business woman and I really love my books and want people to read them 😅😅😅 But too many giveaways may have killed some sales. Hard to know for sure though as giveaways have been a great marketing tool for getting my little author name out there.

 
 

2015-2019

2019 Overall revenue: $2,437.18
📚Bought 337 ebooks
📚Read 389,541 kindle pages of my books

2018 Sales: 378.72

📚NubiTales: 47.56
📚Smashwords: 10.82
📚Ingram: 245.15
📚KDP: 75.19

What changed?

  • I started my writing journey at 11 and my publishing journey at 23 when I met a woman through my mom who had started an indie press focusing on authors and characters of color; with this indie press, I published Population, discovered my hatred of publishers and subsequently went full throttle into self-publishing; I published 3 other books over the next 3 years

  • At the same time, I was working full time as an independent communications consultant, a ghost writer, and then later, as a full time employee of international NGOs across the African continent – I had ZERO intention of ever becoming a writer full-time

  • Even though I LOVE storytelling, I never thought I would have fun having to do it as a job...in retrospect, that was dumb lol because I have had a billion jobs in my short career and being a romance author beats them all by a long and lovely mile – if you're considering dropping your day job, DO IT!!! Writing books full time is the absolute best

 
 

My favorite resources

Facebook groups

Classes and resources

Other author case studies (with stats!)

 

Just remember, every author journey is super different and not comparing other authors to each other and especially to ourselves is *SO KEY*. I tend to find figures more helpful than hurtful however, and learning from each other more key than anything.

 

- A note from Elizabeth -

If you have any questions, comments, or resources you love, please reach out! 

I'd love to hear from you.

  • Email estephensauthor@gmail.com

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