By Silke Campion
In 2021, I started a new pen name in a different niche of romance than where I’d previously published. The old name wasn’t getting any traction, the brand was a muddied mess, and I needed a fresh start.
It was also past time that I put some of my years of accumulated knowledge of marketing and writing to work for me. Enter Silke Campion, writer of short, hot instalove romance. There was an established niche for the kind of stories I wanted to write and (this is key) I really enjoyed writing and reading these short novellas. They provided the quick endorphin hit that many readers needed, especially post-2020.
I quickly wrote and published a reader magnet plus seven novellas around 20K each that I put into the Kindle Unlimited subscription program. All my market research indicated that KU was absolutely the right move for someone starting out in this niche, and many of my colleagues quickly populated my also-boughts. The readers had found me.
In 2022, I slowed down quite a bit and only published three novellas, all part of multi-author collaborations. Remarkably, my income increased slightly! Most of it came from my backlist, and my readership was split about 60/40 with the majority coming from KU page reads versus outright purchases.
I’d toyed with the idea of going wide because at the same time as I was succeeding, I also knew several well-established authors who had suddenly seen their Amazon accounts locked (some of them irreversibly) for no discernible reason. If they were all in with KU, that was it. They were sunk. Some of them scrambled to publish their work elsewhere and some of them had had enough of the publishing game and just quit. I cannot blame them at all. The devastation they must have felt haunts me.
On Dec 31, 2022, I went to bed, satisfied in the knowledge that my estimated royalties for the year were in a comfortable place.
On Jan 1, 2023, 30 percent of my income from the previous year was nowhere to be found. Surely, I thought, this is a glitch. The software was stuck somewhere along the line and in a couple of hours, all would be right again.
Reader, it was not a glitch.
Trying to downplay my panic, I scrolled through FB groups and Discord servers to see if anyone else was experiencing the same thing. What I found horrified me.
Occasionally, Amazon will decide that too many of an author’s page reads came from bots and strip half of them away. Since KU represented about 60 percent of my income, the amount I’d lost in a blink was an accurate representation of that math.
Remember Hades’ flaming blue hair from the Disney movie “Hercules”?
That was me.
To make an already long story marginally shorter, I got lucky. I emailed Amazon a polite, but tersely worded note requesting a review and reinstatement of my earnings. While their reply was the usual CYA “there’s nothing wrong here,” my page reads were returned to their previous numbers over the next 24 hours.
I repeat: I. Got. Lucky. There was no reason for them to even blink in my direction, but somehow, it worked out.
However, I’d come too close to losing it all. So this is my year to go wide.
The Facebook group, “Wide For the Win” has been invaluable in my research. I found knowledge and techniques that will help me move all my books over later this spring, tips to help me let my readers know what’s going on, and best practices for using aggregators or going direct to different vendors.
Yes, it’s a lot of work. I’d already planned to do some reformatting, updating backmatter and keywords, and refreshing blurbs, but this has put those plans into high gear as I prepare to publish my backlist to all vendors in the best way possible to pave the way for the new series I’m writing and plan to publish wide from the start.
A few years ago when I started self-publishing under my old pen name, I had already set up accounts at various vendors, plus Draft2Digital. Establishing a new pen name with those accounts has been one of the simpler tasks, but at least I’m not starting from scratch.
One of the things I’m prepared for is a dip in income. Hopefully, releasing new work as I debut my backlist will mitigate those losses, but the one thing everyone has said is that it takes time to build a readership on other vendors, which makes sense. As far as Kobo or Barnes and Noble or Apple readers are concerned, I’m coming out of nowhere. But it’s a mountain I’m willing to climb, rather than play a constant game of “the floor is lava” with Amazon.
hope to come back next year with news that everything has gone well and I’m now purchasing a private island with my income. Or at least I’m keeping my head above water as I dog-paddle forward.
As an endnote, I’d like to say that, despite all the Zon’s shenanigans, my KU strategy worked. It got new stories from a new writer in front of thousands of people, and I profited from it. In fact, I’d still recommend it as a short-term strategy to use their algorithm of rapid releases and build backlist quickly. But I don’t think the center will hold for everyone, so stay on your toes and always have an exit plan.
Silke Campion writes hot, flirty, sweet and dirty romances featuring heroes who will gladly take control to ensure their heroines get their Happy Ever After. She’s been married to her own military hero for over twenty-five years, living and loving through dozens of cross-country and international moves with their two children and a menagerie of dogs and cats. Now they’re settled back in the U.S. where — when she’s not head-down writing — she contemplates the serious issues of what to make for dinner with the ridiculous amount of basil she grows in her herb garden, what cocktail will go with it, and what cross-stitch project she’s starting next. She also writes paranormal and sci-fi romance as Sela Carsen.
Find out more at https://www.silkecampion.com/