Okay, so here’s the deal.
Back in May, I made what might possibly be the worst mistake of my entire publishing career: I severely underpriced all of my Star Wanderers books. For the year and a half leading up to that decision, sales had been declining rather steadily, and I was getting rather desperate for some way to reverse that. By lowering my prices from $2.99 to $.99 for that particular series, I thought I would bring in some new readers who would go on to buy my other books, and that that would offset the loss in income.
At the time, I kind of had an impression in the back of my head that it was a bad idea. And for a while, I listened to that impression. But when you feel desperate, there’s a temptation to shift strategy and just do something, especially if it’s easy and produces immediate results.
So from May to October, I severely underpriced my books. In October, I went through all the data I’d collected, and realized that I’d categorically failed to accomplish any of my goals. Sales had increased by only two or three copies a week for the books I’d discounted, and sales for the non-discounted books hadn’t increased at all. Meanwhile, my writing income had fallen precipitously, to the point where I could barely cover costs.
At the same time, my personal expenses started to become a problem. I’ve always been frugal, but a couple of unexpected expenses combined with poor planning and lack of work meant that by the end of the summer, my emergency savings were drained and I had to make some hard choices. Long story short, I had to pull most of the money out of my business account in order to avoid going into debt.
I’m doing okay right now, so don’t worry about that. Work opportunities have picked up with the Christmas season, so I should be able to get by for the next couple of months just fine. And as for the writing end of things, business is still profitable, so if I just let it sit for a couple of months I should be able to replenish the money I had to take out. It’s not like I’ve eaten my seed corn.
At the same time, though, it kind of is like I’ve eaten my seed corn, because I don’t currently have the money to pay for editing and cover art. In a couple of months, I will, but not soon enough for a January release.
I had originally planned to release Captives in Obscurity (Sons of the Starfarers: Book V) in January. And on the writing end, I’m still doing pretty good: I’ve heard back from my first readers and should have the revisions done by the end of the month. But the actual production isn’t something I can do right now, so I have to put the project off until the money comes in.
So that’s what’s going on. It kind of sucks, but lesson learned.
As for Captives in Obscurity, barring any more problems, it should come out in March. And I do still plan to publish some short stories between now and then. The nice thing about short stories is that they’re small enough that you can do most of the editing/art yourself. It’s kind of like the difference between planting a backyard garden and planting several acres of farmland. In fact, if things go well I should be launching a pen name soon, potentially as soon as December.
And for the future, I will be careful not to underprice my books. If I could, I would love to give away all of my books for free (in fact, I actually do: on Smashwords, my books are available on a “reader sets the price” arrangement), but that just isn’t practical. Lesson learned.