Michelle Pillow and I have decided to do an end of the year sum up each year. We think its important to keep our readers in the loop. After all, you’re the reason we do what we do. You’re who have made The Raven Books a success. Thank you so much!
The following center bit is taken from last year’s sum up. It tells the story of how Raven came to be so perfectly that I couldn’t possibly do it justice again… so of course, I just used it as is.
“It was difficult to decide to launch a self-publishing/small press endeavor. Even with the support of my friend and fellow author, Michelle M. Pillow, it was still a hard decision to make. So, let me put you in my mindset for mid 2009-2010. I’d had some issues with one of my publishers. I won’t go in to who or what but it’s safe to say that I did not elect to renew my time released contracts with them. Already many of my titles with them had reverted back to me. I’d down some outsourcing, re-releasing several with Samhain Publishing and Ellora’s Cave Publishing but I simply had too many coming out of contract at one time for either publishing house to get out in a timely manner. Plus, I would hear from my editors, this is great but I want some new (non-previously pubbed) work from you. I understood where they were coming from but my readers had other demands. My inbox was exploding with requests/demands for the next books in existing series. Many of the series at that point were out of contract and without a home.
The pressure began to mount as did the emails from readers. After talking with Michelle and realizing she was in the exact situation as I was, we thought, well, we could try publishing them ourselves. Keep in mind, this was still very “new” to authors. We’d already spent years being pointed at and singled out because we were at e-first publishing housing. (We’ve been published since 2004 and it was with an e-first/ebook publisher.)
I know I was actually told I wasn’t a “real” author because of the publishing houses I was with and that I needed to post my sales number to prove I was actually making any money. Insulted, and frankly ready to kick a few select persons straight in the teeth, I elected not to post my sales numbers. It was none of their damn business. I didn’t ask to see their income, asking to see mine was rude.
It was pointed out more than once that I might as well be vanity published instead of bothering with Samhain and Ellora’s Cave and other e-first pubs. I am NOT the only author who went through this. I believe the majority of us with these companies from nearly the start dealt with this. It was just the way it was. So, when it came to 2009-2010 time frame I’ll admit to being gun shy about wanting to publish my own books—re-release or not.
Michelle and I talked and talked and talked and decided nothing ventured, nothing gained. We’d stood up against the naysayers with small press and came out the other side smiling, we’d do the same with self-publishing. We’d already been heavily involved in The Raven Happy Hour. It actually comes from a nightclub in my Daughter of Darkness books that was hugely popular with my readers, so much so that it spawned into an online free ongoing story and an online hangout for our readers and fellow author friends. It was wildly popular and very time consuming. It already had a following, a name and we were known for Raven-ish promos so it was a no brainer to call our self-publishing endeavor The Raven Books.
It also was a no brainer to tackle new territory with Michelle. I am a cover artist as well as an author. I’ve done covers for many, many houses (over 500 covers to date) under the brush name Natalie Winters so we already had a professional cover artist at our disposal and I was already doing websites for so many people I lost count, why not do The Raven Books as well? Michelle worked hard teaching herself to format ebooks for us as well as countless other administrative tasks that would bore a normal person to tears. We put out a call and interviewed possible editors and final line editors. We found several we were comfortable with and hired them out on a per book basis.
We started small, hosting a shopping cart site, uploading our formats, having people buy directly from us. Then, one day we read a news release about Amazon opening its doors to indie/self-pubbed titles. We decided, why not? Barnes and noble did the same and then ARE and others did as well. By July of 2010 we were listed our self-pubbed titles on Amazon, BN, ARE and smashwords (who in turn sends to Sony and Diesel and others).
Putting the titles back in front of the masses was hugely successful. That was when we knew we had a “home” for our out of contract books. Self-pubbing!
More titles came out of contract and we went through the process of hiring editors to go through them again, doing edits, new cover art, new ads, the works. As we were able to get a fair number of them back in front of readers again we realized we could actually write something totally new and self-publish it. Immortal Ops 4 was the very first book I wrote totally with the idea I would publish it. Strategic Vulnerability didn’t just do as well as the other books in the series which I’d gotten rights back to and re-released, it did better!
From there other stories were born with the idea I’d be the one publishing them. It was amazing how creatively energized I felt. I knew I didn’t need to worry about certain things my other publishers would and wouldn’t allow in books. I had the freedom to write what I wanted and how I wanted it. Such an awesome and muse librating thing.
