Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) had launched in 2007, though the Kindle cost meant the device couldn’t make it to every household or briefcase. Just a few years later, my husband paid $149 for my first one, a gift. In late 2015, I paid $35 to give him one for Christmas.
Inexpensive ereaders meant lots of potential readers when I published my first three books for Kindle (and Nook) in 2010 and early 2011. Today I have fifteen books, mostly fiction. I don’t know the number of KDP authors when I started, but there are a lot more today. More authors equal more competition for a relatively fixed number of readers.
Sales are more sluggish than two years ago. My books don’t seem to be out of vogue. I still sell a few hundred each month (more if I have a new book), reviews are good, and I get fairly regular notes from fans asking when they can buy the next book in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series.
Kindle Unlimited, which lets readers borrow an unrestricted number of books for $9.99 per months, may compress sales. Why buy when you can rent for less? Not that I’m knocking Amazon. KDP is an exceptional business model for Amazon and authors.
Readers have become desensitized to social media marketing messages. Twitter bombards us with offers of free and 99 cent books. Facebook groups do the same, and blog tours never led to sales bumps.
I would certainly not stop online promotion, including a few ads at sites that champion books. Unlike some, I’ve always gotten out of my chair to market. I give talks at libraries, visit gift shops and hospitals (since there isn’t an independent bookstore in my town), and donate paperbacks to any charity doing an auction or raffle.
I do press releases and pester media in other ways, but I think it’s the face-to-face contacts that garner local readers. Most writers will say their strongest advocates are family, friends, and readers they come to know personally through the years (whether in person or online).
To go beyond cozy mystery readers, I started reaching to what I think of as tangential audiences. Jolie is a real estate appraiser, so I changed one of my book categories to real estate.
Lo and behold, as I wrote this, one of my boxed sets was number one in the Amazon category for home sales. I don’t know if this will lead to more sales, but my books will be seen by people who aren’t actively looking for fiction.
At a Sisters in Crime group book signing in Indianapolis a few weeks ago, another author asked how I had written so many books in five years. I explained that writing is a job for me, so I work almost every day.
A light bulb went off. Why not put pen to paper about how I used semi-retirement to write? After all, I think of my work as creating a writing annuity.
The idea became Writing in Retirement: Putting New Year’s Resolutions to Work. It will help people go from thinking about writing to doing it and selling the products. I used some of my work as examples and asked a few other late (writing) bloomers for perspectives on their experiences.
From a marketing standpoint, writing something completely different can lead to new readers. With fiction, I don’t like to write what I know. It’s less fun. But putting what I already knew into a nonfiction piece meant generating a product fairly quickly.
More books equal more sales. In fact, any adult could like Writing in Retirement. I’m counting on it.
Elaine L. Orr writes fiction and nonfiction, including the Jolie Gentil and River’s Edge cozy mystery series. She also gives talks on self-publishing and other writing-related topics, and writes the occasional play.