In late 2014, I decided, "You know what? I want to read stories about regular dudes fucking alien women." I couldn't really find any, so I figured, why not write about that? I had a few ideas. And then I started writing Hellcats. I was not at all confident in my writing abilities, and a little bit of research told me that people were selling pretty short erotica, and that it was normal to do so. So I drew up some basic plans that became the first season of Hellcats. And not much happened at first, partially because I was busy, but also because I kept hesitating on the actual writing. I figured it was a waste of time.
Even then, though, I did try to be professional from the start. I knew that if I actually committed to this, I'd be writing a lot of stories, and I knew that I needed cover art that would be able to be easily reproduceable and wouldn't cost money to make, and would also be recognizable. (Not easy.) It also needed to be something that clearly conveyed the genre, but also wouldn't put me at risk of coming under fire by Amazon. I got lucky in a few ways. Namely: I hit upon the idea to use silhouettes, and that I had a friend who knew a bit about cover design, and was willing to make covers for me in his spare time, since they were so simple to make.
By December of 2014, I had released a grand total of 4 shorts and one Collection. (From the beginning, I figured collections were a good idea.)
And then, in January, my sales started to pick up. I'm guessing this is from the post-Christmas rush, where suddenly everyone has new Kindles and Amazon giftcards and buy stuff in a mad dash. I didn't think too much of it, though, until March. That's when numbers really started to pick up. And that's when I got to writing in earnest. I tried to keep a schedule, and once I had finished up the first season of Hellcats, got to work on writing an idea for a Sci-Fi/Erotica novella I had, which came out to be Exploration, and then I dove into Wanderlust, since I knew that I was going to get tired of writing the same thing, and I like writing fantasy as much as I do Sci-Fi. (Maybe more.)
My success exploded and kept on exploding until July 2015 hit, and then my income was sliced in half.
Basically, I had enrolled a lot of my stuff in the Kindle Owner's Lending Library, the origin of the Kindle Unlimited. Under that program, I earned approximately 1.35$ every time someone borrowed one of my stories and read 10% of it. That's where a lot of the money was coming from. Then, when July hit, Amazon changed the program to what it is now: you get paid half a penny for every page read. And...that sucked. I mean, it is more fair to authors, but suddenly titles I was making 1.35$ on, I was now lucky to make .25¢. And it fucked with my sales, too.
But I was still doing pretty good. It was enough for me to quit my day job, and eventually I did. Still haven't gone back! (Though again, primarily because of luck.)
The second half of 2015 and the first half of 2016 were kind of me frantically trying to do stuff. I wrapped up Hellcats & Wanderlust, pushed out My Undead Lover, the Royal Trilogy, and then blasted through both seasons of Alien Harem. By the time April 2016 rolled around, I decided it was high time to get more serious. So I conceived of three new series that I was going to launch. Lust & Adventure, Valkyries, and Paranormal Passions. And two of them, Lust & Adventure and Valkyries, would each feature lengthier episodes and be priced at 2.99$ instead of the 1.99$ I'd been doing so far. I still wanted to take it to the next level.
At first, it worked. Lust & Adventure was pretty successful.
And then June 2016 happened. I still don't actually know why, but all of a sudden, my sales started dropping off. My income was almost cut in half a second time. I'm convinced that it was at least partially due to the fact that I took it upon myself to release two collections of short stories, called Quickies (which were originally created in a failed attempt to produce Patreon-exclusive content). Each of these took close to a week and a half to complete, and naturally slowed down my writing schedule. And then, on top of that, the next thing slated was another trilogy of novellas called Amazonian's Love. Well, once I got all through that and into July, and saw that my sales weren't really picking back up, I went into overdrive and started busting ass on getting Valkyries and Paranormal Passions out alongside Lust & Adventure.
Well, with the exception of another trilogy of novellas called Adventurous, and a novella called Desire, this was literally all I did until June of 2017. It seemed to help. My sales stabilized and I recovered a bit. On my better months, (few and far between), I managed to match what I was making after the initial income chop. Not great, but decent. When June rolled around, I was ready for a change.
I'd conceived of this book called Demoness that was originally just going to be another novella, and not even a particularly long one. But as I got to work writing Demoness, ideas began coming to me, a lot of them. After deliberating a bit, I finally decided to just take the extra time and write Demoness out fully, instead of cutting scenes to get it out by the release date I'd set for myself. I'm glad I did. It ended up being the longest thing I'd ever written, (although it was still not technically long enough to be called a novel).
So was this the point where it all started to turn around? Where I began my eventual climb to success?
No, not even close.
Demoness was well received, and it sold better than most, but then it pretty much just fell off, and I got right back to work, launching two new series, Desire and Sex & Survival.
It was about this time that I told myself I was going to change.
