Monday, May 28, 2012

Self-Publishing: One Year's Results

April 29th, 2012 was the official one-year anniversary of self-publishing Wild Montana Sky, followed the next day by Starry Montana Sky. In July, I published Sower of Dreams, and in August, Reaper of Dreams. Twinborne Trilogy: Lywin's Quest was published at the end of December, and Stormy Montana Sky in January. All of the books except Stormy Montana Sky were written long before I self-published them.

When I started self-publishing, my hope was to make $3,000 a month on my books. I was friends with several self-published authors who were making this amount, and it seemed like an impossible dream to match them.

One year later (and a month as I'm writing this late) I've sold almost 100,000 books (see numbers below.) Wild Montana Sky made the USA Today Bestseller's List, and The Montana Sky series was acquired by Amazon Montake. (The changeover happens August 28.) I've made FAR more than $3000 a month, and have been able to cut back on my psychotherapy practice and corporate crisis/grief counseling at a time when I was feeling somewhat burned out by that work. And my creativity, which I'd boxed away when two agents couldn't sell my books, has exploded. I have lots of ideas for other books. This week, Romantic Times magazine mentioned Wild Montana Sky as a top indie read.

WOW! I'm amazed, touched, excited, and humbled by my year of self-publishing. The journey has been far more than I dreamed possible. What's been a wonderful bonus is all the self-published authors I've come to know. My circle of friends has grown by hundreds, and I've learned so much from them. (And read some great books!) I've had the pleasure of encouraging other authors, both published and unpublished to think about self-publishing their books.

In January, I blogged about my sales numbers for 2011. For a brief recap of that blog

Wild Montana Sky: 27, 069
Starry Montana Sky: 10,207
Total: 37,272

Sower of Dreams: 556
Reaper of Dreams: 243
Total: 799

Here are my numbers since my last sales blog from Amazon and Barnes & Noble combined:


Wild Montana Sky: 5297
Starry Montana Sky: 2045
Stormy Montana Sky: 921

Sower of Dreams: 122
Reaper of Dreams: 65

Lywin's Quest: 7


Wild Montana Sky: 8543
Starry Montana Sky: 3103
Stormy Montana Sky: 3253

Sower of Dreams: 82
Reaper of Dreams: 52

Lywin's Quest: 2


Wild Montana Sky: 6712
Starry Montana Sky: 3198
Stormy Montana Sky: 2997

Sower of Dreams: 86
Reaper of Dreams: 55

Lywin's Quest: 4


Wild Montana Sky: 13, 861(This is the month the book made the USA Today List.)
Starry Montana Sky: 4461
Stormy Montana Sky: 2463

Sower of Dreams: 84
Reaper of Dreams: 46

Lywin's Quest: 4


Wild Montana Sky: 61,482
Starry Montana Sky: 23,014
Stormy Montana Sky: 9,634

Total for Series: 94,130

Sower of Dreams: 1,628
Reaper of Dreams: 461

Total for Series: 2, 089

Lywin's Quest: 17

Total books: 96,219

I didn't include books sold at Smashwords or sold in Europe in 2012. If I did, the total would be closer to 97,000.

Not bad for an unknown, unpublished author, eh? This last year has been a dream come true. :) Thanks to all my readers and fellow authors who have supported me.

For year two, I'm hoping to find more time to write, something that still seems to elude me. I think when I finish Harvest of Dreams, the last book in The Gods' Dream Trilogy, my sales of all three books will increase considerably. Right now I'm aiming for a Fall release of that book. I'll also have a collection of short Christmas stories set in my Montana town coming out in August so I'll still have monthly self-publishing income derived from that series. I'll receive quarterly royalties from Montlake for the big books. Hopefully I can also finish the next big book in the Montana Sky series by Christmas.


  1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Debra. I offer a heartfelt congratulations on your very fruitful first year of self-publication. Yours is an inspiring story and will give many of us on the self-pub path a blast of encouragement to keep on keeping on.

  2. Amazing, Debra -- congratulations!

  3. I am one of the authors you inspired, Deb. I'm forever grateful for it too! Congratulations on your success and more success to come!

    Lisa Mondello

  4. Congratulations, Debra. This indie journey is far more lucrative than I ever made with ten New York sales.

  5. Congratulations and thank you for sharing your numbers on behalf of all writers who are waking up to the new world of publishing.

  6. Thanks for the congrats, everyone. It's definitely been a great journey. Best of luck to you all.

  7. Amazing, Debra. I love hearing what's possible. I've spent the past several months focused on promoting and marketing my three indie-pubbed YA novels and it's going well, butmaking time to write and keeping my creative brain healthy is a significant challenge. How do you manage to keep producing the next book?

  8. Doc, congratulations! Very awesome for you. Now, have you blogged about how you marketed said books? I find that writing them isn't the problem, it's figuring out ways to make people aware they exist. Any tips you could throw our way would probably help more than me. Thanks!

  9. PJ,

    I'm doing a poor job with writing, mostly because life has been getting in the way. I DON'T spend time promoting. From all accounts it takes too much time and isn't very worthwhile.

    Lord Jiggy, I have written previous blogs about what I think works. Check backwards. There aren't that many. :)

  10. Congratulations, Debra! I'm thrilled at your success and I wish you even bigger and better sales for the coming year.

  11. I'm so excited for you, Debra! This is a fantastic post and I'm pushing a few friends who are on the fence about self-pubbing over to you. :-)

  12. I thought I was doing well, my books having taken off in the last few months, but you have motivated me to work even harder by showing what's possible. Well done and I wish you continuing success.

