New York Times Bestselling Author Gemma Halliday on 2012 – Her “Year in Review”

Happy Holidays, everyone!  I hope you’re all taking advantage of those last shopping days until Christmas.  Me – I still have WAY more to do than I have elves to help me with.  But, today I plan to devote entirely to baking Christmas cookies, so at least I have the important stuff covered.

Since this is my last post of the year, I wanted to close out 2012 with a year in review of sorts.   So, here’s some of what worked and didn’t work for me in 2012:

1)     Co-authorship – a win!

This year I tried my first co-authored experience, and it was fantastic.  Jennifer Fischetto and I released UNBREAKABLE BOND this summer, and sales were actually better than expected.

What I’m doing more of in 2013:

I’ve contracted to do two more Bond books with Jennifer for next year, which I’m super excited about.   I’ve also contracted to do a new series with the lovely and talented T. Sue Versteeg, and a YA book with the super fab Amanda Brice.

2)     Print books – a fail

This year I put some effort into getting all of my indie books into POD and in large print POD.  While my print sales have steadily climbed, they are still a sad little fraction of my ebook sales.  Which, I’m honestly not all that surprised about.  POD costs more than mass market and honestly doesn’t present as well.  What I AM surprised about though, is that the print books that I’ve had out through traditional NY houses have not seen stellar sales either.  (One was hardcover, and one was trade.)  In fact, my last print release didn’t even make it into Barnes & Noble stores.  So, for me, print has been a fail for 2012.

What I’m doing differently in 2013:

Instead of trying to boost POD sales or releasing in hardcover or trade through traditional publishers, I’d love to get my books back into mass market, as I think that’s where my particular print audience is.  In the meantime, ebook will be my primary focus.

3)     Buying ad space – a fail

My motto has always been that as my business grows, my advertising budget should too.  So, this year I ponied up the cash for a couple of big print ads, the biggest of which was a full color, cull page ad in RT magazine.  While it’s difficult to see a direct ad to sales correlation, I can tell you that my latest release (in all the ads) has sold no better than the one before it – for which I bought no advertising.  The ads probably haven’t hurt in that every ad does build name recognition, but I’m not sure the benefit is worth the price tag.

What I’m doing differently in 2013:

I most likely will not be purchasing any large ads next year.  Instead, I’m going to put my promo focus on social media.  Which brings me to…

4)     Social media – a win!

The biggest positive response that I’ve gotten from reads has been on Facebook.  And, oddly enough, the biggest bang-for-my-buck as far as a promo budget has been promoting posts on Facebook.  I’m sure the degree of social media success will vary from author to author, just depending on who your audience is, but I’ve had a lot of positive response form contest and weekly features (like my Free Book Friday) on Facebook.  And, even weirder – it’s been kind of fun.

What I’m doing more of in 2013:

Playing on Facebook.  :)

5)     Bargain pricing – a win!

One of the highlights of my year was hitting the New York Times bestseller list – once in February and again in August.  And the way that I hit both times was with a great sale price on my books.  While I’ve heard a lot of discussion on indie writers’ loops about not devaluing our work – which I completely agree with! – I also think readers love a good sales. I know I do!  So, while I do keep the regular price of my books around $3.99-$4.99, I’ve had great success dropping those prices for a limited time.

What I’m doing more of in 2013:

I do plan to continue with the same ricing strategy that’s worked for me this year.  I won’t have a perma-free or permanently low priced loss leader, but instead mix it up as to which book I on sale at any given time, playing with pricing both in the U.S. and in foreign markets.

6) Foreign markets – slow and steady

In 2011, I saw my sales really take off in foreign markets.  But this year, sales have held at a slow, steady pace.  I’m not seeing a real big change in most markets, and my monthly sales in place like Amazon IT and ES are still barely enough for a happy meal.  I wouldn’t really call this a fail or a win, but a place where I plan to put some attention in 2013.   I’ve got my first indie translated work coming out in Germany in the spring, and I do plan to play with pricing and promo in other countries to see if I can find a combo that works o boost sales outside of the U.S.  I see a lot of research in my future on that score, but it sounds like a fun challenge.

So, that’s been my year in a nutshell.  I’d love to hear from all of you about how your 2012 in publishing has been, what you’ve learned, and what successes or fails you’d like to share.  And what are you plans for 2013?


P.S.  Check out my new book, DANGER IN HIGH HEELS, releasing on Christmas Eve!

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  1. Gemma, I was nodding my head in agreement as I read. I haven’t done any co-authorship–don’t know if I have the personality for that–but I have plans to start a series and invite a few author friends to participate. Don’t know if that’ll happen in 2013, but in 2014 for sure!

