MY self-publishing ADVENTURE
I was head-hunted by Emilie Marneur, the Senior Acquisitions Editor, from Amazon Publishing. She wanted my Detective Lavender Series to publish under their Thomas & Mercer crime fiction imprint. She had read ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ and loved it. She wanted to know if there was any chance we could work together on the series. After some discussion, she offered me a jaw-dropping deal in order to take over the books. I know that it was jaw-dropping because my mouth couldn’t formulate words properly when I phoned my sister immediately afterwards.
Needless to say, I am absolutely delighted. Stunned, surprised and shocked. But absolutely delighted.
I live a quiet life in a sleepy North East fishing village where nothing ever happens. As a rule, Senior Editors from major publishing companies don’t just materialise unbidden out of the autumn mist and offer Marske residents amazing publishing deals.
After we had discussed the deal and I agreed to sign up with Amazon Publishing, I asked Emilie how she had heard about me. Why had she picked out me from the hundreds of thousands of self-published authors on Amazon? She just laughed, kept her secrets and said she had ‘special antennae.’
‘It must be their website algorithms,’ my brother, the IT specialist, suggested later. ‘Their computer churns out the sales numbers. A piece of paper containing details of the sales of ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ will have landed on someone’s desk and set a chain reaction in motion. ’ He is probably right. Emilie seemed to know all about me, my publishing history and my sales before she contacted me.
So what is my publishing and sales history? What is so special about ‘Heiress’ that it attracted such esteemed interest and I received this amazing offer?
As some of you may know, this time last year I was unhappily locked into a miserable contract with a small, traditional publisher of historical fiction. In the twelve months that Knox Robinson Publishing owned ‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ they priced the eBook at $12 and only sold 38 copies. I regained my publishing rights last Christmas and self-published ‘Heiress’ in February, priced at a more sensible $2.99. For the first two months, I made a handful of sales.
In April, the eBook sales in the USA suddenly started to take off. This happened while I was away on holiday in Turkey and I’m still not 100% sure what the catalyst was which kick-started my sales. However, I think it may be something to with a favourable review I received from Cathy Cole, one of Amazon’s Vine Reviewers. I had randomly contacted Cathy through her website when I first published the novel to ask for a review. I had no idea that she was a Vine Reviewer for Amazon at that point. In fact, I had never heard of the program and had to research it later. All I knew was that Cathy was kind lady, who liked my novel. I now realise that she must have a big group of followers in the States. I came back from Turkey to discover that Cathy’s review was up and that ‘Heiress’ was suddenly selling about ten eBooks a day in America on Amazon.com. And most importantly, it now had a low rank in the Amazon sub-category: Historical Mysteries.
I immediately put the price down to $0.99 in order to make it more attractive and to try and to keep the momentum going. I was desperate to keep the eBook visible in those rankings. I really do believe that being visible, and staying visible, in a popular Amazon sub-category is the key to success.
Gingerly, I edged the price back up to $2.99 but the book remained in the top thirty of .com Historical Mysteries throughout the summer – sometimes reaching the top twenty. On one hot, giddy day in August, I sold 130 eBooks. Or rather, on one hot, giddy NIGHT I sold 130 eBooks. Because of the time difference between the UK and the US, most of my sales are at night. I go to bed and when I check my sales first thing in the morning I’m often hundreds of dollars richer. It’s definitely the best way for a woman to earn money while lying on her back.
Conscious that my reviewers were asking for more stories, I turned my attention to my other novel and a short story I had lying around about Detective Lavender. I organized editing, proofreading and book covers and published them both in August. They also started to sell well in the States, in the wake of the success of ‘Heiress.’ I have now sold nearly 13,000 eBooks since April – 99.9% of these are in the US. Paperback sales have also taken off. Recently, my royalty payments have been higher than the salary I received when I was teaching English at a British Secondary School.
So yes, my brother is probably right. An Amazon computer must have highlighted the fact that a lot of royalties were being paid to a small, middle-aged, ex-teacher in the remote north of England for her historical whodunit. This set off a chain reaction in Amazon HQ which resulted in Emilie’s email and the offer from Amazon Publishing. I’m meeting her for lunch in London next week and will grill her again to try to get to the bottom of this. I may be small but I’m determined, and the mystery writer within me is desperate to confirm my suspicions.
Do I have any doubts about signing up with Amazon Publishing after my previous bad experience with a publisher? No, I don’t. I expect the two publishers to be poles apart. Even though I know that we will have to sell twice as many books in order to maintain my current level of income, I am confident that the Amazon marketing machine can do this. I look forward to ditching the administration, formatting and constant sales promotion which go with being a self-published author and becoming part of a team again. All Amazon want me to do is write a book a year. Bliss. I have a good friend who already works for the Thomas & Mercer imprint and he can’t praise the company highly enough. Apparently, they are brilliant to work with and involve their authors at every stage of publication, from book cover design through to the editing. I have complete confidence that with the Amazon marketing machine behind it, my Detective Lavender Mystery Series will sky-rocket and reach thousands of new readers that I can’t reach myself – especially in my home country where I have sold diddly squat.
And after all, that is why we have that compulsion to write, isn’t it? To tell our stories to as many other people as possible. I feel incredibly lucky that I have been able to realise my dream and I hope that this account of my experience helps somebody else to realise theirs.
‘The Heiress of Linn Hagh’ will be published by Thomas and Mercer in June 2015 and three months later in October, they will publish the second novel in the series: ‘The Sans Pareil Mystery.’