Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Good enough never is...or is it?

 Jennifer L. Hart for Writers Gone Wild

I got the word last week that there will be no more books in the Illustra series. Well, at least no more published through Kensington Aphrodisia because the last two didn't "earn out." For those of you unfamiliar with the industry term, earning out is when an author makes enough in royalties to pay the publisher back for the money they gave the author as an advance against the royalties.

Not earning out makes an author a bad investment for the publisher. After all, why would they invest more money on a losing prospect, right? As a romance author that means not only no more advances or contracts for future books but also that the brand you've worked so hard to develop is pretty much dead weight.

This didn't come as a surprise to me. With author central, an author can keep pretty close tabs on how her books are doing. No Mercy's numbers were half of what No Limits's sales were the year before. I'd lost the mystique of a debut author, you see. Booksellers and buyers knew what I was about by book two and they either liked the books or they didn't. And though No Rules is barely out of the literary gate, the preorders weren't all that promising either. So while I did do what I could to promote and boost sales, bottom line was it wasn't enough.

Let me tell you, that's an incredibly frustrating feeling, to be told that your best isn't good enough. Especially since it hasn't even been a month since No Limits was the #1 Science Fiction Romance on Amazon and Jenna McCormick was a top 20 erotica author and #4 on the Movers & Shakers list. Top 100 on Barns & Nobel.com. Those are some serious numbers, that resulted from some serious sales.

So what went wrong? Why is it that something so promising didn't deliver? I have a few suspicions but the biggest one is price. No Limits's blaze of glory happened while it was priced at $1.99, making it more accessible and more appealing than the $8 and up ebook price that was its standard cost. When offering advances and paying for editors, copy editors, cover artists and formatters plus a host of others, Kensington and most other mainstream publishers can't afford to list a book at that price for very long.

They can't. But I can.

 I'll admit, I've kept my indie stuff priced comparable to the mainstream model, because I didn't want it to look like I was underbidding my traditionally published work. Now, well, I've already lowered the prices on everything under 30 thousand words to $1.99. And I plan to release any future full length novels at no more than $4.99. Because that's what most ebook readers want.

I have low overhead. I don't have to pay for office space, or a salary beyond my profit. I've designed more than half of my covers so they're going out at cost. I have a fabulous crit partner and an awesome network of writers willing to beta read anything I produce along with bloggers, booksellers, ect. I've got a support network. I have NO DEADLINES. My time is my own to work on whatever catches my fancy. I haven't really lost anything.

So bottom line, I have no regrets moving forward because I know that I gave this series my all and that at the end of the day it wasn't about anything I could control.  And in a way I'm relieved more than disappointed because the pressure is off. If something doesn't sell well, I'll write something else. My career isn't a zero sum game and an advance is no more a prize than it's equal value in royalties. And I have no doubt that my best is good enough when I'm calling the shots.


HR Jackson said...

It's stuff like this that encouraged me to go indie. I've not ever been a fan of giving up control on anything I do, and I understand why it's so frustrating.

But you know what? You're an amazing writer. The Illustra series is (so far) really good. I am so very honored to both know and work with you, and I *know* that your passion translates into your writing.

You rock, bebe. All the way around.

Jennifer L Hart said...

One control freak to another, yeah, it's hard to swallow, no pun intended. I'm glad I had the experience of walking into B&N and picking up a copy of my own book, of having some of my work reviewed in major publications, of going to conferences as a published author by a semi-major house. That failure stigma is a dark shroud but I don't have to live under it and I certainly won't let it taint the stories I have yet to tell.


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