For a very long time, at around the one year mark, I knew that I wanted to write longer fiction. I wanted to write erotica novels, not shorts, or even episodic shorts. But there was a problem: novels take time. Even written at a brisk pace, they take time. If I stopped producing content at a breakneck pace, (I was producing an episode about once every four days, and had been for years, with a few exceptions), I'd lose money. I might even have another massive income drop. I couldn't risk that. So I decided that I was going to buckle down and focus, and write novels alongside the episodic shorts.
That might have worked, except something new happened. I learned that Amazon had suddenly released the ability to make paperbacks. And so I decided to take on this massive endeavor of creating paperbacks, (manuscripts AND covers!), all on my own. I had about 24 novels worth of content by then. So...yeah. On top of that, because when I commit to something I really fucking try to commit, I decided to re-edit ALL of my written work so far.
I did it. I did all of it.
And it drove me a little crazy. Somehow I managed to do this while continuing to produce regular content for Desire and Sex & Survival. I worked through most of the rest of 2017 getting this done. It gave me anxiety problems, insomnia, and I put on some weight. I seriously was falling apart. But I fucking did it.
Not that it really matters a whole lot now since not a whole lot of people actually purchased the paperbacks. But at least I figured out how to do it. It's a good skill to have, since I intend to continue creating paperback versions of my work.
I also discovered that Amazon had finally, FINALLY given us the ability to request perma-free titles. So I wrote four brand new short stories, one in each of my universes, and put them out in November. It...didn't help as much as I'd like.
Now, another thing I had been working on since early 2017: The Misty Vixen Starter Pack. Here was a collection of four original novellas, each one set in one of my primary universes, all in one convenient pack. It was to act as a gateway for new readers. I spent almost a year writing it. And I finally got it out late December 2017. That's where things get a little uncertain. I'll try to hash it out best I can.
I still had the idea to get back to writing longer novels alongside my episodic shorts. I planned on getting back to this after finishing up my paperback project, and had even managed to get one of those novels written over the course of the second half of 2017. That was Women of the Wild. My goal was to build up a store of novels, so that when I did start releasing them, I could do so in a timely manner, and give myself enough of a buffer to continue producing new content. If I had a two-three month buffer of new novels saved up, then it would solve the problem of not producing enough content to stay afloat.
Well, there was a problem with that. My episodic stories just weren't selling. Even the new stuff. This was a pretty huge morale killer. When I finished The Misty Vixen Starter Pack, I knew I needed a break or I was going to lose my shit. I took my Christmas vacation, and I began to feel a bit better when January of this year rolled around and I saw that the Starter Pack was doing really well. But I was still tired. Like, it took me awhile to realize the massive psychological and emotional toll the second half of 2017 had taken on me. That may sound stupid, and I'll certainly admit that my job is a lot easier than most others, but it still kicked my ass. I began work on Demoness II in January, and I felt pretty good about it. But I still had to finish up the third season of Sex & Survival. Something that was becoming increasingly difficult.
The more I wrote long-form fiction, the less I wanted to write short-form. It became a real pain. You can see this in the release dates of the final season of Sex & Survival. Because winter is traditionally pretty harsh on me psychologically, I was still recovering through February and even March. My numbers, however, were looking good. January and February were both good months, the best I'd had for quite awhile, and I had hope. I was coming out of my depression when March hit.
March 2018 is the worst month I've had since I began to see success. My sales were abysmal. I panicked. I wrapped up Sex & Survival and Demoness II as fast as I could, and got them out as April rolled around, and I planned on diving back into episodic writing with two new series, (Parasexual & Haven, which I'd been promising for several months by then), something I didn't really look forward to. I also decided to finally go ahead with an idea I'd had for quite awhile. It was my theory, (which has since, to my satisfaction, been proven), that I was shooting myself in the foot by writing short stories. I needed to make the jump to long-form fiction. I wanted to re-release my older titles as novels, so I found another artist (I'd already been working with one to produce covers for Demoness & Women of the Wild), and commissioned them to draw the central figure for the cover of Hellcats. I wanted to see how it would do. So I took down the original Hellcats series and then published it.
At first, my sales started to pick up, but it was about what I was expecting, since I'd been talking about Demoness II for quite awhile. And then, around Mid April, my sales pretty much exploded. And they haven't stopped yet.
So that was when I reconfigured my plan again. And it's now my current plan. Re-releasing my older content is a good idea, because clearly there is a market for it and a lot of people who haven't read it, and find it much more appealing in novel form. So, suddenly, I have a way to provide regular content, and it will give me enough time to write novels and release them at a decent pace.
Provided I actually buckle down and stick to my schedule. Which seems like a nice lead in to advice! Or basically just my theories about why I think I might have gotten successful.