Behind the scenes of an indie publishing start up

A story behind the “Behind the Scenes”…

With the publication of The Business Owner’s Compendium, I was introduced to the world of Indie Publishing.  Of course, I self-published so I know a little about self-publishing but what I mean is I began to get a following of fiction writers that were building businesses around the content they created.

Long story short, I was asked to speak at a conference and learned about a growing community of authors helping each other to build businesses that give them the freedom to create and pay the bills.  I wanted to help this group and to do so I felt I needed to understand what it’s like to build a self-publishing business from scratch.  The experiment required me to develop a pen name and then to write fiction.

I am coming at this from the approach of the minimum viable product trying to keep costs down and figure out to very important questions to the success of this enterprise;

1. Can I write a work of fiction people will want to read?

2. Can I connect with a big enough audience to build a sustainable business?

Fundamental to a successful career as a writer is that you can write works people want to read.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to win awards, only that there is a substantial amount of people willing to read your books.  In a later article, I will talk about the size of the content market but for the purpose of this market, all you need to know is it big.  Bigger than anybody thought an growing.

Here is what I did.  I did some research to find a genre that was underserved that I would like to write a book for.  I picked the steampunk genre and in August began writing. I finished a 70,000-word book.  I did a round of edits and hired a guy to make a book cover for me.

“The Untold Tales of Dolly Williamson” Launched October 7th, 2017.  The prequel sold for and will continue to sell for $0.99 as the lead in for the Guild Chronicles Book Series.

Book Marketing

I made the decision to focus solely on sales through Amazon.  Going Wide (selling on all platforms) means a trade off in not being able to sell to Kindle Unlimited readers. I will dive deeper into this in other articles.

I am going to spend time exploring the mailing list and advertising platforms.  A big part of this experience is getting data on what works and how best to ramp up a fiction line on a small budget.

Mailing List Development

I was fortunate to have the chance to participate in a mailing list swap through Art of the Arcane that ran the 17-31st of October.  I ended up with 316 subscribers from a list that started at zero.  A few were from book sign ups but the bulk came from the free book offer.  My welcome email started with a survey.  To learn reading habits, genre preference, and Steampunk community links.  Here are the results

Subscribers 334
Open 48%
Unsub 18 5.4%
Visits 131 39%
Responses 106 32%
Makers 13 3.9%
Persona 11 3.3%
Writers 7 2.1%

I am very pleased with the quality given 32% responded to the survey letting me know the data on the number of books read a month.  My list average is 5.5 books.

You may be wondering what does maker, persona, and writer mean.  I am looking to identify those readers that make steampunk objects, do cosplay or would like to collaborate as a writer.  The first two I feature in my newsletter to shout out to the community and the absolutely cool shit they do.  More than one has inspired my writing.


Units Sold 72  Free Books 334   KENP 3,039

Total Revenue : $39.89

Costs of Goods Sold

Costs to Launch

Covers & Animations: $226

Advertising Total:$422.85

AmazonAds: $48.98  BookBub $50.02  Facebook $313.85   Newsletter $10.00


What didn’t work

Bookbub Ads: I dropped $50 for a 0.2% Clickthrough rate and about 6,000 impressions.  It may have been a issue with the niche of steampunk and so I will not put any ad spend there in the future.

What Worked

AMS delivered sales although not a total ROI for the spend.  Keep in mind that I am promoting a 99 cent book so my margins are ass.  The trade off is that the gateway book will deliver a solid sell through.  I used the Kindle Rocket to tune up my keywords for the project.

The Launch Trough

My launch plan is a budget of $1,388 with an expected twelve month cash on cash return of 1.12 and an IRR or 64%. I am still on the low side of the projection for my launch trough a only one of the three books is in print and I am sitting  two more with a $225 a graphics package.

Behind the Scenes of and Indie Startup
Article Name
Behind the Scenes of and Indie Startup
Issue 1: a step by step walkthrough of what I did to launch an indie publishing company. This is an ongoing experiment on how a person can build an indie publishing business.
Publisher Name
The Business Owner's COmpendium

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