Cozy Mystery Publishing, Writing

2018 in Review | Launching a Cozy Mystery Series

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2018 was a big year on the writing and publishing front for me. I launched my first cozy mystery series—The Mollie McGhie Sailing Mysteries—in June with the publication of my debut novel, Murder at the Marina. In November, I published the second book in the series, Bodies in the Boatyard. And, I made good progress on the third book, Poisoned by the Pier.

Now that the year has drawn to a close, I thought it would be interesting to share what my first year as a published author looked like in numbers. But, before we dive into that, if you haven’t already done so, you might want to check out this post where I talked about the launch of Murder at the Marina in numbers.

Please be aware that I won’t be sharing the number of sales I made over the course of the year. Yes, I know, that’s the number some of you are quite interested in and I’m sorry to disappoint, but I just don’t feel comfortable disclosing that. However, there are lots of other numbers you may find fascinating below.

{Note: Not all percentages add up to 100% and some items show up as 0% in the charts below due to rounding.}

Sales Peaks & Troughs

The chart below shows the peaks and troughs of my sales over the year. No surprise that I sold the greatest amount of books when I launched the first book in my series in June, followed by the second book in November.

After my initial release, sales slowed down quite a bit. I started to experiment with ads (more about that below) which led to a slight increase in sales. The release of my second book led to a spike in sales, but nowhere near the level of my debut book. That’s not all that surprising due to the fact that I didn’t do nearly as much marketing with the second book as I did with the first. I also assume that some people who bought the first book did so because they wanted to support me and not because they’re cozy mystery fans, then found that it really wasn’t their cup of tea and didn’t go on to buy the second.

I did have relatively strong sales during December which I think can be partially attributed to holiday gift buying (sales of large print books increased quite a bit during that period).

The other thing to note is that the majority of my sales are for my first book, Murder at the Marina, which isn’t really a surprise as it’s been out longer and I direct more advertising and promotional efforts toward it.

Sometimes people often focus on how many books they sold rather than how much they earned, which I think is an important distinction. Selling a lot of books at 99 cents may be less profitable than selling fewer books priced at $3.99. For example, although I sold more books in November than I did in December, my earnings were lower in November because I discounted Murder at the Marina as part of a promo.

2018 Review - Units Sales by Month Chart

Sales by Format

While the majority of my sales are in ebook format (67%), paperback and large print editions make up a substantial chunk of sales (21% of my sales are large print and 12% are paperback). I’m selling far more print books now than I did when I first launched Murder at the Marina due in a large part to Amazon ads. I’ve found that it’s definitely worth the extra time and expense involved in formatting and publishing print books and it’s something I’ll continue to do.

I use Amazon and Ingram Spark to distribute large print and paperback books, however the majority of print books that I sell is via Amazon.

2018 Review - Sales by Format Chart

Ebook Sales by Retailer

Because I decided to go wide rather than be exclusive to Amazon, I was quite interested in seeing what proportion of sales came from non-Amazon retailers over the year. While the bulk of sales were on Amazon (86%), I had some sales on Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, and Overdrive. I’d like to continue to see this percentage grow and will be focusing more efforts on advertising and promotions targeting non-Amazon retailers.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Retailer Chart

Ebook Sales by Geographic Region

It’s no surprise that I sell most of my ebooks in the States (81%), but it’s nice to see sales in other countries as well. It’s pretty cool to know that people are buying my books in places like Japan and Brazil.

2018 Review - Ebook Sales by Country Chart

Experimenting with Ads & Promos

As mentioned above, I started experimenting with advertising in September and October, which accounts for the gradual increase in sales during those months. During that time, I focused on Amazon Marketing Services sponsored ads (AMS), primarily for my large print edition of Murder at the Marina. I set pretty low daily budgets and bid levels and was pleasantly surprised to find that they worked pretty effectively. I think this is in part due to the fact that not many cozy mystery authors advertise large print editions so there isn’t a lot of competition for keywords such as “large print” and “large print mysteries.”

I also played around with a few ads for the ebook and paperback editions, but didn’t have much success with them. For ebooks and paperbacks, I can’t bid high enough for Amazon ads to be cost effective (people with several books in a series can bid higher on ads for the first book in their series and recoup their costs through read-through to subsequent books).

