Summer Sky and My Year With Blue Phoenix

4paperback bannerThis year I achieved what I have dreamed of my whole life and never thought would happen. I made an income from writing books.

SummerSky.Ebook.v2Twelve months ago, I published Summer Sky, my first indie book and one I’d written over a few months in mid/late 2013.

This became the first book in a rock romance series full of characters who’ve hijacked my life since. Summer Sky was originally intended as a standalone. As I came towards writing the end of the book, I realised I was facing a cliffhanger and this worried me. I’d heard bad things about readers’ reactions to cliffs but then I decided not many people would read my book so didn’t worry too much. I started writing the next book straight away, so I could publish as soon as possible and not leave readers hanging if people did read.

I’ve had books published by a small press before but never had much success. I was hoping to cover costs in my experiment at being an indie so when I hit ‘publish’ I wasn’t expecting much.

I released at 99c. Summer Sky was 99c for over a month. Other indie authors get growly at 99c releases but it did the job I needed: I got visibility. Summer Sky hovered around the #1000 mark on US Amazon for a few months and found its way onto category bestseller lists. Maybe I lost money, but I gained readers. My marketing skills were dodgy but I did what seemed right to me.

Stunned, I watched the Amazon sales tick. Why were people buying my book when nobody bought the ones published by a small press? A couple of bigger blogs asked to review and I realised people were talking about Dylan and Sky. Readers either loved or hated my sarcastic, sassy heroine who refused to fall at the rock star’s feet, but mostly loved the ripped, bacon-cooking, tortured Dylan. Readers liked my book. They emailed me. Friended me on Facebook. Joined my readers group.

I never hit Amazon top #100 but any ranking was huge to me. I covered the costs of my editing and cover design within weeks with little advertising and everything seemed too good to be true. Falling Sky had an enthusiastic response too. I had no clue about the popularity of rock star romance when I began writing. Dylan was almost an actor until I indulged my love for rock stars! Discovering their popularity, I planned the other characters. I have a long-winded story why he is called Dylan and why the band are Welsh which I’ll share if you’re interested. I lived in Wales for three years as a child but that’s where my affinity ends. Apart from my hot Welsh rockers.

Liam and Cerys’s story, Unplugged, came next in September, then Jem and Ruby’s very difficult story, Rising, in December. I love Rising the most because I turned a lot of Jem haters into Team Jem. As an author, this felt like a huge achievement. My characters had dimension and readers could follow his journey from the ‘villain’ in Summer Sky and see why and who he was.

Bryn. Ah, Bryn. For months I’ve had emails and messages with questions about and love for the mountain sized drummer (check his name meaning!) and his laid-back humour. A year ago, he was a minor character in a book I thought nobody would buy. Now his highly anticipated story is Reverb, the 6th book in the series due for release later this month.

The year has been hills and troughs, of course. Apart from the writer-doubt ups and downs, and my ongoing health issues, Kindle Unlimited hit me the same as other authors. My books were Kindle Exclusive for months, another no-no from some indies but again, worked for me. Sales crashed in mid/late 2014.

Late December, I bit the bullet and gave away the first book in the series free after reading what a great marketing tool this was. Best move ever. I had 3 other books in the series by then and my sales increased fourfold. A new wave of readers discovered my books. This won’t last forever but I would highly recommend anybody with 3 or more books in a series to try it with some targeted advertising to help!

This year I have learned the following things I suck at:

Networking. MAJORLY. I’m an introvert who’s recently admitted this goes as far as social anxiety. I’m painfully aware this screws up my attempts at online relationships with other authors for a number of reasons. I was the kid at high school who hung at the back, doing my own thing so being ‘part’ of something is tricky for me. No excuses. I need to change this. Those authors who do know me, know I will do anything I can to help other authors. I want to see everybody selling books!

Following trends: because I don’t want to. I’m lucky the book I wanted to write happened to match one. I have readers now who like ‘Lisa Swallow’ books and I will continue to write romance stories I love.

Work/Life balance: I admit this is messed up currently and needs fixing. Now Reverb is written I am stepping back and following a more lenient schedule.

Marketing: Much to learn, although I must be doing some of it right

So what’s the bottom line?

I earned in the four figures bracket each month for the first few months then mid year there was a huge drop. This year I’m back in four figures each month, slightly higher (so far, I don’t count on ‘forever’).  I wish I was more business savvy and could share some proper figures, I’ll have some ready for tax in a couple of months so will share then if it’s any help to people. These figures aren’t huge overall but a hell of a lot more than I imagined and I know I’m lucky. I’m also aware how unpredictable and volatile this crazy industry is so I won’t take this for granted. My focus: build a back list because this is where the money is coming from!

The Thank You part:

First, my professional recommendations:

Najla, my cover designer, at Najla Qamber Designs
Becky and Peggy, my editors at Hot Tree Editing

Click on the links if you want professional, friendly service.

Lots of bloggers!!! So many. I know I’m not big at chatting with all of you on Facebook but every post share etc means a lot and I try to thank you when I see. In particular, Rose from FMR has organised most of my blitzes for the books and also helped me out in between, her support has been amazing. Thank you.

My readers, especially those who joined my readers group on Facebook. Thank you for joining my crazy Blue Phoenix world and loving my books and characters enough that I got to write about all of the band. When I receive emails and messages from readers who’ve sat up all night reading my books, that’s a massive compliment! In fact, hearing from readers at all still feels strange but I love that people take time to chat and leave reviews etc

The love and support of my family, which goes without saying.

Louise who has been with Blue Phoenix from day 1 when I posted chapter one on Wattpad. Her encouragement pushed me to finish. She’s been there all along with support and advice and has taken on the role of PA for me. Most of all, I am very lucky to have made such a good friend.

I’m not a famous author, or reached any major bestseller lists but I’m thrilled by what I’ve achieved in this last year. I am happy to be an indie and glad I took the risk. I hope none of this comes across as bragging, I just wanted to reflect on my year. If anybody wants to ask questions or chat about anything, I’d love to hear from you and if I can help out, I will.

What next for Blue Phoenix?

Reverb will be released April 29th

As yet untitled book about Will from Ruby Riot is planned for July.

Forever Sky, the final Dylan and Sky book, is scheduled for October.

Making Mayhem, the newsletter serial about Jax from Ruby Riot continues through the year and will be edited and published late 2015/early 2016.

After that? I’m not sure. I’ll find it hard to let them go.

So, looks like 2015 is another year with Blue Phoenix, Ruby Riot and the strong women who are part of their lives.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading!

And sorry about the dodgy editing.

 

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