I also realized I could do a side project I’d always wanted to do but couldn’t without hurting my author name branding. I wanted to write contemporary westerns that were erotic. Now, the erotic part isn’t really a stretch for me. It’s the contemporary western part that was vastly different from everything written under the Mandy M. Roth name. Thus, my pen name, Rory Michaels was born. It was a great way to keep the branding I’d established and focus on a new one just related to contemp westerns. All the Rory books are new and never before released. And to date I’ve published several new (never before released) Mandy M. Roth titles as well (Strategic Vulnerability, Master of the Hunt, Winter Solstice and Adam’s Angel). *UPDATE… We’ve pubbed a hell of a lot more than these that are original now ) Also, I write under the names Reagan Hawk and Kennedy Kovit–both bestselling on Amazon.
Yesterday, I was finally able to sit down and go through my sales reports. I mean, really go through them. I decided to do every report from my top three sales vendors. The goal was to see what books/series were selling well and which had something left to be desires. I have many books and many series. I need to know when to pull focus. I figured this would be a help. Boy did it ever!
As I compiled the data from July 2010- Dec 2011 (from Amazon, BN and ARE) I was stunned at the unit sale numbers coming in. I already knew how much money had been made. I track that very carefully. But this was actual numbers of unit sales clear as day before me. In my mind I’d somehow thought I’d sold maybe 20,000 ebooks. (No, that number doesn’t jive with my income earned but I didn’t really think hard on it. I knew I was earning more per title than I had when they were with other small presses so I naturally assumed it meant a lower unit sales number than what it was.)
Much to my shock and delight, I saw that I was OVER 60,000 self-pubbed ebooks sold from Jul 2010-Dec 2011 *THIS NUMBER HAS CHANGED AND IS UPDATED BELOW* just at the top three. Note: not all my books have been out this entire time. They have been released over the time. I was over the moon with excitement. The number does NOT include any FREE ebooks giving away through KDP select (that total is around 10kish). The total is ONLY units sold and ONLY my selp-pubbed units sold. Not Michelle’s. I would never release her or any author’s sales numbers. None of my titles still with Spice, Samahin or Ellora’s Cave were factored into this. The over 60,000 does NOT include sales figures from the titles when they were with other publishers, these are ONLY the numbers from them being published by me. So be mindful, these numbers are on most titles that are re-releases and just a very few new works. These had already sold first and second editions at other pubs so I was stunned to see them perform this well for me.
To me this was a huge milestone. It added validity to all the hours, all the hard work, all the sleepless nights of getting the Raven going. We honestly have put in many 18 hour days. It also proved to me that we truly have the best community of readers, friends and fellow authors out there.
I’m sure someone will try very hard to dismiss this accomplishment or belittle it. Sadly, there are many who can only find the negative in things. That’s fine. I’ve been dealing with those people since I started writing just over 8years ago and since I was first published. I’ll be dealing with them until I drop, I’m sure. What matters is that I’m ecstatic over the numbers. They’re not what New York could move but they are what “I” could move and that makes each and every single one so VERY important to me. Thank you for helping me reach this personal milestone and for sharing this journey with me to date. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring.
Are Michelle and I moving totally to self-publishing (Raven) only? No. We still have offers from large houses and still have titles with Harlequin Spice Briefs, Samhain Publishing, Virgin Black Lace, Pocket, Ellora’s Cave, Random House, Running Press, Adam’s Media and more. We love the Raven and the freedom it provides. But we also love what other houses provide us as well. Every experience we’ve had to date has helped to mold us into the authors we are today. These sales numbers for my self-pubbed titles are being shared because I’m proud of them and simply wanted to share with “friends, readers and fellow authors”.
I’ve always been extremely supportive of fellow authors and have always appreciated my readers beyond words. I hope these numbers inspire others and that we as authors/readers move forth together as a united front in the publishing community and continue to move the industry forward.”
Updated Numbers: Raven Jul2010-Dec2012 sold over a half million self-published ebook titles!
Michelle and I want to extend a giant thank you to all our readers. Without your support, your hard work and dedication with helping to spread the word about us and Raven none of this would have been possible. Thank you and Happy Holidays!!!!
Mandy Roth & Michelle Pillow