    Earlier this year I wrote a blog column about my dismal print sales…$7100 over a four-month period in eBook earnings vs. $16 in that same period for print. Suffice to say, I have no more plans to do print.

    Advertising didn’t work so well for me, either. I tried a few different places and saw nary a bump.

    This year I had my biggest seller to date: A political-themed mainstream romance called Isn’t She Lovely? I chose a compelling scene to promote as an excerpt and designed a trailer that summed up the conflict of the book. As a result, it generated a lot of interest, and the book stayed in the Top 100 Multicultural Bestseller list on Amazon for three-and-a-half months, although sales have slowed considerably since. I think what I will do next time (and every book doesn’t have such a nice hook as that one did) is wait until the book is actually available for sale (since indie books can’t be pre-ordered), before offering an excerpt and trailer, so that people can order right afterward instead of waiting for the publication date.

    I don’t know if Facebook and Twitter are helping my sales, but I’m having a lot of fun.

    Bargain pricing? I don’t know yet. My 12 Days of Christmas Sale (I chose the last 12 days of the year) just started a few hours ago, at midnight. I just set up an eStore through Ganxy (which I learned about here) and am enjoying being able to offer temporary price reductions (and introductory specials for new books). Cross your fingers that it goes well!

    One question for you: Do you do your baking in high heels? LOL.

    • That’s great to hear that the book trailer worked for you as far as promo! I used to do them with my traditional release, but I think the market got glutted and no one was watching. However, I just did one for my new release, DANGER IN HIGH HEELS, so I’m glad to hear that people are watching again!
      And, no, I baked barefoot. Lol! Okay, I’ll admit, the “baking” thing is really me adding water and eggs to a mix. I’m not super domestic. But it smells yummy in here!

  2. Glynis Smy says:

    Good luck for 2013. I sell more ebooks than paperback but mother insists I create them, LOL.

    I find Twitter and Facebook great places to interact and sell. My blog is much slower nowadays, and folk are using the social networks far more. I have my new book at a low price for Christmas, and noticed my other novel is picking up sales at the same time, although it is a few dollars more.

    Interesting post, thanks for sharing.

  3. Sibel Hodge says:

    Congrats on a fabby year indie pubbing, Gemma! I would agree with all of them, except co-authoring as I haven’t tried that yet – it sounds great, though.

    I hope Santa brings everyone lots of sales this Xmas and new year xx

  4. Tamara Ward says:

    Thanks on sharing what worked and didn’t for you in 2012, Gemma! I was surprised to see that the promotion of Facebook posts worked. I guess I’d seen people saying the Facebook ads didn’t work so much. So thanks for the tip! I’ll definitely consider that in 2013. I can’t wait to read your Christmas Eve release!

    • I’ll say that the “ads” I’ve bought on Facebooks meaning the ones that pop up on the sidebar, have done nothing for me. Which might, honestly, have to do with me not putting in the right parameters. But promoting selected posts seems to get a really wide reach and some great results.

  5. Liz Matis says:

    Hi Gemma! Congrats on all your success. I too would like to hear more about your presence on Facebook and how you run the ads.
    2012 has been great though sales have slowed recently.
    My ACX experience has also been positive and I’m working now on getting my second title narrated by year-end.
    My concentration in 2013 will be writing new books- aiming for 2.

    • Congrats on the ACX success! I have not yet gone indie with my audio, so I’m interested t see how that goes in 2013.
      Oh, and see my rely above for what’s worked for me on Facebook. :)

  6. Julie Day says:

    Thanks for this, esp about the print books. I was thinking about doing print versions of collections of my ebooks but after reading your post here not so sure about that now. It will be for YA, so don’t know if they will be interested or not. Was also thinking about doing one for the anthology of my adult magical romance stories in 2014 but now not sure about that either. Sales for my romance ebooks have been slow, and have sold more for my YA ones. Hopefully, next year when I appear on here, that will pick up. I find FB the more friendlier social media and plan to create more ebook parties next year.

  7. Great recap, Gemma! Can’t wait to read Danger in High Heels. I have barely used FB. I like the contest idea, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Stacy Green says:

    Thanks for the recap, Gemma. I would love to hear more about your Facebook promotions. Are you referring to the promoted posts, which can be very cheap, or have you expanded farther?


    • Yep, the promoted posts. They’re not super expensive to do, and it doesn’t take extra time, like actually creating a separate ad can. So far so good. We’ll see how they do in 2013.

