Celebrating a super sales milestone

Last week, I had a Zoom meeting with my publisher where they shared the most amazing news about a milestone that my book sales have achieved. I wanted to write a blog post about it, but I was chasing a deadline and could only manage a quick share on the socials. Thank you so much for all the amazing and supportive comments I received. I appreciated them so much.

The milestone was a whopping 500k – or half a million (sounds more somehow!) – sales of my books through Boldwood Books. This is across all formats and all titles released through Boldwood from my first one – The Secret to Happiness – which was released in September 2019 right up to the end of September 2021, therefore covering a two-year period and thirteen titles, although two of those had only just been released in August so haven’t had a chance to gather many sales yet.

If you’ve followed my blog or my journey for a while, you’ll understand how much this milestone means to me and what a big deal it is after such a shaky start as an author.

When I secured a 3-book publishing deal with my debut novel back in 2014 – following 23 rejections – I thought I’d made it. You would, wouldn’t you? I actually had two offers come through round about the same time so had a very happy decision on my hands. My first full-length novel through my chosen publisher was released in June 2015 but we released a novella just before it which acted as a great introduction to the series. The remaining books came out in March 2016 and August 2016 respectively. My publishers were lovely and enthusiastic but they were a new entrant to the market and had overestimated their ability to make an impact. Having achieved fewer than 1,500 sales across the four titles in the space of 18 months, the publisher ceased trading and my rights were returned in autumn 2017. It was a crushing blow.

My husband hurriedly designed some new covers and, in November 2016, we released all 4 Kindle books as an independent author under the imprint ‘Little Bear Books’, Little Bear being my nickname. They tanked. That first November, I sold no eBooks. In December, I sold 7. In January, I sold 6. I’m sure you can imagine how soul-destroying that was!

I’d been working on another new novel which was called Bear With Me (since re-edited and rereleased through Boldwood as All You Need Is Love) and I thought that a new book on the market would make a huge difference. It made little impact.

A couple of Christmas releases in October finally gathered some momentum but, on the whole, I massively struggled as an indie author. I had days where I sold no books at all and, as the number of books I’d written steadily rose, that was increasingly disheartening. The frustrating thing was that those who read my books seemed to love them, but readers weren’t finding them. I did several free promotions in the hope that reading one book would generate sales of other books. It didn’t seem to. I knew I needed to spend time and money investing in advertising but where do you find time when you’re already working 7 days a week with the day job and where do you find money when writing isn’t making you any? It’s a Catch-22 situation where you need to invest to earn but you need to earn to be able to invest.

I decided to go on another round of submissions in late 2018 but, after being burnt first time around, was very selective about where I submitted. I received another 8 rejections, although some were from the same publisher for different books after giving me positive feedback and an open invitation to keep submitting. Each rejection made me crumble a little more and seriously question whether I was kidding myself that I had any talent. But writing is who I am. I couldn’t imagine not creating stories so I kept going even though it was looking like writing full-time was a dream I’d never achieve and that making it financially viable alongside a demanding full-time day job wasn’t looking good either.

And then Boldwood Books started up and I submitted on their very first day. I’d decided that this was my final attempt and, if it was a no too, I’d remain an indie author and keep hoping … or finally admit defeat. Thank goodness they said yes!

I’ve just done some number crunching. During my indie years – November 2016 to August 2019 – I sold 4,789 eBooks and gave away a frightening 3,558 eBooks for free, meaning ‘sales’ totalled 8,347 in just shy of 3 years. Add in my original publisher’s sales and we’re talking 9,814 copies shifted (only 6,256 of which generated any income) across 9 books in the space of 4 years and 2 months. Eek! This figure doesn’t include pages read on Kindle Unlimited as there isn’t an easy way for me to work out the equivalent of that in books sold.

So to have half a million sales in two years – an increase of about 5000% – makes for on extremely excitable, astonished and happy author. As a very rough calculation (if I’ve done my maths correctly), that’s an average 6 books a day (including the free ones) pre-Boldwood and 657 a day post-Boldwood. A tad different!

I have so many people to thank, without whom this wouldn’t have been possible:

  • My readers and listeners – whether you’ve supported me since the start or I’ve been recent discovery for you, I can’t thank you enough for falling in love with Whitsborough Bay and Hedgehog Hollow

    All the amazing bloggers and reviewers who have spread the word through your blogs and/or the socials, and recommended my books to your friends and followers. This is one of the most amazing things you can do for an author you love as recommendations make such a massive difference

    The amazing Facebook writing communities such as the wonderful The Friendly Book Community, Heidi Swain and Friends – A Facebook Book Club, and Jenny Colgan and More Great Books for your unwavering support and recommendations

    The wonderfully lovely members of my own Facebook group, Redland’s Readers, who make me smile every day with their hedgehog pictures and gorgeous feedback

    Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources who organises my blog tours for Boldwood but who also arranged several for me as an indie author. Thank you for such fabulous tours and for being a champion of my stories from the very start. I’m so grateful
  • My original writing family, The Write Romantics, for being there through the highs and lows of this bumpy journey, particularly Sharon Booth and Jo Bartlett who have helped raise me up or helped me unravel troublesome plot points. You are all absolute stars
  • My more recently adopted family, Boldwood Books. Not only have I achieved so many writing dreams since joining Boldwood, but I’ve joined the most fabulous group of people. Thank you to Amanda and Nia for believing in me and taking me on in the first place, to Claire and Megan behind the scenes, to those involved in all other aspects of the book’s journey – cover design, copy editing, proofreading – and all the wonderful authors who are so friendly and supportive
  • A second mention to my phenomenal editor, Nia Beynon, whose brilliant advice and editorial guidance is what shapes my words into the final version the readers and listeners experience and I could never have achieved this without her. Nia, I can’t thank you enough for being such a dream to work with
  • My amazing audiobook narrators – Lucy Brownhill, Emma Swan, James Dryden and Gareth Bennett-Ryan – for bringing the books to life and the team at ISIS Audio and Ulverscroft for the distribution
  • My mum, daughter and husband for being so amazingly supportive

I’m the first Boldwood author to have reached this milestone, although that’s mainly because I’m also the author with the most books released so far due to Boldwood taking on my entire backlist. My next target is to have an individual title join the 100k club. The first one to get there will be Finding Love at Hedgehog Hollow, the first book in the Hedgehog Hollow series although, with sales so far just below 77k, it’s still got a little way to go. Several of my Boldwood buddies have already achieved this, some with more than one book, which is absolutely phenomenal!

Thank you again, everyone. Here’s to the next half a million!

Big enormous happy hugs
Jessica xx

PS Apologies for the missing bullet points. I swear I’ve added them in but WordPress is refusing to play ball!

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