In December, I ramped up my spending on AMS ads for the large print editions of both Murder at the Marina and Bodies in the Boatyard in the hopes of driving some holiday-related sales. That strategy seemed to have worked. It is a bit scary to see the advertising costs escalate, so I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve crunched the numbers and that the ads are more than paying for themselves.

I also started experimenting with BookBub ads for the ebook edition of Murder at the Marina, primarily on non-Amazon retailers. (Note: These are the CPC ads, not the feature deals). It’s still early days, but so far they seem to be driving a few additional sales. Nothing to write home about though.

Kobo promotions was the other area that I dabbled in. If you publish directly with Kobo, they have a handy tab on the author dashboard where you can sign up for promotional opportunities. During 2018, I participated in four promos. I didn’t see a huge amount of sales as result, but it was more sales than I would have made on Kobo otherwise.

How did 2018 go for you? What are you looking forward to in 2019?

Are you interested in learning more about my cozy mystery publishing journey? If so, check out these posts:

Cover Design | Draft #743 | Beta Readers | Traditional vs. Self-Publishing | Editing | Going Wide or Amazon Exclusive | Ebooks, Print, or Both | Book Formatting| Distribution Channels | Book Release in Numbers | Blog Tours | ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) | Large Print Books

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400

Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

 

 

 

 

 

cozy mystery, Reading

7 Reasons to Read Cozy Mysteries

10 Reasons

People often ask me why I write cozy mysteries and I tell them it’s because I love to read them. I’ve been reading them in one form or another since I was a girl, if you count Nancy Drew as cozy mysteries, and continue to devour them to this day.

If you’ve never read a cozy mystery and you’re wondering why you should, here are seven reasons why I love cozies.

1 – They’re fast reads.

Cozy mysteries are generally shorter books. A typical novel-length cozy might be anywhere between 60,000 – 75,000 words. Cozy novellas are quite popular these days as well and they’re much shorter (perhaps between 20,000 – 30,000 words). Compare that to an epic fantasy which usually comes in well over 100,000 words and you can see the appeal when you’re looking for a fast read.

2 – It’s a chance to escape.

The world is crazy these days. The news is scary. Life can be downright depressing at times. Sometimes, you just need to escape into another world with a good book. Cozies are typically fun, clean reads—no gruesome violence, generally no swearing, and sex is just hinted at (if it takes place at all). When you pick up a cozy mystery, you know what you’re getting. Light some candles, run a bubble bath, pour a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate, relax, and enjoy your escape from the real world for a while.

3 – You get to solve a puzzle.

Cozy mysteries are just that—mysteries. Which means you get to try to figure out who did it along with the sleuth. You might not always guess correctly, but it’s fun to note the clues and red herrings, consider the various suspects, and think about motives and alibis.

4 – Learning about new things and places.

The amateur sleuths in cozies often have an interesting hobby or occupation, something you may have no experience with, or live someplace you’ve never visited. For example, I share my experiences living on a boat in my cozy series. I love learning about new things and places, especially from the comfort of my armchair. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll take up llama husbandry or glass-blowing.

5 – A satisfying ending.

Everyone likes to see the bad guy get caught, right? When you pick up a cozy, you know that justice will be served. Finishing one of these books is always so satisfying—the mystery is solved, good triumphs over evil and all of the loose ends are tied up.

6 – Characters you want to spend more time with.

Cozy mysteries are usually part of series, not stand-alone books. And there’s a good reason for this—you end up loving the characters and can’t wait to read the next book and see what happens to them. Personally, I love cozies that are chock-full of quirky characters that make me laugh out loud. It’s fun to see how they develop over the course of the series.

7 – They go well with chocolate.

I’m assuming everyone knows this already, but just in case, let’s just talk about how well reading a cozy mystery goes with nibbling on some chocolate. Or nibbling on some cookies, or candy, or a piece of cake, or two pieces of cake, or the whole darn cake because no one is around to see you. . .well, you get the idea.

So go on, if you haven’t read a cozy mystery before, now’s the time to grab one and try it out. Just make sure you stock up on some chocolate first.

If you’re interested in checking out my cozy series—the Mollie McGhie Cozy Sailing Mysteries—check out the links below.

Murder at the Marina Cover 1000 x 1400Murder at the Marina is available at Amazon (US) |Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask you library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.

 

Bodies in the Boatyard Cover 1000 x 1400 (2)

Bodies in the Boatyard is available at Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU) | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | Indigo

Ask your library to order a copy—here’s the info you need.