Life as an Indie Author

I posted up my two books for Kindle in December last year, so I figured three months on I should probably reflect on the experience.

On the one hand, it’s easy to summarise: I’m happy I did it. I’m selling copies, I’m getting some feedback, I’m enjoying participating in forum discussions with other authors, and I’m getting out of the house regularly to a writing group now.

How successful have I been so far? Well, that’s kind of hard to say. Partially because I don’t really know what the benchmarks are and partially because, taking cash to one side, how do you define success in something like this?

Let’s be honest, I’m not achieving the kind of sales Stephen Leather published on his Blog. He made somewhere around £10,000 in ebook sales for January. I probably made around £5 or £6. And I could go into a long explanatory whine about how he’s an established author with an existing fanbase, and that he employed viral marketing techniques to get his work into the top 10 for Kindle where his sales then took off over Christmas – which is all true. But here’s the thing: I was inspired to give it a go more by musicians than I was by other authors. Two of my favourite musicians keep releasing CDs when either their audience has shrunk, or as an alternative to the successful career they were having in big bands. Grant Lee Buffalo was a band I followed in the 90’s, and their lead singer still releases music to a smaller audience now because, well, because he’s a musician and that’s what he does. Jon Frusciante from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers – the greatest living guitarist in my opinion – released 6 indie albums in a year with music that didn’t fit the band’s genre and then turned his back on them to follow his own course.

These guys inspired me. They don’t do what they do because there are untold riches and worldwide fame in it. They do it because they enjoy it, it’s what they feel they have to contribute, and they do it on their own terms. So I put up my indie books and am happy to see some steady sales and am proud of what I put out. It’s spurred me on in a way I didn’t think it would.

I read somewhere that a bestseller can be categorised as such when sales hit 35,000. But the same article said there are 500,000 books published a year and less than 2% of them will sell more than 500 copies. So if you hit that magic 500 you’re actually doing ok. From the last two and half months it looks like I may hit that -admittedly in about 12 to 18 months time, but there was no timescale to it. And ok, the article was about paperback books, I’m not sure whether the bar would be set higher on 70p ebooks. But hey, I read it and I’m sticking to it as a target, even if that is just because it seems potentially achievable…

At the moment, I’m setting little targets month on month to see if I’m getting anywhere. Target 1 was to sell more in month 2 than I did in month 1. I achieved that quickly, so I edited it to a target to double the sales of month 1. I exceeded that by 4 sales too. So far so good. Because February was a shorter month I set the target lower, but hit it before the month was out. The next target in line was to sell the equivalent of a book per day. I did that in February too – 28. So now I’m hoping to hit 31 in March to surpass that book a day idea by virtue of it being a longer month, and the next target is to sell more than a book a day (even if it averages out at 1.001 or something). Of course, I’m probably setting myself up for a fall as I’ll be disappointed when it all goes pear shaped in April and my sales evaporate completely. But with the paperback coming out, I might be able to push it in other sales avenues now and hopefully keep building.

It might all seem a bit modest to some, a cottage industry I’m running here, but as they say, every long journey starts with the smallest step. Hopefully I’ll still be in the race at the 24 mile mark, we’ll see. (How about that for a couple of mixed metaphors)…


2 thoughts on “Life as an Indie Author

  1. Mark Porter March 7, 2011 / 12:51 am

    I am based in Liverpool and went the indie route after reading a huge let down from a mega seller in Turkey last May.
    I would like the opportunity to exhange e-mails and pick your brain over a few things related. I have been following your excellent thread on Amazon. My book is about to be stocked in News From Nowhere and the parallels intrigued me. Take care.

  2. Neil Schiller March 7, 2011 / 8:09 am

    Mark, didn’t realise you were from this neck of the woods. Have been seeing you around on the Amazon forums and I have your book on my wishlist to check out. Whereabouts in Liverpool are you? I’m from Liverpool but actually now live about 2 miles away from the city centre on the other side of the river – Prenton, about 2 minutes from Tranmere Rovers.

    Yeah, drop me a mail. I’m at neil_schiller at hotmail dot com (address obviously elongated to avoid automated spam attacks).



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