  13. Wow and congrats! This is really wonderful, Debra! And I think you don't realize quite what a feat it is: most indies according to a recent survey (very credible stuff: over 1000 Indie authors responded - see it on Taleist)don't make anywhere the amount you have, or for that matter $3,000 like your friends. For most people it's just somewhere under $500 not per month but per year!!

    So you should really be very, very proud of yourself. But what happened to you still doesn't change my opinion that anyone contemplating self-publishing should be very, very careful. For one "black swan" (like you and the likes of Amanda Hocking) there are zillions of white swans that don't get to fly anywhere...What's needed of course is top writing, top talent, in short what you've got!

  14. Thanks, Jennifer, Freda, and Claude.


    I'm well aware of what MANY self-published authors are selling, and I don't take my sales figures for granted. I've read the numbers from that survey, and while I'm not disagreeing with them, I think that romance authors have a better chance of success then the average author. First, it's the most popular genre. Second, most romance authors belong to RWA and have extensive resources, especially those that stress learning the craft of writing.

    Therefore, I think most writers who've hung around Romance Writers of America for a while are going to have worked through some of the newbie ways of thinking, learned that this isn't a get rich quick business, honed their writing skills, and learned the value of promotion.

    While I might look like an overnight success (okay a year of success) I've been a member of RWA for something like fourteen years. I didn't try to publish a newly written book, but one that had been through a lot of edits over the years. I've learned a lot along the way that I can now apply to the books I'm currently writing, and I've put together a team of plotting and critique partners, beta readers, and a professional editor. I've accumulated these people over the years. (I probably should write a blog about this.) :)

    I believe that with time, most romance authors WITH WELL WRITTEN BOOKS, will achieve some amount of success. It may take months or even years, though.

  15. Congratulations, Debra! Such success couldn't have happened to a nicer or more supportive person. Thanks for all the encouragement and look forward to reading more of your lovely Montana books.

  16. A very interesting post, Debra. Since you say you don't spent a lot of time promoting, I'm curious (as I suspect many others are) about how your first book was 'noticed' among the million others on Amazon. I'd also be interested to know whether you sent it to any reviewers or asked people to leave a review on Amazon.

  17. Paula,

    I've written a few blogs on these subjects because people keep asking the same questions. So look back through the last 10 months or so. There's not that many. :)

    As for reviewers... I sent various books out to about six reviewers. Enough to garner some good reviews that I could use on my product page description. But I haven't sent any in several months. In fact, I have a reviewer urging me to send her a book, but haven't had time. Sigh. Will have to remember to do that.


    1. Thanks, Debra. I think that, being self-published, you have one big advantage over people like me who've been published by a 'small' publisher - which is that you can set your own prices for your books. My first two books are (IMO) priced far too high for the current market. My third is with another publisher who sets a more reasonable price, but even so, my sales are - to put it mildly - very low. It's very depressing at times!

  18. Paula,

    Unfortunately, you're echoing what I've heard from every other small published author I know--they don't make much money, even though they might like their experience otherwise. They make FAR more money self-publishing.I don't know if you can get your rights back and self-publish, or at least will be able to at some point.

    I'm against going with small publishers. Midsize ones, like Samhain, might be different. I think most authors can do far better self-publishing, PROVIDED they pay for a professional edit, and make or pay for a good cover. If you're stuck with a small pub for a while, then write and self-publish some other books on the side. I know people who report that their self-published books drive up the sales of their small press books.

    Don't look back, look forward! :) Good luck.


    1. Thanks again, Debra. I've gone with an 'indie' publisher for my 3rd novel, simply because I don't have enough 'techno' knowledge to go completely indie myself. I've heard too many scary stories about formatting problems and know I wouldn't have a clue how to sort those out! So my 'indie' publisher does that for me.
      Having said that, I know a lot of self-published authors who aren't doing much better than I am!

  19. Paula,

    If that's the case, don't even TRY to figure out the formatting. Pay someone the vast sum of $40 to do it for you!


    1. My indie publisher does it all for me, Debra - it's the best compromise for a technophobe like me!

  20. Congratulations, Debra. Those numbers are amazing.

  21. Thanks, Shelley! :)


    I'M a technophobe! But I managed to do it. I payed a formatter, and the steps to upload a book on Amazon and B&N are relatively easy. I PROMISE YOU CAN DO IT! Don't give away your possibilities of success because you're afraid or uncomfortable.


  22. Wonderful to hear your success story. So inspiring. Congrats.

  23. Congratulations Debra!!! I'm so excited for you!!! :)

    Thanks fro sharing all your numbers too! It's very interesting and encouraging!

    Lisa :)

  24. I'm glad I can inspire and encourage. That's why I'm writing these numbers blogs. :)

  25. Thank you for sharing your numbers and congratulations on your success. I just want to point out that the taliest survey is not really a survey as explained by an industry expert here:
    I just celebrated my first year self-publishing with wonderful sales, and a movie option on the first two in my angel series, which has been "exercised" (movie talk for it's in preproduction). None of this would have been possible if I hadn't taken that first step into self-publishing.

  26. Wow, Lisa! How exciting for you. Congrats and best of luck with the movie coming out!

  27. Debra, Thank you so much for your very inspiring post - I love a great success story! I entered self publishing a year ago and I am very much enjoying it and aspire to the same successes you've enjoyed. Congratulations!

  28. Thank you for your encouraging post! I just self-published my first short story on kindle books about two weeks ago. It has been exciting just to see the numbers on the two free days! And, because it was free, I already have turned a profit! (granted, not a very big profit, but a profit none the less!)

    Allyna Berry

  29. You're doing such a great job helping the Sandy victims, which is so you. I tweeted your blog post so others could send people to your counseling sessions. Big hugs, Deb!

  30. Your story is so encouraging! Thank you for sharing your numbers. You make me want to write...write...write!

    Verna Clay