  9. LM Preston says:

    As far as print sales for me, using a distributor (find a great list of them here, has worked in my favor for pricing and placement in mainstream stores. Sales for the print vary but aren’t as high now as my ebook sales. Therefore, I’ve lowered my print runs considerably.

  10. Adan Lerma says:

    love hearing about your experiments (as i do d.d.’s) and wanted to first off say how much i enjoyed vols 1-3 of the high heels series, those were a fun read, now my wife even wants to read them ;-)

    looking fwd to squeezing them vols 4-6 into my read-into-sleep routine, which is about the only time i get any decent reading time, even if only a tiny bit

    my ad efforts i also felt were not worth it, and didn’t affect any meaningful increase in sales

    re social media, i just finished a piece for sat’s rg2e where i say i’m pulling back from that, but i don’t think i clarified i meant promoting articles and posts, though i do mention i’ll still be responding and communicating with folk – and like you, most of that has been best via facebook, i feel much more a relationship exchange so far there

    my main shift for 2013 is more family time, now that i’m back in texas, and more concentrated creativity time – our time (year and a half) in vermont, and nearly 6 wks in paris, has gifted me a bounty of material, words and images, that are bursting inside me

    if i had to elaborate about the creative projects, i’d say that a sequence of works is developing from my most recent fiction, “the children” – and that’s something i really look fwd to continuing

    so all that, with a still in-progress move to austin, helping my wife keep up with her re-hab for her knee replacement, and keeping myself from slumping off into a young-senior series of ailments, is a good 2013 challenge for me ;-)

    anyway, best wishes gemma, and looking fwd to enjoying more of your work ;-)

  11. I do want to add that while print was a bust for me this year, I will keep making sure I have print versions of my indie books available. There is a readership who prefers print, and I do get unhappy emails when something isn’t available in print. (And especially YA! Most tween/tween readers are still on paper books, since they aren’t allowed ereaders at school.) I just won’t be spending a large amount of time promoting the print versions. Goodreads, for example, was a place that I feel like I wasted time in 2012 promoting print books. Ditto the time I put into the traditional releases in hardcover and trade. I wasted a lot of time and effort in finding out that my particular audience is not buying in those formats. (And because of the way the print books and ebooks were priced by the publishers, I did not see great ebook sales of those books either. Most traditional publishers use a percentage scale to price ebooks, making sure they’re not more than X% less than the print version, so that readers will still buy the print versions. Because of this, the ebooks were priced much higher than my usual readership is willing to pay. A bust all around.)
    Anyway, I would have been much better off using that time writing my next ebook!

    • Julie Day says:

      Thanks for this, Gemma. I will definitely think about doing a small print run of my first collection of YA fantasy ebooks next year and see how that goes. What source did you use for print? I am thinking of Createspace but getting someone else to format the mss for me.

  12. I use Createspace, and I’ve been very happy with them. It’s pretty much free to print with them. (You can pay for expanded distribution, which I usually do, but it’s optional. You can also pay for some of their services, but, again, it’s optional.) And you don’t have to do a print run at all – the beauty of print-on-demand is that the books are printed as they’re ordered by customers. That’s why there’s no up-front costs and why I do make sure all of my books are available that way. I really have nothing to lose (but the time to format and upload the books) and it makes some readers very happy to have the print option.

  13. Considering the cost of putting your book for sale on CreateSpace, going for maximum distribution, it cost me $55 dollars. (Cover + distribution.)
    Have I made that money back? Not yet. But now I have something to sell at a book signing. I haven’t made a large print edition, but plan to…my eyes are getting bad, and the baby boomers are coming!!!

  14. Jill James says:

    I did my first professional blog book tour and I found it well worth the money. I didn’t sell a ton but I got my name out there and 9 new reviews for my book.

    I did my first blog hop and found that well worth my time. I doubled my newsletter list and have at least two sales I know came directly from that.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Jill, who did you go with? I’m doing a tour with Partners in Crime in Jan/Feb and very anxious to see how it goes. And I’m considering doing a tour with WOW Women Writers for my next book in April.

  15. I love how open and honest you are with your successes and failures, Gemma. I love the idea of Free Book Friday on your Facebook, too. Thanks for sharing and helping out the community! I know I’ll be putting your experience to use in 2013.

    I only wish I had anything useful to contribute here. Next year!

  16. Thanks, Jordan! The thing I love about this industry is that we’re not competing against each other fro sales. The more fab authors there are out there, the better it is for all of us! I know my readers needs something to keep them from turning to the TV for entertainment between my releases. ;)